The Conference also received support from Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission, Gujarat Energy Development Agency, West Bengal Electricity Regulatory Commission and West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency. He mentioned that generation of electricity from renewable energy has been mainstreamed. Close to 55,000 megawatts of power will be generated through renewable energy sources by 2017 in the country. However, he emphasised the need to create awareness and build capacity of consumers and he was happy to note the initiative undertaken by CUTS International.
Welcoming the participants, Bipul Chatterjee, Deputy Executive Director, CUTS International mentioned that it is not uncommon and recognised worldwide that access to energy is a crucial enabling condition for achieving sustainable development. Prudent energy policies and research can play an important role in steering both industrialised and developing countries onto more sustainable energy development paths. However, a key aspect which still remains to be analysed is the mechanism of price discovery which cuts across various key economic sectors in the country. Further, he highlighted, few key outcomes of the project emphasising that there has been an increase by 27 percent in terms of consumers that are inclined to pay extra for clean energy, as emerged from the final consumer surveys in both the States i.e. West Bengal and Gujarat. However, the consumers are ready to pay only 1-5 percent extra on their currentt bill, provoded they are assured of reliable energy.
Deepak Gupta, representing Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation in his remarks flagged that policymakers and regulators are one side of the coin and the other key part of the overall system are the consumers, who are usually neglected. Thus, the purpose of supporting CUTS was to understand the expectations of the consumers, create awareness and as a result, the consumers should demand for clean energy sources. Thus it is heartening to know that consumers are interested to pay atleast 5% more for clean energy, which is one of the key positive outcomes of the DREC project. Towards the end, he assured CUTS of the support of SSEF, as this was just the beginning and there is more to be done.
Representative from Gujarat, Mr. Ketan Shukla, Secretary, Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission, in his remarks congratulated VIKSAT and CUTS for successfully implementing the project in Gujarat and he was happy to note the findings of the project. He mentioned that as a country we are facing huge challenge in meeting our energy demands and developing aspirations while limiting emissions and climate change challenges. Towards the end, he acknowledged the results of the final consumer survey and observed that nearly 84percent of the consumers are ready to pay higher for clean energy.
Lastly, Prasad Ranjan Ray, Chairman, West Bengal Electricity Regulatory Commission, raised issues revolving around political economy challenges with reference to energy security. He emphasises that energy security is important but it is meaningless without looking at some of the key aspects i.e. affordability, accessibility and sustainability. He mentioned that renewable energy will play an important role in time to come, thus it is important to facilitate discussion between stakeholders in order to frame a proper policy framework. He suggested CUTS to extend the project in other States and also cover large sample of respondents to determine issues pertaining to awareness and buy in of the consumers. Lastly, he emphasised the importance of building capacity of CSOs and create CUTS in all part of the West Bengal.
There were over 60 participants in this seminar, drawn from the government, business and civil society. Dr Kirit S Parikh, Former Member, Planning Commission of India, Government of India also participated in the conference.