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A focus on complexities of reporting on energy

In collaboration with the Citizen consumer and civic Action Group (CAG), the Press Institute of India organised in September a seminar titled Media Reporting for a Sustainable Energy Future at Hotel Savera in Chennai. One of the objectives was to discuss how the media could play an important role in promoting positive and responsible reporting in the complex field of energy and related issues such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, and governance. Welcoming the audience, which included former officials from the Electricity Department, experts in the energy field, researchers, academicians, and several journalists, Sashi Nair, director, Press Institute of India, pointed out that India was the fourth largest energy consumer in the world, with more than 77 million households in India still using kerosene for lighting, and the problem being more acute in rural India where up to 44 per cent of households lacked access to electricity. He urged journalists to report responsibly on energy issues, especially given the climate crisis.

CAG’s study on Energy & Media Coverage in Tamil Nadu showed the need to cover issues around climate change. The study was based on a statistical analysis of Tamil Nadu-related news reports pertaining to the electricity sector between 2009 and 2018. Although the focus on renewable energy and human interest stories reporting had been increasing in recent years, topics such as climate change, demand-side management and energy efficiency continued to be covered inadequately, said K. Vishnu Mohan Rao, CAG. Akshaya Kumar, former chairperson, Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission (TNERC), spoke about the current power scenario in Tamil Nadu with a focus on key stakeholders involved and urged media houses to take an analytical approach to energy reporting. Speaking on challenges in renewable energy, Thirumoorthy, TN State Level Renewable Energy Committee, dwelt on the need for affordability and policy support for ‘prosumers’ in Tamil Nadu. Deepak Krishnan, WRI, spoke about innovative models for re-procurement by commercial, industrial and other consumer categories.

Martin Scherfler, Auroville Consulting, made a presentation tackling the water-energy-land- livelihood (WELL) nexus in Tamil Nadu. He highlighted benefits such as cost savings and water conservation from solar PV, efficient pump and advanced irrigation. Vishnu Mohan Rao, CAG, briefly touched on the highlights of Solar Policy 2019 & Regulations and threw light on the pain points with respect to rooftop solar installation. Gurugubelli Sai Ratna Chaitanya, Institute for Transportation & Development Policy, and A. Arun Thyagaraj, AMS Electricity Mobility, presented pathways to electric buses in India and vehicle technology and rollout. While Ratna focused on Fame India Scheme and incentives for clean transportation, Arun described the design and operational aspects of the AMS Electric Mobility Bus.

Sumedha Malaviya, WRI, talked about improving energy efficiency in buildings in Tamil Nadu. She emphasised on the need for collaboration between stakeholders at the design and construction level to optimise passive efficiency of buildings. Aarti Khosla, Global Strategic Communications Council (GSCC), presented media’s climate and energy reporting journey. She captured national-level reporting trends on energy topics such as wind, solar, coal, tariffs, power shortage and rural electrification

Providing the media perspective, M. Ramesh, senior deputy editor, The Hindu BusinessLine, highlighted the complexities of energy topics and shared his experience in reporting on energy. Citing examples of technological advance by various industries and utilities in energy efficiency, renewable energy, etc, Ramesh said journalists reporting on the energy sector must be updated at all times and take efforts to build capacity/ knowledge at every given opportunity. The discussion also focused on the need to promote articles on electricity which covered a wider range of relevant topics including climate change, demand-side management, energy efficiency, the efficiency of the utility, open markets, affordability and policy support for renewables. There was need to promote greater demystification of the energy sector and encourage better participation of citizens, several speakers felt.