Carbon footprint on power bill

The Telegraph, December 06, 2009

Will one’s electric bill be calculated on the basis of one’s carbon footprint in the near future? Although at this point of time, this seems to be a distant possibility, the issue was discussed in a recent meeting on electrical reforms held in Jaipur.

The deliberations were important for the city as many experts from Calcutta, including senior officials from CESC and its state counterpart, the West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (WBSEDCL), were present at the meeting organised by the Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS), the international consumer interest organisation.

The meeting was convened to discuss the status of electrical reforms in India, Nepal and Bangladesh on the basis of a report prepared by CUTS. The matter came to the fore when a Delhi expert raised the issue of cross subsidy in electricity pricing, which is providing subsidy to domestic consumers with the money accrued from commercial consumers.

“How long will we subsidise the domestic consumers while overcharging the commercial ones?” asked Payal Malik, an economist from Delhi University.

“Who is subsidising whom? We should calculate the carbon footprint, and hence the contributions of a consumer in climate change, while deciding the pricing. How can the carbon footprint of a domestic contributor be compared with that of commercial units that consume huge amounts of electricity?” countered environment activist Jay Basu from Calcutta, an argument that received support from other experts.

“It is high time we started thinking about carbon footprint while calculating electricity price,” said T.L. Sankar, a senior policy expert in electricity reforms.

“The issue is extremely important and needs to be considered, especially with climate change becoming such a critical issue. We will definitely try to address it much more directly in our follow-up projects,” observed Keya Ghosh, an expert from CUTS.

“This is an emerging issue and needs to be addressed,” Malay De, the managing director of WBSEDCL, commented, a view supported by Dilip Samajpati of CESC.

A recent study on the carbon footprint of 40 cities across the country — carried out by the research organisation, International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, and supported by the British high commission — found that the combined energy use of industry and commercial sectors, on an average, covers more than half of the total energy consumption in the cities.

In the case of Calcutta, the figure is 63 per cent; in sharp contrast, only 19 per cent of the total energy is consumed in the residential sector. Any doubts about who is subsidising whom?

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