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Praveer Sinha, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited

13 Mar 2013

Regulatory bodies have not been able to achieve anything much

The current sorry state of affairs in the country’s power sector has made everybody sit up and think of ways to correct the situation. One point on which there is all-round consensus is that while generation needs to be ramped up, equal thought should be given to improving distribution. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited (TPDDL), Praveer Sinha, in conversation with Pallavi
Karan Chakravorty, talks about increasing the efficiency of state electricity boards, encouraging private players and his company’s focus on consultancy business. Excerpts:

What, in your view, needs to be done to attract more private players to distribution sector?

Private participation is happening in the power distribution sector but in a very limited way. In Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Orissa it has borne results as well. The efficiency of the system has improved. In some places, private franchises have also been experimented with. Tata Power has a public private partnership (PPP) model in Delhi. When we took over from the Delhi Vidyut Board (DVB), there were aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses of 75 per cent. Today (on March 31, 2012), they stand at a record low of 13 per cent. We achieved this by changing the mindset of the employees
most of whom we have retained from DVB. At present we are working on a franchise model for Jamshedpur. The government should definitely encourage more private participation to improve the functioning of the sector on the whole.

What kind of reforms do you think the sector needs?

It is time to have a set of reforms for the distribution sector. When reforms were first introduced in 1992, maximum emphasis was laid on the generation side. It involved heavy capital and attracted investments from the biggest power companies across the globe. In the past decade, we have increased our installed capacity manifold. In around 1998-1999, various regulatory bodies were established for the power sector, but not much was achieved. It’s now time to strengthen distribution network and work towards reducing losses. It is not possible to bail out state electricity boards (SEBs) or provide huge subsidies all the time. We have to switch over to smart metering across India as it will help reduce the AT&C losses. We need better infrastructure and better administration in the distribution sector.

The recent bailout package for SEBs is not a permanent solution. The entire functioning needs a revamp. Do you think SEBs should be privatized?

Certainly. Bailout is not a permanent and viable solution. Though the recent `1.9 lakh crore package had a few pre-conditions, it is not the answer that we need. Lending institutions and banks have been
asked to roll over the balance 50 per cent of the utilities’ debt, with a three-year moratorium on repayment. On their part, states must undertake milestone-linked reforms which include, besides yearly tariff revisions, changing managements of loss-making distribution companies, and moving towards a franchisee-based privatisation of select circles. As regards privatizing the SEBs, that is something the respective
state governments must take a call on. Recently, we have been approached by Jharkhand for running a franchisee distribution network.

Delhi will be islanded in time to come, in order to avoid slipping into darkness in case of a grid collapse. Being one of the major power distributors in the capital what would be TPDDL’s role here?

We already have a 108 mw power generating plant in Delhi which would be supplying power for islanding also. We would need to prioritise where all we would have to supply power in case of an emergency. All that is being worked out. Some infrastructure needs to be built, to cover the entire city. Plus, we already have some experience with islanding, when Tata Power did islanding in Mumbai.

Do we have the infrastructure required for going ahead with islanding?

Yes, we do. There are a few infrastructural bottlenecks, which can be easily resolved.

Do you think open access would promote healthy competition?

Open access is inevitable and will become a reality sooner than later. Consumers should have the choice to choose their source of power as is the practice in other sectors such as telecom. There are a few cross-subsidy issues that need to be clarified after which open access can be implemented. In fact, it has been implemented in certain pockets in Mumbai, it would take time to be implemented in the entire country.

Any major initiative in the pipeline? Which has been your very successful initiative in the past?

We are concentrating a lot on consultancy services. Recently we signed up for consultancy with Uttar Pradesh. Overseas also, we are doing a lot of consultancy in Africa. It would be a major focus for our business in future.

One of our major success stories has been the JJ Colony schemes. These were areas where there were heavy power thefts. We installed meters here and encouraged them to pay for whatever power they used. We also gave them a free insurance cover of `1 lakh for every meter installed. We also conduct adult literacy classes for women and training programmes for men.

What is your take on smart grids?

TPDDL has successfully implemented a smart metering project on pilot basis. A smart meter is essentially a state-of-the-art metering device which has bidirectional capabilities between the utility and the customers. Smart metering also includes connecting with the customers’ appliances to capture individual consumption on real time basis. We plan to use GPRS/PLC enabled smart meters with remote reading, connect/disconnect, remote load setting, capabilities to store meter data for specific duration with sufficient on-board memory, tariff reconfiguration, register status, meter serial number validation, on-demand end of billing, meter reconfiguration, generate meter tampering and meter investigation events etc.

TPDDL aims at scaling up smart metering to offer best of class services to its customers by way of improved billing, load management, revenue protection, energy-efficiency and demand side management features.

This real time technology shallbe implemented in phases. It is expected that use of smart meters with integrated approach will not only improve commercial efficiency but will significantly lead to increased consumer satisfaction /interaction / experience and empower customers for their demand management.

Has the tariff rise helped in reducing the T&D losses of TPDDL?

Tariffs were revised in 2012 after many years — in states such as Tamil Nadu after seven years. This hike was long overdue as power procurement costs have gone up by more 70-80 per cent in the past few years with rise in prices of fuel, both coal and gas.