30% power lost to theft, politics

Reforms Suffer At The Hands Of Ineffecient Distribution Networks


New Delhi: More than 30% of the power produced in the country is lost to theft and inefficiencies in the state distribution networks as politics prevents speedy implementation of steps needed to stop the slippage.

     Now, the country has 205 gigawatt of generation capacity. At 30%, it works out to around 60,000 MW or nearly the same load that the northern, eastern and the northeastern grids were carrying when they tripped at 1pm on Tuesday.

      So if the slippage is even halved, there would be enough power to light up Delhi for a week. Indeed, distribution is the weakest link in India’s power story, with a loss figure that stood at 38.86% in 2000-01. It was then called T&D (transmission and distribution loss).

     Since it was not able to capture all the losses in the network, the concept of AT&C (Aggregate Technical and Commercial) loss was introduced. It was supposed to have captured technical as well as commercial losses in the network and reflect a true picture of the total losses in the system.

    But ironically, massive modernization has brought down the technical loss in inter-state and inter-region transmission networks, operated by Central utility Power-Grid Corporation, to a little over 1%. This is the global standard. But states continue to lag, with several still reporting double-digit loss rates —some notching 30% even a decade after the Centre launched Accelerated Power Development & Reform Programme in 2001 for reducing AT&C losses.

      The idea was to reduce the losses to below 15% in five years in urban and high-density areas. But the commercial loss of the state utilities has only reduced from Rs 29,331 crore to Rs 19,546 crore. As percentage of turnover, however, it has reduced from 33% in 2000-01 to 16.6% in 2005-06.
On the surface, it is because of inadequate investments over the years for improvement, unplanned extensions of distribution lines, overloading and lack of adequate reactive power support. But scratch the surface, and the real culprit turns out to be politics.

     In an era of coalition politics and fragmented polity, parties are loathe to administering strong medicines for fear of upsetting their perceived vote banks.

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