India has made giant strides in the past decade in making electricity accessible to its citizens. Electricity generation has reached an all-time high, while the grid has expanded to reach villages that hitherto had not seen an electric pole. Despite this, large swathes of the country live without access to reliable and affordable electricity. Much of the on-going discussion ascribes this to system inefficiencies and institutional barriers that are relics of a power sector set up in yester years.
Government of India has setforth four important goals: ensuring financial sustainability of the distribution sector; providing 24*7 affordable power supply; realizing a greater share of cleaner resources and achieving universal household electrification by March 2019. These are being advanced through programs such as UDAY, ‘Power for All’, the 175 GW initiative of renewable capacity by 2022and the SAUBHAGYA Scheme. In many ways the schemes and programs are intertwined and feed into each other.The ‘last mile’ distribution sector will play a critical role in achieving goals and objectives of all these programs.Various distribution utilities have been making concerted efforts to implement these schemes effectively which vary in degree and nature depending on the base line from where they started, various socio-economic imperatives as well as the financial and systemic constraints result in varying phase and degree of achievement.
In the process, there have been severalsuccess stories in the distribution sector, but these have not been captured or replicated widely and nor have they been able to contribute to the current narrative on the sector. Most state-run distribution companiesremain busy with day-to-day operations and opportunities for cross learning and strategic discussions are few and far between. With this in mind, Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation (SSEF) and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) intend to launch an independent discussion forum where distribution utilities can come together to share and learn from each other’s experiences.
Objectives of the Forum
It is intended that the platform will serve as a learning and knowledge sharing space where the Distribution Companies (Discoms) can brainstorm the challenges being faced by them, raise their real concerns, discuss solutions and learn from each other’s Best Practices. The Forum will bring together CEOs and senior management of the all the Distribution Utilities in the country and provide a platform for them to meet with their peers in an independent and open environment to share views, learnings and challenges andto advocate change. This initiative will focus on getting all the Indian distribution utilities on a single platform.
The themes discussed by the Forum will be decided entirely based on the inputs from the distribution utilities and will take on board any concerns, issues voiced by the utilities. Going forward, it is expected that the Forum will emerge as the combined voice of the distribution utilities in the country.
Forum: Chairmen andManaging Directorsof distribution utilities from all over India will be invited to participate in the Forum meetings. The Forum will convene the distribution utilities in a group of their own peers to discuss amongst themselves both challenges and solutions to the issues facing the distribution sector and charter a way forward. TERI and SSEF will organize a series of Forum meetings and bring out knowledge papers capturing successful initiatives in the distribution segment that can be replicated in other states.Chatham house rules will apply in the Forum meetings. The Forum may also decide to hold separate technical meetings if and when such a need is expressed by the Forum itself.
Advisory Committee: The Forum will be assisted by an Advisory Committeecomprising of senior and well-known practitioners and policy makers from across the country.The committee will act as champions of the Forum and will make the discussions known in other platforms and to other stakeholders in the sector.
Secretariat: The secretariat for the Forum will comprise of Shakti and TERI. The Secretariat will develop the background papers, identify relevant participants for each meeting, organize the meetings, finalise the papers as policy briefs post discussions; and report on the outcomes of the workshops at the end of each year.A series of at least 6 Forum Meetings will be organized over a two-year period.