Assam Power Distribution Company Limited (APDCL) operates in three regions, which are further divided into 16 electrical circles, and caters to over 3.3 million households. By December 2018, it targets to expand its consumer base to an additional 2.5 million households. In 2016-17, the utility’s aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses have reduced to 18.27 per cent (as of November 2016) from 37.3 per cent in 2015-16 in the areas under the Restructured Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Programme (R-APDRP) (now subsumed under the Integrated Power Development Scheme [IPDS]). Meanwhile, the collection efficiency has increased from 91 per cent to 94 per cent during the same period.
The utility has implemented a host of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) measures over the past couple of years to improve its functioning and efficiency. Some of them are discussed in the subsequent sections.
Computerised billing system
APDCL adopted the computerised billing system in 2005-06 to facilitate proper billing and expanded the scope of online payment to include various third-party payment options such as Airtel Money, Vodafone M-Pesa, bill cloud and common service centres. Further, efforts are being made to ensure 100 per cent billing efficiency across all consumer categories using spot billing machines, prepaid meters, SMS intimation, and online billing and payment facility, etc.
In addition, under the Assam government’s “Ease of Doing Business” initiative, an online service connection facility has been started for high-value industrial consumers. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) modules such as financial accounting and analysis, human resource management systems, payroll management systems and procurement management systems (including inventory and material management) are also being implemented. ERP modules are already operational at APDCL headquarters as well as in three subdivisions under Guwahati city – Narengi, Uzanbazar and Chandmari.
Meter data acquisition system
APDCL has set ambitious plans for automating meter data. The utility is in the process of installing modems in all distribution transformer meters and ring fence meters. The data from the feeders at substations aggregates in the data concentrator unit (DCU). The modems in the meters and DCUs are fitted with a GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) SIM card. All data available in the meters is transmitted for processing to the central data centre in Guwahati via the GPRS network. Apart from the preparation of energy bills, the meter information can be used for load flow and other network analysis. This module has been successfully implemented in 67 towns out of the 72 targeted towns.
Smart grid pilot project
Of the 15 smart grid pilot projects across the country, one is being executed by APDCL in Guwahati. The project will cater to 15,000 consumers and will entail an investment of Rs 299.4 million, of which Rs 149.7 million will be provided by the central government. In March 2015, the project was awarded to Phoenix IT Solutions and work is currently in progress. The pilot project will cover three subdivisions (Paltan Bazar, Ulubari and Narengi) and include five substations at the 33/11 kV level, six substations at the 132/33/11 kV level and 17 substations at 11 kV feeders. Further, a total of 7,876 single-phase meters and 7,207 three-phase meters will be installed as a part of the project. Functionalities that will be covered under the project include advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) for residential consumers, AMI for industrial consumers, demand-side management and demand response, peak load management, power quality management, outage management, and distributed generation. The smart grid project will enable the utility to curtail blanket load shedding as load in the areas is expected to reduce with its implementation. Through demand response, either consumers will reduce their loads themselves or the supplier sitting in the control room will disconnect their excess load as the last resort. The smart grid project also has a home area network component, which will be used for conveying real-time price for load disconnecting and connecting on customers’ premises.
Progress under IPDS
A total of 88 statutory towns (62 R-APDRP towns and 26 non-R-APDRP towns) across 19 electrical circles of APDCL are declared as eligible towns for the implementation of the IPDS in Assam. Biecco Lawrie Limited, Kolkata, has been appointed as the project management agency for the efficient and effective implementation. The projects are expected to be completed by December 2018.
SAP modules have been successfully implemented across 70 out of 72 towns in Assam. The modules primarily include metering, billing, collection, energy accounting and auditing. A geographic information system-based integrated network analysis module is also in place. The module includes load flow and voltage drop analysis, optimisation studies such as capacitor placement, network reconfiguration, conductor upgradation requirements, load balancing and load allocation, and integration with a new service connection module for checking the network capability/feasibility. This module has been successfully implemented in all the 72 targeted towns.
To inform consumers about an expected outage or fault in line in advance, APDCL introduced the Urja Mitra scheme on September 20, 2016. To avail of the service under this scheme, consumers have to register themselves by logging into the APDCL website and providing their mobile phone number and email address.
Prior to this, in May 2016, APDCL had set up seven automatic electricity bill payment and information kiosks in different parts of Guwahati to help people pay their electricity bills in a hassle-free manner. The best features of the kiosks are that residents of 66 towns can access their electricity bills by just punching in their consumer number, make payments through the machine and receive their payment slip.
Going forward, APDCL intends to continue undertaking IT initiatives to improve its efficiency and provide better consumer services.
With inputs from a presentation by Madhurjya Lahkar, Assistant General Manager, T&C Division, Mangaldai, APDCL, at a recent Power Line conference