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Electricity Billing Governance

CAG, in partnership with Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), and supported by Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation has launched the Electricity Billing Governance project in Tamil Nadu. The initiative aims to promote greater participation of consumers in the governance of the electricity sector in Tamil Nadu, using the electricity bill as an enabling mechanism. It also attempts to establish a case for the electricity bill as a tool that can enable better communication and understanding between consumers, electricity distribution companies (discoms), and the state government so as to sustain 24x7 power for all while enabling uptake of green energy/energy efficiency/energy conservation measures.

Through the course of the project, CAG will focus on (i) understanding consumer perception and level of understanding about the electricity bill in Tamil Nadu; (ii) researching tariffs and electricity bills of various distribution companies across India and specific to Tamil Nadu; (iii) improving consumer awareness and participation with respect to electricity bills through outreach and capacity building and (iv) engaging with relevant stakeholders of the electricity sector to represent the need for granular details in electricity bills.

AIM

To improve the quality and quantity of participation of consumers in the electricity sector using the electricity bill as a tool for governance, engagement, and communication using a combination of research, information dissemination, awareness, capacity building, and advocacy.

The electricity bill is a key instrument for regular two-way communication between distribution companies (discoms) and consumers. In India, at present, these bills give consumers an opportunity to shape their understanding of consumption and usage behaviour. Whilst for discoms, it helps to highlight their cost for each consumer category. However, electricity bills should do more than the above functions and extend to providing other granular details such as benchmark of its performance while giving greater incentives to consumers for efficient usage of electricity. Most importantly, the bill must be visualised as a key tool for enabling consumers to interact with the utility and various stakeholders in a more informed and transparent manner. It could also be a potential tool for enabling greater uptake of renewable energy and demand-side management measures.

The electricity billing structure in Tamil Nadu, like the rest of the country, if not more, lacks granularity and transparency. The bills in the state, merely provide basic and bare minimum information around units of electricity consumed for a given period and cost incurred for the same. Several key details including distribution standards of performance, a breakdown of charges and applied electricity subsidies, which are an important aspect of TN’s electricity charges, are not reflected in the bills. Such lack of transparency suggests a strong need to explore various attributes that should be included in the bill to make it more informative.

The initial focus of the initiative lies on raising consumer awareness and reaching out to a wider range of stakeholders by demystifying and disseminating information on various aspects related to electricity governance including administrative, redressal processes, and regulatory areas. Subsequently, the initiative would involve undertaking research on electricity supply codes and electricity bills along with CEEW, our partner organization. Apart from reviewing literature and studying best practices, the research would entail rolling out consumer perception surveys in Electricity Consumer Cells (ECCs) in Tamil Nadu to gauge the level of understanding on electricity bills in the current structure, design of tailored bills for residential and agricultural consumers. Findings from all the research material and survey responses will be fed into a design exercise for a model electricity bill. The model bill will be rolled out in ECCs and further used to consolidate information on billing structures, as consumer awareness material. Based on the analysis and outcomes of the exercise, CAG will engage and inform relevant stakeholders in the electricity sector, including the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC), Forum of Regulators (FoR), Ministry of Power, Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission (TNERC), Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Company (TANGEDCO), other state utilities, regulators, other state research organizations and consumer representatives, on the need for informative and transparent electricity bills.

  • Widespread awareness and sensitisation on the need and value of a well-designed electricity bill, among stakeholders of electricity sector

  • Increased participation of consumers in electricity sector in Tamil Nadu using the electricity bill

  • Development of well-informed, strong, and participative consumer base

  • Strengthened networks and increased communication and engagement among consumers, utilities, and other stakeholders

Interim Outcomes

  • Development of greater understanding of consumer perceptions about electricity bills in the current structure in Tamil Nadu

  • More information and research materials on electricity billing structures including a model electricity bill to be made available for stakeholders of the electricity sector

  • Increased engagement and stakeholder discussions on tariffs and billing at state and central levels