Prayas (Energy Group) (PEG) organised the fourth edition of the two-day experience sharing workshop on 5th and 12th of October, 2021. The event was held virtually, and was attended by 70 participants working in the electricity sector, representing over eight states. This included NGOs, grass-root organisations, think tanks, and consumer activists.
As has been the prevalent practice in previous years, the workshop was aimed at discussing and deliberating the commonalities and differences across states on various aspects related to the power sector. To allow for more focused discussions, this year’s event deliberated upon the following themes:
- Power sector policy making (Reflections on recent proposals): In this session, there were reflections on the major changes introduced and proposed by central and state governments in India. These include delicencing and privatisation of DISCOMs, push for smart metering, measures to strengthen ERCs and APTEL, proposals to promote sales migration through the renewable route, and introduction of new instruments in power markets, amongst others. The need to strengthen central-state concurrent jurisdiction in decision making was emphasised. This was the first session held on Day 1 of the workshop.
- Agriculture supply: Electricity supply for agriculture is one of the biggest challenges for DISCOMs, a concern for state governments and a frustrating issue for farmers. Estimation of consumption is doubtful because of poor metering and is linked to AT&C loss. Poor quality of supply and service leads to farmer discontent and non-payment. The proposed DBT approach has many implementation bottlenecks. Solar feeder initiative, promoted under KUSUM, and being implemented in some states has high potential. In this session, experiences from Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana were presented, followed by a discussion on developing a farmer-centric approach to address the challenges. This was the second session held on Day 1 of the workshop.
- Energy transition challenge and the public interest agenda: While the transition of the power sector offers new opportunities, it is likely to be disruptive, complex, and have far-reaching impacts. In this context, discussions in this session included deliberations on balancing environmental concerns of thermal generation with reliable supply, changing dynamics owing to growing sales migration, evolving roles of regulators, and the varied experiences of state actors, amongst other issues. The continued need to safeguard public (consumer) interest and the role of civil society in a changing sector was also discussed. This discussion was held on Day 2 of the workshop.
Many appreciated the state-level insights and experiences shared during the workshop, but underscored the need for increased and active collaboration among civil society actors. The need for sustained regulatory engagement and in-depth policy analysis was emphasised, given the continued regulatory and jurisdictional challenges that exist in the power sector. While everyone missed the experience of physically attending the workshop, participants acknowledged that the virtual engagement proved to be a very fruitful experience.