Access to Electricity in Rural India Tradeoffs and Interventions for Meaningful Electrification
This thesis investigates the engineering economics of interventions to reduce consumer inconvenience due to unreliable electricity supply in rural India. The work introduces and applies a novel approach to estimate interruption costs as loss in consumer surplus due to restricted consumption of electricity services. Chapter 2 reports an assessment that compares grid extension with distributed generation (DG) alternatives, based on the subsidies they will necessitate, and costs of service interruptions that are appropriate in the rural Indian context. Despite the inclusion of interruption costs, standalone DG does not appear to be competitive with grid extension at distances of less than 17 km. However, backing up unreliable grid service with local DG plants is attractive when reliability is very poor, even in previously electrified villages. Introduction of energy efficient lighting changes these economics, and the threshold for acceptable grid unreliability significantly reduces. Chapter 3 analyzes supply rostering (alternatively, “load shedding”) in metropolitan, small town and rural feeders in and around Bangalore city. The inequity in load shedding is analyzed through transfers due to differential tariffs between the urban and rural residential consumers, and the relief provided to BESCOM, through avoided procurement of additional supply from generators, because rural and small town feeders are load shed higher than Bangalore city. The values of the load shedding transfers are estimated to be in the range of Rs. 120-380/consumer-year from the rural consumers, and Rs. 220- 370/consumer-year from the small town consumers. The metropolitan consumers are found to be net beneficiaries. The viability of using smart meters to provide current limited but uninterrupted supply is investigated as one alternative to outright blackouts. Chapter 4 develops a broader theoretical framework that can be used to model consumer demand for electricity services with unreliable supply and adaptation. Demand for energy ‘services’ is modeled by incorporating time of use, duration and deferability. Supply reliability is disaggregated into its constituent dimensions– mean and variance of supply availability in times of high demand, and supply predictability, and their respective impacts on consumer welfare are discussed. Primary data collected from Karnataka inform the discussion, especially with backup adoption. New consumer-oriented reliability indices are proposed.