Business of power

Published : Feb 29, 2008 00:00 IST

The Mysore Palace, illuminated for Dasara.-M.A. SRIRAM

The Mysore Palace, illuminated for Dasara.-M.A. SRIRAM

The Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation has minimised power loss to record levels through innovation and modernisation.

The Mysore Palace,

For the average Bangalorean who is increasingly harried by the below-par services of public utilities, most notably the lack of an effective traffic management system, a silver lining has been the almost uninterrupted power supply in the recent past. Gone are the days of unscheduled power cuts, not-so-friendly officials and long queues at bill payment counters. The sea change has been brought about by the Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (BESCOM), one of the five power distribution companies of Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Limited (KPTCL), by maximising internal efficiency and by constantly striving to increase consumer satisfaction.

A forerunner of reform programmes, BESCOM has transformed itself from a government department into a corporate entity. It has minimised distribution losses to such an extent that Bangalore city has the least loss (9.5 per cent) in the country. The citys transformer failure rate is the lowest in India. And in providing quality service and enhancing revenue, BESCOM is one of the best in the country.

Much of the recent reforms in Karnatakas power utilities have been the result of the Open Access regime that is in place. In this regime, anybody, including independent power producers (IPPs), can sell power through the State grid.

But Karnataka is not new to initiatives and reforms in the power sector. Indias first major hydroelectric generating station was set up at Shivasamudram in 1902. Karnataka became the first State to separate generation from transmission and distribution in 1970, when it established the Karnataka Power Corporation Limited (KPCL) for constructing power projects and generating power. In 1999, the State introduced the Karnataka Electricity Reforms Act to improve the performance of the power sector. KPTCL took the place of the Karnataka Electricity Board; the Visveswaraiah Vidyuth Nigama Limited, generating 368.72 megawatts (MW) of power, was carved out as a separate company and the Karnataka Electricity Regulatory Commission was established.

In 2002, KPTCL was made into a purely wire (transmission) company. While the original company was retained for the transmission of power, four independent electricity supply companies (ESCOMs), including BESCOM, were registered. The other three are the Mangalore Electricity Supply Company (MESCOM), the Hubli Electricity Supply Company and the Gulbarga Electricity Supply Company. Later, the Chamundeshwari Electricity Supply Corporation was carved out of MESCOM to serve areas in and around Mysore.

Karnatakas power comes mainly from its hydel projects at Shimsha, Sharavathi, Kali and Bhadra, and the mega thermal plant at Raichur. Apart from KPCL, the ESCOMS also purchase power from the Central power stations and IPPs. For many years, reliable and quality power was in short supply in the State. Its dependence on hydel power means that it is at the mercy of the monsoons. Making the situation worse is the non-availability of coal, lignite or natural gas in its proximity. Also, it has just one Central generating station at Kaiga (an atomic power station).

The demand for power has consistently increased from the mid-1960s with the setting up of numerous industries in public and private sectors. The demand increased further in the 1980s and the 1990s with the advent of information technology (IT) and related industries. During the financial year 2007-08, Karnataka handled a record consumption of about 41,075 million units (MU). Estimates are that over 5 lakh new customers will be added every year. The year ending March 2007 saw the total established capacity of the State going up to 6,838 MW, with non-conventional energy sources such as wind energy, bio-mass and mini hydel stations contributing 1,000 MW and the Central grid, 1,256 MW.

The income of KPTCL has nearly doubled from Rs.4,608 crore in 2001-02 to Rs.8,773 crore in 2006-07. The average capital expenditure of the corporation and the power generation companies, which has been around Rs.700 crore for the past six years, has more than tripled to Rs.2,200 crore in 2006-07; it is likely to touch Rs.3,000 crore for 2007-08. During the current financial year, capital expenditure is expected to cross Rs.4,000 crore.

In the power sector, Karnataka plans to spend Rs.23,000 crore on infrastructure during the Tenth and Eleventh Five-Year Plan periods Rs.8,000 crore for transmission and Rs.15,000 crore for distribution (all ESCOMS put together). During the Eleventh Five-Year Plan, KPTCL is aiming to expand its generation capacity by 8,800 MW (excluding the ultra mega projects), spending around Rs.44,000 crore. Efforts are also on to set up power plants through the competitive bidding process and under the joint venture route along with other States. During the same Plan period, KPTCL hopes to reduce the gap between demand and supply by setting up three stations of 400 kilovolt (kV), 46 stations of 220 kV, 176 stations of 110 kV and 294 stations 66 kV.

During 2006-07, it provided electricity to 1,275 villages as `against 393 in 2002-03; a figure that does not include the 4,956 below poverty line (BPL) villages. The targets for 2007-08 are 450 villages and 1,760 BPL villages. The corporation supplies power to 1.92 lakh families under the Rajiv Gandhi Rural Electrification Scheme and plans to serve another 5 lakh families during the current year.

It owes much of its success to the steps it has taken to reduce losses in transmission and distribution, and the procedures it has introduced to improve operational efficiency. While it has commissioned on an average 30 sub-stations every year in the past, KPTCL set up 88 new stations and augmented the capacity of 104 stations in 2006-07. The number of new stations being commissioned during 2007-08 is 150, and 100 are being augmented.

the Substation at

These measures are expected to decrease transmission and distribution losses further. The losses are estimated at 29.68 per cent (as against 38.02 per cent in 1999-2000).

Under the Accelerated Power Development Reform Programme (APDRP) and the Rajiv Gandhi Rural Electrification Scheme, 26,260 distribution transformers have been installed in urban and rural areas. Another innovative step has been the installation of the Rural Load Management Scheme (RLMS), which bifurcates and regulates power supply to the rural areas. Under this system, power to rural consumers is segregated at the level of the distribution transformer in such a way as to supply it for a prescribed duration.

Segregated power is supplied to irrigation pumpsets in three phases, and round the clock to houses, educational institutions, rural industries and drinking water plants in a single phase. The RLMS works on programmable logic circuits (PLCs), which can be preset for load-shedding as per the changing policies on supplying power to irrigation or for any predetermined schedule. These PLCs can also be operated remotely.

The power corporation conceived such a system in view of the increase in the load of irrigation pumpsets (which consume a third of the total power available) and insufficient budgetary support for systems improvement. Farmers reluctance to pay up dues had led to a cash crunch and aggravated the problem. As a result, KPTCL and the ESCOMs were unable to meet the peak demand, leading to increased system loading and losses. It also led to a disparity in supply to urban and rural consumers, and hence migration of rural industries. KPTCL hopes that the RLMS will enhance customer satisfaction in the rural, domestic, commercial and industrial categories by improving voltage profile and improving availability of power, especially during daytime.

The RLMS is also expected to bring down the number of power thefts. Almost a third of the 3,000 feeders has been reconducted to reduce theft. KPTCL has attained the ideal ratio between high tension (HT) and low tension (LT) transmission lines. Now there are 37,302 kilometres of HT lines and 38,702 km of LT lines.

The corporation supplies power to about 1.5 crore consumers. Against the requirement of 46,726 MU of power, the availability is only 41,075 MU.

While the average cost of purchase for a unit of electricity is Rs.1.86, the average cost of supply at the consumer point is Rs.3.63 a unit. The reduction of losses to 4.7 per cent, which is among the lowest in the country, has not just stabilised the grid but also increased its capacity to handle contingencies without cascading or blackouts. The grid can now evacuate full power from all the major generating stations, and the voltage levels in most of the 400 kV and 220 kV substations are well within the limits of the grid code. There has been no disturbance in the Karnataka grid since 2002.

On the distribution side, KPTCLs five companies have a combined budget of Rs.4,027 crore for capital works and efforts are on to bring down losses to below 10 per cent in 300 towns across Karnataka. One of the loss-reduction measures taken by BESCOM in the 14 towns in its purview is to conduct an energy audit every month. During the audit, 26,000 distribution transformers are checked for losses and corrective measures undertaken. On a given day of the month, meter readings of installations in an area are synchronised with the distribution transformers readings. A variance of more than 5 per cent between the two readings is an indication of theft or pilferage in that area.

The corporation uses the Integrated Extended SCADA (IES), which covers all substations, transmission utilities and distribution companies in the State. The Web-based IES primary advantage is effective load despatching without grid disturbance, thereby enforcing grid discipline in the southern region. It also enables revenue mapping, connectivity analysis (which helps cut down transmission and distribution losses), atomisation, energy auditing and billing. The systems main hub is in Bangalore with six zonal control rooms covering 1,427 locations. KPTCLs annual savings on account of SCADA is approximately Rs.100 crore.

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