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Civil Society Groups Help Make Electricity Affordable and Sustainable

Worldwide, one out of every five people lacks access to modern electricity. Affordability, quality of service, and social and environmental impacts pose great challenges in providing people with the power they need for lighting, cooking, and other activities. Good governance involving open and inclusive practices is essential to overcoming these pressing obstacles.

This is part one of a four-part blog series, “Improving Electricity Governance,” which explores the key components involved in making electricity decision-making more open, inclusive, and fair. The series draws on the experiences of WRI’s Electricity Governance Initiative, which are documented in a new report, “Shining a Light on Electricity Governance.”

Access to electricity poses major challenges in India. Service varies considerably across the country. In some regions, fewer than 40 percent of people have access to electricity, while half of all rural households lack access to power. These issues will become more challenging as demand for energy is expected to double by 2020. The country will need to figure out how to provide affordable, reliable power in ways that benefit both people and the planet.

But India has a powerful ally in overcoming these electricity challenges: civil society organizations (CSOs).

People’s Monitoring Group on Electricity Regulation Steps In

In the state of Andhra Pradesh, the People’s Monitoring Group on Electricity Regulation (PMGER), a partner with WRI’s Electricity Governance Initiative (EGI), acts as an advocate for affordable, reliable power. The organization is a consortium of NGOs whose constituencies include farmers’ organizations, environmental and development advocacy groups, electricity advocacy groups, workers’ unions, and research organizations. PMGER ensures that Andhra Pradesh’s electricity decisions are fair, effective, and made with citizens’ best interests in mind.

PMGER initially advocated for equitable electricity tariffs, but now participates in other important regulatory areas, such as power purchase agreements and ensuring quality of power supply for various consumer groups. Recently, PMGER analyzed key energy policies in Andhra Pradesh--including the state’s solar and wind energy policies--to identify where gaps may exist in development and implementation processes.

Through this analysis, PMGER determined that shortfalls in the state’s renewable energy development are attributable to unclear timelines and lack of proper reporting and monitoring processes, among other issues. The group then organized public meetings with government officials, disseminating information about the policy’s strengths and limitations and discussing implementation challenges. All of this analysis and work has increased transparency in Andhra Pradesh’s electricity sector, as well as helped other stakeholders make more informed interventions and seek improvements in the policy. PMGER is now using its expertise to build the capacity of other organizations in the area.

CSOs and Better Electricity Governance

Similar to PMGER’s example in India, other EGI partner experiences demonstrate the importance of CSO participation in improving the electricity sector. For example:

  • Kyrgyzstan’s Civic Environmental Foundation (UNISON) has been able to establish itself as a credible stakeholder in electricity decision-making processes. It was appointed co-chair of the government’s new Fuel and Energy Security Transparency Initiative (FESTI) in early 2011. The initiative has increased the government’s engagement with civil society groups, and the electricity sector has begun to show signs of progress. With improved transparency and stakeholder participation, transmission line costs have been reduced by millions of dollars, and electricity distribution losses have been reduced.

  • The Indonesian Centre for Environmental Law and other CSOs led a campaign that was able to convince Indonesia’s Parliament to endorse the 2008 Public Disclosure Act. ICEL provided input to the development of the law, which enhances public access to information and participation in the country’s electricity sector.

Improving Civil Society’s Participation in Governance

As cases in India, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, and numerous other countries make clear, CSO participation is a critically important component for improved governance in the electricity sector. CSOs like PMGER are important for helping the public express concerns and opinions in the decision-making processes that directly impact them. In short, they’re a key component in the challenge to make electricity affordable and accessible.

  • LEARN MORE: For more information about how EGI has been involved CSO capacity-building, please refer to our outcomes report or contact Sarah Lupberger at slupberger@wri.org.

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