Leveraging Technology, Empowering DISCOMs – The IPDS Story

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Palka Sahni

As a 2004-batch IAS officer of the Bihar cadre, she gained an in-depth experience in the power sector while serving as Managing Director of Transmission as well as Distribution companies of Bihar. She also handled flagship programme of Government of India such as Make in India and Ease of Doing Business, and was a part of the team which saw India break into the Top 100 in World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking. Presently, she is spearheading the Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS) programme of the Government of India to strengthen urban power distribution sector. Saying IT enablement of Distribution Companies (DISCOMs), achieved under Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS, or the erstwhile RAPDRP), has also eased life of common man, Palka Sahni, who is presently the Executive Director, IPDS, Power Finance Corporation Limited, in an exclusive interview with Souvik Goswami of Elets News Network (ENN), shared this and much more.

Give us an overview of Power Finance Corporation Limited (PFC).

The Power Finance Corporation (PFC) is one of the leading NBFCs in the Infrastructure sector, having loan assets worth around Rs 3 lakh crore. The company has achieved excellent MoU ratings continuously for past several years.

We are a Navratna PSU under the Ministry of Power and along with financing to power sector we are engaged with the ministry in implementation of various key initiatives of the Government of India like IPDS, UMPPs (ultra mega power projects), etc.

How is IPDS helping country’s energy sector and what sort of role is being played by the PFC?

PFCL is the nodal agency for implementation of IPDS. As a nodal agency, we are responsible for overall implementation of the scheme across the country. The scheme envisages strengthening of distribution infrastructure in more than 3,600 towns in 32 States & Union Territories (of the total 36).

IPDS has a key role to play in removing of bottlenecks in power supply due to capacity constraints of distribution networks. Under this scheme more than 1050 new 33/11KV Substations, augmentation of 1,600 exiting substation, around 1,20,000 Km HT & LT lines and 60,000 distribution transformers are being installed. All the projects are in advance stage of implementation. So far more than 55 percent progress has been achieved.

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The total outlay of the scheme is Rs 32,000 crore, wherein as high as 75 percent grant is provided by Government of India, which is around 90% in case of North Eastern Region (NER) and hilly states.

How technology and innovation can be used more and more to bring transformation in the DISCOM ecosystem?

Discoms are trying to adopt the latest technology. However, very often the same doesn’t go beyond the pilot projects either due to fund constraints or resistance to change within the ecosystem.

Under IPDS, we are supporting Discoms to take up large scale technology-driven projects like funding for 41 lakhs Smart meters, 150 nos. GIS substations including e-containerised substations have been sanctioned. We are also ensuring IT enablement of around 1,900 towns, in addition to the 1,400 towns already covered under RAPDRP (Restructured Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Programme). Further, to improve upon the business process of the Discoms ERP projects worth Rs 800 crores have been sanctioned to as many as 39 Discoms.

SCADA projects were also sanctioned in 59 large towns across the States. We are pleased to share that 43 of them are fully functional as on date and States like Maharashtra are moving towards unmanning of substations in SCADA towns.

How do you see IPDS is impacting the lives of end consumers and viability of Discoms?

With such a massive thrust on strengthening of distribution infrastructure, it is expected that availability and quality of power on the last-mile would improve in the urban areas and the same time AT&C (Aggregate Technical & Commercial) loss reduction would also be achieved with interventions like AB cabling, consumer metering etc.

Further, IT enablement of discoms achieved under IPDS (erstwhile RAPDRP) has also eased the life of a common man. For example, as high as 22 percent consumers are now paying their bills through digital modes. So far, 44 centralised Customer Care Centers have been established under IPDS, thus, release of new service connections and registering of complaints have become very simple and effective. Also a common toll free number for electricity complaints “1912” has been implemented in the entire country.

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