They will collaborate to diagnose trends and identify gaps in the quality of power supply

Public infrastructure finance company REC Limited and the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) South Asia are partnering to create an annual, data-based assessment of 79 public and private power distribution companies (DISCOMS) across India.

This is meant to improve consumer service delivery and ensure reliable electricity supply to consumers, the Ministry of Power said on Wednesday.

Under this partnership, REC and J-PAL South Asia will collaborate to leverage existing data on DISCOMS’ services to diagnose trends and identify gaps in the quality of power supply.

According to the Ministry of Power, under which REC functions, these datasets will be used to create a “consumer service index” that will rank companies based on dimensions of service delivery—supply hours, grievance redressal systems, and billing details and timelines among others.

REC and J-PAL South Asia will address the challenges faced by DISCOMS that emerge from this yearly assessment as well as pilot and test potential solutions using randomised evaluations.

J-PAL South Asia will also conduct scoping studies to evaluate the effectiveness of innovative solutions like smart metering for more accurate and transparent billing systems as well as other programmes undertaken by REC.

"Through this partnership, REC and J-PAL South Asia aim to provide a transparent and evidence-based channel for DISCOMS to identify gaps in their services as well as ensure a more reliable supply of power to households in line with the Electricity (Rights of Consumers) Rules of 2020," said the power ministry.

The annual ranking report of DISCOMS will also be available to the public, creating pathways for greater accountability in the provision of electricity across states.

The agreement was signed during a ceremony with REC Executive Director R Lakshmanan (IAS) and J-PAL South Asia Executive Director of Shobhini Mukerji.

J-PAL South Asia will also provide REC Limited with technical research support, led by Professor Nicholas Ryan (Yale University; J-PAL-affiliated Professor), and capacity building on data collection and usage, the ministry said.