Endowed with fossil fuel reserves and renewable power potential (solar, wind, tidal, geothermal etc.) and being blessed with a long coastline, Gujarat is poised to be the ‘power hub’ for the entire nation. Power is the key contributor in the development of the state’s socio economic infrastructure. However, being a fast-growing economy, the state is also faced with the challenge of sustaining its rapid economic growth while dealing with the global threat of climate change.
What is important here is to have a Demand Side Management (DSM) policy in place so as to manage the demand for power among some or all consumers through end use efficiency improvements to meet the current and be prepared to fulfill the future needs. Needless to mention DSM mitigates energy shortages, can improve the utility revenues and quality and reliability of power supply to consumers and mitigate the impact of rising tariffs.
VIKSAT, a NGO in Ahmedabad since 1977, conducted a project on DSM and Renewable Energy (RE) to focus on capacity building measures for consumer groups so as to better prepare them to carry out need-based advocacy and participate in associated policy and regulatory processes on two major components, i.e. DSM and RE. The project is implemented in partnership with Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) International, Jaipur with support from the ClimateWorks Foundation, USA.
To undertake an assessment of the current scenario a baseline consumer survey was carried out in four districts of Gujarat, namely, Bhuj, Patan, Mehsana and Ahmedabad to identify barriers that constrain greater consumer participation in the RE/DSM space. VIKSAT has also formed a Reference Group Committee (RGC), drawing on the experts from diverse fields, academics, NGOs, state regulatory and implementation agencies and media to further guide the project team in technical aspects, planning and share information, and take part in state and national level workshops and facilitate wider sharing of outcomes of the project for policy linkages.
On January 24, 2012, a state level RGC meeting was held to disseminate and share findings of the survey and articulate issues that can be taken up for advocacy with the policy and decision makers. Amongst the panel members were Dr Ketan Shukla, Secretary, Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission, Dr Omkar Jani, Gujarat Energy Research Management Institute, Dr Chander Mohan, Department of Science and Technology and representatives from Gujarat Energy Development Agency and Sardar Patel Renewable Energy Research Institute.
Employing a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods, the survey pointed towards the facts that while 92.6 percent of the respondents were aware of climate change, , only 59 percent considered it to be a priority issue to act upon. The general response of consumers was that ‘living today is more important than doing something to address the global issue’. While 92 percent were aware about renewable sources of energy, there was a significant gap noted between the practice or behaviour change and awareness level. Initial high cost of investment in non-conventional energy sources and lack of after sale service stations or expertise were highlighted as main barriers in adopting clean energy sources. Nearly 66 percent of respondents among those who are using Energy Efficient (EE) products were not satisfied with it. Awareness regarding identification of the EE products was also poor. 62 percent of the respondents were willing to pay up to five percent more for ‘clean’ energy. The common expectations of consumers were availability of government subsidy (48 percent) and better R&D services (46 percent).
Issues like strengthening civil society representation (CSO) representation in regulatory process, scope for RE, addressing barriers like high initial capital costs and poor quality of after sales services, training and capacity building of consumer groups and CSOs, and steps towards increasing awareness of energy efficiency amongst consumers were debated upon and discussed in detail.
VIKSAT would take ahead the findings to engage in advocacy with the policy makers and build capacity of credible consumer groups through national/state-level seminars, policy advocacy meetings, and other similar interventions