'Technical losses more of a worry to industry'

'Technical losses more of a worry to industry'

Babu Babel

is the president of Indian Electrical and Electronics Manufacturers Association (IEEMA), a national representative organisation of manufacturers of electrical, industrial electronics and allied equipment in India.

Babel is also Joint Managing Director of Secure Meters that researches, manufactures, and deploys products and solutions to measure and monitor energy usage. Babel has been very critical of power theft in India, which according to him is costs close to Rs 1,50,000 crores.

In an interview with Furquan Moharkan of Deccan Herald, Babel emphasises that when a person is stealing electricity, he is not stealing anything tangible, so there is no social guilt associated with it.

You have been emphasising a lot on power theft in India. Can you throw some more light on the issue?

Let us start with what is called Aggregate Technical and Commercial Losses (AT & C Losses),  which are mentioned in percentage. Now, if you hear that AT & C Losses in India are 27%, you won’t understand the magnitude of the problem, but then if I convert those 27% into rupees, that is about Rs 150 thousand crore a year. That is a huge amount of money.

Main contributors to this are technical and non technical losses. Technical losses are mostly because of transmission and distribution, and there will always be some amount of loss in that. But it is the non technical losses, which are a big problem. In non technical losses, you have losses related to metering, commercial losses and data fraud. There are several elements to it, and is a huge part of the AT & C Losses, which needs to be addressed.

Do you think the prevalent corruption in the state PDDs is responsible for this to a certain extent?

Let us first talk about the sociology of power theft. Containing fiscal deficit is a challenge. Power theft is not physical theft. I am not lifting gold, jewellery or a watch. So, the social guilt that is associated with normal theft is not associated with power theft.  We need to educate people that this is causing enormous damage to the economy.  We should realise that there are 300 million people in this country, who don’t have access to electricity. There might be cases, where the people in the utilities would be colluding with people who steal. But by and large, DISCOMS are working against this collusion. There are checks and balances, which are being implemented.

What do you think can be done on the policy front to improve this situation?

There are two things. One is awareness that we should stop harming other. If I feel somebody is stealing electricity, I must raise the issue with him that it damaging the society. The solution can be both technical and analytical. There are meters available, which you can detect and prevent power theft.  If you analyse data, you will find who is stealing electricity.  You can do energy audit, energy balance and remotely read the meters. We have seen Goyal talk about the smart meter. So there are mechanisms by which you can detect, prevent this. Then we need to have a process of punishing the guilty. Law permits it. Infact electricity theft is cognizable offence in the law.

Why is preventing government to go deep into data analysis till the time we install smart meters?

There are three things to it. Consumption is very season oriented. Also, if the voltage is high, consumption could go up. There is also difference in the bill cycles. Sometimes the bill cycle is 25 days, on other times it is 45 days. So all this makes extensive data analysis a little difficult.

Are we heading towards itemised billing of power consumption?  

Yes. Infact, the modern meters lock consumption every half an hour. You can get an entire load profile. You know the point is, for the industry its is useful to analyse and save, but for households. do we really need that kind of granularity? It is a bit like, if I am monitoring heart rate all the time, am I going to use that when I am not well? It won’t be useful when I am fit. The better method is what we call ‘in home display’. It gives you details about your domestic consumption.

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