Digitisation Drive

The acquisition of Delhi’s discoms by Reliance Infrastructure Limited has been one of the most successful exercises undertaken to privatise the distribution segment in the country. The two discoms, BSES Rajdhani Power Limited (BRPL) and BSES Yamuna Power Limited (BYPL), have been managing the majority of the city’s distribution network since 2003, and have played a crucial role in improving Delhi’s power situation.

Since their privatisation, the utilities have witnessed a significant improvement in billing and collection efficiency, reduction in aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses (now comparable with the losses of developed countries), and increase in power supply. The discoms have also been at the forefront of digital and technological developments in the segment. These include the launch of compact substations, meter data analytics, mobile apps, digital bill payment platforms and other innovative customer engagement initiatives. Going forward, the discoms have planned significant initiatives in smart metering deployments, electric vehicle (EV) charging, renewables and digitalisation.

A look at some of the key initiatives taken by the BSES discoms, their future plans and the challenges ahead…

Performance review

BYPL distributes power to an area spread across 200 square km with a customer density of 7,950 per square km. Its 1.6 million customers are spread across 14 districts in the central and east areas of Delhi. BRPL distributes power to a 750 square km area with a customer density of around 3,100 per square km. Its 2.4 million customers are spread over 19 districts in the south and west areas.

The discoms operate and manage one of the most advanced distribution networks in India to provide reliable and quality power supply to its customers. One of the key achievements of the discoms has been the significant reduction in AT&C losses. BRPL’s losses have reduced from 51.5 per cent in 2002 to 9.4 per cent in 2017-18, while BYPL’s losses have decreased from 63.1 per cent to 10.4 per cent. In south and west Delhi and parts of east Delhi, these losses have been brought below the 8 per cent level. According to the company, “These are not only amongst the lowest in the country, but comparable with those in developed nations.” In addition, the number of outages caused due to the breakdown of equipment has been substantially reduced. In fact, according to the government’s data, at 0.06 per cent, Delhi witnessed the lowest ever power load shedding among metro cities in 2017-18. It is almost six times lower than the 0.4 per cent load shedding witnessed in 2014-15.

In another major achievement during the year, BRPL and BYPL recorded a peak demand of 2,745 MW and 1,459 MW respectively, the highest so far. Further, the discoms incurred a capital expenditure of over Rs 90 billion for network strengthening and loss reduction.

Technology initiatives

Both discoms have taken several digitalisation initiatives. As a result, customers can now connect with the discoms 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 discoms have integrated many of these platforms with their existing customer relationship management tools to enhance customer experience.

Further, to increase the ease of doing business, BSES has significantly reduced the processes and time taken for new applications. Today, it just takes seven days and two documents to get a BSES connection. Customers can apply for a connection, upload documents and even pay from the comfort of their home or office.

The discoms are also rolling out Digital Seva Kendras (DSKs), which are state-of-the-art centres modelled on Passport Seva Kendras. The DSKs offer quick, convenient and hassle-free single-window services to customers, who can apply for a new connection, load/name/ category change, and a host of other services. To encourage digital payments, the discoms have partnered with several wallet companies to offer attractive cashback schemes to over 4 million consumers. The customers can also choose to make payments through debit cards, credit cards, net banking, UPI, and QR code.

Improving billing and metering efficiency

Since 2006, the BSES discoms have been downloading information from meters using hand-held units. The data is used not only for billing, but also to check supply reliability and quality, and reduce the chances of revenue leakage. For analysing meter readings, BSES has established a meter data analytics cell. The discoms use data from grids and distribution transformer meters to monitor energy flow and enhance system efficiency. The utilities also use pole meters, smart prepaid meters, smart street light meters-cum-controllers, group meters, etc. to carry out special operations. All bills are generated on the SAP IS-U platform. In addition, BSES is installing pole-mounted smart meters for e-rickshaw charging stations and in high-loss areas.

To bring down their AT&C losses, the discoms have been taking several steps such as conducting surveys on consumer premises, replacing old meters, deploying new technologies such as pole meters and armoured cables, and distributing energy efficient LED bulbs and fans. Apart from this, the discoms, in collaboration with the Delhi State Legal Services Authority, organise Lok Adalats for on-the-spot settlement of power theft cases.

BSES has also been deploying technology to enable its consumers to verify the identity of BSES officials on its mobile app. This facility is currently available for east and central Delhi consumers and will be extended to other areas by the end of June this year. Further, the discoms are using technology in a major way to make “same day” temporary connections possible.

Focus on renewables and energy efficiency

BSES has been making efforts to provide a boost to renewable energy and is actively promoting rooftop solar installations through direct marketing. So far, the discoms have been able to energise 743 solar rooftop net metering connections aggregating over 35 MW. Further, the BSES discoms have signed agreements for around 300 MW of wind power capacity with PTC India Limited and the Solar Energy Corporation of India. Of this, 100 MW will be available from November 2018 and 200 MW from November 2019.

The discoms have also partnered with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), GIZ and Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) for conducting technical studies on renewable energy integration in the distribution network. Further, BSES has launched a rooftop programme, Solar City Initiative, which aims to leverage the rooftop solar potential in south and west Delhi. Unlike conventional power supply, rooftop solar power under the programme will be provided at a single point for an entire apartment/complex. These initiatives are expected to enable the BSES discoms to realise the solar potential of around 700 MW in their licensed areas.

On the energy efficiency front, the discoms are taking some unique initiatives. In March 2018, the US Trade and Development Agency signed a grant of $1 million supporting BRPL’s plans to develop and deploy India’s first Behavioural Energy Efficiency programme. Under the pioneering initiative, Oracle America, Inc. will carry out the pilot project covering around 200,000 customers. Considering its achievements in comparable markets, the programme has the potential to reduce BRPL’s peak power demand by 1-2 per cent. Apart from this, an agreement has been signed with TERI for an innovative programme to sensitise 90,000 students from government schools on energy conservation and solar energy.

Challenges and the way forward

While the discoms have achieved significant progress, there are still a host of challenges that need to be addressed. One of the key issues that the company faces is the lack of space, particularly in unauthorised areas. To overcome this problem, BSES is deploying solutions such as double-decker substations and electronic houses. They occupy 40-50 per cent less space compared to conventional substations, thus making them ideal for congested areas. Meanwhile, in certain pockets of Delhi, power theft continues to be a major challenge, resulting in losses of up to 28 per cent. Further, power theft for e-rickshaw charging has emerged as a new challenge.

To address these challenges, the discoms have been investing in new technologies. They have conducted pilot trials of various smart meter technologies over the past few years and obtained regulatory approvals for their larger-scale implementation.

Going forward, BSES will set up a utility-wide communication network using smart meters to acquire data in real time. BSES has already started installing smart meters for specific applications. Further, trials are being undertaken to implement a smart remote monitoring unit and feeder remote terminal unit-based distribution transformer monitoring system. Also, both the discoms are planning to convert one of their areas/subdivisions into a smart grid division during 2018-19 by deploying various smart grid technologies such as smart meters, distribution automation, substation health monitoring and field force management. The company’s first smart meter tender is expected to be released in June 2019.

On the energy efficiency front, a key focus area would be replacing 10,000 inefficient agricultural pumps, which is expected to result in energy savings of up to 120 MUs over the course of three years. In addition, the discoms  are planning to set up EV charging stations along with EESL.

In light of these initiatives, BSES seems well positioned to meet the state’s growing power demand, capitalise on the new opportunities created by the digital revolution, and efficiently manage end-user expectations.