Getting More Power to the People in India’s Remote North East Region

October 21, 2015

The North East Region of India stretches across the eastern foothills of the Himalayas. Despite being well-endowed with natural resources, the region continues to lag in development and economic growth. More than 80 percent of the region’s people live in rural areas, mostly dependent on low-value agriculture. A slow pace of industrialization, poor infrastructure, and limited opportunities for productive economic activities have led to a distressed economy, and 32 percent of the region’s population lives below the poverty line, compared to the national average of about 21.9 percent (2011-12). Lack of access to reliable power is one of the main causes for low economic growth and the severe development backlog in the North East region. Today, the annual per capita power consumption (of about 290 kWh) in the North East is less than one-third of the national average. The peak demand for power in the region (2,528 MW in 2015) is just over one-fourth the peak demand in the state of Haryana, which has about half the population. More than half the households in the region do not have electricity in their homes, and factories, farms, hospitals and schools have to find expensive and often more polluting means of meeting their energy needs. The World Bank is working with the Government of India and several state governments in the North East to improve the availability of reliable power supply to the region. The North Eastern Region Power System Improvement Project will help improve the transmission and distribution infrastructure in six major states of the region -- Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura – where one-third of electricity in the system is lost due to old and inefficient infrastructure.