lead to wastage of nearly a quarter of the total electrical
energy purchased in our state. At the power purchase rate
of Rs. 1.76 for the year 2004-05, it means an annual loss
of over Rs. 2000 crore rupees. This is a significant burden
on both the government and the consumers.
transmission and distribution losses cannot be eliminated
completely but they could be brought down considerably.
Especially on the distribution side of the network. There
are two key factors that help contribute to improved performance
of the networks: financial investments and decentralization
of operation and maintenance (O&M) issues.
investments are needed to install new and more efficient
equipment, repair old ones and for other 'hardware upgrades'
in the network. These physical improvements are long over
due and urgently needed. For example, the conducting wires
we see strung on electric poles outside our homes have a
life of around 35 years. But in many places, they have not
been replaced since the formation of our state! Similarly,
investments are needed for other improvements to the network:
new and more efficient transformers for better voltage regulation,
installation of intermediate electric poles so that the
conducting wires do not fail even in heavy storms, replacement
of faulty ceramic insulators (these are the white hubs we
see on top of the electrical poles in the street), etc.
give an illustration, let us consider the network covered
by an 11 kV feeder. Roughly speaking, it requires around
Rs. 60-70 lakhs towards material upgrades in the network.
While this certainly is not a small figure, this investment
into hardware/technical improvements lead to increased efficiency
of the network i.e. wastage of electrical energy is reduced.
The power utilities (i.e. the transmission or the distribution
companies), save money because the difference between energy
procured and energy supplied/distributed will be reduced.
In this way, the investment over an 11kV feeder area can
be paid back over a period of time. After that, the utilities
could even pass on the benefits to the consumers by providing
them with stable or (possibly) even reduced electricity
rates. The consumer also enjoys a more immediate benefit
in the form of improved service delivery i.e. reduced voltage
fluctuations, fewer power interruptions, etc. In other words,
lesser chance of you missing the most exciting moments of
the cricket match or even your favourite TV program.
of operations and maintenance issues, especially at the
lower levels of the distribution network, is necessary in
a system like ours with a large number of small consumers.
Such a regime would create additional opportunities for
the utilities to respond to their consumers' interests and
requirements. This system should also provide for an appropriate
level of participation of consumers in the management of
the networks. Empirical studies in our state have shown
that increased consumer participation in the management
of distribution networks, especially at the substation and
feeder level, has resulted in better service delivery and
improved satisfaction. The good news is that decentralization,
when properly carried out, has the potential to significantly
improve the network performance but requires mostly non-monetary
administrative inputs. Or else, we will continue to be at
the mercy of rain and wind gods!