This is supposed to be the story of quality of power. But how is quality of power even relevant, when 300 million people go without power? How many times have we heard a debate on quality of power? Do we even know what this term means to us, leave alone demanding quality of power from our vendors? The answers to most of these will be an emphatic ¨no¨ in all likelihood. But, actually this can at times be the difference between life or death. Even as I was writing this, I saw a disturbing news item about a state-run 1,200 bed hospital in Hyderabad where 21 patients died on 22nd July apparently due to power outages. Such sad incidents should make us rethink about quality of power.
Quality is broadly defined as what the customer wants in a product or service. Given the monopolistic situation prevailing in our country till recently in the power distribution sector, and the oligopolistic situation prevailing in some ¨privatised¨ circles, the Indian power consumer does not have a choice of vendors in most cases. And where there is no competition, where the consumer has no choice, there can be hardly any quality.
There is quite another angle of looking at our apparent neglect of the issues around quality of power. In India, the total power balance was 0.9% in deficit in the 1st Qtr of FY17, as 293 billion units were supplied against a demand of 295 billion units. The deficit was 2.11% in FY16 and our government´s target is to change this into a surplus of 1.1% in FY17. Quite clearly, we are right now too busy dealing with the quantity of power, leaving the more complicated battle for quality of power for another day.
Even so, there is no harm in developing a little better understanding of the topic of quality of power. Several national and international standards are available for specifying an agreed quality of power that can be incorporated in the contract between the supplier of electricity and the consumer, but this is hardly ever done or enforced in our country. We just simply pay for the electricity that we get, but there is no penalty for the electricity that you do not get!
Absence of quality has a serious cost implication. Just for example, USA suffers an economic loss of $120 billion a year, according to EPRI, DoE. Nearer home, we do not lose much sleep thinking about the losses suffered by even the industry in India, leave alone the hapless individual domestic consumers. The users of electricity have to deal with diverse problems such as loss of data, overheating and failure of motors and other equipment, flickering of lights, premature refractory failures, and above all production losses, all due to lack of quality power supply. FICCI conducted a study covering various industry sectors, in 2012, which found that 64% of the firms felt erratic power supply affects their competitiveness in the domestic and international markets, with the most significantly affected industry sectors being diamond processing, cement, chemicals, textile and apparels, IT enabled services, iron and steel, etc. A study by the Manufacturers Association of Information Technology (MAIT) reveals that the cost to India Inc. is a staggering Rs.20,000 crore in direct losses due to poor power quality and downtime impact. This is roughly 2% of the gross output of the industrial and services sectors. This does show that we need to now focus on quality of power if we wish to make a success of -¦Make in India-¦ and be a competitive manufacturing nation.
We have to start caring about things like frequency, voltage and harmonics, and bring these into our national discussions.
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