Reviewing the recent power regulatory measures introduced by Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation, this was what Saturday's (March 3, 2012) The Hindu reported: “The power holiday scheme for industrial establishments, which came into force from Thursday, does not seem to be effective. As of now, it has not yet yielded the necessary relief to the TANGEDCO.”
This is only to be expected because these measures such as power holiday for industries and enhanced scheduled load shedding for domestic consumers are demand-centric and have several defects and loopholes that would lead to highly erratic supplies, frequent outages and low quality. Besides, the demand-centric power cut approach connotes negativism and ad hoc rationing. A better alternative would be a positive need-based energy management (NBEM). In the power sector, there is a distinct difference between demand and need. While the former is inflated and exaggerated, the latter is actual and realistic.
Five broad categories
Power consumers are in five broad categories—industry, agriculture, commercial/office establishments, domestic and essential services. Only a small percentage of industries are in the continuous process category, needing power for 24 hours. Another small percentage would be doing two/three shifts. The vast majority are single-shift that would be satisfied with industry-load of 8-10 hours a day.
In farming, crops need only limited but good quality and uninterrupted power supply. Agro-based industries like sugar and cotton ginning are seasonal and require full power only for a part of the year. Cold storages need 12 to 14 hours of power supply, preferably split in two or three parts. The load of domestic consumers and commercial establishments is essentially for lighting.
What is important is that the supply should be transparent, assured and of good quality. The first thing to do in NBEM is to categorise the consumers as per their consumption profile — shift-based industries; continuous process industries and industries having independent feeders; irrigation tube wells; peak load requirement; commercial/domestic connections and essential and emergency services.
The next step is to design a delivery mechanism and streamline distribution system. The regulatory measures should be in accordance with the delivery mechanism and should be strictly enforced through a combination of public relations (PR), vigilance and technical supervision. PR is to make the consumers aware of the measures, vigilance to put the fear of severe penalty into the field officers and wayward consumers and technical supervision so that no one acts smart.
If properly designed, structured and implemented, NBEM would bring in enormous benefits to the consumers, the grid, TANGEDCO and the government.
System losses would be substantially reduced since line and equipment do not get overloaded for the full day. Quality, including voltage profile and power factor at all levels, will improve leading to better industrial and agricultural health and productivity.
About 25 years ago, in a crisis situation akin to that of Tamil Nadu, NBEM was designed and implemented by the Haryana State Electricity Board (HSEB) that yielded very good results. In the mid-eighties, Haryana had a similar demand-supply gap of about 25-30 per cent. Haryana's own generating capacity was about 45%, more or less the same as that of Tamil Nadu. HSEB was resorting to abstract power regulatory measures as is being done in Tamil Nadu. A quick study of the measures revealed several defects and loopholes. Available power was flowing in all the feeders simultaneously and bulk consumers often resorted to theft and panic overdrawal. Farmers kept their electric pumps switched on to water their fields at whatever time power came, invariably leading to wastage. There were no separate feeders for supplying power to distinct categories as per need. Even to cater to the needs of essential services such as hospitals, water supply and sewerage, the entire urban/rural feeders had to be switched on facilitating unauthorised drawal by consumers connected to such feeders. The result was near-total chaos.
It was under these circumstances the NBEM system was quickly put together and enforced in Haryana starting with categorisation of consumers. After allocating 6 hours for peak load requirement, the day/night was divided into three parts of six hours each. The State was also grouped into three regions each having 4 substations of 220 KV.
After the peak hours, power feeders in one group would be switched off from the 220 KV substation itself in rotation for six hours. For the essential services, domestic consumption and independent feeder industries, amperage/units were fixed and power released accordingly round the clock. In addition, for special needs such as water supply, timings were fixed and power made available outside the group timings.
This system of energy management was strictly enforced. About six months after its introduction, an evaluation was made by a specially constituted group of senior engineers. This was what the report said: “With the implementation of the new power regulatory measures, a large number of benefits have accrued to the power system as a whole. The feedback from the field offices and the general public indicates positive results and signs of general satisfaction in spite of serious power shortage.”
Some of the direct benefits identified were: assured supply of power, equitable distribution of power, system discipline, improvement in quality of power, reduction in system losses, streamlined control of power distribution, impact on the performance of regional grid, higher consumer satisfaction and economic efficiency and improved generation due to disciplined distribution system.
However, the new system which was controlled manually had certain limitations. But with the advent of Information and Communication Technology solutions, the limitations can be removed.
The Haryana model of NBEM, if refined considerably and reworked to suit Tamil Nadu's requirements, can be effectively implemented, given strong political will. This would result in supply of consistent and good quality of power that could satisfy the actual needs of all segments of power consumers.
(The author is a former chairman of the erstwhile Haryana State Electricity Board)