India’s Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde presented an optimistic picture of the opportunities in India’s power sector at the 8th India Investment Forum in New York in the last week of September. He invited power companies to invest in India. He pointed out that while the present installed generation capacity in India is about 1,81,000 MW, more than 80,000 MW of new power capacity is under construction.

That figure would be accurate but it depends on when you pick up the threads. We took a look at the Planning Commission’s Monitorable Targets, Milestones & Performance document for infrastructure projects. In 2009-10, the total target for fresh power capacity generation was 14,507 MW, while the figure achieved was 9,585 MW. In 2010-11, the target was 20,360 MW while the capacity created was 12,161 MW.

Interestingly, the first quarter of 2011-12 seems to suggest some catching up is happening. Of a total target of 2,966 MW, 3,509 MW has already been achieved. Of this, the private sector’s contribution is higher, at 2,060 MW, against the target of 1,385 MW. Even the central Government owned power companies have overshot, touching 660 MW against a target of 500 MW. There is a separate figure for state Government power projects. Usually, all central, state and private sector projects lag. The reasons could be many including a catch-up in previously commissioned projects. That's a more fundamental and consistent problem and a 'under construction' figure must be viewed carefully.