Electricity Consumers Cells (ECCs), an initiative of CAG, was started in November 2016 with the purpose of empowering consumers to improve the quality and quantity of participation in the governance of the electricity sector in Tamil Nadu. Three ECCs were started in partnership with local Civil Society Organisations (CSOs)- in Cuddalore, Thiruvallur, and Thirunelveli, in December 2016. In April 2018, two more ECCs in Salem and Tiruvannamalai became operational. ECCs advise consumers by liaising with TANGEDCO thus promoting participatory governance. They also create awareness through outreach meetings and empower civil society organizations (CSOs) and electricity consumers through capacity building programmes.

Advisory Services: As of November 2018, ECCs have provided advice to 938 consumers, of which 72% are males and 28% are females. An average of 11 complaints per month is being registered via letters, in person or over the phone. 72 % of the complaints have been resolved while 17% of the complaints were closed as unresolved due to the nature of the complaint as it pertains to infrastructure or area-level complaint requiring capital investment by TANGEDCO and 6%  of the complaints registered in October are yet to be resolved in November , hence kept pending , due to delays by TANGEDCO.

Category of Complaints:

In terms of categories, 76% domestic (residential), 13% commercial (shops, small hotels, and other establishments), 5% public bodies (place of worship), 5% agriculture (farmers) and the remaining 1% are from micro and medium enterprises (handloom, cottage industry).

Success Stories:

Mr.X from Thirunelveli district registered a complaint with ECC Thirunelveli for replacement of a burnt meter. He had already filed a complaint in the local EB office but was not successful in getting the new meter. ECC Thirunelveli advisor noted that the application was not given to the appropriate official. He helped the consumer to draft a letter for getting the new meter. From ECC Thirunelveli’s side, they also took up the issue by forwarding a copy of the complaint to the concerned official. Within a week’s time, the complainant's house was inspected and a new meter was installed.

Ms.Y. from Thiruvallur district registered a complaint with ECC Thiruvallur about nonfunctional streetlights. The complainant had already raised the issue with the local municipal authorities. They explained that the street lights were not working due to severed wires as a result of heavy rain. ECC Thiruvallur took up the matter with the concerned authorities and the connections were restored within a week’s time.

Mr. Z, representing a Resident Welfare Association from Salem district, pointed out the necessity of a new transformer in his area, during one of the outreach meetings. ECC Salem took up the problem and sent a complaint letter to the Executive Engineer of the area, asking to set up the transformer. TANGEDCO agreed to set it up, provided the association offered a site. Accordingly, the association located a site and  TANGEDCO is now in the process of installing the equipment.

Mrs.T. from Thiruvallur District registered a complaint with ECC Thiruvallur about sagging wires and damage of low tension pillar near her house, disturbing their daily activities. The complainant had already raised the issue with the local EB office several times with no proper response. ECC Thiruvallur took up the matter with the concerned EB office, demanding that they rectify the problem.  Within two weeks, a new pillar was erected and the issue was rectified.

Outreach Meetings and Capacity Building Programmes:

As of November 2018, 5 ECCs have conducted 65 outreach meetings and 14 capacity building programmes on energy efficiency, renewable energy, and electricity governance. The participants who attended the programmes include residents in the neighbourhood of the meeting, farmers, self-help group women, daily wage workers, small-scale industrialists, retired electricity board employees, retired government officials, college professors, school teachers, students, engineers, electricians, etc.

The outreach meetings aim to educate consumers on electricity rights, objectives, and functions of ECCs. During these meetings, the electricity expert will explain the type of complaints registered with the ECCs, also describes the procedure for registering the complaints. The local TANGEDCO officials are present in most meetings to address and resolve issues.

The capacity building programmes focus on imparting knowledge on topics related to energy efficiency and energy conservation, renewable energy, and rules and regulations. This is in an interactive session where utility officials interact with consumers on wide-ranging issues. The aim of the ECCs has been to improve the quality and quantity of participation by consumers in the electricity sector in Tamil Nadu. Through a stronger, more informed network of electricity consumers, the ECCs have made a visible impact in the five districts.