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This International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) & Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) three-part commentary series takes a deep dive into how India’s energy sector is coping with the impacts of COVID-19 and what this means for the sustainable energy transition. We explore three key themes.

This workstream is linked to global efforts to track government support for fossil fuels and renewables in light of COVID-19, as reported in the Energy Policy Tracker launched in July 2020 by IISD in partnership with 13 other organizations.

Part 1 – Financial Sustainability: Bailing out India’s electricity sector

Download: Impacts of COVID-19 on the Electricity Sector: How can states make the most of the stimulus on offer?

Since India entered lockdown in late March 2020, IISD’s energy program has been tracking, on a weekly basis, the impacts on different parts of the energy sector, demands for assistance from stakeholders, and responses from the government.

Amid the lockdown, the power sector has, so far, been successful in ensuring continued supply to essential services and households. However, it has also faced some of its biggest challenges. Electricity distribution companies (DISCOMs)—who buy electricity from generators and sell it to consumers—were already struggling with finance and performance issues before COVID-19. Now, they sit in a vortex of major risks and losses that have occurred across the supply chain. In order to support economic recovery and to enable a sustainable energy transition, it is essential to stabilize the basic financial viability of the power sector. The central government has already intervened with a major stimulus package worth INR 90,000 crore (~USD 12.1 billion) and proposals to revise core electricity sector regulations—but is it enough?

On June 30, 2020, IISD and CEEW convened 30 participants from India’s energy think tank community to discuss these challenges in a closed-door roundtable. This commentary synthesizes highlights from IISD’s tracking efforts and the roundtable discussion.[1]