Telangana’s discoms have a challenging role to play as it is one of the highest energy consuming states with a per capita consumption of 1,727 units in 2017-18 (compared to the national average of 1,149 units), with a high annual growth rate of 11.34 per cent.
Southern Power Distribution Company of Telangana Limited (TSSPDCL), one of the two discoms in the state which were set up in 2014, has been playing a crucial role in meeting the state’s energy requirements. In the last four years, the discom has spent a significant Rs 65 billion on infrastructure development. Notably, the discom’s aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses are now below the 15 per cent level. Further, the discom’s proactive efforts in promoting rooftop solar have also helped strengthen the state’s solar capacity, which has increased from 37 MW at the time of the state’s inception to more than 3.6 GW at present. Telangana is one of the few states which have achieved 100 per cent household electrification. Besides, with 2.3 million agricultural pump sets, the state is among the first to supply free 24×7 power to all agricultural consumers since January 1, 2018.
TSSPDCL is currently focusing on new initiatives in smart grids and network automation. “The discom is implementing a slew of initiatives to strengthen network and reduce power cuts. For extending quality supply and customer service, we need to adopt new technologies,” stated G. Raghuma Reddy, chairman and managing director, TSSPDCL, at the recently held India Energy Summit organised by the Indian Chamber of Commerce in New Delhi. At the event, the discom has won the award for “Innovation with Impact” for its excellent performance across several areas, including quality of service and efficient distribution operations.
TSSPDCL caters to over 8.1 million consumers in 14 districts and is the largest discom in the state. The discom’s distribution network comprises 11,666 km of 33 kV lines, around 76,348 km of 11 kV lines and 174,875 km of low tension lines (March 2017). The utility has 1,407 substations at the 33/11 kV level and 2,702 power transformers.
The consumer mix is dominated by domestic consumers, who account for 73 per cent of the total consumer base. The agricultural segment follows next, accounting for 14 per cent of the total consumption. With regard to energy sales, agricultural consumers account for the maximum share (43 per cent), followed by domestic consumers (37 per cent).
Between 2013-14 and 2017-18, the discom’s AT&C losses declined from 15.62 per cent to 11.38 per cent. As of September 2018, the losses stood at 13.31 per cent, significantly lower than the national average of 22 per cent (as of September 2018) for the Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY) states. The utility’s targeted AT&C losses are 9.9 per cent as of March 2019. Meanwhile, as of September 2018, the discom’s average cost of supply-average revenue realised gap stood at Re 1 per unit as against Re 0.66 per unit in 2017-18 and Re 0.72 per unit in 2016-17.
In 2016-17, the total income stood at Rs 177,438 million, a 6.12 per cent increase over that in the previous year. TSSPDCL’s income grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2 per cent from 2014-15 to 2016-17. Similarly, the utility’s expenditure increased at a CAGR of 9.04 per cent from 2014-15 to 2016-17. The net loss reduced from Rs 11,707 million in 2014-15 to Rs 47,002 million in 2016-17.
Under UDAY, the discom has fully achieved the target of 100 per cent feeder metering (rural and urban) and distribution transformer metering (rural and urban). However, smart metering progress remains slow with only 2 per cent of the smart metering target met so far. Under the annual ratings exercise conducted by the Power Finance Corporation in July 2018, the discom has been consistent with the previous rating round on its performance and achieved a B+ grade, depicting moderate operational and financial performance. (The reason attributed to this rating is low collection efficiency, low cost coverage ratio and high power purchase cost in 2016-17.)
A number of initiatives are being implemented by the discom.
- Metering, billing and collection: TSSPDCL has installed 4.97 million Infrared Data Association (IRDA) port meters, which cover 76 per cent of the discom’s total customer base. The IRDA port meters are coupled with smart billing meters, which instantly generate bills without manual help from the meter reader. The introduction of IRDA port meters has helped reduce losses by 3 per cent. This has also helped improve its billing efficiency. To further improve billing efficiency, installation of prepaid meters in all government services is also being taken up. Of 12,451 government services, 9,108 services have been provided with prepaid meters so far.
- Customer services: TSSPDCL is also focusing on improving customer service. For this purpose, the discom has developed an in-house mobile application, which is being used by consumers for the registration of a new application, change of category, payment of bills, service complaints, complaint status, news and announcements. In addition, TSSPDCL owns and operates 40 integrated customer service centres and 63 customer service centres providing 21 types of services. Further, TSSPDCL has 1,912 universal call centres to reach outages and other consumer complaints. Consumers can avail of services across these universal call centres through multiple touchpoints. The services offered include bill payment, bill history, application registration and tracking of new connections, complaint logging and updation of member details.
- IT applications: The enterprise resource planning system covers material management, finance management, investment management and assessment management, and has been implemented across all discom circles. Multiple systems such as CAT (web-enabled reporting application), monitoring and tracking system, and energy billing system have also been deployed to improve operational efficiency. TSSPDCL has also deployed geographic information system (GIS) mapping. Consumer indexing has been completed in large areas. Details of the dashboard have also been created for tracking the status of various initiatives.
- Distributed solar generation: One of the key needs of the state has been the utilisation of solar power at source to avoid transmission losses, given the huge number of agricultural pump sets that need power supply. To meet this requirement, the state has implemented a “distribution generation plan” wherein instead of investing in large solar parks, solar plants ranging from 1 MW to 100 MW have been tendered in the state. The entire solar power generation capacity in the state is attributable to this model. With this model, the discom claims that there have been significant savings. Every year, around Rs 520 million is being saved annually in transmission losses, and upfront infrastructure cost savings are around Rs 6,500 million. Further, this has also helped in stabilising the voltages. There is currently no low voltage pocket in Telangana. Also, the distribution transformer failure rates have come down from 17-18 per cent to almost 7-8 per cent currently.
- IPDS and Saubhagya: Under the integrated power development scheme (IPDS), TSSPDCL has been sanctioned Rs 5.1 billion, of which Rs 827 million has been released so far. Currently, the discom is expediting work for the implementation of the second phase of IT in these towns by March 2019. Meanwhile, for Saubhagya, the discom has developed application for facilitating the electrification of households under the Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana (Saubhagya), through which the discom is able to track the houses that have not come forward for electrification and provide them with connections.
TSSPDCL is also implementing the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and distribution management system initiative in Hyderabad. Under this initiative, the discom has planned to integrate 220 substations and 156 feeders. So far, 184 substations have been integrated with the SCADA centre and 38 feeders have also been connected. The project is expected to be completed by March 2019.
Further, on the success of a small-scale pilot project involving 700 meters, which helped bring down losses by 50 per cent, TSSPDCL is currently implementing a smart grid project in the Jeedimetla industrial area, covering about 11,904 consumers. The project is progressing at a fast pace. So far, 50-60 per cent of the work has been completed on the project, with the balance to be completed by March 2019. “Deployment of a smart grid is essential for the reliability of supply and good customer service,” according to Reddy. That said, according to the company, there are several challenges that need to be addressed first. For instance, capacity building for smart grids would be essential because there is a need to train and engage manpower for efficient implementation of the initiatives. For this purpose, TSSPDCL’s Central Power Training Institute has been established, where TSSPDCL’s 21,000 employees, including outsourced staff, are trained with the help of inbuilt modules and chapters.
Further, the company notes that there needs to be more financial support from the centre and the state governments for network modernisation and project implementation. More changes in the regulatory policies such as enabling real-time tariffs for a large category of consumers would also be needed. Reddy says, “There is a need to incentivise consumers to utilise power supply during non-peak times and to reduce the load during peak hours. This further requires the framing of regulatory guidelines.”
In sum, TSSPDCL’s initiatives for uninterrupted power supply, integration of renewable energy, reduction of AT&C losses as well as improved metering and billing services are expected to deliver results in the coming years and help improve its operational and financial performance, and continue to help the state meet its growing energy requirements.