Event Reports

Tamil Nadu’s MARCH towards Vision ZERO

Thu, 01/12/2022 - 14:42

To remember the many precious lives killed & injured in #TamilNadu's roads & to commend the efforts taken by the state consistently to promote #RoadSafety, CAG are organised an event titled “Tamil Nadu’s MARCH towards Vision ZERO”. In collaboration with the School of Excellence in Law & Greater Chennai Traffic Police on 22nd November 2022. 

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Workshop on strengthening road safety decision-making in Tirunelveli

Tue, 18/10/2022 - 10:36

CAG, in collaboration with the District Administration of Tirunelveli, organised a training workshop for the District Road Safety Committee members on 15.10.2022. The workshop discussed global best practices, traffic safety evaluation, and Intelligent Transport Systems. The event was followed by a media workshop wherein journalists were sensitized to cover road crashes more effectively. 

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Workshop on need for implementing MVAA 2019 and role of media in road safety

Sat, 01/10/2022 - 14:59

CAG in collaboration with  Consumer Rights Movement, Salem conducted a regional media workshop in Salem on 25.09.2022. The workshop had over 30 media personnel participating, who discussed the need to implement MVAA 2019, strengthen road safety enforcement, and the role of media in road crash investigations.

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Prosumer Forum meeting

Fri, 23/09/2022 - 15:28

Citizen Consumer and civic Action Group (CAG) organised a discussion on the “Residential Rooftop Solar Experience in Tamil Nadu: The Prosumer Perspective”, at Madras Management Association (MMA), Chennai on September 3, 2022. The objective of the programme was to bring together residential prosumers to discuss the issues faced while installing Residential Rooftop Solar Photovoltaic (PV) and to brainstorm possible solutions. Mr K. Vishnu Mohan Rao, Senior Researcher, CAG gave an introduction to the activities of the Electricity Governance team in CAG and explained the purpose of conducting the discussion. He welcomed the participants and gave an overview of the event.

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A total of sixteen prosumers participated in the discussion. 

The meeting was inaugurated by Group Captain Vijaykumar (Retd.), Director, Madras Management Association (MMA). He shared his personal experience of installing solar systems in his home and the need for knowledge building within this sector.

The moderator of the meeting Mr D. Suresh, also known as Solar Suresh, opened the discussion explaining the benefits of the installations such as being unaffected by increasing tariffs and having uninterrupted power supply. He also briefly outlined some of the issues that prosumers face during installation and post-installation. 

The following points were discussed by the prosumers:

Technical issues:

The floor opened with a prosumer’s doubts regarding switching off the battery every night.  The moderator and CAG members clarified that the battery can be kept running through the night and that this does not affect the life of the battery. 

The benefits of switching from acid batteries to lithium-ion batteries (which come with around a 25-year warranty) were also discussed. 

The importance of the rooftop structure and bolting of panels was discussed with respect to concerns regarding storms. Mr Suresh stated that his own rooftop system had withstood cyclones like Varadah. He explained that there must be some gaps in the structure to allow free airflow.

There was also a query regarding the method of automating switching between on-grid and off-grid. The discussion indicated that there is currently no clarity on this and that further study is required on the same.

Utility-based issues:

One prosumer described a prolonged struggle to get a net meter from the utility. Instead of a bidirectional meter,  he was given a unidirectional meter.  This issue has not been resolved even after three months of phone calls, visits and letters to the concerned officials. Meanwhile, he has also been paying consumption charges based on his old consumption pattern. He explained that the process of procuring a net meter needs to be made more transparent.  

Most of the prosumers were curious about the net-metering mechanism and wanted more clarity on how it works. The discussion indicated that there are limited field personnel who also frequently switch roles, resulting in a lack of understanding as to how meters are read.  Some prosumers stated that taking pictures of meter readings every month was a good precaution. The new rates for feed-in tariffs were also discussed. 

The general consensus was that the introduction of network charges has made it more expensive to have a grid-connected solar plant. Prosumers who did not have consumption charges are now compelled to pay this added expense.

The utility has not created a prosumer portal to show the export and import of power with the corresponding charges. This is necessary to ensure transparency in data and allow prosumers to check their consumption akin to the utility consumer portal.

In the city, prosumers observed that utility staff were reluctant to learn or support an interested party in installation.  There is a pressing need to sensitise them and ensure that the department functions as a  prosumer-friendly entity.

Developer issues:

There was a discussion on the need for a platform to provide reviews and how this could address difficulties in choosing a reliable developer. For example, one developer had failed to provide a proper inverter to the prosumer. Prosumers also opined that creating a basic checklist can arm a prosumer with the information he/she needs to check the developer’s work.  CAG’s rooftop solar installation guide for Tamil Nadu helps bridge this gap. 

Another prosumer had a query regarding frequent low voltage, with the problem persisting even after checking the connection given by TANGEDCO officials. It was discussed that changing the setting on their inverter can fix this issue; and that this should have been tested by the developer during installation. 

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Policy:

There is a lot of confusion regarding subsidies provided by the Government. Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency (TEDA) has to create a consumer-friendly process for citizens to get these subsidies

Advancements:

The rise of electric vehicles and the need for charging infrastructure that can integrate with solar plants were also discussed.

A subscription model for people who do not have the space or finance to set up their own plant to get solar “biscuits” as done by a start-up in Bangalore was also discussed. This is a great way to provide access to renewable energy to more citizens.

Awareness:

Rooftop solar is still not mainstream because of the complexity that surrounds it; this was elucidated by the various hurdles each prosumer faced during installation. Another important area of discussion was regarding the use of solar in apartment complexes. One of the prosumers installed a rooftop solar plant for common services and was now convincing apartment owners in his apartment to install the same for everyday use. He shared his experience in dealing with the initial scepticism among residents to invest in the plant. He overcame this by explaining and showing the money saved in electricity bills by each flat owner. 

Using renewable energy and promoting the same by helping other people to install residential solar rooftops is the best way to battle climate change and the energy crisis.

Towards the end of the meeting, the prosumers discussed the functioning,  role and objectives of the forum. This forum is for prosumers to share knowledge, discuss issues and ways to resolve them, clarify any doubts, information on new technological advancements, and share updates on policy dealing with residential rooftop solar and any new developments in the field. CAG offered to represent issues on behalf of prosumers to regulator, utility and policymakers as and when required. All the prosumers agreed to create a social media group to engage in such discussions. 

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Workshop on Strengthening Road Safety Decision Making

Thu, 28/07/2022 - 12:36

The workshop aimed at sharing knowledge of global best practices on road safety emphasising the need for robust road safety legislation, increased penalties to act as deterrents and leveraging the use of technology for improved enforcement.

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National Pedestrians’ Conference 2022

Sun, 20/03/2022 - 11:58

The second National Pedestrian Conference organized by SUM Net India in Chennai brought together pedestrian voices, in an effort to create and implement walker-friendly roads and spaces. The event was held on the 11th and 12th of March, 2022 with a keynote address by Ms. Santha Sheela Nair, IAS (retd.).

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A discussion with food manufacturers on Front of Pack Warning Labels

Tue, 15/03/2022 - 14:06
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CAG, in collaboration with Tamil Nadu Small and Tiny Industry Association (TANSTIA), organized a discussion with manufacturers of processed foods in Tamil Nadu on the 8th of March 2022.

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Webinar on Understanding Chennai’s Master Plan from a Transport Perspective

Tue, 15/03/2022 - 11:52

A discussion on the existing urban policy framework, Chennai's second master plan, and the proposed third master plan with Prof. A. Srivathsan and Ms. Aswathy Dilip on March 7th, 2022.

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Webinar on Electricity Sector Competition

Tue, 01/03/2022 - 13:11
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Webinar 2: Electricity Sector Competition 

February 15th, 2022

Post Webinar Note

Context

Competition in power markets enhances efficiency in the sector, while bringing in additional finance and capital to strengthen the sector. Consumers are provided with greater choices in service providers and business models such as Opex and open access as per their energy requirements, load patterns and economic and financial considerations. This has also led to a greater number of players in the market which makes it more competitive, increases choices for the consumer and widens the scale of deployment of such solutions. 

As Tamil Nadu embarks on this journey of strengthening the electricity sector by promoting competition in the sector and introducing new business models, the ‘Citizen consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG)’ in collaboration with MP Ensystems Advisory Pvt. Ltd organized a webinar to discuss the considerations, implications and relevance of ‘Electricity Sector Competition’. 

Key Discussion Points

Presentation on electricity sector competition: Dr Mahesh Patankar, MP Ensystems 

  • Electricity sector has a political economy of its own and the sector has long suffered due to inefficient administration. Most of the state-owned utilities continue to bleed financially as mounting losses continue to affect the reforms that have been undertaken in recent years.
  • India is now on a clear path of decarbonisation which was also on display during the Prime Minister’s announcements at the UN COP-26 Summit, where he declared the Panchamrit targets:
  • India will get its non-fossil energy capacity to 500 GW by 2030
  • India will meet 50% of its energy requirements till 2030 with RE
  • India will reduce its projected carbon emission by one billion tons by 2030
  • India will reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by 45 % by 2030
  • India will achieve net zero by 2070
  • The Electricity Act, 2003 which was a landmark Act for the electricity sector in India included provisions of introduction of power exchanges and the facility of availing open access in India. These steps have been fundamental to the strengthening of competition in the electricity sector. The uptake in the number of consumers and volume of electricity availed through open access is a testament to that.
  • Various models have been tried in different parts of the country in the electricity sector. Some of the notable examples are Bhiwandi model, which was a distribution franchisee model, New Delhi model, etc which have achieved varying levels of success in promoting efficiency in the electricity sector.
  • Tamil Nadu has been an active participant in implementing energy sector reforms and striving for universal access to energy as the state has already achieved 100% electrification of households. It also has the highest number of open access consumers in the country. In this perspective, promoting efficiency and competition in the electricity sector is vital.  

Panel Discussion: Promoting Electricity Sector Competition

Ashwini Swain, Centre for Policy Research

  • There have already been numerous models that have been tried throughout the country to promote efficiency in the retail sector but judging by the degree of success achieved by different models, it cannot be said that privatisation is the cure to all maladies. 
  • Despite going down the privatisation path, Bhiwandi and Odisha models achieved contrasting results. While Delhi saw an improvement in efficiency, provision of quality supply and reduction in Transmission and Distribution losses, the same was not the case in Odisha. Hence, it is essential to take a holistic view of the issues in the sector in different geographies instead of taking a one size fits all approach.
  • The case of Punjab is different than the other two cases as Punjab State Power Corporation Limited became financially crippled not on account of operational inefficiency but due to delays in provision of subsidy requirement. Thus, there are many issues that plague the power sector distributed throughout the whole ecosystem and there is a need to analyse all aspects before finalising a particular approach for reforms.

Ann Josey, Prayas Energy Group 

  • Just a change in ownership is not the solution to improving efficiency in the electricity sector. The current model followed predominantly in India is based on a cost-plus framework, which has no incentives for the organisations for improvement of efficiency. 
  • Prayas Group’s analysis of private sector distribution companies illustrates that there is no real competition when it comes to power procurement by these companies. These Discoms go through the route of competitive bidding for their power procurement, but it was found that most of these companies had contracted power with their own sister concerns, thus rendering the competitive bidding meaningless. Example- Torrent Power.
  • To promote efficiency in the sector, there is a need to promote competition in the entire supply chain. The retail structural model of California is a good case study in this regard. 
  • There is a need to share the risk as well as the rewards for the players in the electricity ecosystem, with a focus on the consumers. 

Netra Walawalkar, Customized Energy Solutions

  • Many large commercial and industrial consumers are now willing to explore open access to reduce their electricity cost, as it is a fixed structure with Discoms, and manage their power requirements as per demand projections. There is also a growing interest in Renewable energy purchase. 
  • Short term power trade through power exchanges has also increased, but has stagnated in recent years, and there is scope to increase participation through this medium.
  • For consumers signing third party power agreements via PPAs with generators, the landed cost for the consumer often does not make sense due to cross subsidy and other charges. Even though Electricity Act says cross subsidy and other charges should increase, this is not happening practically.
  • Despite these charges, there has been an increase in availing through Open access by industrial and commercial consumers who have been able to reduce their electricity costs.

Arijit Maitra, Independent Counsel and Lawyer

  • Indian Electricity Act, 1910 provided for private licensees, which led to the existence of Tata Power, India Power Company, BSES, etc. In 1948, State Electricity Boards were formed. Between 1948-1998, there was a huge mismanagement by state Discoms and a high level of inefficiency.
  • The burning issues in the power sector are:
  • Failure to pay the outstanding dues to suppliers
  • Failure to have tariffs fixed rationally and scientifically
  • Failure to arrest arrears

Due to these issues, there is a need to bring in efficient private players, Delhi being a good example. 

  • Privatisation can have various models. 
  1. In Shrirampur of Maharashtra, Mula Pravara Electric Cooperative Society were rejected renewal of license on the ground that they failed to pay the bulk supply tariff to MSEDCL, and they were supplying to the rich consumers without recovering tariffs. Now the assets of Mula Pravara are with MSEDCL, for which it is paying user charges. Thus, despite not being a licensee, it is not being paid for the assets.
  2. Delhi model is another model of privatisation. Delhi DISCOMs have regulatory assets exceeding Rs 10,000 crore but are still unable to clear the outstanding dues of the suppliers.
  3. Chandigarh presents another model for privatisation.
  • Many states are currently failing. Even in Tamil Nadu, the outstanding dues with generators have been increasing consistently, while there has also been an inability to assess the grid situation. Hence, there is a need for efficient players to be brought onboard.  

Concluding Remarks: Vishnu Rao, CAG

  • The corporate governance of electricity sector warrants adequate scrutiny as well. Utilities can be private or public, but procedural safeguards in the corporate governance structure helps ensure more accountability and transparency in the operational setup. 
  • More transparency akin to share markets where investors’ presentations are put online can be thought of to provide the company some value. A push towards sustainability and governance can be given more priority to make utilities more accountable. This type of an alternate approach where competition not just in the sector, but also in the governance part as well can improve the electricity ecosystems. 
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Webinar on Agrivoltaics in India- opportunities and challenges

Wed, 01/12/2021 - 14:13

The availability of a large area of land is a prerequisite to the installation of solar panels. In order to generate 1MW of power,  the area of land required could be between 2.5 acres and 4 acres. This implies that purely investing in solar farms filled with hundreds or maybe thousands of solar panels instead of crops will have a serious impact on the agricultural output which the land could have produced. On the other hand, focusing on traditional farming alone can be relatively risky given its dependence on weather conditions and other externalities. This raises a dilemma since we need land to feed our ever-growing population and also satisfy their energy needs. Agrivoltaics can be seen as a plausible solution that can make the production of both photovoltaic power and agricultural crops lucrative. This not only increases the total productivity of land but is of economic benefit to the farmers. One example of this is the Cochin International Airport, where this idea has been implemented. The vegetables are grown organically and are co-located with solar panels.

Since this concept is still at a nascent stage, CAG organised this webinar on 22nd Nov, to have a discussion on opportunities and challenges for agrivoltaics in India along with relevant policies for the same. The panel consisted of eminent speakers, Mr Amit Kumar who retired as Senior Director of TERI, Mr Subramaniyam Pulipaka who is the youngest CEO of NSEFI and Mr Jose Thomas who is the Executive Director of CIAL.

Key Discussion Points

Overview of Agrivoltaics in India and existing policies, by Mr Subramaniyam Pulipaka, CEO National Solar Energy Federation of India

  • NSEFI works closely with Indo-German Energy Forum (IGEF).
  • The joint report of NSEFI and IGEF outlines policy recommendations to the Indian government.
  • India has a crystal clear land use classification.
  • There are 17 agrivoltaics plants in India
  • In India, we perceive agrivoltaics in 3 ways.
  • Plants grown in between the rows of the panels
  • Farming below the panels
  • Farming below elevated structure
  • He also gave an introduction to various agrivoltaics plants in India
  • More pilot projects are required to prove the trade-off between the extra cost incurred for facilitating agriculture below the solar panels and the resulting revenue from the cultivation.
  • Miscordination between stakeholders frequently compromises the efficiency of agrivoltaic plants.

According to Mr Subramaniyam Pulipakka “If 1% of total arable land is used for agri PV, then 895 GW of power can be produced”. The major concern is land classification and financial incentives.

Practical experience in implementation by Mr Jose Thomas, Executive Director CIAL

  • Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL) is the first greenfield airport in India under the PPP model.
  • In 2012, Kerala State Electricity Board increased power tariff from Rs. 4/unit to Rs. 7/unit.
  • CIAL started with a pilot solar plant on the rooftop.
  • The Major 12 MWp plant was completed on 18th Aug 2015, with a total investment of Rs. 62 crore.
  • This made CIAL the first airport in the world to be fully powered by solar.
  • Now installed capacity is above 50 MWp.
  • 450 kWp floating solar has been installed in the CIAL golf course.
  • They started in an area of 4 acres in 2015, vegetable cultivation has increased to about 20 acres now.
  • It will be spread to the entire solar plant area of 45 acres by 2023.
  • It provides regular employment to 12 people per day.
  • 30%-35% area is used for ginger. Rest is used for pumpkin, chilly, yam, ash gourd, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.
  • Drip irrigation and mulching are done to save water.
  • The total harvest of pesticide-free vegetables crossed 80 metric tonnes last year.
  • Local agriculture officers visit the area regularly.

Mr Jose Thomas said that “Growing vegetables cool the panels and water used for cleaning panels is used for irrigation”. Thus, agrivoltaics create food-energy-water nexus.

Effect on agriculture, policies for large scale implementation by Mr Amit Kumar, Senior Director (Retd.), Social Transformation at The Energy and Resources Institute

  • PV panels in agrivoltaics systems act as windbreakers, it can reduce wind erosion of soil.
  • With optimum tracking, sufficient sunlight can be provided.
  • Worldwide 3 GW of agrivoltaics has been installed.
  • The application of PV panels can increase water runoff. This can lead to non-uniform water distribution in the field.
  • Agrivoltaics affects the microclimate of the farm.
  • In certain stages of the crop cycle, due to shading, crop yield may be affected.
  • The benefit is that the loss of water due to transpiration is reduced leading to reduced irrigation requirements.
  • It is difficult to bring changes suddenly in the farming sector.
  • Agriculture universities, state agricultural departments and farmers have to be involved as agrivoltaics is an interdisciplinary domain.
  • The central government can initiate a national program in consultation with the state.

 Mr Amit Kumar insisted  “Demonstration farms have to be set up to convince farmers to take up this method. Unless they are convinced, adoption is difficult”

There were around 23 participants and the discussion ended with an interactive Q and A session. The questions ranged from quantifying the electricity generation after growing plants below the panels to policy-level initiatives.

 

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