Loss Reduction: Distribution utilities resort to revenue protection measures

Distribution utilities resort to revenue protection measures

Over the past decade, distribution utilities in India have undertaken a number of measures to reduce network losses and increase revenue collection efficiency. These measures include strengthening the physical infrastructure, improving metering technology and penetration, as well as utilising information and communications technology. While some of these investments have been driven by the utilities’ business strategy, the key thrust has been provided by central and state government policies and initiatives aimed at improving the financial position of the utilities. As a result of these initiatives there has been a gradual decline in aggregate technical and commercial losses.

Power Line takes a look at some of the key loss reduction and revenue protection initiatives undertaken by Gulbarga Electricity Supply Company Limited (GESCOM) and North Bihar Power Distribution Company Limited (NBPDCL)…

GESCOM’s experience

Established in 2002, GESCOM has made gradual investments that have led to a reduction in distribution losses from 26.03 per cent in 2008-09 to 18.93 per cent in 2014-15. The utility has also replaced low tension (LT) lines with a high voltage distribution system. It has replaced the overhead aluminium conductor steel-reinforced  conductor  with aerial bunched cables. The reconductoring works are aimed at reducing losses and improving the current-carrying capacity.

Besides, GESCOM has put in place a distribution automation system and supervisory control and data acquisition system. It has been undertaking energy audits on a regular basis and has bifurcated overloaded feeders and provided additional transformers at load centres. It has also replaced inefficient irrigation pump sets and distribution transformers (DTs). In a key measure, the utility has clustered the irrigation pump sets and included them under high tension (HT) metering.

In order to improve its billing and collection efficiency, GESCOM has replaced electromechanical meters with electrostatic meters. For accurate meter reading, the utility has adopted the Android-based mobile meter reading technology. It has also installed meters on all direct connections and addressed the issue of non-recording by meters. In addition, there has been an improvement in vigilance activities to identify theft and pilferage. The company has set up its own meter test bench to check the quality and reliability of meters.

GESCOM is undertaking the segregation of non-agricultural and agricultural loads in rural areas under the Nirantara Jyothi scheme. Under this, agricultural feeders will supply power for six hours while other feeders will provide 24×7 supply to non-agricultural loads in rural areas. The initiative will further reduce the chances of transformer failure, increase metered sales, bring down technical losses and improve load management.

NBPDCL’s experience

As a result of the loss reduction initiatives, NBPDCL’s  revenues have increased to Rs 2,127 million in 2015-16 (till October 2015) from Rs 799.7 million during the corresponding period in 2012-13.

Since March 2013, NBPDCL has released 2 million new service connections. Further, defective meters on consumer premises are being replaced with static (electronic) meters, and prepaid meters are being installed in government quarters/offices. All consumers are grouped DT-wise for the purpose of energy audit and meter reading. The utility has also appointed a meter reading agency for urban consumers for meter reading and bill distribution purposes. The images of meters, signatures of consumers and their mobile numbers have been made mandatory for meter reading and sample checking. Remote meter reading (RMR) has been introduced for all HT and LT industrial supply (three-phase) consumers. RMR for all connections above 20 kW has been completed under the first phase and is being extended to connections between 20 kW and 50 kW. The discom has also launched a scheme related to the voluntary disclosure of load and has created a customer facilitation centre for bill rectification and consumer complaints.

Besides ensuring preventive maintenance of power transformers and DTs, NBPDCL ensures the replacement of burnt DTs in 24 hours. The discom uploads all electricity bills on its website for the convenience of consumers and provides multiple payment options. These include  real-time gross settlement systems, online payment, anytime payment machines in all branches of Gramin Banks, Vasudha Kendras, block office counters, Paytm mobile applications, mobile vans, etc. Moreover, a disconnection drive is conducted every month in case of non-payment of bills.

NBPDCL has been reconductoring dilapidated conductors and replacing galvanised iron wires in 33 kV, 11 kV and LT lines with higher capacity conductors for a reduction in network losses. To this end, the utility has also procured star-rated DTs for replacement as well as new installations. It has already adopted the urban and rural distribution franchise  model in various areas. Other loss-saving measures include time-of-day metering for connections with a minimum load of 1 MW, use of aerial bunched cables for LT lines in densely populated areas and installation of prepaid meters.