Headless Hunch : Views on India Onward – Managing electricity theft menace

A wonderful initiative by IBM India to discuss the ideas of progress for India, India Onward. Posting my views on the topic of ‘Managing electricity theft menace’ as initiated by Jeby Cheiran (Link to Website)

India has world’s fifth largest installed capacity for power generation, but more than 300 million people in the country still do not have any access to electricity. One significant contributing factor to this insufficiency is the staggering network loss, exceeding 30 percent. Such a huge loss in transmission and distribution (T&D) further raises the demand and places increasing pressure on the installed capacity.

Though it is difficult to quantify the proportion of electricity theft in T&D losses, it is undoubtedly a major contributor. As a consequence, utility organizations have been running huge losses, resulting in increased power tariff for the end user.

Power theft results in a situation where all the stakeholders, including those responsible for the pilferage in the first place, get affected. While stronger vigilance and better technology can address the issue to an extent, I believe there is a greater need for awareness among people and having greater focus on building the overall infrastructure. While, citizens must have access to such an essential element of modern day life, they should not expect it for free either. What do you think?

By Jeby Cheiran
The author is Strategy Leader of IBM India/South Asia

Very well said in your last line. We, the people should not expect such essentials for free or even at discounted rates as ultimately its going to hit the pockets of someone like us only. I think not only T&D loss but the entire sector needs major reforms post its first phase of reforms initiated by segregating the generation, transmission & distribution companies.

Though I agree with all the above, I think technology is not the only solution to this problem, we need a mindset change and strong willpower both of government & people to overcome this. Today, how many times we as people have reported power theft incidents? Forget reporting, I can bet more than 80% people would also not know how to report such incidents. We need technology and digital metering up to last mile to box-in the origins of power thefts. Also, we need stricter punishments for those who get caught in scenarios of power theft.

For implementing technologies solutions, we need to think out of box to bring accountability. One of the genius enlightened me with a wonderful example in this area. For industries (major consumer of electricity), consumption of electricity can be directly proportional to output of the goods/services they manufacture/offer. These goods/services quantum which they manufacture is always reported in their excise/service tax filings. Can’t we use analytic engines on the past data available to derive this equation and monitor on monthly/quarterly basis, the electricity consumption. We can right? We just need appropriate linkages between data available with two different government agencies.

Another aspect to the mounting theft are power tariff. People generally steal things which are dearer. Political parties are sabotaging the power balance for petty political gains. Just because the agriculture forms backbone of your country doesn’t mean it should be cheap power to gain popular votes. We need strict action by State ERCs to ensure that every power is not provided below cost price. But unfortunately, State ERC boards are appointed at will & mercy of these political parties and thus they are mostly helpless to these proposals.

Lastly, we need to use technology for generating complex billing structures for rewarding those who,
– use electricity in off-peak hours
– use sanctioned loads
– use rated instruments
and punish the violators.

Yes, I agree, the road ahead is challenging in country like India, where people lacks responsibility towards society, but with strong will power of few, use to innovative thinking and applying right set of technologies, we can definitely take a step closer to achieve balanced electricity consumption.

Refer Original Thoughts & Support, please visit India Onward

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