The Dakshin Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam (DHBVN) initiated plans to make all its sub-division offices go online in an effort to ease consumer interface, smoothen operations and enable smooth data consolidation. In the first phase, Gurgaon, Faridabad and 13 sub-division offices of Hissar region have been computerised, handling half-a-million customer accounts online. With this, movement of all files will be recorded, thereby facilitating consumers to keep track by simply clicking their file reference number.
Similarly, Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board (HPSEB) de-centralised billing system for LT consumers and was seeking to reduce losses at different levels, to provide better consumer management, MIS to higher management for strategic decision, and ensuring transactional effectiveness resulting in better time management with proper transparency. Over a hundred thousand accounts are already online while another million are on the rollout. It initially wanted to start this upgradation project from the Simla circle, which has about 10 sub-divisional offices.
Both utilities implemented these solutions with the help of HCL Infosystems. Apart from providing the required technological inputs to these utilities, HCL also took part in capacity-building of the existing staff of these utilities. For example, training was given to HPSEB employees from different of various offices in batches of 10 for five days each. The capacity building programme involved training of basic computer knowledge, introduction to the new software and training on various IT modules covering end-to-end business process.
As Tapan Sarkar, AVP, HCL Infosystems, points out, “If computerisation in the banking industry took 20 years, the power sector is trying to do this in 5 years. So, a power utility’s ability to absorb the technology is also a factor of how far and how quickly one can go. When one talks about intelligent grids, about self-healing systems, about advanced metering infrastructure, the technologies are available and can be integrated into the existing system. But where do you integrate? Is the customer and the user ready, has he reached the level of maturity both in terms of technology as well as maturity of the manpower? So, change management is a very serious issue there. Fortunately, in the above two examples, we have successfully managed to overcome this by making the staff an integral part of the change process.”
The biggest advantage of HCL implementation is integration of commercial and Technical working to automate all commercial,operational and technical functions
As India’s leading player in the IT space, HCL Infosystems appears to have taken a headstart in helping power distribution utilities to integrate billing and collection procedures, new connection processing, and in fact all commercial operations. The solutions developed by HCL for different utilities encompass capacity building and operational efficiency, business process efficiency, ATC loss valuation, metering, billing and collection efficiency, total energy accounting and better customer relations and consumer satisfaction.
HCL began developing for the power sector almost five years back, at a time when the government was realising that IT enablement of power utilities was necessary to ensure greater efficiency and productivity in these bodies. HCL’s power practices today aim to integrate what so far had been a piece-meal approach at computerisation. Today, HCL’s solutions enable GIS mapping of consumers, indexing them to the nearest pole, enabling the utility to identify the actual end-users. They also allow installation of automated meter reading systems at the sub-station, industrial consumer and transformer level so that real-time data is available to the utility, allowing them to analyse the various dynamic parameters and take corrective action. The solutions also enable connectivity between different field offices allowing them to have a centralised operational environment.
The key benefits of such IT enablement, which is key to the R-APDRP, as Anil Daulani of HCL Infosystems, points out is that the utilities will be able to monitor consumption up to the distribution transformer level and move below this level also. “When R-APDRP is fully implemented, utilities will be geared up for the next phase of reforms. Today, at the level where the consumers are, we have standalone meters. There is a big human element involved in grading these meters every month and collecting data, and this affects the efficiency of the system. Once R-APDRP is implemented, we can move to an online real-time system where no one has to visit the meter physically and the utility can monitor all consumption and usage. With the convergence of IT and metering taking place, large IT system integrators like HCL have a very vital role to play.”
Yet another advantage of the R-APDRP, and one which is acknowledged by most IT solutions providers is that it specifies the framework and the timeline in which IT enablement has to take place, but gives the flexibility to the utilities to decide on how they will go about it. “What the R-APDRP is trying to do is to ensure that there is strong monitoring and assured implemented as per a set timeframe and framework of norms, with the utilities having the flexibility on how they operate within this. If this works, it will set a precedent for a lot of other sectors, adds Daulani.
On its part, what HCL is seeking to do is to make IT and integral part of a power utility’s functioning. “Today, you can index all consumers up to the nearest pole through GIS mapping, enabling the utility to identify the actual consumers. It will enable to learn whether such consumers are paying for the electricity they are using. IT can also enable the utility get real-time data at the sub-station, industrial consumer, and transformer level. Similarly, utilities can create networks, connecting distant offices, enabling them to function in a centralised environment,” adds Sarkar.
In fact, HCL is today one of the few companies in the country that has a hands-on experience in power distribution and implementing IT technologies. In fact, HCL chose to enter the power sector as a domain expert and not just as a systems integrator. “Once you look at the power sector from the domain perspective, IT happens to be an enabling component in whatever you deliver to that particular segment. So, when one talks about the advanced metering infrastructure, the practice of energy audits, the components of an intelligent grid, self-healing systems, energy management, these are typically not IT per se but are strongly domain driven practices which HCL has developed,” Sarkar said.
This domain expertise is clearly evident if one looks at the systems that HCL developed to automate process in HPSEB and for 13 sub-divisions of Haryana’s DHBVN. Both these projects have been seamlessly implemented, with the utilities themselves claiming that there had been a perceptible change in efficiency and productivity since the automated systems went on line. “Any movement from a manual system to a metric-driven system results in improvement. It is not so much as the revenue that improves but the long-term gains of better employee productivity and customers