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First seminar on energy efficiency/conservation and renewable energy, Karnataka

Citizen consumer and civic Action Group (CAG), in association with Consumer Rights, Education and Awareness Trust (CREAT) and BMS College of Law, organised an energy efficiency and conservation seminar for law students, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and consumer groups from around the state at BMS College of Law, Bengaluru, Karnataka on 29th April 2024. 

This seminar was organised under CAG’s initiative, ‘Accelerating Clean Energy Transition by Improving Stakeholder Participation for Electricity Governance in India’. This initiative, launched in January 2024, includes work in five Indian states - Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Telangana, Chhattisgarh and Tripura.

The objectives of the gathering were to 

  • present insights on energy efficiency, energy conservation and renewable energy to law students and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Karnataka; and
  • promote a networking platform between the participating law students and CSOs towards consumer advocacy in the energy sector. 

The seminar witnessed around 50 participants

The event was set in motion with a welcome address from a student volunteer, followed by a keynote speech from Dr Sairam Bhat of the National Law School of India University in Bengaluru. Dr Bhat spoke primarily to the law students in attendance. He began his speech by emphasising the importance of citizens' rights in the jurisprudence arena. He explained that it is the judiciary's responsibility to protect citizens' rights and that disputes related to established rights are taken more seriously than those based on facts alone. Using the Allahabad High Court’s judgement that recognised the connection between electricity and water supplies and established the ‘right to access to electricity’ as a fundamental right under Article 21 - Right to Life of the Indian Constitution, he argued that access to electricity is a basic necessity and one that is very important to exercise other rights. 

He also discussed the types of energy contracts and the anti-competitive clause of the Electricity Act 2003, which restricts unfair competition among generation companies. Giving an example of the ‘Energy Watchdog vs. Central Electricity Regulatory Commission & Ors’ case, Dr Bhat threw light on how energy disputes have a larger public mandate as they impact society and consumer interests and have a constitutional dimension. Though energy law is in one way technical, it is an important and emerging area. Only very few lawyers are specialised in energy dispute resolution. He advised the students to specialise in that if they get an opportunity.

He underscored the significance of sustainable development by referring to India’s pledge to become carbon-neutral by 2070 and the recent judgement of the Supreme Court in the ‘M.K. Ranjitsinh vs. Union of India’ case which recognised the right against the adverse impacts of climate change as part of the right to life. While not all renewable energy technologies are necessarily sustainable, he said that implementing fair Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) mechanisms in the renewable energy industry can reduce the ‘use and throw’ manufacturing culture of corporates and improve their Environmental Social Governance (ESG).

He concluded that it is important for energy technologies to ensure accessibility, affordability, availability, and sustainability for all, as access to energy is a basic human right.

Dr Sairam Bhat delivering his keynote address

Ms Pinky Banerjee, Assistant Professor - BMS College of Law, gave a presentation on 'Energy Conservation: The Legal and Policy Framework'. During her presentation, she emphasised that any development must take into consideration environmental sustainability. To preserve energy for future consumption, an effective energy transition that includes energy efficiency, energy conservation and behavioural changes is essential. Ms Pinky explained the clauses of the Energy Conservation Act, 2001, which establish the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), the instructions to BEE to disseminate awareness/information on energy savings and the penalties associated with non-compliance with rules and regulations regarding energy conservation. She also spoke about some important energy policies of Karnataka, such as the Karnataka Energy Conservation and Energy Efficiency Policy and the Gruha Jyoti Scheme. Furthermore, she highlighted the role of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in partnering with the government and private organisations to work towards energy conservation.

Ms Pinky Banerjee, during her presentation

Dr Gayathri Bai, Assistant Professor - BMS College of Law, discussed energy efficiency and the role of consumer groups in promoting energy efficiency schemes. Conservation of energy by efficient usage, she said, is the responsibility of every energy consumer. Energy conservation not only has environmental benefits but also has economic benefits for India. India imports crude oil to generate electricity, and reduced energy consumption would lead to reduced import costs. A healthy balance of trade is crucial for India, being a developing country, to compete in the international market. As India is the third largest energy consumer globally, the Government promotes efficient usage of energy by its citizens through policy instruments like the Standards and Labelling (S&L) scheme, Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC), Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All (UJALA) scheme, Street Lighting National Program and PM-KUSUM (Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha Utthaan Mahabhiyan) scheme. She emphasised the importance of proper implementation of laws and inculcating energy literacy in school children as part of their school curriculum for responsible production and consumption of energy in the future. She gave an assurance that BMS Law College would submit a proposal recommending including energy education as part of the school curriculum to the Government.

  Dr Gayathri Bai discussing the role of consumers, consumer groups and policy instruments in fostering energy efficiency 

Mr Kirubakaran, Researcher - CAG, explained the importance of energy audits as a tool for promoting energy conservation and efficiency. With more than 60% of electricity being generated from coal, increased energy consumption leads to greater dependence on thermal power plants and contributes to increased global warming. Energy audits are an effective tool for identifying energy costs and thereby reducing overconsumption and wastage of energy.

He elaborated on the process and types of energy audits and demonstrated how to do a simple energy audit to calculate the energy used by our everyday appliances. He recommended comparing the audit's estimate of the household's monthly consumption with its electricity meter reading. Any discrepancy between the values could indicate a faulty meter.

Mr Kirubakaran explaining energy audit and its importance

Mr Suresh Savalagi, Consultant at Selco Solar Co. Ltd. in Bengaluru, explained the fundamentals of renewable energy and emphasised the importance of generating electricity using renewable resources instead of non-renewable resources. He clarified how both the light and heat components of the sun's rays are used to meet human energy needs. Discussing the components and mechanisms of the grid and non-grid Roof Top Solar (RTS) systems,  he stressed the need for more awareness programs about RTS to drive large-scale adoption of solar and other renewable energy technologies in India.

Mr Suresh Savalagi, during his presentation on renewable energy

Mr Y G Muralidharan, CREAT, outlined the importance of consumer advocacy in the transition to clean energy. He pointed out the scepticism among Indian consumers regarding energy-efficient technologies and the policy distortions and inadequate awareness efforts from the Government as key reasons for the slow adoption of energy-saving measures. He suggested that civil societies should

  • play a part in the widespread dissemination of information and
  • collaborate with government organisations such as ESCOMs (Electricity Supply Companies) to represent and advocate for consumer rights. 

Additionally, he recommended that student participants conduct small surveys to assess the functionality of electricity consumer helplines and provide guidance to the CSOs on how to seek funding from BEE and Karnataka Renewable Energy Development Limited (KREDEL). He encouraged the participants to form a network and work together to empower consumers as influential stakeholders in the electricity sector.

Mr Y G Muralidharan pointing out the importance of consumer advocacy in the energy transition

Ms Vanathi, Researcher - CAG, facilitated a feedback discussion for the student participants to share their takeaways from the gathering. The students actively responded with interesting insights. Many expressed their desire to further their learnings from the seminar by conducting in-depth research in the areas of energy and electricity. Ms Vanathi appreciated the students for their enthusiastic participation and interest in research. She advised the students who are part of the legal community to enhance their knowledge of the energy sector and build networks to contribute towards its sustainability as well as for the electricity consumers’ welfare in every possible way. She emphasised the importance of diverse and inclusive representation for a just energy transition and the significance of legal substantiations for consumer advocacy. 

Experience sharing by a student-participant with Ms Vanathi during the takeaway session 

The seminar concluded with a vote of thanks by a student volunteer. The event resulted in insightful discussions and networking among the participants towards contributing to the development of an energy-literate community.


A glimpse of interactions and discussions among participants


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