New Delhi: At least four companies—Tata Power, Adani Group, Torrent Power and Greenko Group—have shown interest in acquiring Central Electricity Supply Utility of Odisha (CESU Odisha), according to two people aware of the development.

The electricity distribution privatization well help supply electricity to around 2 million consumers in the distribution circles of Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Paradeep and Dhenkanal.

PricewaterhouseCoopers is running the bid process in what is the first such sale in more than decade.

The interest in the distribution utility with an annual revenue of around Rs3,200 crore comes against the backdrop of the National Democratic Alliance government’s power sector reform measures such as the proposed separation of the wire and electricity supply business.

Also, there is a push for direct benefit transfer (DBT) for better targeting of subsidies and tariff slab rationalization.

“The sale of CESU currently under process in Odisha is the first opportunity to participate in the Indian power distribution sector as an owner since the privatization of the discoms in Delhi in 2003," said Chandan Mishra, director, power and utilities at PwC India.

The requests for proposals (RFPs) documents were on sale till December last year. This will now be followed by a due diligence process by the interested parties with the bids expected by March-end.

Only one bidder had emerged during the earlier attempt to privatize CESU Odisha, leading to the process being scrapped.

“This is also significant since it is the first of its kind being undertaken by a regulatory commission in the country under the provisions of the Electricity Act 2003," Mishra added.

The Central Electricity Supply Company of Odisha Ltd (CESCO), CESU Odisha’s forerunner, was privatized in 1999 with the licence granted to US-based electricity producer AES Corp. The Odisha Electricity Regulatory Commission (OERC) revoked the licence in 2005.

While spokespersons for Tata Power and Adani Group declined comment, Greenko’s founder, president and joint managing director Mahesh Kolli confirmed his firm’s interest in CESU Odisha.

Mint reported on 4 October about Greenko’s $750 million equity investment plans for buying power transmission and distribution assets to diversify, given the uncertainties surrounding India’s renewable energy industry.

Queries emailed to a Torrent Power spokesperson on 5 January remained unanswered.

Odisha’s energy secretary Hemant Sharma also didn’t respond to phone calls or to a message left on his cellphone earlier this month.

The interest in electricity distribution has been picking up with India’s clean energy firms such as ReNew Power Ventures Pvt. Ltd and Greenko Group looking at diversifying across the electricity value chain to derive better value.

Also, Italy’s Enel Group is exploring the possibility of entering India’s electricity distribution business, Mint reported on 9 January.

The power distribution sector has also started witnessing large transactions.

While Hyderabad-based Greenko Group, backed by Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC Holdings Pte and Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, had evinced interest in acquiring Reliance Infrastructure Ltd’s Mumbai power business, it was Adani Transmission Ltd that emerged successful for the Rs18,800 crore deal in December.

The interest in Indian electricity distribution also comes at a time when the central government is focused on improving electricity access.

It has rolled out the Rs16,320 crore Saubhagya scheme to provide electricity connections to over 40 million families in rural and urban areas by December this year which in turn will help improve electricity demand in the country and drive up consumption.