The Maharashtra government is planning to install an underground power distribution network in all cities and towns in the state in order to reduce electricity theft and ensure a more reliable power supply.
India’s power distribution utility—the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MahaVitaran) has around 16,000 feeders, of which around 1,300 have losses of over 45%. It carries out load shedding on feeders where distribution and commercial losses stand over 42% in urban areas and 45% in rural pockets. These power outages cover around 15% of Maharashtra.
Reducing power distribution losses
Energy minister Chandrashekhar Bavankule, says that there are plans to set up an underground electricity distribution network in all municipal corporations and municipal councils. The government has prepared a US$1.3 billion (Rs8,000 crore) plan under the Union ministry of power's Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS).
The IPDS aims at strengthening the distribution and sub-transmission networks in urban areas, metering of distribution transformers, feeders and consumers and IT-enabling the distribution sector.
Bavankule said that in order to reduce distribution losses and power thefts, they had decided to move to a 'feeder management committee' approach, in which a graduate degree holder in electrical engineering and five ITI diploma holders will be given charge of a feeder. They will replace the existing system of around seven contractors per feeder for meter reading, bill collections and feeder maintenance and servicing, and will also be responsible for controlling power thefts. These committees will get incentives for increasing the bill recovery.
"Our priority is to reduce power rates and distribution losses to ensure that power tariffs for consumers come down to the levels that they were in 2010," said Bavankule.
Currently, Mumbai has an underground electricity distribution network, while cities like Pune, Navi Mumbai, Nagpur, Aurangabad are partly covered by a similar system.
Avoiding unnecessary energy losses
Bavankule says there are plans to use the SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) system at the feeder level to track theft of power when it is distributed from the feeder to transformers and further to consumers.
There are also plans to establish a solar energy policy, a power conservation policy which makes it mandatory for all buildings to have solar power heaters to get municipal permissions, and promote installation of LEDs and energy audits.
India is not alone when it comes to power theft- it is a global problem. In the US, an estimated US$6 billion is stolen annually and Canadian utilities lose hundreds of millions of dollars to theft each year. Puerto Rico has announced losses of US$400 to US$600 million annually. A number of Latin American and African countries are also reporting significant losses. Ratepayers especially are fed up with the theft as they end up paying for illegally tapped power from the distribution system, and utilities lose valuable income to maintain and upgrade the current infrastructure. It’s a problem that has to be detected and resolved fairly quickly. In our article, Power Losses-A Thing of the Past? The problem is expanded on and various technology and solutions available are discussed briefly. One solution which is becoming increasingly valuable is Distribution Transformer Monitoring technology, coupled with SCADA and meter data.