A case for electricity public hearings that is the best of both worlds

Source– The post is based on the article “A case for electricity public hearings that is the best of both worlds” published in “The Hindu” on 15th March 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- Government policies and interventions

Relevance– Issues related to electricity sector

News– The central Electricity Regulatory Commissions (ERC) recently issued a public notice where it announced that hearings would resume through in-person mode. These were closed due to COVID19.

The ERCs in Tamil Nadu and Telangana have also reverted to in person hearings. However, several State ERCs, including those in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, recently held public hearings entirely online.

What are the benefits associated with in-person public hearings?

These facilitate meaningful interactions and cross ­learning between various stakeholders. It helps to build consumer networks and enable collective action.

Thus, it promotes consensus building. It also lends enhanced credibility to decisions on complex matters.

It has led to understanding on issues like under projecting distribution losses by inflating agricultural consumption and the need for scrutiny in power purchase contracts.

A consumer’s concerns with the quality of supply also get discussed and corrective measures are taken.

What are issues related to in-person public hearings?

There are issues related to distance, logistics of transport, or lack of financial support. It could hinder participation in the public hearing.

What are steps taken by states to improve in person public hearings?

Many State ERCs have tried to increase access and diversify participation. They have organised tariff revision public hearings at different locations.

Steps have been taken in some States such as Andhra Pradesh and Odisha for better engagement. They are making a local language summary of the tariff petition and providing consumer advocate services available to the public.

What are the benefits associated with online hearing?

Online hearing resolved transport and logistics issues. It enabled wider attendance from remote Locations. It allowed for quick convening and multiple meetings.

These ERCs also provide a live streaming feature. It has helped in improving access, visibility and transparency. Over the last two years, significant infrastructure and experience toward online hearings have been built by institutions and individuals.

What are the challenges faced in online hearings?

Technological access and know­ledge are not uniform across the country. It creates difficulties for some to participate.

Issues such as poor Internet connections, technical mishaps, and the use of complex platforms and applications by ERCs hinder participation.

What are steps taken by states to improve online hearing?

ERCs have taken measures such as providing step by step guidelines and orientation sessions for more participation. In Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, ERCs have set up facilitation centres across the States for public participation.

What is the way forward to improve the process of hearings by Electricity Regulatory Commissions?

Public hearing is a major social platform. There is a need for more such interactions and ensuring transparency and accountability in operations. Improving access to these public proceedings should be a priority.

The provision of the online mode in addition to in-person hearings would strengthen public participation. This has been recognised by other institutions such as the National Green Tribunal. They provide e-hearing facility in addition to in-person hearing.

Public hearings conducted in hybrid mode are best suited to improving access. The choice of mode is left to the citizen.

It will plug access gaps, provide flexibility of participation to the citizen, and enable a robust avenue for public participation.

Print Friendly and PDF