With the Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Ltd (UPPCL) in the dock for supplying roundthe-clock electricity to certain districts on political considerations, a state bureaucrat’s recent book strongly recommends replication of two projects in Maharashtra by other states to solve their problems on the power front.
It is believed that if a similar innovation is resorted to in Uttar Pradesh, it may not only give a legal sanctity to the discriminatory distribution of power to various geographical areas but also mitigate peak-time power cuts in cities and control distribution losses (read power theft).
Alok Kumar, an IAS officer and UP State Road Transport Corporation (UPSRTC) managing director as well as the state transport commissioner in his recent book ‘Electricity Sector in India: Policy and Regulation’ refers to two innovations by the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission (MERC) under the Electricity Act, 2003.
The regulator in Maharashtra implemented a load-shedding protocol in 2005 that linked the hours of load-shedding to aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses in a geographical area. According to this, the area of Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Utility was divided into six zones. The best zone with losses less than 18% would have a maximum load-shedding of 2.75 hours and the worst with losses more than 50% would have load-shedding up to 6.5 hours. “Such load-shedding protocols have a huge potential of bringing in not only transparency in the functioning of utilities but also social pressure for supporting reduction of distribution losses,” claims the author, suggesting “regulators should be mandated to implement load-shedding protocols linked to losses since these steps would generate larger public pressure for control of theft of electricity.”
Another innovative shortterm solution has also been attempted in Maharashtra to achieve zero load-shedding in some towns with comparatively lower distribution losses where a large section of the consumers were willing to pay extra tariff for uninterrupted power supply.
It all started with the ‘Pune Model-I’, where available diesel-based captive generation was harnessed to achieve zero loadshedding and consumers (except BPL and other households with small consumption) were willing to pay additional reliability charge per unit of electricity.
Discussing the initiative, Kumar, along with co-author Sushanta K Chatterjee (both have rich experience of the power sector) points out “Pune had a peak load of 750MW in 2006 and was being forced to shed about 100MW load during peak hours because of power shortage.”
Under this new scheme, he adds, the captive generation capacity of 90 MW available with 30 big industries in the city was harnessed to mitigate loadshedding.
“These industrial units volunteered to generate 90 MW of expensive electricity during peak hours for their consumption, thereby avoiding an equivalent demand for grid power. The industrial units were compensated by the other consumers of Pune under a scheme approved by MERC in May 2006,” he revealed.
So, all others, except domestic households with low consumption, were required to pay a reliability charge of Rs 0.42 per unit as an additional price of uninterrupted power supply in Pune.