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Home News Power Sector News IT increases efficiency for power utilities in West Bengal

IT increases efficiency for power utilities in West Bengal

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WBSEDCLIn 2005, Kolkata, and West Bengal, suffered from sharp and sudden power outages . And much of the fault lies with sloppy fault attendance, lack of automatic meters and monitoring systems and not the least, Bengal's poor work culture. Adding to the frustration, consumers receive inflated bills and above all, collection offices have few bill payment counters. Plus, the accounting system was paper-based. By 2006-2010, West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company (WBSEDCL) - the power distribution utility - went through a technology transformation. Five call centres are set up to handle the entire gamut of functions: from uploading new customer details to complaints to billing enquiries. Users making complaints get instant SMSes on how fast the fault is being rectified.

Moreover, the state government installs 7,000 tathya mitras - e-kiosks integrated with 1,600 bill payment centres - set up. WBSEDCL is voted the second-best state-owned power distribution company and bags the Prime Minister's award for technology initiatives.

"Every complaint has been given a fixed time to be addressed to. For example, if it is a local distribution fault, the time limit is a maximum of four hours. Every time a complaint is made, an SMS is generated and gets delivered to a team waiting in a mobile van - the one nearest to the fault location," says MK De, chairman, WBSEDCL. "We have appointed five third-party agencies who handle all calls, specially fault complaints," he adds.

So significant has been the technology-led change at WBSEDCL that its transformation has become a beacon for Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh, which are all modernising their IT systems to make power utilities more efficient. "The main concern of the government has been inadequate collection of bills and improper billings leading to leakages and losses. Some have been paying less than what they are consuming and others like the industrial consumers have been paying exorbitantly high prices," Arvind Mahajan, head, energy and resources at KPMG said.

"The problem, however, is not all distribution companies have the wherewithal to invest. But power agencies in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh are planning to rope in private players for improving collection and plugging leakages. Some are even looking at monitoring load on a real-time basis and planning to implement a combination of ERP packages, better billing systems and improved customer interfaces," says Mr Mahajan.

While experts say the total IT investment in the distribution sector could top 3,000 crore over the two to three years, WBSECL itself is planning to invest 600 crore in IT, spanning two years. Implementing an ERP package is part of this capital expenditure. The ERP system will cover accounting, human resources, stores and, project management functions. "We plan to call for bids soon. The system will make it easier for us to handle accounts leading to increased revenue earnings," points out Mr De.

Taking technology intitiatives a step ahead, the state utility is planning to install wireless GSMbased meters at homes. The meters will automatically transmit reading from the meters to a control centre. In the first phase, the GSM meters will be installed for bulk consumers, whose consumption can be monitored on a real-time basis.

"These would be for consumers like malls, electric arc furnaces and hotels where consumption is over 30,000 per month," says a senior state government official. The system will have an in-built alarm which will buzz if it notices any anomaly in power consumption. In that way, the GSM-based meters will keep a tab on power theft, a major bugbear for all power utilities across the country.

Source- Economic Times


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