Are you getting your 65 units of electricity a month?
If the kilowatt hour a day is the ‘lifeline’ unit of energy that a person in India is entitled to, then the purchase of an average, nationally, of 65 units of electricity a month could mean that in this 66th year after Independence, the Republic of India is able to provide sufficient energy equitably to its citizens.
Not so. The average is utterly misleading and here is why. In the city of Bengaluru (or Bangalore) the average per capita units per month purchased is 89.5, in Kolkata (the Calcutta of yore) it is 92.5, in Mumbai (the Bombay of ditto) it is 93.4, in Hyderabad it is 108.6, in Chennai (Madras, once upon a time) it is 113.8 and in New Delhi (the source of sub-continental malpractice on an imperial scale) it is 169.7. That is the tale of the table above, the data excellently provided by the Prayas Energy Group of Pune (yes also once more familiarly called Poona) and released in a working paper entitled ‘Electricity in Megacities’.
But of course there is aggressive electricity consumption in those cities of India which are sans (for now) the ‘mega’ prefix. Their inhabitants make every effort to, first, move into the category of household which has four or more rooms (not bedrooms, rooms), and in which is installed an air-conditioner, a water heater (geyser, we would call those hot water boilers, in an earlier era), a washing machine (for those cities that hadn’t a ‘dhobi ghat’ or two), a refrigerator (remember when ‘frost free’ first came along?), a television set naturally, all the better to dull ones wits with, four or five tube-lights, an equal number of ceiling or pedestal fans, a few compact fluorescent bulbs, and a computer (with a multi-megabit connection at the very least).
And where will we find these over-watted households? There is, as Census 2011 has informed us, Ahmedabad with 6.5 million inhabitants, Pune with 5.0 million, Surat 4.5 million, Jaipur 3.0 million, Kanpur 2.9 million, Lucknow 2.9 million, Nagpur 2.4 million, Ghaziabad 2.3 million, Indore 2.1 million, Coimbatore 2.1 million, Kochi 2.1 million, Patna 2.0 million and Kozhikode 2.0 million. Not ‘mega’ but in no way minor.
How many units a month of electricity are the households in these cities consuming? The monthly average of the five ‘mega’ cities (New Delhi excluded because of its off-the-charts greed for watts) is around 100 units per capita per month. Outside the ‘mega’ cities ranks and excepting a few others, electricity is not a round-the-clock service. Hence my estimate is, on the conservative side, that the 100 units per head per month can be scaled down to 80 (which is still a good fraction above the so-called national average of 65). We then have for the next 13 cities whose populations are above 2 million (Census 2011) a combined household purchase of 3.22 billion units a month! That is more than the Indian Railways consumed on its electrified railway lines in the entire year of 1985-86!