Power theft is a cause of se­ri­ous con­cern: IEEMA Pres­i­dent

Project Monitor - - FRONT PAGE - Ven as the power sec­tor is show­ing signs of re­forms and re­cov­ery in terms of gen­er­a­tion and trans­mis­sion, the dis­tri­bu­tion area has a long way to go. Theft of elec­tric­ity is a se­ri­ous con­cern and threat­ens to vi­ti­ate the tech­ni­cal and com­mer­cial vi­a­bil­ity

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a po­ten­tial so­lu­tion, the IEEMA Pres­i­dent felt that con­trol­ling power dis­tri­bu­tion losses needed a mul­ti­far­i­ous ap­proach ad­dress­ing crit­i­cal pa­ram­e­ters of peo­ple, pro­cesses, tech­nol­ogy and pol­icy. Ba­bel men­tioned a suc­cess­ful case of turn­around in the Bhi­wandi cir­cle of Maharashtra fol­low­ing the ap­point­ment of a pri­vate dis­tri­bu­tion fran­chisee in 2007. Ba­bel re­called that when the fran­chisee was ap­pointed, the first task un­der­taken was to map ev­ery con­sumer to the serv­ing dis­tri­bu­tion trans­former. It was found that as many as 75,000 con­sumers were found “miss­ing” in that they did not ex­ist in the util­ity’s of­fi­cial records de­spite them hav­ing le­git­i­mate con­nec­tions. Rev­enues from the dis­tri­bu­tion cir­cle im­proved sig­nif­i­cantly by rec­ti­fy­ing just this la­cuna. Even in Delhi, pri­vate li­cencees that have put pro­cesses and tech­nol­ogy in place, have re­sulted in dis­tri­bu­tion losses tum­bling to just 9-12 per cent to­day from their shame­ful lev­els of 50-55 per cent be­fore pri­vati­sa­tion.

Dwelling on sub­tleties of this un­law­ful act, Ba­bel ob­served that power theft was a so­cial is­sue. He made an­in­ter­est­ing point: “Un­for­tu­nately, elec­tric­ity theft is not as ‘vis­i­ble’ as steal­ing of any other phys­i­cal com­mod­ity. Hence there is less el­e­ment of guilt.” Such so­cial prob­lems need to be ad­dressed by both so­ci­ol­ogy and tech­nol­ogy, he sug­gested. Ba­bel as­serted that elec­tric­ity con­sumers are never pre­dis­posed to cheat­ing. A typ­i­cal con­sumer is will­ing to pay for proper ser­vices from the power util­i­ties. The IEEMA Pres­i­dent cited cases of farm­ers in Pun­jab even will­ing to give part of their land for build­ing power sub­sta­tions so that they could get con­sis­tent power, at least for a bet­ter part of the work­ing day.

Pri­vati­sa­tion could of­fer a so­lu­tion to mit­i­gat­ing dis­tri­bu­tion losses as pri­vate en­ti­ties are more likely to show in­trin­sic ef­fi­ciency in op­er­a­tions. How­ever, the ob­jec­tive of stem­ming tech­ni­cal and com­mer­cial losses is met es­sen­tially by in­stat­ing proper pro­cesses. This could be achieved even by ex­ist­ing gov­ern­men­towned util­i­ties. Ba­bel noted that dis­tri­bu­tion util­i­ties in Gu­jarat and West Ben­gal have shown re­mark­able im­prove­ment in their per­for­mance, fol­low­ing a con­scious ef­fort to im­prove pro­cesses and in­fuse tech­nol­ogy.

Aa­ditya R. Dhoot, Chair­man of Elecrama Or­gan­is­ing Com­mit­tee, high­lighted the fact that power util­i­ties are in­creas­ingly get­ting con­scious of meet­ing con­sumer ex­pec­ta­tions. State util­i­ties are re­al­iz­ing that an ef­fi­cient power dis­tri­bu­tion sec­tor can be a fa­cil­i­ta­tor of new in­dus­try as much as it would sus­tain ex­ist­ing in­dus­trial units. “No­body wants volt­age fluc­tu­a­tions. Re­li­able elec­tric­ity sup­ply is one of the most im­por­tant fac­tors for ease of do­ing busi­ness,” ob­served Dhoot.

Dis­cussing the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of an in­ef­fi­cient power sec­tor, Babu Ba­bel said that dis­tri­bu­tion com­pa­nies can­not un­der­take cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture in view of their op­er­a­tional losses. Banks find it un­vi­able to lend to the power sec­tor and there is huge fis­cal bur­den on state gov­ern­ments. As power is a con­cur­rent sub­ject, wide­spread par­tic­i­pa­tion of state govern­ment is called for. “A very good di­a­logue has been es­tab­lished by IEEMA with var­i­ous stake­hold­ers at both Cen­tral and state lev­els,” as­sured Ba­bel as he re­it­er­ated IEEMA’s com­mit­ment to con­trib­ute in de­vis­ing a last­ing so­lu­tion to the power dis­tri­bu­tion morass.

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