April 2015 | Cynthia Rodrigues

Chain of excellence

From renewable power to consumer friendliness, Tata Power’s associate entities have set the standard for the industry

Distribution

Tata Power Delhi Distribution

Tata Power Delhi Distribution (TPDDL) is one of the most striking examples of successful public-private partnerships. A joint venture between Tata Power and the Delhi government, the subsidiary provides electricity in the north and northwestern parts of the Indian capital, serving a population of six million. With a registered consumer base of 1.40 million and a peak load of around 1,704MW, its operations span an area of 510 sq km.

Through consumer-friendly practices and reforms, TPDDL has been able to achieve considerable success. These steps have helped it combat the aggregate technical and commercial losses in areas it serves. The decline in these losses is a measure of the overall efficiency of the distribution business. Consequently, TPDDL’s losses stand at 10.5 percent as against 53 percent in July 2002.

Despite the success, the business faces many inherent challenges. Says TPDDL’s managing director, Praveer Sinha: “The foremost challenge is the need for optimisation and reduction of power purchase costs, which have a huge impact on retail tariff. The second biggest challenge is the poor condition of the transmission network, followed by the financial crunch caused by our inability to pass on to customers any increase in the cost of fuel for the generation of power. Another big challenge is the liquidation of regulatory assets.”

To counter these challenges, TPDDL keeps itself nimble, bringing in various high-tech automated systems to build efficiency in its systems. Modern technologies also help the subsidiary fight the menace of power theft.

TPDDL has several firsts to its credit in Delhi. These include supervisory control and data acquisition systems (SCADA), controlled grid stations, automatic meter reading, a GSM-based street lighting system and an SMS-based fault management setup.

The subsidiary has also embarked on its smart grid journey and has become the first utility to initiate the automated metering, infrastructure-based auto-demand response programme in the country. This mechanism helps it manage peak demand and grid stress. To further improve its services, TPDDL provides online information on consumption, billing and payment to all its 1.40 million consumers, besides having an online customer care centre. It has also initiated solar generation in a bid to enhance its sustainability initiatives. There are 15 solar plants installed in its licence area, with a total capacity of 1.65MW.

Going beyond Delhi, TPDDL provides project management and consultancy services in the states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh and is exploring opportunities in Chhattisgarh and Punjab. Additionally, the company is a member of the Global Intelligent Utility Network (IUN) Coalition, which is working on the development of common standards, technology solutions and processes for intelligent networks. TPDDL is the first Indian utility to join the IUN Coalition, which includes utilities from North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. The subsidiary also provides technical and management support to a distribution company in Nigeria.

The achievements are in step with the vision of the subsidiary. According to Mr Sinha, TPDDL’s aim is “to be the most trusted and admired provider of reliable and competitive power and services, and to be the entity of choice for all stakeholders, including Tata Power, the Delhi government, consumers, the regulator, employees and the community.”

TPDDL is committed to exploring further opportunities to improve the customer experience in the region it operates in.

Transmission

Powerlinks Transmission

Powerlinks Transmission, a joint venture between Tata Power and Power Grid Corporation of India, has the distinction of being a pioneering public-private partnership in the transmission sector in India. The subsidiary was formed in order to set up a transmission line between Siliguri in West Bengal and Mandola in Uttar Pradesh, spanning a distance of 1,166 km.

The project has been operating successfully since 2006 and has benefited a number of states, among them West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and Sikkim in the eastern region, and Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Delhi in the north.

Known as Tala, the project has delivered multiple benefits. It has improved the hydro-thermal mix of the eastern region which was, up until then, totally dependent on thermal power. A vital link in the national grid, with a combined installed capacity of 79,000MW and spread an area of 2.5 million sq km, Tala has helped facilitate inter-regional power transfer capacity of 3,000MW, while ensuring the synchronous interconnection of India’s northern region with the country’s northeastern, eastern and western regions.

Since its inception, the subsidiary has built competencies in several areas, such as project management, detailed engineering, procurement, cost estimation, environmental engineering, construction management, commissioning and start-up, raising finances, and obtaining statutory clearances.

Powerlinks Transmission is poised for further growth. Says its managing director, Jayant K Tiku: “We will increase our asset base by adding new lines and operate existing assets at their benchmark levels so that our profits can be maximised.”

The subsidiary is committed to establishing and operating an efficient and effective linkage for the national grid, with emphasis on new technology and cost consciousness. No wonder it has been adjudged India’s best entity in project management for the transmission and distribution sector.

Defence

Tata Power Strategic Engineering Division

The Strategic Engineering Division (SED) is a division within Tata Power that has been manufacturing defence equipment since 1975. SED emerged as a prime contractor for the Ministry of Defence when it secured orders for the Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launcher and the Akash missile launcher system, both of which were on display at India’s Republic Day parade in January 2015.

Besides these, the division has also worked on an ‘integrated electronic war system’ for the Indian Army, a commercial off-the-shelf-based automatic data-handling system for air defence and the modernisation of airfield infrastructure for the Indian Air Force. In the past the division has developed and supplied systems for the ‘air defence ground equipment system’, built by the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. These projects have showcased SED’s commitment to helping ensure that the country’s defence capabilities are strengthened.

Says Rahul Chaudhry, the division’s chief executive: “Over the years Tata Power SED has evolved into one of the leading private sector operators in the Indian defence industry. We have overcome many technical challenges by focusing on ‘know-why,’ not just ‘know-how’.”

Today SED has capabilities in indigenous design, development, production, integration, supply and life-cycle support of strategic defence systems. The division’s product range includes weapon systems and their upgradation for ground forces, upgradation of tanks, armoured vehicles and related equipment, ballistics and data fusion, aerial reconnaissance equipment, airborne radio transmitters and receivers, radars and navigation equipment, air defence data-handling systems, computer-based trainers and simulators, ruggedised computers and peripheral equipment, network-centric warfare enablers and tactical and secure communication systems, electronic warfare and power supplies, and vehicle equipment and trailers.

Among the division’s state-of-the-art facilities are research and development centres in Mumbai and Bengaluru, where its best ideas come to fruition. Its infrastructure includes an integrated design-to-production facility, advanced testing capability, precision engineering tool rooms, large system integration bays and staging facilities.

According to Mr Chaudhry, SED’s greatest challenges arise from the policies that govern and shape the defence industry in India. This challenge manifests itself in the Ministry of Defence’s long-drawn-out procurement process for equipment and the feast-and-famine nature of the business cycle.

SED has received several national awards from industry associations such as the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Indian government’s Ministry of Science and Technology. It has also been nominated by the Ministry of Defence as a work centre for the ‘Samyukta electronic warfare programme’ under the Defence Research and Development Organisation.

Speaking of the role that Tata Power has played in the growth and development of the division, Mr Chaudhry says, “Our DNA is wired to think of the nation first. I doubt any other business group would have kept funding such a division for three long decades only to serve the nation.” With the Indian government decision to reduce the dependence on imports and the unveiling of the ‘make in India’ campaign, SED now has even more opportunities to continue playing a significant role in enhancing India’s defence ecosystem.

Trading

Tata Power Trading Company

A wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Power, Tata Power Trading Company (TPTCL) was the first Indian entity to be granted a power trading licence by the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission. Beginning with a category A licence, which it acquired in 2004, the company has evolved tremendously, going on to secure a category I licence in 2009. This allows it to trade unlimited power in the service of customers. TPTCL transacted 11,488 MUs in 2013-14, a jump from 9,431 MUs the previous year, making it the second-biggest in the business with a market share of 14.03 percent.

The subsidiary enables the trading of power sourced from state utilities, captive power plants, independent power producers and merchant power plants. It also trades in power sourced from small hydro plants, besides renewable energy sources such as biomass, cogeneration, municipal solid waste, wind and solar. Among those it trades to are state utilities, private utilities and enterprises, industrial and commercial consumers and direct, open-access customers. It also fosters short- and long-term bilateral power trading contracts.

Managing director Sanjeev Mehra says TPTCL is following in the footsteps of the parent company: “Tata Power’s pioneering efforts in the power sector have made a very meaningful contribution to the country,” he explains. “What started with a powerful vision has taken the shape of India’s largest integrated power company.”

The power trading business poses a unique set of challenges, adds Mr Mehra. “The weak financial health of power distribution companies, non-implementation of open access and the insufficient transmission network are some of the issues that we face.”

TPTCL seeks to match the quantum of power available with suppliers to the requirements of its customers. This is done by scheduling the flow of power to ensure that the requirements of suppliers and customers are duly satisfied. Bridging the demand and supply gap of various utilities in an efficient and effective manner enables the smooth flow of electricity across the country, thereby catalysing the growth of the industry.

Another valuable service offered by TPTCL involves the purchase of power through exchanges to serve the needs of industrial consumers, particularly during times of load shedding. Through open access, the subsidiary allows large users of power, those whose usage exceeds 1MW, to buy power at lower rates from the open market. This facility is also extended to large-scale industrial consumers.

Extending its offerings beyond the purchase and supply of power, TPTCL taps into its network in the coal market to offer services related to coal procurement facilitation, coal freight facilitation and trade logistics.

As part of the TEAM initiative launched by Tata Power, the company also supplies conventional or renewable power to many Tata companies to assist them in their goal of achieving energy cost optimisation. Additionally, it is considering the feasibility of installing rooftop solar panels.

Renewable energy

Tata Power Solar Systems

Tata Power Solar Systems, a 100 percent subsidiary of Tata Power since 2012, has been leading the company’s quest for energy through renewable resources. Started off as a joint venture between Tata Power and BP Solar in 1989, the company made a mark for itself with skills and capabilities required to complete engineering, procurement and construction solutions for large, grid-connected solar power plants of megawatt scale.

Says Ashish Khanna, the executive director and chief executive officer of the subsidiary: “Over the course of its 25-year journey, Tata Power Solar has built both the experience and the expertise. But the real test will be growth at a phenomenal pace, while optimising our costs. We need to judiciously and nimbly mobilise our resources, capabilities and offerings to tap the opportunity that lies ahead.”

Despite its tremendous potential, the growth of solar industry has been hindered by several factors, most important being acquisition of land to set up solar farms. Policy-level support from the government and readily available capital can go a long way in fuelling the growth of the solar industry. Education of consumers about the long-term viability of solar power can help cut down their reluctance to invest in solar energy and the value offered by costly but higher quality products.

Tata Power Solar Systems is taking a number of steps to make solar products more accessible to people. It has associated with various governments, nonprofit organisations and rural banks to provide solar powered solutions for water, heat and light for those living off the grid. Connecting communities located in remote areas, besides promoting solar energy as a sustainable source of energy, has been part of the subsidiary’s vision.

“Our vision is tied to the proliferation of solar energy and its benefits to society at large,” says Mr Khanna. “Solar has the ability to not only bridge the very evident energy deficit, but it can also help in taking the benefits of power to people and places not connected by the grid. Adopting solar can help in reducing our dependence on imported fuel, making us an energy secure nation.”

Tata Power Solar Systems was ranked as the top third-party engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) player as well as the top domestic module supplier for 2014 in the India Solar Map 2014. The subsidiary has had a significant impact on communities located in remote and inaccessible places that are out of the reach of mainstream grids, and has touched the lives of more than 30 million people since its inception.

In a country where nearly 300 million people are still not connected to the grid, there is tremendous potential for growth. The way ahead demands a greater focus on innovation in technology and adoption of best practices to make solar power a more cost-effective choice.

Tata Power Solar Systems aims to be a leading EPC player by ensuring on-schedule project execution with the highest quality and lowest lifetime costs. The goal is also to make a socioeconomic impact through solar power. Drawing inspiration from Tata Power’s century of service to the nation, the subsidiary is gearing up to help transform India into a country powered by sustainable, renewable energy.

Know more about Tata Power's fascinating journey:
Overview: 100 years of high-wattage performance
A century ago, Tata Power ran a single hydroelectric project in India. Today it has grown to a $5.6-billion global enterprise, with coal mines in Indonesia, wind farms in South Africa, energy projects in Turkey and Zambia and technology partnerships in Australia. It is India's largest integrated private power producer, spanning power generation, transmission, distribution and trading
'We will continue to bring new technologies to India'
The path that Tata Power has chosen for itself is global and clean, as the company’s chief executive, Anil  Sardana, explains in this interview
'The consumer will reign'
Tata Power’s chief operating officer, Ashok Sethi, who has clocked 39 years with the company, shares his views on the organisation’s evolution
'We have to slog our assets'
There are challenges as well as opportunities on the path that Tata Power has chosen to take, says chief financial officer Ramesh Subramanyam
'A climate of respect is vital'
Chief culture officer and head of business excellence and transformation, Vivek Talwar, on what makes Tata Power a sustainable organisation
'People policies are linked to the company's strategy'
Employee engagement is critical to improve staff morale and the sense of belonging in the company, says human resources head Chetan Tolia
The going is green
A presence across hydro, wind, solar and geothermal makes it easier for Tata Power to target a cleaner energy portfolio
For country and community, in the spirit of giving back
The corporate social responsibility initiatives of Tata Power have made a tremendous difference, in a wide variety of ways, to the lives of the countless people they have touched
'We were getting marginalised'
Tata Power had to think beyond Mumbai to stay relevant in a rapidly changing industry, and that’s what it did, writes Prasad Menon
From dependable to adaptable
Tata Power has grown spectacularly in scale and spread thanks to its ability to reinvent itself, says Adi Engineer
When 'farmers' became 'hunters'
Where once reliability and continuity were prized, Tata Power has moved on to find its balance and to flourish in a business arena rendered volatile, writes Firdose Vandrevala
'It was easier to run back then'
KM Gherda remembers the days of Tata Electric Companies, of ‘reasonable returns’ and a business where the big complexity was accounting for three rather than one
A pioneer all the way through
FC Kohli on the company where he made his mark as an information technology whiz, at a time when government permission was needed to get computers installed