IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - June 2021 - 25

Commentary
Uber for Electricity: Application of
Sharing Economy Model in the Electric
Power Sector in India
P. Vigneswara Ilavarasan
IIT Delhi, New Delhi 110016, India
 It Is an open question whether or not the
sharing economy model-utilizing unused forprofit
private resources by sharing them for public
use through a digital intermediary-could be
adopted for public utility and service delivery in
the developing world. This article addresses the
question using the electric power sector in India
as a case study. Six major components of the sharing
economy are taken up for analysis: suppliers/
service providers; infrastructure facilities; customers;
public policy/regulations; platform; and
pricing structure. This article discusses the status,
challenges, and possible future directions.
To begin with, though, it should be noted that
companies like Uber and Airbnb are treated as role
models for the new economic paradigm, as they
have fundamentally changed the way their business
(as a domain of enterprise involving transaction)
and businesses (simply as organizations) , are run. In
particular, they have enabled end consumers to participate
in the market directly [60]. These firms can
scale up to the new geographies without any barriers
to speed or entry. All over the world, new-age
entrepreneurs are experimenting with similar models
in different domains. A recent consultancy report
[53] highlighted the impressive estimated growth
of the sharing economy from $15 billion in 2013 to
Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/MTS.2021.3076994
Date of current version: 3 June 2021.
June 2021
D. Suzith
Power Finance Corporation, New Delhi 110001, India
$335 billion in 2025. About 44% of Americans are
familiar with sharing economy business models.
Moreover, success in one domain might spill over
to other fields. There are suggestions for the government
to experiment with the ideas of sharing
economy [19] as it offers an alternative approach to
governance and delivery of public services.
According to the State of Electricity Access Report
[66], the target to achieve universal electricity
access as part of sustainable development goals will
not be met by 2030. In sub-Saharan Africa alone,
there may be 530 million people without electricity
access. Energy access is strongly linked to all the
UN sustainable development goals. Electricity is the
backbone of any economic activity and managing
this scarce resource and distributing it with optimum
operational efficiency enhances the overall
productivity of the national economy [67]. Uninterrupted
access to power with predictable supply for
households also reduces the opportunity cost for
people. As the huge gap between demand and supply
and the inability of the national governments in
the developing world to fill this gap are evident, it
is essential to explore the alternatives. This article
makes an initial conceptual attempt.
The rest of this article is divided into four sections.
The next section discusses the sharing economy and
its different components, after which we present an
overview of the current state of the electric power
sector in India. This enables an attempt to visualize
the possibilities of the sharing economy model
0278-0097/21©2021 IEEE
25

IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - June 2021

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