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How Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh is set for a ‘power’ful turnaround

Author: Deepa Jainani
Publication: Financial Express.
Date: May 7, 2018
URL:      https://www.financialexpress.com/industry/how-yogi-adityanath-led-uttar-pradesh-is-set-for-a-powerful-turnaround/1157752/lite/?__twitter_impression=true

The Centre plans to do away with human interface in the power distribution system by March, 2019

Uttar Pradesh is set for a ‘power’-ful turnaround. Faced with the twin challenges of providing power to every household by December, 2018 and containing huge line losses, the state government is going to install a whopping 10 million pre-paid meters under the Saubhagya scheme, which aims to add more than 40 million rural households in the state to the power grid by December this year.

The pre-paid meters, to be installed in 13 districts that have been reporting the maximum line losses, including Kanpur, Varanasi, Meerut, Gorakhpur, Bareilly and Lucknow, would allow consumers to recharge electricity in advance. Quite similar to how they recharge their mobile phones, consumers can recharge electricity for a sum as small as Rs 50.

The state government had, through the Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL), floated a tender for supply of 10 million prepaid meters in November last year. Larsen and Toubro (L&T), Genus Power, and Allied Engineering bagged the contracts. While Genus Power Infrastructures would supply 50% of the order, L&T would supply 30% and Allied Engineering the remaining 20% — the meters are estimated to cost `1,375 crore. Work on installing the meters will begin in rural areas from June 1, with the exercise mandated to take a year’s time.

The Centre plans to do away with human interface in the power distribution system by March, 2019, as part of its agenda of staunching discom losses. One way of doing this is to achieve 100% metering of all households. The mandatory installation of pre-paid meters for small consumers and smart meters for large ones is in line with the government’s Saubhagya scheme which aims to provide electricity to all households by March 31, 2019.

The power system of UP is infamous for its line losses. The aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses of the state’s five discoms stood at 27.35% at the end of March, 2018, as against 32.38% at the end of 2016-17, only marginally down from the 32.4% when the state joined the Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY) for revival of the debt-ridden state discoms.

Speaking to FE, an official of the Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation (UPPCL) who is overseeing the pre-paid meter installation work says UPPCL has launched a multi-pronged strategy to tackle losses. “By March, 2019, all homes in the state will be provided uninterrupted 24-hour power supply. For this, it is necessary that we get meters installed in every household.”

The outcomes would be two-fold. “One, it would reduce the cost of bill collection as against per capita consumption. Since rural consumers use minimal electricity, it does not make sense to have an entire machinery in place for revenue collection. Second, it would improve the efficiency of the discoms,” he says, adding that it is imperative that all consumers have metered connections if line losses are to be reduced.

Interestingly, of the 10 million pre-paid meters, 1 lakh would be installed in government establishments. “This work (of installing pre-paid meters) is a herculean task. It has the potential to turn around the discoms. Once every connection in the state is metered, it would improve compliance in bill payments. Further, it would do away with the human element in meter reading, billing and recovery of bill amount from the consumer, and hence corruption at the grassroots,” says Alok Kumar, principal secretary, Energy and chairman, UPPCL. “It will be a gamechanger for UP’s power system,” he goes on to add.
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