Interventions: ENERGY JUSTICE

Changing Landscape and Growing Financial Crisis in the Power Sector

1 & 2 September, 2018
CFA and PAIRVI called upon different organizations and networks working on energy policy, energy finance and other energy related issues to participate in a national seminar held on 1-2 September, 2018 at USO House, Delhi. The objective was to discuss current power schemes in India and critical look at renewable resources of energy and whether they are actually green in nature. The main focus was to evolve a collective response of the participating organizations on the key issues in power sector and renewable energy in India.
The speakers in the meeting were –
Soumya Datta, Environmentalist, Beyond Copenhagen Collective, New Delhi, Dr.Soibal Chakravarty, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) Bangalore Paranajoy Guha Thakurtha, Senior Journalist  Shreya Jai,  Senior Journalist Business Standard, Dr. Manish Gupta, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, Delhi, Ashok Jain, All India Power Engineer Federation ( AIPEF) ,PrabirPurkayastha,Senior Journalist  News click,Ritwick Dutta, Environmentalist Lawyer, Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE), Ashok Rao, All India Power Engineer Federation ( AIPEF), Leo Saldanah,  Senior Activist & Environmentalist, Environment Support Group, Bangalore , Nitin Sethi, Senior Journalist Business Standard, Philip cullet, Water polices expert, Himanshu Thakkar,   Environmentalist & Water expert, SANDRP, Srinivas Krishnaswamy, Economist Vasudha Foundation, Sanjay Mangala Gopal, Senior Activist & Renewable Energy expert, Prof. E. Somanathan Economist, Indian Statistical Institute Delhi, Com. Thomas Franco, Former General Secretory  AIBOC.

Day 1:

In the Session I, Soumya Dutta, Environmentalist, Beyond Copenhagen gave a short introduction on understanding the scenario of power sector and the power financing in India. He briefed on the three phases of the power sector and on where the country is moving ahead. The first phase (1990-2003) started from being a small base to large base where in 2003, the Electricity Act was also implemented. During this phase, only about 11-12% of electricity was under private ownership. The second phase (2003-2011) was when the power installed capacity increases with the rapid increase in private ownership. During this phase, with the shift from mining to power plants distribution, the excess to power spread widely and the domestic sector has gone up by 24% mostly in the metropolitan cities like Delhi and Mumbai. The third phase (2011-till date) was when globally, the local capacity was created and in 2015, there was electricity surplus. Similarly, the ownership of power has gone up in the private ownership with the increase in renewable energy capacity. There is no doubt that we need to shift from coal to renewable energy sources however the questioning was on the way how it is happening. He mentioned that Indian companies are encouraging Bhutan to construct more power plants although Bhutan doesn’t even need enough of the existing capacity in its country. The question was also raised on Sustainable Development Goal-7, Access to Energy which talks about universal access to affordable energy and mentioned that even while Indian government announced 100% electrification, there are still around 22 crore people with no electricity in the country.
Dr. Soibal Chakravarty, from Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, Bangalore, pointed out three points on the push in energy sector. Firstly, he mentioned the India’s GDP which indicates that CO2 and GH gases would increase by 33-35% by 2020. Second he mentioned about the power capacity in the country where the hydro capacity is 13% and 33-35% is renewable in India. Third, he mentioned about the absorbance of CO2 in the forest saying that the growth of electricity power in the country being too optimistic thinking that easy money can be generated from power plants. He mentioned about the impacts of developmental projects raising question on why is the investment even while the rivers are running dry. He rose that there is no point in setting up new coal power plants but what we must do with the existing power plants needs to be tackled.
Paranajoy Guha Thakurtha, Senior Journalist, briefed on what should be the price of electricity with power purchase agreements. He also mentioned that only 10% jobs are created at the time of installing power and suggested that it should be substantially convenient.
In the session II, the ciritical review of the schemes on power sector was discussed. Shreya Jai, Senior Journalist Business Standard, Padamjeet, Ashok Rao, All India Power Engineer Federation, stretched on how the Indian government have claimed to have connected to the last mile but the term rural electrification could be false since some rural parts of the country were not electrified even up to 10%. The discussion was concluded that there is no accountability with amount of supply and quality of supply lacks way behind without proper tracking system.
In the session III, the need on how to resolve the structural problem in the electricity sector and the need to protect environment and livelihood was mentioned by Ritwick dutta, Environmentalist lawyer, Legal initiative for forest and environment (LIFE). The environmental regulation and environmental damaging activity due to power generation with the tool on Environmental Impact Assessment is critically important. Another speaker pointed out that the electricity board were in financial distress. He also mentioned on how the World Bank is investing big money in developing countries by investing capital so that they can depend upon the infrastructure built in those countries.
In the IV session, Nitin Sethi, Senior Journalist Business Standard, question on whether the power plant should be installed and if so where should we installed as capacity need to be critically look upon. He also pointed out that no country has developed or grown without power but equity should be emphasized in the project. He mentioned that EIA regulation has failed without giving importance on the longevity of the ecological value. He also raised question on what difference the environmental laws has made as many at times the environment is being used by business minded to compete against each other.
Dr. Soibal Chakravarty, ATREE, Bangalore talked on the account of air pollution the power sector and climate change. He pointed out that most important cause of pollution in our country is due to poverty.

Day 2:

In the Session I, Soumya Dutta, BCPH, briefed on the nuclear energy, it’s tilling point, regulatory requirement and health impacts due to highly reactive nature. He also talked about the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty mentioning that countries like Pakistan and Israel has nuclear energy but has not signed under the treaty.

Speaker 2 talked about the flood plains and dams focussing on the Yamuna flood plains particularly in Delhi area. He pointed out that there are large compositions of sand which are coarse and permeable in the region. This has the ability to store water naturally and not much dams are required in the region. He mentioned that Delhi’s consumption of electricity is 900 MW and around 200 MW could be tapped from the Yamuna floodplains. The question on whether the floodplains be flooded regularly by not damaging the environment was pointed out. As Delhi’s urbanization is draining water away from Yamuna, the need of the hour is to focus on the proper alternatives for water storage other than dams. A report titled “report of the fact finding visit to certain villages affected by the Tummalapalli uranium mining project of UCIL in kadapa district, Andhra Pradesh” by NAPM, HRF, RSV was released in first session.
In the session II, the speaker Srinivas Krishnaswamy discussed on the critical look of the alternatives been pushed. He mentioned that development is necessary but the question was bought forward on the alternatives like green energy and mentioned that even ‘semi-green’ are often pushed to ‘no green’. The energy awareness and participation in the decision making, governance and citizens’ energy movement realising the importance of responsible energy user is the need of the hour. A report on “A missed opportunity” was also released in the session.
Professor E.Somanathan, Economist, Indian Statistical Institute Delhi, pointed out on the importance of tackling pollution that are mostly coming from the coal power plants. He also mentioned that the impacts of climate change are evident from the frequent floods, heat waves, etc. However, the critical look is on how the government will realise and act. The speaker also discussed on the renewable energy bringing out a debate on land availability.
Soumya Dutta, BCPH mentioned that when we talk about renewable energy, it is not about replacing or stopping the non renewable energy but focussed on the concept of energy transition. He also raised a question that Sri Lanka has higher HDI even while their GDP is lower than India. This shows the better indicator of actual human growth in Sri Lanka and mentioned that something is wrong with our development model, also focussing on the power sector how coal and nuclear are the largest consumption of water where India is becoming water stress country.
In the session III, Linda, an independent journalist from Shillong chaired the session. Com. Thomas Franco, Former General Secretary AIBOC, Nitin Sethi, Senior Journalist Business Stanndard, focussed on analysis of growing burden on the public sector banks and unsuccessful attempts by the government to resolve the NPA crisis with regards to power sector. The question on why the smaller companies are moving towards power sector companies was raised. The session concluded with the access to electricity as our fundamental rights.

Energy Justice

It works to enhance understanding on energy, renewable and energy alternatives and energy justice. It advocates just energy transition which promotes equity, democracy and peoples controls over energy systems. PAIRVI believes that drastic reduction in energy use in industrialized countries is a pre requisite for climate stabilization, sustainable development and just energy transition. PAIRVI works with peoples groups and the government to reduce fossil fuel dependence and promote decentralized, locally viable and community controlled energy alternativesas well as promoting equitable renewable energy policies.