Over the past decade, distribution utilities in India have taken several measures to reduce network losses and increase their revenue collection efficiency. Uttar Gujarat Vij Company Limited (UGVCL), which caters to over 3.68 million consumers, is one of the most successful discoms in bringing down these losses, which stood at an impressive 4.65 per cent during 2019-20. To deliver a strong performance, the discom has adopted a number of other best practices such as strengthening of the physical infrastructure, improvement in metering technology, and deployment of information and communications technology.
Smart Utilities takes a look at the key initiatives taken by UGVCL for loss reduction and revenue management…
Residential consumers accounted for the largest share of 78 per cent in UGVCL’s consumer base, as of March 2020. Meanwhile, agricultural consumers accounted for about 10 per cent and high tension (HT) and low tension (LT) industrial consumers for 11 per cent. As of March 2020, UGVCL’s distribution network comprised 111,467 km of HT lines, 74,779 km of LT lines and 520 substations.
The discom’s AT&C loss performance improved from 11.04 per cent in 2015-16 to 4.65 per cent in 2019-20. While agricultural AT&C loss performance improved from 29.14 per cent in 2015-16 to 10.25 per cent in 2019-20, non-agricultural AT&C loss performance improved from 7.74 per cent in 2015-16 to 5.39 per cent in 2019-20.
Towards technical loss reduction, UGVCL has set up 94 new substations and 1,302 new feeders in the past six years and installed cross-linked polyethylene and aerial bunched (AB) cables. It has upgraded its energy network through high voltage distribution system and distribution transformers. Further, it is continuously conducting transformer load balancing activity, network analysis and energy audits. The discom also provides timely solutions to LV consumer complaints.
For commercial loss reduction, it has taken measures such as installation of 950,000 static meters in the past three years in place of electromechanical meters. With GPRS technology, the utility has conducted timely and correct billing for all consumer categories.
Between March 2018 and 2019, the company’s consumer base increased by 3.46 per cent, which resulted in higher revenue realisation. The average revenue realisation of UGVCL during 2018-19 stood Rs 5.37 per unit as compared to Rs 4.93 per unit during 2017-18. During 2019-20, the revenue realised from residential consumers stood at 13.5 per cent, HT and LT industrial consumers stood at 77.2 per cent and agricultural consumers stood at 4.9 per cent. Further, high billing efficiency and 100 per cent collection efficiency resulted in the lowest debit arrears of 13.24 per cent as of March 2020.
UGVCL has reported 100 per cent collection efficiency for many years, though it decreased marginally due to Covid-19. (The collection efficiency declined from 100 per cent in 2018-19 to 99.21 per cent in 2019-20 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.) The discom also has very low debit arrears (13.24 per cent in 2019-20). Its average cost of supply-average revenue realised gap stood at Re 0.02 per unit during 2018-19 as against Re 0.05 per unit in 2015-16. The discom’s billing efficiency is also high and stood at 100 per cent for HT consumers and at 97.53 per cent for LT consumers during 2019-20.
One of the best practices of UGVCL is segregating high-loss-making feeders and point load. For the year 2020-21, a total of 125 high loss/ PBIS (performance-based incentive scheme) feeders have been selected. Various tasks such as mass checking drives, loss reduction activities, and provision of AB cables, etc. have been assigned to feeder managers.
UGVCL has also deployed an HT automated meter reading system for all of its HT/EHT consumers. With this, it has been able to identify and detect around 63 connections, which had an assessment of Rs 21.9 million during the past 18 months. It has also achieved 100 per cent feeder metering and 100 per cent consumer metering (except for 152,029 agricultural consumers). Further, it has provided static meters to 95 per cent of its consumers as of March 2020 and aims to cater to the remaining 5 per cent by March 2021.
During 2019-20, 461,129 meter installations have been monitored by UGVCL, of which 19,685 installations have been detected, Rs 4.17 billion has been assessed and Rs 1.56 billion has been realised. Apart from this, it released a total of 20,692 new agricultural connections, 443 HT connections, 16,694 LT industrial and 86,287 lighting connections, with 502.54 MW of contracted load during 2019-20.
The discom has implemented the Geo-Urja Project and a power portal. According to the portal, survey work has been completed in 2,308 feeders out of 5,610 feeders. Around 3,141 special design transformers have been provided to agricultural feeders, which benefit 165,021 residential connections. Also, all LT consumers are now billed through GPRS. Also, on-spot billing has been implemented in 13 urban subdivisions. All HT and CT meters are being checked twice a year.
New technology interventions
For monitoring and remote operations of 136 feeders across 19 substations, a SCADA control centre has been established at Gandhinagar. It covers 12 subdivisions of Ahmedabad Peri under the SCADA project. An underground network has also been developed with the smart GIDC concept by utilising HTMC, CTC, PSS, RMU, RCC cable trench in BOL GIDC and Japanese Park to attract multinational companies under Vibrant Gujarat and Make in India.
Further, around 16 Suryashakti Kisan Yojna (SKY) feeders have been commissioned for 441 agricultural consumers that have installed solar panels. These are monitored on a real-time basis through the solar energy data management portal under the SKY scheme.
The utility has also implemented a smart grid pilot project in the Naroda urban subdivision, which covered automatic meter reading and bill generation; remote connect/disconnect of overdue bill payment consumers; net metering for rooftop solar consumers; and consistent data availability as well as real-time energy audit.
The utilisation of 43 air break earth blade switches with earthing facility has been taken up. A pilot project for remote metering with low-power RF technology as suggested by the GPRD Cell has been started at the field level.
UGVCL has around 150,000 unmetered agricultural consumers with a contracted load of 2,824.07 MW, making an unauthorised extension of loads. Curbing them is a challenge as the consumers are farmers. Further, the 24-hour Jyoti Gram Yojana (JGY) and agricultural feeders run across many tribal areas, where people often tapped JGY lines to run single-phase motors, resulting in huge losses to the company.
In addition, due to a major portion of the agricultural load and residential rural pockets, they are heavily cross-subsidised with industrial consumers. The average cost of realisation in the agricultural sector is only Rs 3.18 per unit and for industrial consumers it is around Rs 6.91 per unit.
Getting right-of-way permission for laying overhead network and setting up new substations due to high land cost, customer service issues in rural and tribal areas, lack of power reliability, and transformer failure rate are among the challenges faced by the utility.
These challenges notwithstanding, UGVCL’s initiatives for loss reduction and revenue management have helped it deliver a consistently strong performance in AT&C loss performance and improve its high billing and collection efficiency. It has thus been ranked amongst the best discoms in the country.
Based on a presentation by P.B. Pandya, Chief Engineer, UGVCL, at a recent Power Line conference