CAG

Webinar on Just Transition in the Electricity Sector in India

Mon, 22/11/2021 - 16:57

With increasing demand for electricity in urban and rural areas, impending shortages in electricity supply due to unavailability of coal and increasing penetration of renewable energy in India, it is imperative to ensure a Just Transition for electricity consumers. It is important that the impact of the benefits and challenges are distributed Justly’ between the rural and urban sectors and across consumers categories. 

As Tamil Nadu embarks on this journey of decarbonization and strengthening the electricity sector for its consumers, the ‘Citizen consumer and civic Action Group (CAG)’ in collaboration with MP Ensystems Advisory Pvt. Ltd organized a webinar to discuss the importance, relevance and challenges related to ‘Just Transition in the Electricity Sector in India.’ The webinar can be viewed here.

Key Discussion Points

Context of Just Transition in India and Tamil Nadu: Vishnu Rao, CAG

  • Energy transition has been looked at from the renewable integration aspect, but we need to address social and economic aspects from the consumer perspective. 
  • This discussion is a beginning stage to map out next steps that Tamil Nadu can take to enable a Just energy transition scenario in the future. We are looking at options including sustainable commercial utilities that provides affordable power for all as well as utility-scale solar plants. On the financial aspects of the Just transition, we need to understand whether it is feasible and commercially viable for a utility to accelerate a Just energy transition scenario in the state.
  • We need to look at the role of marginalised people in Just transition to ensure equitable inclusion. 

Presentation on an overview of Just Transition: Meghana Rao Pahlajani, MP Ensystems

  • Just transition related to a low carbon economy has three key focus areas:
  • Climate Justice concerns sharing the benefits and burden of climate change from my human rights perspective
  • Energy Justice refers to the application of human rights across the energy life cycle
  • Environmental Justice aims to treat all citizens equally and to involve them in development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies
  • Key drivers of an accelerated transition away from fossil fuels in India include:
    • Renewable and Storage getting cheaper
    • Emission Intensity commitment in NDC
    • Stranded assets and reluctance of finance institutions to fund new coal: 
    • Increasing, yet lower than expected demand
    • High cost of transport
    • Competing demand for limited land
  • With a total installation capacity of around 34,000 MW, Tamil Nadu has one of the highest installations of Renewable Energy in the country. Tamil Nadu also has the highest borrowings of distribution utilities amongst states in 2019-20. Tamil Nadu is well poised to shift from a thermal base system to a renewable energy-based system. Projections from NREL model RE capacity reaching close to 34 GW in 2030 and the Tamil Government has announced high targets and relevant policies to support decarbonization in the State.  

Panel Discussion 1: Reflections on Just Transition in Energy and Global perspective

Dr Mahesh Patankar, MP Ensystems

  • Developing countries have to focus on Just transition to account for adequate electricity supply to meet the growing demand whilst maximising livelihood opportunities in the rural sector. 
  • With an ecosystem of renewables integrating to Tamil Nadu’s energy infrastructure, we need to look at how to balance this with the current strength of utilities. We need to make sure we have abundance of electricity available to vulnerable populations for not just their domestic needs but also industrial and agricultural requirements in urban and rural areas.
  • During the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw a reverse migration from urban to rural areas, increasing demand from agriculture, rural industries, and small businesses. To enable equitable distribution of social and economic objectives for all, we need to provide adequate and reliable power supply throughout the country. 
  • Several aspects of the energy system need to be carefully analysed. It is important to look at designing power markets effectively to ensure decarbonised electricity is available for all distribution companies. 

Dr. Zsuzsanna Pató, Regulatory Assistance Project 

  • Some of the issues raised in Eastern Europe are relevant in the Just transition context for India. The conversation at the EU at a policy level has only covered issues of energy poverty. However, as energy prices increase, we need to focus on ensuring equity for poor consumers.
  • In the case of net metering policies, PV consumers pay only for the net amount of energy produced. This creates a mismatch as poorer households, who usually cannot pay for PV installations, are paying the cost of upholding the distribution network. 
  • In EU, the transition is driven at the national level. A stronger push on regulations and policies at a sub-national and local level will be required to ensure equitable energy transition. 

Akanksha Golcha, Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation

  • Transition pathways will vary depending upon geography. We need to consider social transition of not only direct coal-affected communities, but also indirect stakeholders located near coal mines. A data-centric approach and convergence between centralized and decentralised power supply approach is important to plan and streamline for a Just transition. 
  • Central policies are necessary to drive the overall national objectives, but we also need a bottom-up approach that considers multiple aspects such as gender. 
  • Saubhagya Scheme was successfully undertaken in rural areas. A similar approach is required for a Just transition to ensure economically poor households can benefit equitably. 

Panel Discussion 2: Just Energy transition in India

Dr. Kaveri Iychettira, School of Public Policy, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi

  • Much of the literature on energy has focused mainly on economic thinking to structure the power sector and utility regulation but has not considered equity thinking. This has led to only states with a strong capital being able to integrate renewables, highlighting the equity challenge in the sector. 
  • The regulatory framework is only directed at efficiency and not at equity which does not resolve cost-recovery issues. Therefore, we need to take a deeper look from the equity perspective to understand why there is a mismatch in states managing their power sector debt. 
  • We need better integrate markets to enable grid flexibility where short-term markets are going to be important to integrate renewables. A higher RE-integrated power systems needs to have inter-state exchange of electricity supply to meet the targets set for decarbonization.  

Sreekumar N, Prayas Energy Group

  • Electricity sector is now being looked at from diverse perspectives as we address challenges in the transport, agriculture, cooking, industry sectors that are transitioning towards electrification. 
  • Institutional strengthening needs to be supported for key stakeholders including:
    • Regulatory commissions who play a role in taking a holistic sectoral perspective 
    • Distribution companies who need to balance the mismatch between losses and new market instruments in renewables.   
    • Load dispatch centres so they have access to adequate resources 
    • Transmission investment focused on addressing grid security challenges.
  • Civil society organisations need to push for innovations that will direct a Just transition ensuring affordable, quality supply to all consumers.

Special Remarks: Role of regulators to facilitate Just Transition

Shri D. Radhakrishnan, Tripura Electricity Regulatory Commission

  • The Indian power sector is striving towards leading the renewable energy markets, so the transition towards renewables needs to take place in a Just and systematic manner with innovations emphasised in various sectors such as transport, consumer awareness and rural market access. We also need to ensure safety in the power sector by tackling local-level issues such as electricity overloading before going on to the transition phase. In the rural areas, the focus needs to be on ensuring ease of access to clean cooking.
  • Cities will transition towards electrification as Smart City Mission rolls out and transport means in the public (Metro) and private (e-vehicles) sectors expand.  It is expected that electricity consumption will rise from 18-19% to around 40% in next 10-12 years through the transport sector. 
  • At Tripura Electricity Regulatory Commission, Consumer Education Forum has been formed to consider consumers’ rights, opportunities, and rules.  
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Social Media Poster: Regular Fan vs BLDC Fan

Wed, 15/09/2021 - 19:13

Have you considered switching to Brushless Direct Current (BLDC) fans ? Here is why you should - Reduced energy consumption and increased energy savings!

#SaveElectricity #RenewableEnergy #BLDCFan #EnergyEfficiency

electricity

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கருத்து கணக்கெடுப்பு படிவம்

Fri, 06/08/2021 - 18:09

பிளாஸ்டிக் மாசுபாடு பிரச்சனை பற்றிய புரிதல் குறித்து பொதுமக்கள் கருத்து ஆய்வு; உணவு பேக்கேஜிங்கில் மறுசுழற்சி லேபிள்கள் இருப்பது மற்றும் அத்தகைய தகவல் (மறுசுழற்சி லேபிள்கள்) தெளிவாக வழங்கப்பட்டால் வாங்கும் முறைகள் மாறுவதற்கான பொதுமக்களின் தயார்நிலை.

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Behind the labels

Fri, 06/08/2021 - 17:06

A CAG study in 5 cities in Tamil Nadu on compliance of plastic packaging used for food products with recycling labelling as required by BIS. The study also seeks to understand if the information provided is accessible and useful to consumers through a perception survey. The study found that recycling labels rarely provide all the information required as per law and that most of them are hard to locate, read, and understand. Consumers cannot make an informed choice unless a standard labelling mechanism is set up that is focussed on providing information in an appropriate manner.

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Efficacy of single-use plastic ban in Chennai

Fri, 06/08/2021 - 17:03

A CAG study to assess the status of the single-use plastic ban, two years after it came into force. The study looked at f&b outlets, fruit and vegetable markets and shops across Chennai to document the prevalence of single-use plastic. The study found that single-use plastic continues to be abundant across sectors.

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Media Workshop on Trans fat

Tue, 18/05/2021 - 13:34

Citizen consumer and civic Action Group (CAG), in association with the Press Institute of India (PII), organized an online media workshop on March 26, 2021 to inform the media about the seriousness of trans fat issue, the regulations in place, the need for effective implementation of regulations and a change in cooking/eating habits. The speakers of the workshop included Dr Sumitra Shanmugham - senior medical practitioner, Ms. Rina Mukherji - senior journalist and Mr. Dhakshanamoorthy - senior reporter. The session was attended by around 55 media reporters and consumer activists from 7 districts in Tamil Nadu - Nilgiris, Tiruvarur, Cuddalore, Tirupur, Tirunelveli, Salem and Tiruvannamalai. Mr Sashi Nair, Director of PII welcomed the media stakeholders and Ms Saroja, Director - Consumer Protection, CAG gave a brief introduction on the topic ‘trans fat and its harms’ and also talked about the work done by CAG to address the trans fat problem. 

Ms Savitha, Researcher, CAG presented on the policies governing trans fats globally, and in India. She highlighted that, ‘Globally more than 5 lakh people die because of cardiovascular disease due to trans fat consumption and in India, the number stands at about 60,000 deaths’. Hence, the World Health Organisation (WHO) put a global target of 2023 to eliminate trans fat from global food supply. WHO gave a strategic action plan REPLACE, which is a step by step process to eliminate trans fats from raw materials to finished products’. She also listed the countries that have banned trans fat production. With respect to India, she stated that ‘India has committed to eliminate trans-fat from the food supply by 2022, a year ahead of the WHO mandate. As of now, the Food Safety and Standards Regulations, 2011 (FSSR) allow trans-fat at 3% by weight in oils and fats, which was effective from January 2021 and allow trans fat at 2% from January 2022. It is also noted that under FSSR (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales), food products which use edible oils and fats as an ingredient should not contain industrial trans fatty acids more than 2% by mass of the total oils/fats present in the product, starting January 1, 2022’.  

Dr Sumitra Shanmugham, Senior Medical Practitioner, Chennai spoke about the ill effects of trans fats on human health. She started by stressing how even trans fat consumption in small amounts can increase the Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDLs) and decrease the High-Density Lipoproteins (HDLs) leading to  harmful effects in the cardiovascular and central nervous systems. It also causes weight gain in general, leading to obesity, fat accumulation in the abdomen and indirectly cancer. She emphasised that  children should avoid fried foods and snacks from stores, as these are high in trans fats. . Trans fat intake could create hormonal imbalance and irregular periods and there is some evidence that it could cause  Poly-Cystic Ovarian Disease. High trans fats consumption is known to be associated with hypertension and diabetes which can be risk factors for complications both before and during birth in pregnant women. She explained that pregnant women can also pass on the implications of poor dietary choices to their unborn babies, or postnatally, through lactation. Finally, a post-menopausal woman, who is already going through hormonal changes,  can develop breast and uterus cancer due to high trans fat intake. The risks of trans fat consumption in a woman’s diet can therefore be lifelong, with potential to affect the next generation even. Trans fat intake consumption in men is linked  to poor sperm quality and count. The doctor ended her talk by giving  a few tips on how reading labels can help develop good eating habits,  to be watchful for words like shortenings, interesterification, etc., and to cook oil in a temperature less than the smoking point of oil. She signed off by saying ‘Eating intelligently is an art’.

Questions to journalists

How frequently does reporting of health/food related issues happen during extraordinary events like election, COVID 19, etc?
Reply from Mr. Dhakshanamoorthy, senior reporter
 - According to him, all media at all time, will allocate a particular time/ column for every issue. Usually, print media gives importance to issues viewed as more pressing. Generally, media houses want to package their news in a  certain way to get attention among the public. He therefore recommended using celebrities to convey messages that might not automatically get traction. 

Reply from Ms. Rina Mukherji, senior journalist - The frequency of news related to science, health and food is comparatively low mainly because only a few journalists have a science background to actually understand and convey the gravity of a scientific finding. Today, the media has become money driven and not many companies are interested in publishing such news. For instance, pharmaceutical companies are not always interested in publishing all the data relevant to their products.  With respect to trans fat, she said that very little data was available which made it difficult to convince the public; and for reading food labels, most of the snacks are sold unpacked and regulations are therefore hard to implement even when we know that these products are high in trans fats content. . 

How to make trans fat related news, newsworthy?
Reply from Mr. Dhakshanamoorthy, senior reporter
 - He acknowledged that this can be difficult because even when someone has died from an illness, it is hard to make a connection between his lifestyle/ dietary choices, the resulting illness and the cause of death. The public therefore tends to be a bit sceptical of data on why certain foods are dangerous. However, he added that using celebrities to convey a message always captures the public’s attention. 

Reply from Ms. Rina Mukherji, senior journalist - Usage of data on disease is the best way to get the news published. 

Finally, Dr Somasundaram, Designated Officer, Chennai gave an understanding on how reused cooking oil for frying bajji, cauliflower, chicken and fish are resold as deepam oil near temples. They are hoping to start monitoring cooking oil usage in low-end shops of T nagar and Saidapet after elections. 

The session ended with an open house.  

Question 1: How difficult is it for the government to make the public aware about trans fats?
Reply from Designated Officer:
 He said people are totally ignorant and they have poor purchasing power. People tend to buy things that are cheap because of their socioeconomic status. Hence, production of trans fats has to be stopped before raising awareness among the public. 

Question 2: Why is the focus given to low income and small shop vendors extensively?
Reply from Designated Officer:
 He replied that the low income and small shop vendors are large in number compared to high-end hoteliers and hence we should educate them to bring a change of attitude towards reusing cooking oil, although enforcement is the major way to eliminate trans fats.

Question 3: When can we have the amended regulation in action?
Reply from Designated Officer:
 He said that it is a long process and will definitely take many years to see the success, adding that the government is committed to this cause.

Ms Saroja concluded the session by informing participants that the government is working on the alternatives for such oils and fats, but the responsibility falls on each and every one of us being consumers. Eating intelligently is important.

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Tackling Road Crashes: the Tamil Nadu experience

Mon, 17/05/2021 - 13:38

As part of the National Road Safety Month, on February 18th 2021, CAG held a webinar on road safety in Tamil Nadu.  The highlight of the webinar was the perspective shared by Mr. Pramod Kumar, IPS who heads the State Traffic Planning Wing of the Tamilnadu Police. With the recent strides made by Tamil Nadu in reducing road crash fatality, he was able to throw light on how these have been achieved and how the government is not waiting to rest on its laurels but looking to improve the state’s track record so the state can reach zero deaths. He also shared some key statistics on road crashes in the state.

He highlighted the efforts to ensure seamless planning and coordination among the various government agencies involved and how those efforts have paid off. One such example has been to set up highway patrols (as highways see some of the highest number of crash fatalities) so that response time is reduced considerably. Medical facilities and ensuring that trained personnel are able to provide immediate lifesaving help in ambulances was another key point.

He also touched upon various aspects of the law and the role of each stakeholder – driver, CSOs, parents, children, government agencies, etc. He highlighted that underage driving has become a very regrettably common phenomenon and this is an issue the police is gearing up to crack down on. He pointed out that as per the law, the parents/guardian are held responsible.

During the question and answer session, in response to a question on whether the amended Motor Vehicles Act, 2019 would be implemented in Tamil Nadu, he responded that it is under consideration with the government and is likely to be implemented soon.

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