RK Chugh, Vice-President and Head, Smart Grid Division, Siemens Limited, identifies the anomalies in the distribution segment and the measures that can be taken to overhaul the system.
Electricity distribution to end-consumers has been identified as the weakest link in the value chain. What can be done to improve the same?
Yes, the weakest link here is distribution and this is due to many reasons which can be addressed through both technical and non-technical interventions. Technical interventions include renovation and strengthening of electrical networks. This would involve investments in Transformers, Cables, Ring Main Units (RMUs), Gas Insulated Switchgear (GIS), intelligent automation, Metering and Control devices like Fault Passage Indicators (FPIs), Smart Meters, Meter Data Management System (MDMS) etc., alongside improvement in IT infrastructure. On the other hand, proper tariff management and improvement in governance can play a major role towards non-technical interventions.
Does the recent Union Budget have any provisions that will help to boost the distribution sector in India?
While there has been a mention of some initiatives like extension of tax holidays, provision of Rs 500 crore for feeder separation scheme in rural areas and a provision of Rs 200 crore for power reforms in Delhi, we look forward to see what specific measures are taken for the distribution sector.
Much has been written and debated on how to bring down the unacceptable quantum of Aggregate Technical & Commercial losses; do you see the situation improving in the near future?
Yes, I am confident that we will start seeing the benefits of the initiatives taken in the distribution sector through schemes such as R-APDRP and with appointment of distribution franchisees, etc., in the mid- to long-term future.
The R-APDRP (the Restructured Accelerated Power Development and Reform Programme) aims to reduce AT&C losses (to 15 per cent) in selected urban areas by supporting baseline data collectin and the adoption of IT applications and by providing grant funding to renovate, strengthen, and modernise operational, technical, and service delivery mechanisms for distribution. Has it managed to do so?
The R-APDRP program is an ambitious rollout of new technologies by the State discoms in the Indian distribution sector in a well laid-out format. The program includes introduction of IT enabled systems, SCADA/DMS and strengthening of the electrical network. The programme is still in implementation stage and when completed will definitely improve the various KPIs of the discoms. However, it calls for a disciplined execution and timely implementation of various parts of the programme in a well coordinated way to make it viable for all stakeholders including suppliers and integrators.
How can the Centre improve the functioning of various State distribution companies?
Providing reliable energy is the prime responsibility of the Government. While most of the responsibility, including distribution lies with the States, the Central Government has an important role to play by introducing new schemes through its arms like Power Finance Corporation (PFC) and Rural Electrification Corporation (REC). The Central Government also helps the distribution utilities by way of facilitating finance at favourable terms. It also provides direction by having in place a strong regulatory framework. Several Central ministries like Communications, Department of IT also need to align their rules and regulations to bring in new technologies. The Central Government can also play a very important role in organising trainings and upgrading skill sets essential for the distribution utilities.