Will Competition and Private Participation help the Power Sector Tide the Shortage Situation?
“Power cannot be equated with the mobile/telecom services. Its the duty of the Government to provide access to good quality of electricity at affordable price to every individual of the state” said Nirupam Sen, Minister in Charge, Department of Power, Government of West Bengal, while delivering the keynote address at the Regional Conference organised by CUTS International with support from West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd. in Kolkata. The minister released a report titled “Consumer Empowerment in Electricity Reforms – A Review from South Asia” a CUTS International publication, on this occasion.
The objective of the Regional Conference, which marked the end of a pilot project for capacity building on electricity reforms in Nepal, Bangladesh and India (RESA) supported by Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, was to encourage regional co-operation on key issues relevant to power sector reforms in Asia. Country experiences from India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines were shared and exchanged. The experienced gained from RESA was disseminated to a larger audience to explore and replicate the model in other Asian countries.
Secretary General, CUTS International, Pradeep Singh Mehta, while addressing the Conference briefed the participants about the 26 glorious years of CUTS and the global partnership CUTS has developed for Economic reform, the experience it has gained from across the world which it is using for advocating betterment of consumers. He then highlighted the importance of competition in the electricity sector citing the examples of competition in the retail sector of Mumbai and the success. He then highlighted CUTS’s involvement in Power Sector for the past decade for which the organization was honored with India Power Award in 2008.
Malay Kr. De, MD & Chairman, West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (WBSEDCL), India, confessed that the consumers are given the last priority in the prevalent monopolistic nature of market and described the plight of consumers, especially rural consumers, due to poor quality of service. He called for cooperation from NGOs like CUTS to jointly tackle the problem and appreciated CUTS initiative of empowering consumers.
Aslak Brun, Minister Counsellor, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Norway, New Delhi, India commented on the importance of availability of electricity for economic growth. He said that the Norwegian policy makers have appreciated the RESA model and they would like to see if the model can be replicated in other countries. Syed Masud Mamud Khandaker, Deputy High Commissioner, Bangladesh, stressed on the importance of regional cooperation to meet the energy requirements of individual countries.
The Conference was attended by more than 50 delegates comprising policy- makers, regulators, ex-regulators, academia, civil society organisations, media and service providers from different Asian Countries like Indonesia, India, Thailand, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, etc.