Expanding customer base

Published : Apr 08, 2005 00:00 IST

ESTABLISHED in 1919 by Bengal Coal Company Limited to supply power to its collieries in the Asansol belt, Dishergarh Power Supply Company Limited (DPSCL) has been closely associated with the development of the Asansol-Durgapur region for over 85 years. Initially the customer profile of the company was dominated by collieries, but with the growth of industry in the area, cement plants, steel factories and certain commercial and public utility services were added to its customer base. The company's licensed area covers 618 sq km around Asansol.

Although the company made consistent profits until 1999-2000, its performance started falling with the introduction of the regulatory regime in 2000-2001. Accumulated losses until 2002-2003 stood at Rs.10.85 crores. However, the following year it staged a turnaround, registering a modest profit of around Rs.116 lakhs. The company has filed a review petition before the West Bengal Electricity Regulatory Commission (WBERC) to rectify certain errors in the tariff orders for 2003-2004 and 2004-2005. Company secretary Chiranjib Das told Frontline: "Subject to favourable disposal of the review petition, we hope to increase our profits to Rs.150 lakhs by next year."

Some of DPSCL's strengths are pithead generation capability, mainly high-tension load resulting in low transmission and distribution losses; minimum cross-subsidy leading to competitive tariffs; low overmanning compared to other power utilities; and a pool of experienced personnel for running small-sized units. But there are certain areas that need strengthening, and the company is fully aware of this. One of its main problems is that it still operates with outdated technology, which limits its cost-efficiency. Its consumer base is also not very large; as a result there is over-dependence on its main customer, Eastern Coalfields Ltd.

The company is exploring the feasibility of increasing its thermal power generation capacity from the present 42.2 MW to 70.2 MW. Commercial exploitation of coal bed methane (CBM) in the near future will open up an alternative source of clean fuel, which the company proposes to tap by setting a pilot project of a 5 MW gas turbine. Although the system's losses are at present at a reasonable level of around 5.8 per cent, the company proposes to curtail this further by converting its transmission system to a 33 KV one and by introducing feeder metering. This is expected to happen by the middle of next year. Aware of the limitations it faces owing to its low consumer base, DPSC is in the process of identifying areas where it may profitably expand its operations. There are also plans to augment its generation capacity suitably to ensure economy of scale and assured competitive tariffs with a suitable joint venture partner or strategic investor.

The company's commitment to socio-economic development in its operating areas has never been in doubt. It not only takes full care of its employees and their families, but also extends substantial grants to the Municipal corporation, statutory bodies, and local non-governmental organisations for eradicating poverty in its area of operation. The company's total commitment towards regional development in the form of social and other activities is around Rs. 1 crore a year. S. Radhakrishnan, managing director of DSPCL, told Frontline: "The positive initiatives undertaken by the ADDA in the development of Asansol-Durgapur industrial belt deserve appreciation. We are happy to be part of such an initiative and will continue to provide support to the ADDA in its endeavour towards such development process."

Now that the company is on its way out of the red, it is looking at contributing to the development of the region by further strengthening its own position. "We are working at introducing state-of-the-art equipment for our operations and will bring more consumers within our fold. If people know there is a stable power situation in a region, they will naturally invest more there. And that is what we are working at," Radhakrishnan said.

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