A consumer survey on the electricity supply industry released yesterday by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) shows dissatisfaction with the quality of service and a willingness to accept a move towards privatization if it improved the availability of power throughout the country.

Speaking at a meeting organized by the CII at which the report’s findings were discussed, Suresh Prabhu, Union Minister for Power said that proposals for power reform were being drafted ahead of a forthcoming conference of chief ministers with the Indian Prime Minister. He believed these proposals would be acceptable to all political parties,

Prabhu agreed that dissatisfaction does exist in the power sector and the CII Consumer Attitude study on Electricity Supply has evidently proven the perceptions. He complimented the CII on the initiatives and agreed that addressing key issues to avoid crisis situation can revive the sector.

The national survey assessed attitudes among five distinct groups of consumers: domestic, agriculture, commercial, light and heavy industry. The findings indicated that, while affordability was an issue, it ranked behind availability and reliability of electricity and suggested that consumers would be willing to pay more if supply could be assured.

Heavy industry was the only sector not expressing dissatisfaction and consumers in the south appeared to be satisfied about the existing set up compared to the consumer in other parts of the country.

Subsidizing agricultural tariff has not been able to satisfy consumers, cost-effective tariff in return for improvised service is preferred. Consumers also believe that distribution privatization might enhance the performance of the sector. Although consumers are in favour of tariff rationalization, their awareness towards the impact of tariff rationalization and privatization is still poor.

On the issue of creating awareness on reforms, the Power Minister mentioned that besides awareness amongst consumers there is an exigent need to create awareness amongst employees of the utilities. This would help the employees and consumers across the nation to understand their role in ushering the much needed change. The Ministry of Power along with Power Grid Corp. of India Ltd have taken the initiative of organizing roadshows to educate and involve the common man in the process. Electronic media and personal letters from the Minister will spearhead this initiative.

Speaking on the need to reduce the peaking level shortages he outlined the ministry initiatives in developing models based on effective utilisation of existing transmission systems. This arrangement is presently being tried in Delhi, Haryana and Punjab

Energy accounting is a pre-requisite to energy auditing and in this regard, the ministry of power is attempting 100 per cent metering at user end.

To tackle the affordability issue the minister agreed with CII study findings in reducing cross subsidy and levy of reasonable tariff for all consuming segments.

He stated that the 10th five-year plan has realistic and doable targets and the ministry has already put the blue print for a road map in place.

Sanjiv Goenka, President CII, said that the need of the hour is to bring the elements of accountability and transparency to build sustainable power system, which does not rely on government guarantees/escrows.

Tarun Das, Director General, CII assured the participants that CII is trying in a modest way to resolve the Enron problem. Enron is in dispute with the Maharashtra State Electricity Board over payments for power and has indicated its intention to withdraw from the project. Das said that the CII was trying to create a win win situation for Enron and India.