“Grid modernisation is a continuous journey”

Views of TSSPDCL’s G. Raghuma Reddy

Southern Power Distribution Company of Telangana Limited (TSSPDCL) is one of the country’s newest and best performing discoms. It has a number of noteworthy achievements to its credit including zero load shedding and procurement of the highest quantum of solar power in a single tender. The discom has also undertaken various innovative initiatives to modernise its distribution grid. At the workshop on “Grid Modernisation in Telangana”, G. Raghuma Reddy, chairman and managing director, TSSPDCL, talks about the key objectives and recent initiatives taken by the company. Excerpts…

Telangana was facing acute power shortages in 2014 when the state was formed. The distribution network was not able to meet the power demand and there were many problems in the overall network, from low tension (LT) to extra high-tension (EHT) voltage levels. Since then, the discoms have taken a number of steps to provide reliable, quality and sustainable power to all the consumers. As the first step, we have opted for transparent and open bidding to procure power for the long, medium and short terms. With this, the discoms have been able to achieve zero power cuts.

Over the past three years, our distribution losses have also reduced, from 13.5 per cent to 9.8 per cent. The company’s annual turnover stands at Rs 170,000 million, which implies that a 3 per cent loss reduction translates into savings of Rs 15,000 million.

Further, the discoms, along with the state transco, have undertaken various other initiatives and projects under different schemes. The total investment undertaken as a part of these projects has been around Rs 130,000 million, of which Rs 80,000 million has been spent on the distribution network and Rs 50,000 million on transmission. We have installed 13,500 million transformers to minimise the LT network in the past three years. These projects have helped in stabilising the grid network and providing quality power to all consumer categories.

The main objectives behind the modernisation of the company’s distribution grid include development and maintenance of a reliable and secure power network, supply of power at an affordable cost, power procurement from renewable sources for promoting environmental sustainability, provision of network access to remote rural areas, and extension of 24-hour three-phase supply to agricultural consumers. Telangana will be the first state in the country to provide 24×7 power supply to the agriculture sector.

To this end, the key areas that we plan to focus on are smart grids and digitalisation initiatives, the use of renewable energy on a decentralised basis, creation of charging infrastructure for electric vehicles and development of energy storage. For extending 24×7 power supply to all consumer categories, we have to create infrastructure. We have already created infrastructure by spending Rs 130,000 million on the transmission and distribution network. TSSPDCL has provided last mile connectivity to all hamlets and villages under its licensed area.

TSSPDCL has already implemented various other schemes, under which it has connected supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems to 228 substations in JHMC, deployed distribution management systems (DMS) for 156 feeders at the 11 kV level and set up a communication system covering 228 substations at the 33/11 kV level. The smart grid project at Jeedimetla, where we are implementing advanced metering infrastructure, peak load management and outage management system, is in progress. Another important field for us is power procurement through solar. At the time of the formation of the state, the solar power generation capacity stood at 31 MW. Now, Telangana has connected and synchronised about 2,792 MW of solar capacity with the grid, an increase of almost ninety times. We have adopted the distributed generation-based model and are the first state to implement this model in solar power generation. We have around 2.3 million agricultural pump-sets across all districts, which makes a case for having distributed generation in the state. In 2015, we had released a tender for 2,000 MW and had received bids for about 5,600 MW of capacity. In 2015, the lowest price was around Rs 5 per unit. Since then, prices have come down and with distributed solar systems, we are getting good quality supply.

Moreover, we are getting good voltage, agricultural consumers are happy and we are saving on costs. Losses have also reduced due to distributed generation. We do not need to generate at any single point and construct an EHT substation or a 33/11 kV substation; we can connect generation wherever the load is. We are saving Rs 400 million per annum in the form of saving energy through loss reduction. In addition, we have avoided a capex of around Rs 5,000 million. Another advantage of distributed generation is that there will not be much variation in generation as the plants are located at different places. This minimises the impact of weather on the overall solar generation.

Further, under the state solar policy, any generator can apply for approvals for the conversion of land and permission from the gram panchayat for TS-iPASS (Telangana state industrial project approval and self-certification system). TS-iPASS is an online, single-window system for filing, tracking and obtaining approvals for various applications. The TS-iPASS portal monitors approvals and permissions at all levels, including right-of-way (RoW) issues. Therefore, there are not many issues related to permissions, RoW and land acquisition. Further, TSSPDCL has opened a cell in its corporate office for generators to get the required permissions and clearances.

To avoid any integration issues, we have estimated the load in each district and have fixed the cap for load from each substation at the initial stage itself. In Telangana, rural consumers are connected to the system in nine districts, excluding Hyderabad. Since agricultural consumption takes place mainly during the daytime (from morning to evening), we have adopted solar generation in a big way to meet that load requirement. Around 95 per cent of solar generation has to be consumed locally. With not much export upstream, there are no evacuation or integration issues.

In addition to the regular agricultural load, we also have seasonal load in the form of lift irrigation schemes. For these schemes, we are planning to provide power supply of 16 hours per day, excluding peak load hours, so that we do not need to spend much on energy procurement. The power is available at the exchange at a reasonable price during off-peak hours.

TSSPDCL has also taken several metering initiatives. So far, we have installed 450 smart meters and will complete the installation of 30,000 smart meters by end-2018. Further, out of 8.1 million connections under TSSPDCL, 65 per cent are provided with IRDA meters. With the help of IRDA meters, we are able to collect meter readings through a smart billing machine without any interference or manipulation by the meter readers.

However, the main issue in providing smart grid and smart meter solutions is the communication system. Smart meters and smart grids are new to India. Besides, uneven landscape and the location of meters lead to the problem of communication between smart meters. Further, smart meters involve huge investments. In a recent tender, we procured 5 million meters at Rs 3,000 per meter, excluding maintenance and server costs. For discoms, this is a huge investment considering we have 8.1 million consumers. Discoms are not in a position to spend that much, especially TSSPDCL because our distribution losses are less than 10 per cent. We will not be able to get back returns on an investment of this size with such low losses. This is the reason we have asked the union government to provide some grants under the Integrated Power Development Scheme and the Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana for the installation of smart meters.

Going forward, we are working towards installing SCADA and DMS in all industrial areas because our major source of income is industrial consumers. An investment of around Rs 5,000 million will be undertaken towards this in the next three years. In addition, we are going to replace the remaining energy meters with IRDA port meters within the next 12 months. This is expected to improve our sales and reduce losses further. Smart meters will follow later because they involve a huge investment. Further, there is a need to develop the distribution infrastructure in view of the growing consumption (8-9 per cent per annum). Accordingly, we have planned to construct around 100 substations at the 33/11 kV level and 100 EHT substations in one year.

Finally, grid modernisation is a continuous journey. TSSPDCL’s growth trajectory would depend on the nature of challenges and aspirations of consumers. We will continue taking grid modernisation initiatives, which will enhance consumer services and help in providing quality and reliable power to all consumers at an affordable cost.

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