UGVCL

Going full steam ahead with network augmentation

Uttar Gujarat Vij Company Limited (UGVCL), one of the four state discoms in Gujarat, is among the best performing discoms in the country with an aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) loss level of 4.65 per cent in 2019-20. Incorporated in 2003, post the unbundling of the erstwhile Gujarat Electricity Board, the discom serves a consumer base of over 3.7 million (as of March 2020) across four circles, 22 divisions and 144 subdivisions. The discom has consistently registered profits. Its collection efficiency was 100 per cent in 2018-19, with only a marginal decline in 2019-20 due to the Covid-induced lockdown in March 2020. The discom has achieved 100 per cent rural electrification and the lowest non-agricultural T&D losses. Further, it has the lowest debit arrears and permanently disconnected consumers (PDC) arrears, among the four state discoms of Gujarat.

While the nationwide lockdown had an initial impact on UGVCL’s revenue collections, the discom has managed to navigate the crisis reasonably well, and is also expected to maintain its future capex plans. The discom is also going full steam ahead with its strategic plans for network augmentation and strengthening, involving underground cabling and installation of smart meters, among others.

Operational performance

UGVCL operates a network spread over 49,950 square km, covering seven full districts in the northern region of Gujarat, and three part districts in the western and central areas. Of its total consumer base, 2.85 million are domestic consumers, 0.39 million industrial consumers, 0.38 million agricultural consumers, 0.025 million commercial, and the remaining fall under the other consumers category. The company’s energy sales decreased marginally by 0.63 per cent, from 22.4 BUs in 2018-19 to 22.26 BUs in 2019-20. Of these, 7,451.56 MUs of energy sales were in the high tension (HT) category, while the remaining 14,806.92 MUs were in the low tension (LT) category.

As of March 2020, UGVCL’s distribution network stood at 186,246 ckt. km, growing at a CAGR of 3.2 per cent from 164,200 ckt. km in 2015-16. It comprises 111,467 ckt. km of HT lines and 74,779 ckt. km of LT lines. The company’s substations grew at a CAGR of 4 per cent from 445 substations in 2015-16 to 520 substations in 2019-20 at the 66-400 kV level. UGVCL’s transformer capacity recorded a CAGR of 5.9 per cent from 11,866 MVA in 2015-16 to 14,903 MVA in 2019-20. The discom has 315,431 transformers at the 11 kV level, and 5,610 feeders, all of which have been metered. All other consumer categories have been fully metered, except for agricultural consumers. By October 2020, the distribution network had expanded to 187,753 ckt. km (112,839 ckt. km of HT lines and 74,914 ckt. km of LT lines), 528 substations, 329,793 transformers and 5,760 feeders.

The average AT&C loss level of UGVCL has improved from 11.04 per cent in 2015-16 to 4.65 per cent in 2019-20. The non-agricultural AT&C loss level decreased from 7.74 per cent in 2015-16 to 5.39 per cent in 2019-20, while agricultural AT&C loss decreased from 29.14 per cent in 2015-16 to 10.25 per cent in 2019-20. The key reasons for lower technical losses include distribution network strengthening in the past six years with the establishment of 94 new substations, installation of 1,302 new feeders, and laying of XLPE and aerial bunched cables; network analysis and energy audit; transformer load balancing activity; pilfer-proof installation, upgradation, of the energy network to a high voltage distribution system; and timely resolution of low-voltage consumers’ complaints. For the past many years, the discom has maintained 100 per cent collection efficiency. However, due to the Covid-19 lockdown during March 2020, its collection efficiency dipped marginally to 99.21 per cent.

In terms of the overall network reliability, the discom’s system average interruption frequency index (SAIFI) stood at 2.25 in 2019-20 as compared to 2.61 in 2015-16. Further, its system average interruption duration index (SAIDI) stood at 177 minutes in 2019-20 as against 239 minutes in 2015-16. However, the distribution transformer failure rate increased from 5.58 per cent in 2018-19 to 7.52 per cent in 2019-20.

Financial highlights

In 2019-20, the discom’s total revenue stood at Rs 130.55 billion, a 5.65 per cent increase over the previous year’s revenue of Rs 123.56 billion. The total revenue has grown at a CAGR of 9.84 per cent over the past five years. The company registered a growth of 218.41 per cent in its net profits to stand at Rs 1,166 million in 2019-20 as compared to a net profit of Rs 366.2 million in 2018-19. The net profit has grown at a CAGR of 12.81 per cent over the past five years. Meanwhile, the debt-equity ratio stood at 0.01 in 2019-20 as against 0.04 in 2015-16.

The outstanding debt declined from Rs 1,046.8 million in 2015-16 to Rs 322.4 million in 2019-20. The utility recorded a capex of Rs 7,281.6 million in 2019-20, recording a CAGR of over 5.48 per cent from Rs 5,882.1 million in 2015-16. The gap between the average cost of supply and the average revenue realised for the distribution utility reduced to Re 0.02 per kWh in 2019-20 from Re 0.04 per kWh in 2015-16. Further, debit arrears declined from 7.26 per cent in 2016-17 to 5.51 per cent in 2018-19. However, due to the lockdown during March 2020, the debit arrears in 2019-20 increased to 13.24 per cent.

Best practices

UGVCL has segregated high-loss-making feeders and applied point load in these areas, besides appointing feeder managers for special tasks. During 2020-21, 125 high-loss-making feeders were selected and tasks were assigned to feeder managers. These included mass checking drives, filing of FIRs, all activities related to loss reduction, provision of aerial bunched cables and armour services in theft-prone areas, installation of watchdog transformers to control unauthorised/theft load, and design of 11 kV/1,000 kV special transformers as a pilot project to make the installation pilferage-proof.

UGVCL has deployed HT automatic meter reading systems for all its HT/ EHT consumers. Further, over the past two years, the utility has bifurcated 766 11 kV feeders and erected new feeders to improve the voltage profile and reduce technical losses.

During 2019-20, 3,141 special design transformers have been installed at agricultural feeders, providing benefit to 165,021 connections. A total of 20,692 new agricultural connections, 443 new HT connections, 16,694 LT industrial and 86,287 lighting connections were released with 502.54 MW of contracted load during 2019-20. Further, UGVCL has implemented the Geo-Urja Project and the DISCOM Power Portal Under 2,308 feeder survey works have been completed against the targeted 5,610 feeders.

Close monitoring of ampere loading at feeders is being carried out. Further, all HT and current transformer (CT)-operated meters are being checked twice a year. A study of per capita and village-wise consumption is being carried out along with a comparison with the previous year. The regularisation of unauthorised load is also done as per regulatory provisions. UGVCL has an LT-HT ratio of 0.67. Further, it has segregated agricultural and non-agricultural feeders with 24×7 power supply.

Other best practices by UGVCL include the early release of connections (13 urban subdivisions have been selected for the “on-spot” connection release strategy), timely billing, and consumer-wise monitoring for arrear recovery. Lok Adalat is arranged for the disposal and recovery of arrears from PDC consumers. Further, several levels of audits are carried out, including internal audit, statutory audit, cost audit, tax audit, secretarial audit, audit for electricity duty, audit by the Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission and by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

For monitoring and remote operations of 136 feeders across 19 substations, a SCADA control centre has been established at Gandhinagar, which covers 12 subdivisions of Ahmedabad periphery. An underground network has also been developed with the smart GIDC concept to provide electricity infrastructure.

A LoRA pilot project for remote metering with low-power RF technology has been implemented at the field level as suggested by the Gujarat Power Research and Development Cell. The utility has also commissioned 16 Suryashakti Kisan Yojana (SKY) feeders, covering 441 agricultural consumer sites where solar panels have been installed and are being monitored through the SEDM portal on a real-time basis. Further, it has implemented a smart grid pilot project in the Naroda urban sub-division. The project covers automatic meter reading and bill generation, remote connect/disconnect of consumers with overdue bill payment, net metering for solar rooftop consumers, consistent data availability and real-time energy audit.

Challenges

Repeated misuse of energy has been reported in the border areas of UGVCL. These border areas are very sensitive as some are tribal areas while others are deserts. Further, there are around 152,029 unmetered agricultural consumers with a contracted load of 2,824.07 MW. Making unauthorised extension of loads creates a big issue among farmers. In tribal areas, there is no clear demarcation between the Gamtal and Simtal areas, and agricultural feeders pass through these areas. The people of this area used to run single-phase motors for irrigation purposes by tapping the 24-hour Jyoti Gramyojana line, which has resulted in huge losses for the discom. Due to a major portion of agricultural load, tribal areas are heavily cross-subsidised over industrial consumers. The average cost of realisation for agricultural consumers is only Rs 3.18 per unit, while for industrial consumers, it is Rs 6.91 per unit (as per the 2018-19 audited account report).

There are also issues related to right of way, land acquisition for laying the overhead network and installation of new substations due to the high cost of land. In rural and tribal areas, there are issues related to billing and customer service as customers are scattered. The declining water table has led to the use of submersible motors of more than 50 HP, which results in high consumption by unmetered agricultural consumers.

Future plans

Despite Covid, UGVCL has planned capex of around Rs 52,750 million for the period 2021-22 to 2025-26. One of the key initiatives planned by the discom is underground cabling on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. It has planned 1,250 ckt. km of underground cabling. The discom plans to add around 21,500 ckt. km of distribution line length, around 6,200 MVA of transformer capacity, and 91 substations by 2025-26. Another key area that the discom is focusing on is smart metering. It has also planned  installation of 3.65 million smart meters between 2021-22 and 2025-26.

Conclusion

Going forward, UGVCL’s initiatives to improve its performance and modernise its distribution network with the deployment of new technologies, coupled with its proven track record of strong operational and financial performance, will support the company in its efforts to improve its services and meet the demands of its large consumer base.

With inputs from a presentation by P.B. Pandya, Chief Engineer, UGVCL

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