Power Reforms in India

Policy

In India, massive aggregate transmission and commercial (AT&C) losses have long crippled the financial viability of state power distribution companies. To address this problem, a targeted funding mechanism was introduced for the first time in 2003 in the form of the Accelerated Power Development Reforms Programme (APDRP). Under the programme, central funds were to be made available to those states who signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Power (MoP), to achieve certain objectives in a time bound manner. These objectives included, reduction in AT&C losses, improving customer satisfaction as well as financial viability of discoms, adopting a systems approach and introducing greater transparency. Officially, the programme ended on 31 March 2009.

Restructured Power Reforms

Unfortunately, the benefits under the first APDRP were not linked to well defined objectives, quality checks, and demonstrable performance and it failed glaringly to achieve its goals. In several cases, funds under the first APDRP were utilised without taking cognizance of the need to reduce AT&C losses and therefore the desired level of 15 per cent reduction in these losses fell short. To illustrate, in Bihar, significant sums of money received under the first APDRP were spent on sophisticated equipment for substations, while little was spent on procuring meters to measure actual consumption of electricity. In addition, reliable and verifiable baseline data for revenue and energy could not be made available for verifying exact AT&C losses. It was in this backdrop and with the realisation that the goals of power reforms could not be achieved without adoption of an integrated information technology (IT) approach that the Restructured APDRP (R-APDRP) was launched in July 2008.

One part of the R-APDRP has been dedicated to establishing IT enabled systems for achieving reliable and verifiable baseline data in all towns with population greater than 30,000 as per 2001 census. GIS mapping is an integral feature of this part of the programme. The focus of the second part has been on reducing AT&C losses on a sustainable basis. R-APDRP thus began with tackling the problem of unmetered supply and lack of proper data acquisition systems, and then followed up with system upgradation and equipment modernisation.

Fig 1. Electric network and land base to visualise connectivity from electric source: An electrical network - from source to consumer - is mapped with GIS to show the complete network including low voltage system and customer supply points overlaid on a land base. The map representations contain layers of information. For example, the land base layer could include roads, landmarks, buildings, administrative boundaries, rivers, railway crossings etc. while electrical layer could contain equipment information like poles, overhead conductors and underground cables, transformers, switches, service points, meters etc.
Fig 1. Electric network and land base to visualise connectivity from electric source: An electrical network – from source to consumer – is mapped with GIS to show the complete network including low voltage system and customer supply points overlaid on a land base. The map representations contain layers of information. For example, the land base layer could include roads, landmarks, buildings, administrative boundaries, rivers, railway crossings etc. while electrical layer could contain equipment information like poles, overhead conductors and underground cables, transformers, switches, service points, meters etc.

Role of GIS

The ‘utilities’ are facing a dual challenge – of reducing AT&C losses and increasing profits. GIS can help them overcome these challenges as a management and decision making tool by:

  • Helping to identify the critical information needed for business processes and decision making (turning data into information);
  • Facilitating improvement of processes by organising all geographic and facility information in one common data source;
  • Enabling new creative thinking which could lead to dramatic improvements in policy implementations; and
  • Helping to monitor the performance of the network as well as the utilities staff.

If the GIS used is open and accessible to all users within the business unit, it would link the customer directly to the product delivery system. In the past, the billing and customer systems have not been effectively integrated into the delivery system data. With GIS, this can be changed. Thus, rather than looking only individually at process reengineering of a billing or customer system or an engineering system, GIS has made it possible to look at reengineering the entire retail electric business system.

Nearly all aspects of a utilities business, from marketing to sales to collection of bad revenue, involve a customer base that is spatial. Reengineering can dramatically improve several dimensions in the business process, which include:

  • Reduction of gaps in consumer billing data and revenue realisation;
  • Improvement in cycle time which is the life cycle measured in elapsed time from the beginning of the process to the end;
  • Reduction in cost to maintain the system; and
  • Improvement in service, the value of the relationship of the customer to the provider of the product or service.
Fig 2. Electric network attributes and details in GIS: The ‘attribute data’ in GIS is attached to each entity using a relational database that can be further integrated with other non-GIS applications like billing, customer care, asset management, network analysis etc. The information could be an inventory report of any type of network entity (transformer, poles, conductors, underground cable segments, circuit breakers, switches etc.) or location information etc. GIS and network analysis tool provide options that can be used for improving the network efficiency and planning. Network analysis is an engineering application, which is independent of the equipment location and provides dynamic information related to the performance of the network. Such integration will allow the utility to share, between these two systems, the data and information common to both. And, as a result, the utility would save considerable effort and money to implement, use, and maintain these two as separate systems. Cost, however, will remain a major factor after project completion for maintaining the currency of the data.
Fig 2. Electric network attributes and details in GIS: The ‘attribute data’ in GIS is attached to each entity using a relational database that can be further integrated with other non-GIS applications like billing, customer care, asset management, network analysis etc. The information could be an inventory report of any type of network entity (transformer, poles, conductors, underground cable segments, circuit breakers, switches etc.) or location information etc. GIS and network analysis tool provide options that can be used for improving the network efficiency and planning. Network analysis is an engineering application, which is independent of the equipment location and provides dynamic information related to the performance of the network. Such integration will allow the utility to share, between these two systems, the data and information common to both. And, as a result, the utility would save considerable effort and money to implement, use, and maintain these two as separate systems. Cost, however, will remain a major factor after project completion for maintaining the currency of the data.

The Impact

With the APDRP and then the R-APDRP the government had hoped to usher in power sector reforms in a time bound manner. The first few years did see an improvement and overall the APDRP/R-APDRP programme resulted in reduction of AT&C losses from 38.9 per cent in the financial year of 2002 to 28.4 per cent in the financial year of 2009. The programme is under various stages of implementation in different states and to achieve the goals and make a difference on the ground there can be no let up in the pace or effort.

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