India unveiled its newest effort to boost transparency and raise pressure on companies and state governments to meet an ambitious target of lighting every household in the country by 2019.
The latest in a series of smartphone apps, called Tarang, or Transmission App for Realtime Monitoring and Growth, lists details on existing and planned transmission projects. It also highlights obstacles to federal and state government transmission projects and seeks to hold states accountable for delays in projects.
"All the digital initiatives we have taken, all these apps we have launched will bring in more transparency, more disclosures," Pradeep Kumar Pujari, the country's federal power secretary, said Wednesday. "With every data out in the public domain, there will be pressure on the system, pressure on us to perform."
The app is the fourth launched since 2014 as the power ministry aims to bring more transparency to a sector that has been handicapped by inefficient power distribution.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is using greater public accountability as a tool to achieve his goal of supplying around-the-clock electricity to every home. Achieving that requires cooperation from the states, which control the transmission and distribution of electricity within their provinces.
"The apps echo the government's push to bring in transparency, accountability and responsibility," said Sambitosh Mohapatra, a partner at PwC India. "It's the next generation of governance."
India plans to boost its transmission capacity to enable seamless flow of electricity from one region to another and to bring power to all villages. Some of India's states have too much electricity, while others have shortages. An improved inter-regional transmission network would help even out supply across the country.
Apps launched earlier by the power ministry give real-time information on the availability and the price of power at spot exchanges, as well as progress reports on village electrification and distribution of LED lights.
India's inter-regional transmission capacity stood at 59.6 gigawatts as of June 30. There's a plan to expand it to 68 gigawatts by March, according to the power ministry. Power Grid Corp. of India Ltd., which controls more than 90 percent of that network, says it aims to boost inter-regional transmission capacity to 85 gigawatts in five years.
"There are a number of places where Power Grid completes a project but the next leg of connectivity is not completed," Power Grid Chairman I.S. Jha said in an interview in Mumbai. "All these things will be monitored more closely."
Power Minister Piyush Goyal also launched Wednesday an electronic reverse auction platform for transmission projects, in an effort to foster greater competition among bidders. The power ministry has been pushing state-run companies to adopt electronic reverse auctions for awarding contracts. Typically, companies seeking to build projects have chosen the lowest bid submitted in sealed envelopes. The electronic reverse auctions allow participants to see all competing bids.
"It has taken transparency to the next level in the business of power transmission, in giving out contracts for transmission projects," Goyal said in New Delhi. "It takes the entire working of the power sector to the next level of transparency."