Chief Guest Address by Mr. D. M. Sukthankar

This video is of the lecture delivered by Mr. D. M. Sukthankar at a seminar titled National Energy Policy Seminar 2015 (NEPS2015) organized by Urja Prabodhan Kendra (UPK) in the auditorium of SPJIMR (S P Jain Institute of Management and Research) in Mumbai on 5th August, 2015. You can get more information about the seminar – program, information about the speakers, PPT presentations used by the speakers, photos, and all the other videos – at

This video is part of a webinar created by Prashant Karhade (CTO of Cenergy MaxPower Pvt. Ltd who blogs on sustainability) and Dr. Prasanna Karhade (Assistant Professor, HKUST Business School). You can find all the other videos of the webinar at

Mr. D. M. Sukthankar, Master of Commerce, IAS, is Retired Chief Secretary to the Government of Maharashtra. Mr. Sukthankar has held various roles in the Government of Maharashtra, including Secretary of the Education Department, Secretary of the Industries Department, Metropolitan Commissioner and Municipal Commissioner of Bombay Municipal Corporation (now called Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai or MCGM). He was also Secretary of Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India. Mr. Sukthankar is recognised as an expert on issues related to urban development and management and has been associated with the housing sector for a number of years. He served as an Independent Non-Executive Director at Indoco Remedies Limited from September 10, 1994 to November 3, 2012.

The salient points of Mr. Sukatakar’s video in his own words are as follows:

  • It would seem that energy policy should be a highly technical subject, but looks like it isn’t. It is more political manipulation that anything else. Being a person who has dealt with urban development, housing, and education, and never with the energy sector, I find myself more confused than ever after listening to Dr. Pramod Deo’s lecture. So don’t expect anything profound from me. 🙂

  • When it comes to an essential commodity like electricity or water, you are not dealing with very complex technical issues but more with public relations and pricing issues. There are costs involved in generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity, and can these costs be passed on to the consumers and make the entire activity viable? That is the main question. The issues are very similar in case of water supply also. Frankly, I do not have an answer.

  • The regulatory bodies were set up to do just that, but it hasn’t taken us closer to the solution. But to be fair to them, it is a very complicated problem.

  • The technical and economic aspects of the problem are difficult as it is. To add to that, aspects related to sustainability will get added to the mix and will become more important going forward.

  • This is especially true in the case of electricity, a good percentage of which is generated by burning fossil fuels. That causes a lot of emissions which are harmful to the environment. So we will have to switch to renewable energy at some point of time. Can you do that? And can you tackle the problems that arise while integrating renewable energy sources into the grid? That is the crux of the problem.

  • Technical inputs will be very important. But inputs related to human relations and the behavioural changes that will be required will also be very important.

  • One key question is: should India’s per capita energy consumption grow to the levels of developed countries like the US and UK? Or should we aspire to reach China’s per capita levels? Or should we be content with lower per capita levels? If people want more energy, then they should pay for it, and pay more per unit too. Or they should consume less.

  • But even if people in India decide to pay good money for electricity, the whole world will be doomed if it adopts America’s way or China’s way. That’s the conundrum. India cannot and should not follow America’s example.

  • India will have to use a lot of renewable energy if it wants to grow sustainably. India will also have to use the energy efficiently. And this is going to be the real challenge.

  • When I was Chairman of Sai Baba Sansthan, we used to feed 20,000 people per day! Cooking food for so many people required a lot of LPG (liquefied petroleum gas). I happened to go to Mount Abu at the time where I found out that the Brahmakumari Ashram had solved the problem to a large extent using solar cookers. They were using solar energy to convert water to steam and then using that steam to cook rice, dal, and vegetables. The only thing that they couldn’t cook using steam was chapatis.

  • Impressed by Brahmakumari Ashram’s initiative in Mount Abu, we implemented a similar system in Sai Baba Sansthan and recovered our investment in about three years! It was a great enlightenment for me that we could do so much using solar energy.

  • Similarly, in Konkan, one of the main problems that they face during the monsoon is flooding of rivers when there is heavy precipitation. But during the months from March to May/June of next year, there is no water to drink. Can something be done about this? Mr. Pendse, who was Secretary to the Irrigation Department at the time and who was heading a commission to find a solution to this problem, came to the conclusion that the water had to be stopped at various locations and forced to seep into the ground rather than let it run into the ocean. In the process, they also setup some micro hydroelectric projects and generated energy from it as well.

  • Although it was a fascinating solution, I don’t think very many investors were interested to invest in projects like these. Probably the project IRR isn’t good enough. But it seems to me that the problem of flooding, irrigation, and electricity can be solved in one go, by looking at them holistically rather than individually through proper water management. That is what the Pendse Committee suggested.

  • If a proposed solution to problems related to the electricity sector (or other sectors for that matter) has to become viable, then it must look at the issues that politicians will look at. In other words, political interest cannot be divested from the economic interest.

  • So if the electricity has to be revived, it is not enough to look at generation, transmission, and distribution. Looking at tariff is equally important. Recovery of payment from consumers and collection of outstanding dues is also very important. It is very much a management problem. It is about how to utilize resources that are scarce and getting more scarce with every passing day.

  • I would like to thank the organizers for exposing me to an area from which I was very distant.

  • One more thing is that the specialist comes to the generalists for solutions. That is not how it should be and is the main problem. All problems are not technical or economic in nature. The solution has to have a confluence of many factors to become a true solution.

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