In 2007, when the state electricity regulatory commission (SERC) for Maharashtra sought public feedback on a policy decision regarding renewable energy, it received one response. Last year, when it once again sought public feedback as mandated by the Electricity Act 2003, it did not receive any response.
Prayas, a Pune NGO, observed similar instances of poor public participation in the decision-making process for renewable energy such as solar, wind or biomass, in five states including Maharashtra.
Poor public participation defeats the purpose of provisions in the Electricity Act 2003, that make it mandatory for the SERCs to conduct public hearings and consider public comments while deciding on issues such as cost of electricity and power distribution, said Shantanu Dixit who worked on the Prayas report.
The public can act as pressure groups forcing regulators to implement ambitious, clean energy programmes. They can also be watchdogs by ensuring transparent and socially beneficial clean energy development in the country, he added.
“As compared to the other states, civil society participation in Maharashtra is better. But there is still a need to realise the potential of renewable energy and energy efficiency in the state,” said Dixit.
Dixit said that civil society organisations are finding it hard to support regulatory processes because of a lack of reliable and credible monitoring mechanism for renewable energy projects. Lack of channels to keep the public updated on credible information is another reason.
“The governance weaknesses are resulting in developing a constituency of people against renewable energy projects, rather than building constituency in support of such projects, ” said Dixit.