Policy Briefs & Reports

Powering Through the Pandemic

Ashwini K Swain

Centre for Policy Research

July 23, 2020

The disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic are consequential for India’s long-term electricity goals. While exacerbating the existing weaknesses in the sector, the pandemic could also affect the trend toward an electricity transition. This report is an attempt to understand the impact of the pandemic on India’s electricity, government responses, and thus, suggest a structural approach to building a resilient electricity future. We find that the Covid-19 caused disruptions in the electricity sector are pervasive and have alarming secondary effects and long-term consequences. While the Central and state governments have been swift to recognise the disruptions, the band-aid approach, focused on fixing existing patterns in the sector, appears inadequate to challenges. Ironically, the long-term electricity reform agenda – proposed in major legislative and policy amendment proposals – shaped in times of a pandemic has failed to internalise the challenges thrown-up and insights gained from the Covid-19 experience.

The combination of Covid-19 disruptions, technological driven cost reductions in renewable energy, and the longstanding financial and governance problems of the sector combine to create a ‘critical juncture’ for the sector- a moment to envision a new and alternative configuration of technology, institutions and politics that could transform Indian electricity. While this a long-term and complex conversation, the report suggests illustrative pathways toward these goals.