Power theft is a cause of serious concern: IEEMA President
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.