On the sidelines of Cabwire conference held in November, 2011 we interacted with Mr. M.S. Rao, Senior Vice President, Head – Mumbai Transmission, Reliance Infrastructure Limited on the present situation of Indian Transmission & Distribution (T&D), its challenges, role of EHV cables etc. Excerpts
Wire & Cable India: In the context of Indian T&D throw some light on its present situation and where it is heading?
M.S. Rao: Compared to the earlier period, a lot many things are happening, both at the Central and State level. However, a more systematic approach towards planning and execution at the government level would be required. Talking about Distribution specifically, we are all aware and concerned about the financial ill-health of the SEBs. Revival of the SEBs would be critical for the overall working of an efficient power sector. Just as the Distribution side demands immediate attention, adequate emphasis must be laid on the Transmission sector, particularly in the State domain.
WCI: The distribution sector is not considered as self sustaining right now. Kindly highlight the challenges for this sector?
MSR: A key contributor for this alarming situation of many Discoms is the avoidance of the tariff hike due to social and political issues. For the smooth functioning of the Discoms, it is essential that the tariff appropriately covers the cost of power supply incurred by them. Though the impact of such hikes would be felt in the initial years, gradually after efficiency is built up in the SEBs, there would be a softening of the impact. There has to be definite political will towards it alongwith changes in the working style of the Discoms. Though steps have been taken in the sector for improvements, they need to come up more quickly and across the country. The recent ATE order for timely issue of the ARR by the Regulators for the Discoms is a welcome change. We have to look at the developed countries/matured Discoms and adopt the same processes in our workings in order to bring down the cost and other aspects related to it. Besides, the government has to support the Discoms to minimize T&D losses, control power theft and improvise the processes. Doing so requires a lot of commitment.
WCI: What are the trends that you foresee in the T&D sector?
MSR: It may come as a surprise to many, but I am seeing that in the next couple of years we are likely to have a downslide in both the sectors. This is because it is now coming out clearly that a majority of the Discoms will not be able to mobilize the financial resources as earlier envisaged. Most banks are reviewing their exposure to the power sector, limiting the funding to this sector. In such condition, eventuality the distributors would find themselves in a difficult situation to tie up with the generators for procuring power. So, if once the financial flow does not happen from the distribution utilities to generators and to the transmission utilities, then I think in the coming couple of years a bigger turmoil happening and this has to be addressed very quickly. Hope that the efforts of the Planning Commission in reviving the Discoms would take shape to show good and quick results.
WCI: What role EHV cables will play in T&D?
MSR: With the changing lifestyle, the demand of the power is going to increase, particularly in urban areas. The EHV infrastructure needs to be such that it has to reach points nearer to the consumer. In such a scenario, EHV cables are going to be a technical compulsion in the coming years. This is primarily because with the population explosion in the cities, you do not have the option to erect the overhead lines and still you need to bring bulk power from outside to the city. This will require the use of EHV cables with technology such as XLPE which are well proven in usage.
However from a utility perspective, the worrying factor is that the EHV cables pose technical challenges such as MVAR requirements and also protection requirements. The protection philosophy has to be much different from what it was done for long overhead lines. The restoration time required incase of breakdown / damage would also be higher due to the difficulty in carrying out excavation work during specific periods such as the monsoon or carrying them out in the middle of the roads with high traffic. So, there are going to be different set of challenges for us to tackle in the near future.