Heavy losses force Bihar power firm to resort to stern measures
The South Bihar Power Distribution Company Limited (SBPDCL), one of the two government-owned discoms in Bihar, supplying power to 17 of its 38 districts, including capital Patna, is billing consumers for around 65% of the electricity that goes into its distribution system, say officials.
The remaining 35% is lost as aggregate transmission and commercial (AT&C) loss when the regulator approves of only 15%.
Officials monitoring the loss have assessed that power pilferage by consumers, either with the connivance of discom staff or without them, contributes to the bulk of the AT&C loss.
The SBPDCL has now stepped up the heat to curb its losses by launching a spirited anti-power theft drive before the regulator undertakes the true-up exercise (sort of reconciliation of accounts based on power purchased and power sold) to revise the state’s power tariff, due in April next year.
As per data accessed by the Hindustan Times, ₹7.30 crore was realised in Patna by way of penalty from January this year till September 25, of which ₹5.29 crore was generated in August. This was after a record 1,036 FIRs were registered that month against errant consumers. That was followed up by another 460 FIRs, leading to the realisation of ₹2.52 crore in September (till September 25).
“We decided to utilise our revenue engineers in special checking drive after our billing software reported a snag between July 29 and September 1,” said Sanjiwan Sinha, managing director, SBPDCL.
“We found that despite billing almost 100% consumers, we were able to recover only around 65% of our input cost. This meant that many consumers were surreptitiously bypassing their energy meters and availing of our power to run air-conditioners and other heavy voltage items, adding to our losses. That is when we realised that the bulk of our AT&C loss was due to power pilferage by consumers,” said Sinha.
“We then chalked out a plan and began anti-power theft drive in a concerted manner in August. Our team identified areas prone to power pilferage and began inspecting every household in the locality concerned, without any exception, leading to huge evasion of power charges,” he added.
Dilip Kumar Singh, general manager, Patna Electricity Supply Undertaking (PESU) said, “On an average, 8% of the 1,000-odd houses our team inspects in a day are found to be pilfering power in Patna,” said Dilip Kumar Singh, general manager, Patna Electricity Supply Undertaking (PESU). In most cases, consumers were by-passing the energy meter, he added.
To curb power theft, the discoms have also begun replacing old post-paid energy meters with smart pre-paid ones.
Officials in the raiding team said resistance to the installation of smart pre-paid meters, which are sensitive, was more in areas where power theft was rampant.
“In urban Patna, 1.09 lakh smart pre-paid energy meters have already been installed against its 6.07 lakh consumers,” said Singh.
All post-paid electricity connections would be converted into smart pre-paid energy meters by 2023, said Sinha.
“We want to get our AT&C losses down to the limit prescribed by the regulator. We have decided to keep up the tempo and continue with our anti-power theft drive,” said Sanjeev Hans, Bihar’s energy secretary-cum-chairman and managing director, Bihar State Power Holding Company Limited.
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