Chairman Emeritus Reconnect 17 – Mindset Issues of Electricity Sector

My dear young friends,

Once a non-technical colleague of mine in NHPC asked me an innocent question. He said “if I switch off the bulb during my lunch time, how does it help? The electricity has already been generated and traveled to my doorstep. Can it be degenerated? How does it save the resource-water or coal responsible for generation?” I realized that day that electricity is an extremely complex product being utilized by common man. Neither its technicalities nor its economics are easy to understand by the consumers and other stakeholders.

There is a notion in public mind that solar electricity is expensive. Yes, if you think of a 50 MW plant supplying to a city but if you think of a 50 KW plant supplying to a small village it breaks even with other sources like gas/diesel. And if you talk about a 50 W installation for a hut, it works out to be the cheapest version. Therefore Solar is expensive for the rich but most economical for the poor. 

As Director (Technical) REC, once I was addressing a meeting of Chairmen, SEBs. I was questioning and criticizing them for locating electrical sub-stations non-optimally. After listening to me for a while, Chairman of one of the largest Electricity Boards stood up and said “We don’t decide the location of the sub-stations. Each 33 KV sub-station is decided by the local MLA and 132 KV sub-station by the local MP”. Imagine more than Rs 60,000 Cr. is being pumped into the Indian grid system from the central Govt. under APDRP & R-APDRP programs for rectifying and re-configuring the network to reduce the ill effects of sub-stations located off the load centers.

Once I was sitting with the MD of West Bengal Power Development Corporation during evening time. Looking at the ‘Frequency Watch’ in his office, I told him how lucky he was to have frequency very close to 50 Hz. He said “Please wait for an hour or so, you will see a rising surge in this frequency as soon as NTPC’s Super Thermal Plants start pumping power with no sensitivity to grid frequency, since they have to bag Gold Medals for their high PLF. My small generators cannot withstand that high frequency and break down due to higher centrifugal forces on the LP side.” They get the Gold Medals and we incur huge losses, he said.

Once I visited the control room of Scandinavian Power Pool (100,000 MW) in Stockholm.  I observed a typical wall clock there with a single arm, hardly having moved from its zero position. On enquiry I came to know that it was showing the guilt accumulated in last 24-hours of frequency supply variation. In our country we don’t have guilt watches or “Guilt” itself. In the rural end of supply the voltage levels being alarmingly low, the agricultural pump-sets draw higher current and in the process get burnt up, incurring huge expenditure on their repairs.

What we see in India today is insensitivity towards customers/ consumers of electricity. Once we were conducting a program on “Six sigma for power distribution” in a large Power Distribution Company. At the end of the Program, head of a distribution zone shot a question. “Why six sigma in power distribution?” Though it is a quality tool by which we can analyze a pain area of our business and improve upon it to make more profit, he said. He went on further to say why should his company make more profit when Govt. regulations mandate only 16% return on investment by the company.

I was stunned. I asked him what stops him from making more profit and passing it on to the customer. “Customer was not only out of focus but was out of sight”. For instance in Delhi the two private sector companies claim to have reduced the AT&C losses (including theft) from nearly 50% to 15%. If this benefit is passed on to the customers, their energy bills are bound to reduce.

A shocking question was posed to me on another occasion after concluding a Program on “Energy Conservation” for a Power Distribution Company again. “Why should we promote energy conservation, when we are in energy supply business? Let the consumers waste energy. Every extra unit we supply, we have a profit margin in it. An interesting question emerging out of perceptional perversion and lack of values and consciousness…..!

I had to make an effort answering the above question. I said firstly there should be no worry as a hardcore businessman, as for any unit saved there is a queue waiting for new connections which is a profit making proposition. The argument fitted well in the conversant 1st orbit of intellectual logic. Secondly I asked them whether they would like to supply energy in energy surplus/ wasting area or energy starved area? I gave them an example. In Hawaii sugar industries at the receptions, one is offered sugar as well as sugar-free crystals along with the tea. Once I asked them as to why they offer ‘sugar-free’ as sugar producers, their reply was “we don’t produce sugar for sugar-surplus people”. Similarly as responsible energy producers and suppliers good businessmen should have a clear preference for energy-starved area vis-a-vis energy-surplus or energy-wasting area. This was the 2nd orbit of emotional intelligence.

Finally taking them to the 3rd orbit of social and spiritual consciousness, I said that after 10 years, even if the supply equals demand, for every unit saved there will be a saving of 1 kg of coal (conserving it for the future generations); 1 kg of CO2, 0.4 kg of ash, 6 gm of Nitrous Oxide and 1 gm of Sulphur-di-oxide (causing pollution for the present generation) !!

There is so much of hype about “Smart Grid” but no one knows where it exists in India. If every Circle/ City distribution could have just declared its peak hours and the differential tariff, displaying it on the internet and insisted for a timer in the consumers’ meters; the load curves would have flattened meeting the first and foremost obligation of a Smart Grid. What is perhaps required is implementation mindset !

Wish you all a very happy and enlightening Diwali!

Satyamev Jayate !!!

Best wishes and Regards,

Dr. B.S.K.Naidu

M.Tech., Ph.D., CBI Scholar, D.Engg.(Calif), FNAE
Hon.D.WRE (ranked amongst 30-most eminent scientists in the world)
Chairman Emeritus, Great Lakes, Gurgaon, NCR, New Delhi, INDIA
Former Director General (NPTI & CPRI / REL), Ex-Director (REC)/ Executive Director (IREDA)

No job is small or big, the way in which you do, makes it small or big (c)

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