The road ahead

Moushumi Basu

The standing average liability of the Jharkhand State Electricity Board (JSEB) per month is Rs 229 crores against which its average collection stands at mere Rs 125 crores, thereby leaving a cash gap of Rs 104 crores.

The figures are obviously not rosy when it comes to chairing the board at this critical juncture. However, the new incumbent AK Chugh, who wields the mantle with both confidence and optimism, says, “The road ahead of us is certainly tough, but not impossible. We are already lining up our priorities.”

It may be recalled that Chugh had first assumed charge on April 29, following the quashing of appointment of the then chairman Dr HB Lal by the High Court.

He, however, had to resign soon after Lal, got an interim stay order from the Supreme Court on the HC directives. But Lal had to step down once again, when the Supreme Court vacated the stay order on his appointment on May 12, following which Chugh resumed the charge.

He spoke to the leading English daily The Pioneer after 10 days of his taking over as the chairman of the power board, throwing light on the challenges, priorities and the road map.
“We are required to meet the average quantum of peak load of the state which is 815 mega watt, besides that of 475 MW, which is purchased entirely from DVC to meet the demand in the DVC command areas,” informed Chugh.

The prime source of meeting the demands is through the thermal generating stations of TVNL, having installed capacity of 2x210 MW. The average generation of TVNL hovers around 370 MW.

To add to it, the average generation of PTPS is about 100 MW, besides this, there is also a hydel power station at Sikidiri of installed capacity of 2x65 MW, which is put into operation to meet the peak load requirements, depending upon the availability of water level in the Getalsud dam. This apart, against the total allocation of 451 MW of the central sector, the average availability varies between 40 per cent to 60 per cent. Incidentally, the Board is able to meet the present power requirements, pointed out Chugh.

However, underlining the three main ailments affecting the Board today, he said, “Transmission and distribution (T&D) losses, billing losses and collection efficiency are the key priority areas that need to be urgently addressed.

Accordingly, the average T&D loss in the country is about 28 per cent to 29 per cent (as on 2006-07); vis a vis the corresponding figures in Jharkhand for the same period is between 43 per cent to 45 per cent, which is one of the highest. Likewise, the national figure of Aggregate Technical & Commercial Loss (ATC) is 32 per cent, which in Jharkhand is between 53 per cent to 58 per cent. (ATC loss takes into account the twin components of T&D Loss and collection efficiency).

Given the above figures, there is a huge gap between the amount spent by the board in purchasing the power from the various agencies and the amount that is eventually recovered by the board in selling these units to our consumers. The collection efficiency of the Board is between 76 per cent to 82 per cent .

“In other words against our average necessities of Rs 229 crores, the cash that is able to flow in every month is just Rs 125 crores,” pointed the new chairman. Hence, our priorities are clear enough to look for ways and means to reduce this cash gap, he added.
In a recent meeting held with the general managers of the six supply areas and three transmission areas, in the state, Chugh has stressed on energy accounting. Each unit received should be made accountable, which must be booked and sold. It would be monitored through IT enabled systems to pinpoint the areas or locations of high and low losses.

“Once such areas are specifically identified, it is much easier treating the problem,” he felt.

The general managers have been assigned specific targets of collection and directed that T&D losses be at least brought down to the level of the national figure.

“I have ensured that these targets are workable, they may not be achieved within a month but at least in short term course,” added Chugh.

Examining the consumer profile of JSEB across the state, the chairman informed that there are 12 lakh consumers, of which 1,033 happen to be from the hi-tension category, who consume 40 per cent power and account for 57 per cent of billing. However, the bulk of nearly one-third of the consumers happen to be domestic, who end up contributing barely 12 per cent of the billing.
“One reason for this low recovery is the fact that the power tariffs have not been revised since 2004, which is barely Rs 1.35 paise per unit. All our input costs have risen in these five years, even our parent state of Bihar had been making regular revisions from time to time, so we have to take a fresh look at the existing state of affairs,” he observed. Accordingly, the Jharkhand Electricity Regulatory Commission would be requested to pass interim order on the petition pending for the same.

Further, the disputes arising on power tariffs with the DVC would also be sorted out in keeping with the Electricity Act 2003, which is likely to improve some cash flow.

The Patratu Thermal power Station would also be revamped, by improving generation capacity and its efficiency.

Last but not the least; the board would involve various public organisations as the Federation of Jharkhand Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Association of Small Scale industries amongst others to elicit their opinion on improving the efficiency of the board.

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