Commercial power demand pick-up to take 6 months: Tata Power DDL CEO

Tata Power Delhi Distribution chief executive officer Ganesh Srinivasan
At a time when India’s electricity demand reached an all-time high of 187 Gw, Delhi is witnessing an increase in domestic power consumption with commercial demand yet to recover. In an interview with Jyoti Mukul, Tata Power Delhi Distribution chief executive officer (CEO) Ganesh Srinivasan says the biggest challenge for his company is that the regulator is not allowing it a tariff that could recover the cost of serving customers.

Has the power demand fully recovered and what is the mix now?

We are roughly at the same level as last year. Commercial demand and that from schools and other such places has not picked up. But domestic demand has. Typically, 55 per cent demand is domestic and 45 per cent commercial and industrial. It will take at least six months for commercial demand to pick up after the industry shows confidence in the vaccine.

The government has made electricity a right. How difficult is it to implement this, especially because states will be doing so?

Many states already have some form of rights. In Delhi, for example, we have standards that power should not go beyond one hour and if it is more, then the consumer has to be informed. Similarly, there are rules in Maharashtra too.

Will it be difficult to monitor?

Urban distribution companies can do it themselves because cities have automation and data capturing at higher voltage levels. It is available for post-facto audit. It will be more challenging in state distribution companies because the level of data capturing is lower and the investment in systems and processes has not been done.

With privatisation of discoms, how important will it be to monitor and be competitive?

Ultimately, it is state discoms that do not have the desired level of performance. Private discoms have a good level of service and transparency as is evident in Delhi. The reason a special rights document is required is because not much has happened in state-owned discoms. The rights document will require that companies are more responsive.

On the use of renewable energy, have you been meeting the renewable purchase obligation (RPO) for your licence area in Delhi?

We have met our RPO and will be meeting it this year also. We have another 300 Mw of solar and wind power in the pipeline and this will meet our requirements. Our renewable power supply is 18 per cent of the total requirements. All of them are through long-term contracts.

What is the status of rooftop solar generation in your area?

We are pursuing rooftop generation in our area. We have a 35 Mw net metering rooftop. We have been supportive of it. It is true that customers with higher demand tend to benefit the most from rooftop and we do tend to lose that business.

How good are the new guidelines on net metering and gross metering?

For 10 Kw and above, the concept of gross metering would need to be followed while for below that, net metering. This principle balances it out for both discom and customers. For larger commercial and industrial customers, gross metering will give benefit. Nothing will make everyone happy.

What are the new initiatives that you are implementing in Delhi?

The biggest focus for us is smart metering. We have installed 200,000 smart meters for customers out of a total customer base of 170,000. We are trying to empower customers with as much data as possible. We are also moving towards storage systems and have a 10 Mw battery storage system in partnership with Mitsubishi and AES.

What are the current challenges in Delhi?

The biggest issue is regulatory assets of about ~5,500 crore which increased by ~1,000 crore in the last 18 months because tariff is not reflective of cost. We are not asking for high tariff but something which is reflective of the cost—infrastructure and operation and maintenance. Discoms in Delhi have reduced losses which were 50 per cent in 2002-03, to about 8 per cent now. Substantial benefit has been achieved by reducing theft but the cost which is required to serve the customer is not being given by the regulator. It is being postponed and it will come with the carrying cost of about 8-10 per cent so the customer will have to pay more. This is a big risk for the sector in Delhi. We are in discussion with the state and DERC.

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