September 2016

'Tata Power Delhi Distribution is a front runner in implementing state-of-the art technologies'

The World Bank Doing Business 2016 report states that Tata Power Delhi Distribution (TPDDL) played a significant role in enhancing India’s ranking in the report. The report, published every year by the World Bank, measures regulations that enhance and constrain business activity to rank economies. India’s ranking rose from 137 to 70 in the parameter of ‘ease of getting an electricity connection’ in 2016. In this interview with tata.com, Praveer Sinha, chief executive officer and managing director, TPDDL, speaks about the company’s role in improving India's position, challenges in renewable energy generation and technology-driven distribution reforms.

India has moved up in ranking by 67 points to the 70th position in ease of procuring an electrical connection in World Bank’s Doing Business report. Could you elaborate on TPDDL’s role in making this happen?
The World Bank, in its 2016 ‘Doing Business’ report, has acknowledged TPDDL’s contribution towards improving the ease of getting an electricity connection in India — raising India’s ranking from 137 in 2015 to 70 in 2016 in the report.

The World Bank had identified only two places in India, North Delhi and South Mumbai, serviced by TPDDL and BEST respectively, to evaluate the parameter of ‘ease of getting an electricity connection’. The onus was on TPDDL to identify key areas which needed modification to simplify the process of getting electricity connections. This involved interacting with statutory authorities and government ministries and departments to make changes in regulations, policies, rules and processes, and numerous changes in the company’s internal processes through business process re-engineering to reduce the timeline to energise new connections.

What have been the key factors that resulted in delays in getting an electricity connection?
The key factors which earlier resulted in delay in getting new electricity connections were mainly as follows:

  1. Mandatory electrical inspector clearance (which normally used to take 90 days).
  2. CEA regulations which stipulate transformers with rating above 250 KVA be placed on the ground. Considering that cities such as Delhi and Mumbai are congested, availability of space was an issue and led to increase in time to electrification.
  3. Right of way approvals from nearly a dozen agencies to execute electrical work.
  4. Higher tariff for new low-tension connection led consumers to opt for high-tension connection, despite higher initial cost and longer energisation period of 140 days.
  5. Lengthy seven-step process.
  6. Multiplicity of documents, forms and affidavits led to delays in document verification.

How has the company leveraged technology in implementing power distribution reforms in Delhi?
TPDDL is a frontrunner in implementing state-of-the art technologies. The company has implemented high-tech automated systems for its distribution network systems such as supervisory control and data acquisition, geographical information system and outage management systems. To fight the menace of power theft, modern technologies like a high-voltage distribution system and LT arial bunch conductor have been adopted.

To ensure transparency, TPDDL also provides online information on billing and payment to its 1.54 million consumers through its website and Android-based mobile application.

To promote clean power, the company has added rooftop solar power generation to its portfolio. TPDDL assists, encourages and facilitates its consumers to set up rooftop solar plants.

Being a future-ready power distribution company, TPDDL is moving forward towards 'smart grid' implementation. These include projects like smart feeder, advanced meter infrastructure, advanced communication infrastructure, mobile workforce management, demand response management, enterprise application and their integration, etc.

TPDDL has set up a smart grid lab — a centre of excellence — to test and operationalise advanced technologies before they are deployed in the field and also to serve as a forum to demonstrate advanced technologies to national and regional regulators, state discoms, etc.

Is TPDDL looking to collaborate with members in the Global Intelligent Utility Network Coalition (GIUNC), especially in the area of clean renewable energy?
TPDDL is a member of the GIUNC, which consists of 14 of the best utilities of the world. The coalition is working towards accelerating the development of common standards, technology solutions and processes for intelligent networks. TPDDL is the only Indian utility in the coalition.

TPDDL organises employee exchange programmes to learn and share best practices among the GIUNC members. The employees spend about four weeks at each of the utilities to study their business operations, technologies, renewable power initiatives, network planning, disaster management and various other aspects of power distribution. Many of those best practices have been implemented at the company. India is hosting the GIUNC Meet 2016 this year at New Delhi and TPDDL will host the event from October 17 -19, 2016.

What are the typical challenges power companies face in generating renewable energy?
The power sector in the world is undergoing a paradigm shift in focus from generation to supply, with a huge emphasis on demand management and distributed generation including renewables, solar energy storage, etc. However, the challenges that power companies face in generating renewable energy are many.

Deteriorating financial health of discoms is one of the biggest challenges. Erosion in creditworthiness of discoms has resulted in the reluctance of lenders to lend to the power sector. This has led to discoms being unable to pay for power purchases, especially renewable power, which is costly as compared to conventional sources of energy.

There are other challenges associated with renewable energy generation. Rooftop solar systems supplement and support distribution utilities. System peaks of distribution utilities match solar energy peaks generated by rooftop solar systems at the tail-end of distribution systems. Rooftop solar energy generation can effectively help meet the targets of prevailing policy and regulatory mandates for renewable energy. However, the benefits offered by these systems are also coupled with technical and financial challenges.

If a sizeable consumer base – especially in higher tariff categories like commercial and industrial — shifts to solar rooftop systems, it would result in considerable revenue loss from subsidising customers. In many states in India, commercial and industrial consumers subsidise consumers in the agricul¬tural and residential sectors. So, wide-scale adoption of solar rooftop systems by commercial and industrial consum¬ers could impact the financials of discoms. Further, while the demand for grid electricity reduces, discoms would still have to invest into, and maintain, the electricity supply network and infrastructure.

One of the most critical challenges with solar rooftop systems is grid integration with the existing distribution networks in the country. The basic technical challenge comes from the variability of solar power which affects the load generation balance, varying demand for reactive power and impact on voltage stability. The variability of solar power can be addressed through energy storage solutions, demand responses and improved forecasting techniques, which, however, are still evolving.

What are TPDDL's major investments and development plans to make Delhi a low-carbon city?
With agreement on the new Sustainable Development Goals and the accord reached at COP 21 in Paris, the world today has an updated paradigm in which clean energy is a subset of climate change. We need both speed and scale of technology for the war on climate change.

TPDDL is preparing itself to meet the challenge through collaborations with technology partners and research institutes for innovating in areas like renewable energy generation, micro-grid, home automation, automated demand response, smart meters and smart grids, e-vehicle charging, etc. A major focus area of innovation is the solar micro-grid, which is very pertinent for access to electricity in India as well as in most other Asian and African countries.