With the COVID crisis affecting the economic activities drastically, digital became the only resort for government and private industries to keep operations alive. Besides aiding continuation, technology has also enabled the government and private sectors to be resilient. On this note, R Lakshmanan, Executive Director, Rural Electrification Corporation (REC) Ltd. addressed the Digital Governance Cloud and AI Summit.
Speaking on business continuity during the lockdown, he said, “As REC is concerned, in the past 10-12 years, we have invested a lot in strengthening e-governance and digitisation and that paid us during these challenging times, especially in the last week of the previous financial year.”
REC was operating through the e-office in lockdown. On the business side also, “We were able to keep up with the disbursing targets of the previous financial year. Now we are heading to digitise all our semi-automated or manual processes to minimise the manual processing, he added.
Further, he said, “Smart metering is a key transformation”. Such an intervention will bring changes in the way utilities are doing business and in the consumer experience as well. So, it is essential that utilities must embark on smart metering for their own financial viability and sustainability as well as giving the end consumer better service delivery. However, there are a few key aspects to it: firstly, as it is a complete change in business it is very critical that the utilities understand the complete dynamics of it as it involves various IT aspects, communication aspects, primary metering related aspects and more, wherein the utilities need to partner with firms to ultimately deliver the solution.
Secondly, the competency skill set which is available in the discom is again an important aspect. Apart from this, it involves a lot of capex. So in that space, models which are evolving like hybrid models look very practical. Such models take care of the risk of private partners as well as some amount like 25-30 per cent of the project cost is put in as the upfront from the utilities’ side and the balance 70 per cent is spread out, he told.
Concluding his address, Lakshmanan said, “We are working with rural areas in Bihar. The State has released a policy that it will shift to complete prepaid metering over the next three years. So, we are working with EESL in Bihar to implement solutions. So, it is very important that utilities move in this direction as this minimises manual functioning. Initially, it will be more of data collection but once we have enough data then AI solutions can be implemented to forecast the demands and improve service delivery.”