MSETCL

Exploring expansion avenues

Maharashtra State Electricity Tra­ns­mission Company Limited (MSETCL) is the largest state transmission utility in the country. It has a network spanning 49,605 ckt. km of transmission lines and 701 substations as of December 2021. This infrastructure covers most of the interregional and intra-regional electric power transmission systems in the state. The company also has the distinction of be­ing the only power utility in the state sector to own HVDC lines. The transco has adopted various technological up­gra­des and automation solutions to ensure seamless services.

Infrastructure and performance

As of December 2021, the total line leng­th of MSETCL’s transmission network stood at 49,605 ckt. km. Of this, 38 per cent (or 18,947 ckt. km) of its line length is at 220 kV, 36 per cent (17,674 ckt. km) at 132 kV, and the remaining is a mix of different voltage lines including HVDC, 400 kV, 110 kV, 100 kV and 66 kV. The line length has increased from 44,715 ckt. km in 2016-17 to 49,166 ckt. km in 2020-21, recording a CAGR of over 2.4 per cent. The number of substations in MSETCL’s transmission network stood at 701 as of December 2021. Of the total, 343 substations were at the 132 kV level, followed by 240 at the 220 kV level, and others at various voltage levels. MSETCL’s substations have increased from 652 in 2016-17 to 694 in 2020-21, recording a CAGR of 1.6 per cent. In 2020-21, the company’s total transfor­ma­tion capacity stood at 130,645 MVA compared to 33,566 MVA in 2016-17. The total substation capacity has inc­rea­s­­ed at a CAGR of 2.3 per cent during the same period. As of December 2021, the transformation capacity has been recorded at 131,981 MVA.

In terms of operational performance, the transco successfully reduced its transmission losses from 3.63 per cent in 2016-17 to 2.94 per cent in 2020-21. In 2021-2022, as of January 2022, its transmission losses stand at 3.19 per cent.

Financial performance

As per data shared by the company, MSETCL’s total revenues for 2020-21 stood at Rs 49.90 billion, as compared to Rs 41.14 billion in the previous year, re­cording a year-on-year growth of 21 per cent. The total revenues have increased at a CAGR of 12 per cent over the past five years. Notably, MSETCL had a net profit of Rs 10.73 billion during 2020-21, recording a year-on-year growth of 402 per cent over a profit of Rs 2.14 billion in the previous fiscal. Therefore, the company’s fin­ancial performance and liquidity profile has improved remarkably over the pa­st five years. MSETCL’s expenses stood at Rs 39.17 billion during 2020-21, up from Rs 32 billion in 2016-17.

Initiatives

The transco has adopted technologies such as digital substations and digital bays. Digital substations reduce the need for cabling, require less space and increase safety, besides reducing operational costs. Unmanned remotely controlled substations are in operation at Rajur and Chandwad. The transco has also adopted gas insulated switchgear (GIS) substations. GIS substations at Bhandup, Rashtapeth, have been commissioned, while the 400 kV Hinjewadi substation is in progress. The transco has an IEC 61850 testing lab. Besides this, it is un­dertaking transformer heal­th monitoring, residual life assessment, and third-party transformer testing by the Elec­trical Research and Develop­me­nt Asso­ciation (ERDA). To manage the right-of-way issues, the state transco has adopted compact tower design, mo­no­pole, high temperature low sag (HTLS) conductors, among others. MSETCL has also developed a web-ba­sed geographical information system, in collaboration with the Natio­nal Remote Sensing Cen­tre, Nagpur, ISRO, using the BHUVAN platform, where­in all the tra­nsmission assets including EHV substations as well as lines and towers up to 220 kV level are mapped.

MSETCL has also established the Ma­harashtra Transmission Asset Mana­ge­ment Centre for asset management, in line with Power Grid Corporation of In­dia Limited’s National Transmission Ass­et Management Centre. Further, the tra­nsco uses unmanned aerial vehicles/ drones for maintenance. It has an EHV testing lab at Waluj and also maintains a centralised data warehouse. For auto­ma­tion, it has adopted interface energy meters (IEMs) with automated meter reading (AMR). The AMR has been completed at 892 substations, 1,279 panels and 6,046 IEMs. As of Feb­ru­­ary 2022, 97 per cent data is being re­ceived through AMR.

MSETCL has formed a joint venture with Sterlite called MTCIL, for communication network optical ground wire (OPGW). It forms the backbone of MSETCL’s data communication, with an unparalleled greater than 99 per cent up­time. It uses a high quality of fibre with less attenuation, and is almost zero prone to cuts. Currently, the MTCIL fi­bre network sp­ans around 3,164 km, co­vering 25 distri­cts and 208 towns (in nine major ci­ti­es). It has 9,427 tower assets and caters to 19 customers. With this, MTCIL has been able to monetise 29,250 FPKM, and currently has an order book of Rs 4.46 billion.

Under the Green Energy Corridor (fun­ded by the central government, the World Bank and KfW), 18 lines have been planned for an investment of Rs 1.27 billion. Of these, 15 lines have been completed and work is in progress for the remaining three. Also, 37 bays have been planned under GEC at an investment of Rs 414.6 million, of which 32 bays have been constructed, and for the remaining five, work is in progress. All the work is expected to be completed by June 2022.

Future plans and investments

MSETCL has outlined an expansion plan for the next five years (2021-22 to 2025-26). As per the plan, the transco plans to reach an asset base of 57,416 ckt. km of transmission lines, 146,395 MVA of transformation capacity and 775 number of substations by 2025-26. For this, it has planned a capex of Rs 161.86 billion over the next five years, while a capex of Rs 11.17 billion has been incurred till date during 2021-22.

Challenges

The coal generation in the state happens in the eastern side of the state (Chandra­pur and Nagpur), while Pune and Mumbai coastal is are the areas that handle loading. This is the biggest challenge in the state as generation and loading are in different parts of the state. In the nor­thern part, Dhule and Nandarbar have major wind generation, and in the southern part there are Solapur and Usmana­bad, where solar generation is picking up. Connecting all these geographically disparate areas and handling the biggest load as a state is a huge challenge, which MSETCL is tackling.

Another challenge faced by the transco pertains to the ageing transmission infrastructure. The company needs to adapt to the lifecycle management of the assets, and adopt a proactive and preventive ma­­in­­tenance policy, as well as strategic planning for the replacement of ageing assets in a phased manner. Other issues relate to damages to transmission assets due to the lack of maintenance practices, or due to natural calamities.

Further, there are issues related to cy­bersecurity, as supervisory control and data acquisition and other new technologies are using cloud computing, data warehousing, etc. These technologies are prone to cyberthreats and the power industry has become a potential target of cyberattacks for quite some time now. Moreover, the utility currently has an inadequate automation and co­mmunication network. There is a need to have a dedicated communication ch­a­nnel such as OPGW, V-SAT and RF as per the site constraints. There sh­ou­ld also be strengthening of the OPGW network through use of the existing EHV transmission line network for last mile connectivity.

On the commercial front, there are apprehensions of reduction in the market share due to a competitive business environment. Being a state-owned utility, the decision-making processes and the pace of growth get influenced by various factors, and the power transmi­ssion segment is attracting big business conglomerates with access to huge capital and lower cost of funds. Further, MSETCL is highly dependent on one source of revenue – the state distribution company MSEDCL and other dis­tri­­bution lic­ensees. Reliance on one so­urce for major revenue may impact the finances of the transco.

The way ahead

MSETCL plans to venture into other business segments and develop sustainable revenue streams. MSETCL may upscale through avenues such as leasing of existing towers for base transceiver stations and optical fibre cable infrastructure to telecom companies, development of new towers in partnership with telecom operators, and seeking opportunities through  tariff-based competitive bidding. Apart from this, the transco aims to reduce its overall costs of transmission and enhan­ce its operational efficiencies. Going ah­ead, effective asset utilisation by using surplus land for other viable business activities, and asset monetisation by cre­a­ting an infrastructure investment trust are expected to generate funds for the transco to execute new projects.

Based on a presentation by Nasir Quadri, Director (Projects), MSETCL, at a recent Power Line conference

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