New Delhi: The Union government has finally empowered the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) to set fuel efficiency standards for the country’s automobile industry, putting an end to a turf war between two ministries.
If BEE, a statutory body under the ministry of power, sticks to its original plans, consumers could see, within a few months, voluntary labels on vehicles that give mileage details. Mandatory standards are expected to be imposed by 2010.
These fuel efficiency norms will be similar to the current pollution norms for vehicles without which they cannot be sold in the market.
“This (dispute) has been going on for a while, but thanks to consumer interest and pressure, media coverage and interest by leaders, norms will hopefully soon be notified,” said a power ministry official who didn’t want to be identified.
The move, which had been initiated back in 2007 (Mint reported it on 15 August 2007) by the government, is yet to take effect because the ministries of road transport and highways, and heavy industry and public enterprises, didn’t agree, as reported by Mint on 19 July.
Besides, there were conflicts over the legislation for notifying these norms, the agency that will set the standards and how they will be monitored. Finally, the matter was referred to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the law ministry.
After a series of inter-ministerial meetings last week, it was decided that BEE’s methodology of prescribing norms will be followed.
The details of the legislative changes are still being discussed.
“The Prime Minister’s Office will take a call under which Act it will be notified, the Motor Vehicles Act or the Energy Conservation Act. The ministries are working together on that,” said another power ministry official, who also did not want to be identified.
The automobile industry, meanwhile, is already going ahead with its own voluntary labelling programme from the beginning of 2009.
“We will begin the voluntary labelling of mileage on cars from 1 January and by 1 April all companies will comply. We are not against mandatory efficiency norms, the process is going on but there should be just one agency the automobile industry should have to deal with,” said Pawan Goenka, president (automotive), Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd and vice-president, Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (Siam).
Mint couldn’t independently ascertain whether the new norms would make vehicles costlier.
Meanwhile, there is little consensus on who will monitor the standards. It is likely that independent laboratories will monitor the standards but “the where and how” haven’t been decided, said another government official on condition of anonymity.
The Automotive Research Association of India (Arai) and the National Automotive Testing and R&D Infrastructure Project (Natrip) are two of the organizations, which are currently on the probable list.
This official, however, expressed apprehensions about Arai or Natrip being responsible for monitoring standards. “Both organizations have the industry on board, which could be a conflict of interest. The role of a monitoring agency will be discussed again,” he added.
Goenka, however, differed. “It is very unfortunate that should be said. Arai is one of the oldest bodies in the sector and just because auto industries are on the governing board, doesn’t mean they won’t be performing objectively,” he said.