Tech Savvy

BYPL’s IT initiatives to transform its metering, billing and collection practices

Metering is one of the major focus areas for the distribution segment as improvements in metering can eventually lead to more efficient billing and collection. Metering is, therefore, key for the industry. A look at how Delhi’s private power distribution utility BSES Yamuna Power Company (BYPL) has transformed its metering, billing and collection practices….

Overview of BYPL

BYPL was established in 2002 as a joint venture of Reliance Infrastructure and the Delhi government. The company supplies power to east and central Delhi areas covering 200 square km and 1.65 million consumers. Its customer mix comprises 75 per cent domestic consumers (1,249,180 consumers), followed by 24 per cent non-domestic consumers (380,428) and 0.5 per cent and 0.003 per cent agricultural and industrial consumers respectively. During 2017-18, BYPL handled a peak demand of 1,459 MW. BYPL today operates with a manpower of over 4,400 trained and qualified professionals.

One of the key achievements of the discom has been the significant reduction in aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses. BYPL’s losses have reduced from 62 per cent in 2002 to 10.4 per cent in 2017-18. As of October 2018, the AT&C losses of BYPL stood at 9.6 per cent and the discom aims to reduce them further to below 9 per cent in 2018-19. The company’s reliability index is also over 99.9 per cent, despite catering to a large population with issues in the installation of transformer and space constraints.

Over the years, finance, planning, customer care, manpower, technology and digital initiatives have been the major areas of transformation and investments by BYPL. Overall, the discom incurred a capital expenditure of over Rs 30 billion for network strengthening, power supply improvement and loss reduction.

IT journey till date

BYPL has adopted a number of IT initiatives since its inception. In 2002, the utility had a small IT team with elementary level infrastructure as well as inadequate billing and customer care processes. However, BYPL currently has about 150 people in its IT department covering metering, billing collection, infrastructure, geographic information systems (GIS) as well as new initiatives like supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and smart grid. In the last 14 years, BYPL has engaged user teams to build technology-intensive culture. It has planned the implementation of enterprise-wide applications and also imparted appropriate IT training to end users.

In terms of the key technologies being used, BYPL is using IBM Lotus notes as a business collaboration, which is being implemented across the company for internal and external communication. At the foundation level, BYPL went ahead with SAP as the base foundation and SCADA system from ABB. The entire 33 kV and 66 kV substations are managed by SCADA.

Since 2008, BYPL has also implemented an outage management system, which is a home-grown system. This system has been upgraded a number of times. On the mobility front, it has multiple applications. Among these, meter reading, consumer application and internal break down alignment applications are GPRS-based.  The discom has taken several digitalisation initiatives. As a result, customers can now connect with the discom to apply for a new connection, register complaints through mobile apps, website and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and avail of other services. The discom has integrated many of these platforms with its existing customer relationship management tools to enhance customer experience.

Focus on metering, billing and collection

BRPL has tried to incorporate IT in the complete metering, billing and collection cycle, with the help of multiple applications.

At the base level, billing is done on the SAP–ISU platform. SAP-ISU is a central application built for the purpose of billing. This went live in 2009 and is now quite a stable application. Prior to SAP-ISU, legacy applications were followed. Migration from this legacy billing system to the ICU billing system took two years. In the first phase of migration, key consumers (of 45 KW and above) were migrated, followed by domestic consumers. At present, BYPL’s provisional billing is less than 1.5 per cent of the total billing, an indication of the high billing quality of BYPL. Also, provisional bills for two or more consecutive billing cycles is less than 0.5 per cent of the total billing.

To ensure accurate meter reading, the company downloads meter readings from the meters through optical port. At present, BYPL’s download efficiency is close to 99 per cent. In BYPL, all the checks in meter reading are done through the public distribution system and a common meter reading Instrument, which is GPRS-based. The meter reading downloaded is directly sent to the central billing system, eliminating manual intervention in the meter reading process. After this, pre-audit and post-audit checks are conducted.

For payments, BYPL has also moved towards the electronic bill payment facility. BYPL has multiple payment options like cash counters, cheque by post, ITZ Cash, net banking payment, kiosks, drop box facility, auto debit payment and mobile app with payment facility. BYPL has also introduced online advance payment/my account/WAP/ payment confirmation through email, push and pull-based SMS service for information. At present, BYPL’s digital collections are 53 per cent of the total payments, cash payments constitute a 10 per cent share and the remaining is done through cheques.

On the customer care front also, BYPL has had a long journey. In 2002, BYPL began with EBS query for viewing bill, meter reading and payment history. At present, BYPL is equipped with a customer care centre, mobile application and a dedicated portal for customer care.

Future plans

BYPL’s metering, billing and collection are quite stable. BYPL is, thus, focusing more towards the work force management systems and smart grids, besides areas like load forecasting, distribution management system, automated demand response, renewable integration, CRM, SRM and meter data management, among others.

Further, the discom is working on transformer monitoring. For this purpose, sensors have been put in transformers to measure plug temperatures, oil temperatures and oil levels. The information is then sent to the SCADA centre and the monitoring team. BYPL is also working on data management software (DMS). For this, it has been divided into 14 divisions for the purpose of implementation of DMS and it has already been implemented in one of the divisions.

Going forward, the discom has started looking at data analytics so as to help the discom with insights on consumers, payment behaviour and  consumption pattern. BYPL has created a roadmap to be followed for the development of data analytics within the organisation.

AMI implementation plans

BYPL’s advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) implementation journey started three years ago. However, AMI technology is still to attain maturity both at the meter and communication levels in the industry. Hence, the discom has adopted a slow and steady road-mapping exercise. Initially, the discom had conducted a lot of pilots with RF mesh technology. RF retrofit pilot project, prepaid smart metering and group metering projects have been conducted by the utility with Genus.

Moving forward, BYPL has also formed a cross-functional team (CFT) of various teams such as metering, IT, communication and meter data management system for the implementation of AMI. The request for proposal has been prepared.

AMI implementation has been divided into three phases. In the first phase, BYPL plans to cover one cluster, which would involve about 15,000 meter end-points. The intent is first to look at the use cases available from smart metering. It is decided to cover a cluster, which is an area having domestic, industrial, commercial and all kinds of consumers. All use cases of 11 kV substations, three-phase meters and single-phase meters would be included to make the required assessments and realise benefits.

In the second phase, it would cover all three-phase consumers and distribution transformers across BYPL with around 50,000 meters. There will be a mass roll-out in the third phase covering single-phase consumers, having a load of more than 500 units per month with about 150,000 meters to be installed.

Conclusion 

In light of all the planned initiatives, BYPL seems well positioned to strengthen its metering, billing and collection and capitalise on the new opportunities created by the digital revolution, and efficiently manage end-user expectations.

(Based on a presentation by Anish Kalucha, Head IT, BYPL at a recent Power Line conference.)

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