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Advertorial | August 2014

Need to overhaul entire network

Because of the outdated network system, India´s AT&C losses are around 20 per cent, the highest in the world, says Prakash Chandraker, Vice President & Managing Director, Schneider Electric Infrastructure Ltd.

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 collection 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?
Restructured Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Programme to reduce AT&C losses is a commendable idea. But it is a lengthy one. It aims at transforming the current transmission and distribution network system. That will take time. So it is unwise to start hoping for quick solutions. The reason we laud the programme is because it has taken a long-term outlook. What our grid system needs is a complete overhaul and that is what it is looking to do, not piecemeal solutions. We know the second phase has begun in Kerala recently. It will be a slow and steady progress but we are convinced it will be a winner in the end.

How can the Centre improve the functioning of various State distribution companies?
What we need is a wise mix of policy reform and financial support. While tariff increase is one way to look at it, adoption of state-of-the-art technologies and solutions to integrate the grid system and introduce suitable policies that will make conversion to smart grids a quick and real option is a critical necessity too.

Electricity distribution to end-consumers has been identified as the weakest link in the value chain. What can be done to improve the same?
India´s transmission system is one of the most challenging among the Asia-Pacific countries. Because of the outdated network system, India´s AT&C losses are around 20 per cent, the highest in the world. India´s last major transmission failure was due to the poor condition of the network and the frequent power cuts are subject to the network´s incapacity to withhold adequate electricity as required. While we need to overhaul the entire network system, it is a lengthy task. That is why the smart grid is something the Government should start working on as soon as possible. But the immediate way out is to make the existing grid more efficient. And that can be done with energy solutions that monitor, improve transmission capacity and even evaluate and identify alternate source points in case of failure of a particular network.

Does the recent Union Budget have any provisions that will help to boost the distribution sector in India?
The recent Budget has aimed at improving and launching feeder separation to increase power supply to the rural areas and proposed to invest Rs 500 crore for that and for strengthening sub-transmission and distribution systems. It has also proposed to extend a 10-year tax holiday to the transmission & distribution segment which will encourage more private companies to take up the job of overhauling India´s transmission system.

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?
AT&C losses are one of the biggest concerns of our country. This is because of the difficult financial health of the public companies. While the erstwhile Government tried to address this concern through FRPs, it did not get the kind of attention it should have, and did not get the results it desired for in certain accounts. However the new Government has already declared its intent to develop a new energy policy to address this problem and we are already seeing the Government increase electricity tariff in the capital. So we are hopeful the situation will alleviate in the near future.

DEVARAJAN MAHADEVAN

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