India´s distribution segment has been plagued by a number of issues. Bucking the trend, the Essel group´s Nagpur distribution franchise, SNDL Power Distribution, has been blazing some new trails.
Someone has rightly said that with great power comes great responsibility. And, when it is related to electricity, then it is an obvious notion. Whoever the service provider, they have to provide uninterrupted power supply to the consumer, improve or replace age-old distribution infrastructure and address their grievances. Meanwhile, very few companies in India have been successful in these areas. One of them is Essel Utilities & Distribution Company Ltd, an arm of Dr Subhash Chandra´s Essel Group. The company is aggressively engaged in transforming ageing public utility infrastructure into a modern state-of-the-art utility realm to provide world-class infra & utility with global practices in reliability, safety and customer experience.
The group has recently made an announcement investing Rs 7,500 crore towards developing five smart cities in Madhya Pradesh namely Gwalior, Ujjain, Sagar, Jabalpur and Dewas. The company under long term public-private partnership will engage in building smart communities across major cities of India by taking up projects in power and water distribution services, municipal solid waste management, sewage treatment, city wi-fi, city gas distribution etc. The company is already managing power distribution franchise for Ujjain and Sagar, and will soon takeover the Gwalior distribution franchisee operations.
Meanwhile, the group´s Nagpur distribution franchise, SNDL Power Distribution is a live example where the company managed to achieve the following in just three years, whereas other DFs took a considerable time to achieve the same.
Curbing T&D losses
It appears that, the company is in favour of the distribution franchise model across the country. And, certainly why not, when the model can curb T&D losses? Consider this: the company has managed to reduce T&D losses in its area by 6.76 per cent in 2013-14. This is an improvement over 2012-13 when the reduction was 6.4 per cent. It means, with the reduction in T&D losses, the company managed to supply more electricity to its customers with no additional purchase from Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd (MSEDCL) in 2013-14 compared to 2012-13.
Interestingly, it took just three years for the company to reduce the T&D losses from 32 per cent in 2010-11, to the current 14 per cent in 2013-14 (till October). ´And further, we would like T&D losses to come down to the level of 8.9 per cent in 2014-15,´ says Sonal Khurana, Business Head, SND Ltd.
In terms of electricity purchase, Khurana mentions that the company had purchased 45 million units less in the previous fiscal. ´This is because, although the demand for electricity saw an increase, we stuck to using lesser input energy. And here reduction in T&D losses helped us to provide 24x7 power supply to our DF area,´ he says.
All in all, since SNDL has taken over this DF, it has managed to save about 100 MUs in 2013-14 compared to 2012-13. It sold 1,100 MUs in 2013-14 which gives an idea of the magnitude of loss reduction. The company, every year, draws 1,400 million units and the demand for electricity was up by 8 per cent this year over the previous year. A zone-wise analysis of figures shows that while SNDL did an excellent job in the Lashkaribagh zone in bringing down the losses by 14.7 per cent, the loss reduction in Tulsibagh zone, both in Nagpur, another high-loss area, was just 4.6 per cent.
Tulsibagh has now the highest losses in the SNDL area.
In the meantime, use of basic strategy has helped the company to bring down T&D losses. To curb losses, the company installed automated modems to its transformers. The modems are connected to the servers which has resulted in helping company officials to keep a check on the energy consumption pattern. In the meantime, the transformers were connected to feeders which are subsequently connected to substations.
´The entire exercise of installing automated modems to transformers gives us an idea as to what is the amount of loss we are occurring from a particular transformer. And accordingly we plan our vigilance drives,´ says Vishal Sharma, Head - Brand and Corporate Communications, Essel Utilities.
Capex to the rescue
The company management always believes that replacing age-old infrastructure is the only solution to strengthen its power network not only in Nagpur but in other DF areas that the company has undertaken as well. And the following capex plan of the company clearly speaks volumes for itself. In the year 2012-13, the company spent Rs 34.94 crore on installing new infrastructure in the DF area that accounts for substations, switching stations, feeders, transformers, 33Kv lines etc. However, the capex was increased to Rs 104 crore in the year 2013-14, which was over 200 per cent. Meanwhile, for the year 2014-15, it has been decided that the company will spend Rs 125 crore, up by 25 per cent. In total, the company had made an investment of Rs 235 crore after take over.
Khurana explained to POWER TODAY that at present, the low tension (LT) cables that supplied power to consumers were quite long and if one of them developed a fault, a lot of consumers were affected. ´We will reduce the length of these cables by laying new ones, thus bifurcating the network. Now, if the existing cable develops a fault, those supplied by the new one would not face a blackout,´ he explains.
In the last three years the company has added 220 transformers. In addition, the company will add four more new substations to its kitty taking its total to 23 substations from 16. Till October, the count was 19.
Once SNDL took over in April 2011, it has laid 55 km of overhead low tension (LT) lines and is likely to add another 24 km, taking its cumulative figure to 2654.48 km. The company so far has added 220 distribution transformers and is planning to add another 85 to take its distribution transformer infrastructure to 2915.
´These new installations will have another advantage. Many supply cables and transformers are overloaded and the consumers face low voltage problem. Reducing the number of consumers supplied by the existing cables and its transformers will reduce the load on them improving their performance,´ says Prashant Kulkarni, Head Operations and Maintenance, SNDL.
According to SNDL data, a total of 52,980 new service connections were provided between 2011-13, after the franchisee took over. The number of connections in 2013-14 was about 22,785, and next year, i.e., for 2014-15, the franchisee is likely to provide over 24,000 connections. At present, SNDL is serving nearly 476,119 customers across its designated DF area.
Meter replacement drive
In terms of meter replacement in the designated DF area, which is considered a herculean task, the company has managed to complete it efficiently, considering the amount of resistance from the locals.
The company in its meter replacement drive has already replaced 57,746 meters in the year 2012-13. Subsequently, for the year 2013-14, SNDL has replaced 37,905 meters and has already replaced nearly 35,748 meters in the current financial year (till October), taking its cumulative figure to 131,400 meters since 2011. The drive to replace meters has reduced distribution losses, which will be evident from the performance report of 2013-14 to be released soon.
SNDL business head Khurana said that the protests against meter replacement had stopped after a sustained awareness campaign conducted by the company. ´We explained that only electromechanical meters were being replaced. These meters have become slow due to wear and tear of mechanical parts. So, when they were replaced by accurate meters, the consumer felt that the new meter was fast.´
Right now, SNDL is the only power distribution franchisee in India to have a dedicated hotline number (7507773003) for reporting bribery incidences. Some of the other consumer conveniences that SNDL has instituted include a 24x7 call centre and vigilance intelligence helpline which encourages a consumer to intimate the distributor about power thefts. Taking care of the rising need for new meter connections, the NSC process is simplified in such a way that a mere call to the hotline number brings the new connection registration process to your doorstep. Since takeover, around 70,000 new connections have been issued till date. The 10 Consumer Care centers spread across the DF area are well-equipped to provide speedy resolutions to consumers apart from SNDL´s helpline no. 6660000 which functions 24x7 to address their grievances. Consumers can also approach SNDL´s Internal Grievance Redressal Cell (IGRC) in case they are not provided satisfactory resolution from the Commercial Head within five days.
SNDL has recently introduced consumer service guidelines, documenting all the information patrons need to have for a fair view of how long their various requests will be met with or resolutions will come through. All such efforts have stood SNDL in good stead and have eventually led to its status of being the best power distribution franchise.
SNDL currently manages the distribution services in three zones of Nagpur- Gandhibagh, Mahal and Civil Lines serving over 4.57 lakh consumers in the city. Associated with various NGOs for CRS activities, the distribution franchisee is well connected with the consumers through various awareness campaigns and consumer outreach initiatives. SNDL is committed to offering unmatched services through more than 230 consumer touch-points and hotlines to achieve ultimate consumer satisfaction.
Meanwhile, to record accurate unit consumption by a consumer, SNDL has also installed Digital Static meters as per CERC guidelines. The safety concerns rising due to the unwarranted old meters were taken care of by replacing old meters with new BSI-standard digital meters. Offering its consumers total transparency, SNDL initiated on-site meter testing facility through Accu Check on the consumer´s request.
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