Kanpur state power department that was incurring a distribution loss of 30 per cent when she joined, currently records 15 per cent loss.
Mumbai: An IAS at the Kanpur Electricity Supply Co. has been making headlines for halving the company’s losses by digitising power to prevent power theft.
The tale of Ritu Maheshwari, a graduate from the Punjab Engineering College, who steered away the losses of Kanpur Electricity Supply Co., is one of courage to change the system and of embracing technology to drive that change.
According to a report in Bloomberg, upon her appointment at the company in 2011, Maheshwari installed new meters across almost a third of the company's customer base. The devices recorded the daily power consumption and exposed leaks in the distribution system, in real-time.
The company that was incurring a distribution loss of 30 per cent when she joined, currently records 15 per cent loss now. "I managed to change 160,000 meters of 500,000 amid protests from pilfering consumers that drastically brought down the city's distribution losses, which were at 30 percent then," she said in an interview with Bloomberg.
However, like in every other sphere of life, corruption and protection of interests of the power thieves, led to her transfer after 11 months.
In a country where power loss due to illegal tapping is rampant, Maheshwari’s efforts re-iterate the need for digitisation of power. The woman, whose story was filed in 2014 Bollywood movie ‘Katiyabaaz’, was recently leading Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to help out loss-incurring state power departments.
Maheshwari’s UDAY initiative slashed the combined financial losses of these states to Rs. 40,295 crore in the year to March 31 -- about 22 per cent lower than the previous year, according to the power ministry.
This strategy has gained popularity among retailers like Tata Power Delhi Distribution Ltd , in Delhi and Mumbai, who found their losses minimizing.
It has led to the upgradation of power grids with hi-tech meters, transformers, automation and new wiring supplied by companies such as Schneider Electric SE, Landis+Gyr Group AG, and Nokia Oyj.
Currently, the government is contemplating investing about USD 50 billion in the power transmission and distribution industries in the next five years through 2019, according to former power minister Piyush Goyal.
Digitization of power so far covers only about 10 percent of the consumption side of electricity use in India, according to Schneider Electric. In states like Uttar Pradesh, where losses amount to 35 percent for distribution companies, 29 million rural households receive electricity without meters, while 11.2 million are left without power, according to government data.
India issued its first tender to buy 5 million smart meters in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana on August 1. "This is a pilot project where 4 million smart meters will go to Uttar Pradesh and the rest to Haryana," said Saurabh Kumar, of Energy Efficiency Services Ltd, the agency handling the energy efficient programs on the government’s behalf.
"The next two years will be very crucial as several states need to move from poor metering to smart metering," said Maheshwari who was heading that program till two weeks ago.