Working Papers

Political Economy Of Distribution Reforms In Indian Electricity

Centre for Policy Research

August 29, 2016

Despite sustained efforts to reform the sector, electricity distribution in India remains amidst complex problems, manifested in the form of loss-making distribution utilities, poor quality of service, governance ambiguities, and absence of basic data. The current wave of reforms seeks to turnaround the sector’s performance by transforming the generation mix, strengthening the network infrastructure, ensuring universal access and better consumer experience, and financial revival of discoms. While policy signals from the centre appear to be promising and ambitious, given the past records, execution of these reform plans at the state level is uncertain.

Against this backdrop, the paper analyses the distribution reform initiated from the centre and the role played by the central government in shaping ideas and stimulating change at the state level. Looking into various diagnoses of the challenges and subsequent reform initiatives, the paper seeks to explain the political economy of successive reform attempts and their outcomes. It also identifies gaps in the current wave of reforms and raises questions for further exploration.

Suggested Citation
Swain, Ashwini K (2016): ‘Political Economy of Distribution Reforms in Indian Electricity’, Working Paper, Initiative on Climate, Energy and Environment, New Delhi: Centre for Policy Research.

For further information on the paper, please contact Ashwini Swain at

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