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PEOPLE | Staff Reporter, India
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India Power talks about improvement in one of India's most notorious areas

CEO Shrirang B. Karandikar says the company now maintains a round-the-clock power supply in Gaya.

India Power (IPCL), one of the oldest power utilities in India for over 90 years, has been recently active in diversifying its portfolio, with renewable and conventional modes of power generation, transmission, distribution and power trading. One of its significant activities after the Kolkota-based firm’s name was changed from Dishergarh Power Supply Company (DPSC) in 2013, was its takeover of the electricity supply and distribution business of Gaya-Bodhgaya from South Bihar Power Distribution Co. Ltd. (SBPDCL) from 1st June, 2014, and comprising surrounding urban and rural areas amounting to over 1600 sq.km. Surely, it was not an easy task as Bihar is plagued with high distribution losses due to the poor condition of transformers, huge pilferages, and substantial billing and collection losses.

Asian Power has recently caught up with IPCL CEO, Shrirang B. Karandikar to shed light on the challenges that the company currently faces as it takes on this herculean task. He also talked about the direction that he is taking the company to in its bid to diversify portfolio.

IPCL currently operates 100.2 MW of wind assets in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Karnataka, and has also developed a 2 MW grid-connected solar power plant along with West Bengal Green Energy Development Corporation Ltd. in Asansol. In the conventional sector, the company is setting up a 450 MW thermal power plant in Haldia, West Bengal and has also conceived thermal power projects in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.

With the development of the power plants, IPCL intends to scale its power generation portfolio up to 10,000 MW in the coming years. The company also owns and operates a distribution licence in the region, spread over 618 sq.km. in the coal-rich Asansol-Raniganj belt.

IPCL’s distribution license in Gaya, notoriously one of the worst sectors for a power company to operate in, is now one year old. What have you learnt in this time? How has the situation improved for domestic and industrial customers? 

Our responsibility includes continuous electricity operations and to all consumers, maintenance of the entire area, collection of revenues by issuing energy bills and remitting the agreed cost to SBPDCL on a monthly basis. This is besides complying with all regulations of the Bihar Electricity Regulatory Commission. When we took over, average power supply to the area was in the range of 13-16 hours and this was a major challenge, dealing with dilapidated network conditions.

Secondly, the distribution loss level at takeover was climbing to over 71%. Besides this, there was no specific billing software or business enterprise software available for adequate control and consumer care. Incidentally, our takeover coincided with the onset of the monsoon. Our first task was to maintain the existing network and to ensure an optimum power supply. There is “Pitra – Paksha” mela in Gaya. This is a traditional ritual to remember our forefathers and thousands of people from across India congregate at these rituals in Gaya every year in September and October. In 2014 and 2015, IPCL’s efforts in maintaining power supply was highly appreciated by the people and the administration of Gaya.

During our first year of operation, we were able to maintain power supply to all franchise areas of up to 23.30-24 hours on average. This is highly appreciated by our consumers.

We have also established a 24 hour a day, 365 days a year call centre and consumer care centre for attending to electricity related complaints, billing related complaints and connecting new power supply etc. We understand that people are eager to be provided with better services and are also prepared to pay the relevant charges. We need to strive continuously to extend our reach to all consumers.

One of the biggest issues in the world today is the issue of climate change. At the same time, our current methods of large-scale energy generation use non-renewable resources. How is IPCL preparing for the conversion to renewable sources of energy?

IPCL understands the importance of increasing new renewable energy sources and has been striving relentlessly since 2006 to achieve a balanced mix of renewable and nonrenewable energy resources. We have over 105 MW of wind energy in four major states of India - Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Karnataka. We also have 2 MW of solar plant in Asansol which is already connected to the grid. We are looking forward to contributing to more wind and solar energy in India.

The distribution business in India faces several challenges, especially in non-urban areas. How is IPCL taking on and overcoming these roadblocks?

In non-urban areas in India, people require continuous power to water their fields and for their houses. As regards new power connections to rural areas, IPCL, along with its sister company, Sahaj, have created a network of “Village Level Entrepreneurs” (VLE). VLE are youths of the same village who assist villagers to complete applications for a new connection and register their billing details. This has helped villagers in getting their needs sorted out and we have started this specifically in our distribution franchise area.

What are IPCL’s new undertakings in the distribution business?

IPCL, with its vast experience in the field of power distribution, is in discussions with other Indian states like Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand to acquire new opportunities in the field. Simultaneously we want to increase our base and retain domestic and commercial consumers in our licensed area.

We are also working towards the lowering cost of power to industries in the state of West Bengal where we are based and to help industries to become extremely competitive.

IPCL has more than 96 years of experience in the distribution business, having receiving stations with both DVC & WBSEDCL, and we own more than 20 strategic distribution substations at 33/11 KV, which are distributing power across all industries within 618 sq.km. of the Asansol-Raniganj area.
The company is on the verge of commissioning a 220 KV substation at J.K. Nagar, within the licenced area, to enable State Grid (STU) Connectivity. Supplying power to the critical gaseous underground coal mines of ECL, government hospitals, municipalities, railways and other industries, the distribution license is considered to be the lifeline of industrial growth in the area. It has a demand of over 250 MVA, a reliability factor of over 99.7% and T&D loss figures of around 2.70%.
 

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