Interview with Dwijadas Basak, General Manager, Tata Power Delhi Distribution, India
What are the current challenges for utilities in the industry, specifically looking at India?
The greatest challenge in the Indian power distribution sector is high T&D losses along with poor collection efficiency. The national average T&D loss is around 26-27%.
Another is the absence of cost reflective tariffs, resulting in huge revenue gaps for the discoms. There are also huge cross subsidies built into the existing tariff structure. Electricity costs are also increasing and have increased by nearly 80% in the last 4 years due to increases in the price of fuel – in India the power purchase cost comprises 75-80% of total retail tariff, and 67% of power generation is from thermal sources.
Then there is the unwillingness of government to privatize this sector, and its intervention in the functioning of regulatory bodies.
Do you see any specific challenges in Asia?
Reasonable costs of fuel/electricity and lack of availability of coal (both quality and quantity) in Asia is a concern, and increasing coal prices in the international market is leading to increases in power purchase costs.
What’s your vision for the industry looking forward?
In the Indian context my vision for this sector is the following:
- Promotion of open access to bring in competition
- More focus on cost effective renewable sources of energy
- Demand side management
- Complete privatization with independent regulatory bodies with minimum government intervention
- Separation of retail and wire businesses.
What is on Tata Power Delhi Distribution’s calendar this year?
TPDDL is targeting to reduce the aggregate technical and commercial losses (AT&C, a combination of T&D losses and collection efficiency) to a single digit, which is probably the single largest challenge in the sector.
TPDDL is working on a smart grid pilot project which will be one of the largest smart grid projects to be undertaken in the country.
TPDDL is also looking forward to expanding its footprint, both nationally and internationally, through consultancy services in power distribution related areas. We intend to leverage our successful experience in various operational and technological implementations in TPDDL such as loss management, IT/SCADA/DMS/OMS, customer relationship management, performance management, business process reengineering and restructuring, capacity building, etc. The company has forged strategic partnerships with various technology leaders such as IBM, GE, Siemens, etc. to provide composite domain and technology solutions to distribution utilities across the globe. In addition to the above, TPDDL is also exploring opportunities for providing technical and management consultancy services as operator of distribution utilities.
Do you have specific plans for the Asian region?
As I’ve stated we are actively pursuing business opportunities in various geographies including Asia, where a number of countries are looking to upgrade and turn around their distribution systems through specific technology interventions and private participation in the distribution reform process.
What are the projects you are most proud of so far?
Tata Power Delhi Distribution, in a mere decade, has brought about an organizational transformation of which we are very proud. There has been a sea change in the quality and reliability of power supply, which is complimented by efficient, transparent and consumer friendly commercial practices. Against a backdrop of nearly 6-8 hours of load shedding and power cuts per day in the capital city of Delhi in 2000-2002, TPDDL is now providing 24x7 quality power to all its consumers. Apart from this, the AT&C losses of around 53% in 2002 have been brought down to around 11%. The performance of the company in transforming the ailing distribution sector in its licensed area has been recognized both nationally and Internationally, with it being conferred the Government of India’s National Award for Meritorious Performance in Distribution Sector (four times), Asian Utility of the Year Award by Asian Power, Singapore (five times in a row including for FY 2011-12), the Edison Award by Edison Electric Institute, USA for GIS implementation, etc.
The company has been at the forefront of technology introduction and absorption in the country. Some of the significant achievements, which have been recognised worldwide, are as follows:
- Development of a robust communication network backbone (OPGW, OFC), GIS (all assets across licensed area including consumer meter details incorporated), GSAS and state of the art SCADA, which is the control center of the entire operations. This has resulted in a significant improvement in reliability of power supply as the entire network is now centrally operated. All grids have been automated and are unmanned.
- We have the distinction of being the first Indian utility to introduce GSM modem-based automatic meter reading on a mass scale, thereby improving the accuracy of billing, as well as providing on a real time basis consumption data for the benefit of consumers.
- TPDDL successfully implemented a distribution management system (DMS) with distribution automation in 2011.
- We are the first utility in India to have implemented an outage management system (OMS) which has resulted in a considerable reduction in the electricity restoration time.
- We have successfully integrated all the above technologies and thereby can leverage maximum benefit from their implementation.
What have been the challenges in regards to these projects?
- Incorrect consumer database inherited from the state electricity board
- Incorrect information on assets inherited
- Change of mindset/culture of inherited employees and consumers
- Huge capex investments to improve the dilapidated network
- Inadequate and deferred tariff hikes leading to huge regulatory gap.
What makes your company competitive in the market?
- Highly motivated workforce
- Our commitment towards society and Tata Code of Conduct
- Focus on customer satisfaction
- Loss reduction from 53% to 11% in 10 years
- Adoption of latest technologies.
Dwijadas Basak will be giving a presentation on “Developing win-win solutions for revenue protection for both the utility and the customer” at Metering, Billing/CRM Asia 2013.