Established in 2007, post the unbundling of the erstwhile West Bengal State Electricity Board, West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (WBSEDCL) is one of the oldest power utilities in the country. With a substantial consumer base of approximately 22.29 million as of March 2023, WBSEDCL also operates power generation facilities, including a pumped storage hydropower plant with a capacity of 900 MW.
WBSEDCL has been working on various initiatives to improve its operational and financial performance. The revenue gap for WBSEDCL has decreased by 58 per cent, dropping from Re 0.99 per unit in 2020-21 to Re 0.41 per unit in 2022-23. However, its collection efficiency rose to 99.33 per cent in 2022-23, marking an improvement from 98.25 per cent in 2021-22. The discom has achieved a significant reduction in its aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses, from 21.35 per cent in 2020-21 to 17.27 per cent in 2022-23.
Due to its improved performance, WBSEDCL’s rating improved to B- in the 11th exercise conducted by the Ministry of Power (MoP), compared to its previous C rating in the 10th Annual Integrated Rating. Additionally, in the latest consumer service rankings issued by REC Limited, the discom secured a B grade.
Areas of operation and network growth
WBSEDCL is responsible for the distribution and supply of electricity across the state, excluding parts of Kolkata, Howrah and Asansol. As of March 2023, it caters to approximately 22.29 million consumers. The discom’s energy sales have increased by 28.84 per cent from 27,706 million units (MUs) in 2017-18 to 35,697 MUs in 2022-23. Of the total energy sales, domestic consumers account for 41.5 per cent, commercial consumers for 15.36 per cent, low tension (LT) industrial consumers for 4.72 per cent, high tension (HT) industrial consumers for 27.4 per cent and agricultural consumers for 4.53 per cent.
WBSEDCL’s line length grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 2.43 per cent from 497,018 ckt. km in 2016-17 to 560,527 ckt. km in 2020-21. The majority of its line length is at the LT level (365,744 ckt. km), followed by 176,861 ckt. km at the 11 kV level and 17,922 ckt. km at the 33 kV level as of 2022-23. During 2022-23, the discom added a line length of approximately 2,372 ckt. km.
The company’s distribution transformers exhibited a CAGR of 7.16 per cent, increasing from 241,222 transformers in 2016-17 to 340,854 transformers in 2022-23. WBSEDCL’s transformer capacity recorded a CAGR of 8.74 per cent, increasing from 19,922 MVA in 2016-17 to 30,732 MVA in 2022-23. During 2022-23, the discom added approximately 1,345 MVA transformer capacity.
The utility operates 1,964 distribution transformers at the 33/11 kV level with a total transformer capacity of 13,710 MVA, and 338,890 distribution transformers at the 11/0.433 kV level with 17,022 MVA of transformer capacity. WBSEDCL has a total of 743 substations in its network at the 33 kV level.
As of March 2023, the company’s feeders have achieved 100 per cent of its metering coverage. Additionally, it has achieved 21.19 per cent metering coverage at its distribution transformers.
On the generation front, WBSEDCL owns and operates the Purulia pumped storage hydro project, which has a capacity of 900 MW (4×225 MW). This project has been operational since 2007-08. During 2022-23, the project exceeded expectations by generating 1,578 MUs of electricity, surpassing the Central Electricity Authority’s target of 1,200 MUs. The project achieved an average plant availability factor of 91.33 per cent and an average cycle efficiency of 78.08 per cent, surpassing the design cycle efficiency of 75.5 per cent during 2021-22.
In June 2023, the West Bengal Electricity Regulatory Commission (WBERC) approved the power usage agreement between WBSEDCL and NHPC Limited for the purchase of 100 MW of solar power from NHPC’s solar photovoltaic station at Kadri in Andhra Pradesh. In June 2022, a power purchase agreement was approved between WBSEDCL and Solar Energy Corporation of India Limited for the procurement of 100 MW of wind-solar hybrid power on a round-the-clock basis at Rs 2.90 per kWh, along with a trading margin of Re 0.07 per kWh.
Although WBSEDCL’s AT&C losses remain high, there have been significant improvements over the years, falling from 28.96 per cent in 2016-17 to 27.33 per cent in 2017-18, 22.97 per cent in 2018-19, 20.1 per cent in 2019-20, 21.35 per cent in 2020-21, 16.65 per cent in 2021-22, and 17.27 per cent in 2022-23.
WBSEDCL recorded a lower billing efficiency of 83.28 per cent in 2022-23 as compared to 84.83 per cent during 2021-22. Meanwhile, the utility recorded a higher collection efficiency of 99.33 per cent during 2022-23 compared to 98.25 per cent recorded during 2021-22.
In terms of overall network reliability, WBSEDCL’s system average interruption frequency index stood at 225 in 2022-23, compared to 235 in 2021-22. Further, its system average interruption duration index improved to 93.33 minutes in 2022-23 from 99.6 minutes in 2021-22. Meanwhile, the distribution transformer failure rate increased from 6.78 per cent in 2020-21 to 7.49 per cent in 2022-23.
WBSEDCL’s revenue gap has fallen from Re 0.99 per unit in 2020-21 to Re 0.41 per unit in 2022-23. During 2021-22, the company recorded a revenue of Rs 315.88 billion, an increase of approximately 19 per cent from the previous year’s Rs 265.44 billion. The company’s net profit decreased by approximately 22.9 per cent and stood at Rs 527.1 million in 2021-22 as compared to a profit of about Rs 683.7 million in the previous year. The utility’s capital expenditure stood at Rs 48.26 billion in 2021-22, recording a 119.96 per cent increase from Rs 21.94 billion during 2020-21.
During 2021-22, the total expenditure stood at Rs 315.36 billion, with the power purchase cost accounting for the largest share of expenditure at Rs 252.69 billion or 80.13 per cent. The discom booked a subsidy of Rs 15.96 billion and received Rs 15.96 billion in the same year.
The discom has set an ambitious capex plan of Rs 117.41 billion for 2023-24 to 2025-26.
In terms of network expansion, WBSEDCL has planned an additional 9,950 ckt. km of distribution lines, and transformer capacity of 7,500 MVA between 2023-24 and 2027-28. It has also planned to set up 56,075 substations during 2027-28, with 75 substations at the 33 kV level and the remaining at 11 kV.
Further, WBSEDCL plans to install 6.89 million smart meters between 2023-24 and 2027-28. Under the West Bengal Electricity Distribution Grid Modernisation Project, WBSEDCL has engaged PricewaterhouseCoopers Private Limited as the IT project management consultant to oversee the implementation of smart meters in the state. The funding for this project will be provided by the World Bank. The total allocation of Rs 2.5 billion will be utilised for the implementation of approximately 460,000 additional smart meters across the state.
WBSEDCL will also be implementing the Revamped Distribution Sector Scheme (RDSS), which was launched in July 2021 by the MoP. Under the RDSS, a total of 3.72 million smart meters and 305,419 distribution transformer smart meters have been planned, at an estimated cost of Rs 29.33 billion. Further, IT-OT-enabled works are slated to be executed under the scheme at an estimated cost of Rs 3.55 billion.
WBSEDCL has plans to expand its hydropower generating portfolio through the implementation of the 1,000 MW Turga pumped storage project (PSP), 900 MW Bandu PSP, and 10 MW Lodhama-II small hydroelectric project. Environmental clearance and forest clearance-I have been obtained for the Turga PSP, while forest clearance-II is yet to come.
On the solar front, the company is developing a 200 MW solar park project at Goaltore, Paschim Medinipur, with financial assistance of Rs 6 billion from KfW Germany. The first phase of the project, comprising 125 MW, is expected to be commissioned by June 2024. Further, the company has also issued an expression of interest to engage with consultants in the project.
On the renewable front, in October 2022, WBSEDCL, acting as the state nodal agency, invited expressions of interest to establish EV charging infrastructure on a public-private partnership model to boost e-mobility within the state. It has invited bids from interested operators to construct 205 charging or battery swapping stations for different types of vehicles. The stations will be installed on WBSEDCL’s land; however, the maintenance will be undertaken by operators, who will offer a share of the generated revenue.
WBSEDCL has set ambitious goals for capital expenditure, capacity expansion and technology upgrades. These initiatives aim to enhance its commercial viability and self-sustainability while ensuring reliable power supply to consumers. WBSEDCL is actively implementing measures to improve customer experience, reduce AT&C losses and deploy smart meters. These strategic actions are anticipated to yield favourable outcomes in the coming years.