The Uttar Pradesh government will more than double the number of power theft- detection squads in the State by this year-end.

The State is also standing by its move to curb sourcing high-cost power as it aims to meet the targets set under the Ujjwal Discom Assurance Yojna (UDAY).

Principal Secretary (Energy) Alok Kumar said, “We currently have 33 enforcement squads in UP, and are in the process of setting up 55 more, taking the total to 88. The Department of Home is also working on nominating a designated police station in every district which will lodge FIRs in case of power theft.”

All these new measures will be rolled out by December end, he told BusinessLine . This is in line with the strategy to undertake energy auditing to help meet UDAY targets.

Kumar said, “We have started with auditing of 11kV feeders and the aim is to identify high loss areas. Taking action for preventing theft in those feeders and also seeing that consumers are billed appropriately come next.”

IUDAY targets

“There has been improvement over last year, but we are still to catch up on the UDAY targets for this financial year. There is a pattern. The losses are higher in first quarter, normally because government dues and subsidies come later and they catch up in the last quarter. So catching up to the UDAY target is quite a challenge and we are trying to achieve them,” he added.

To scrap high-cost PPAs

In another move that is expected to better the health of the Discoms, the UP government had scrapped high-cost power purchase agreements. Bajaj Energy’s 5X90 MW power generation units were one of the worst hit, with threats of the five units turning in to Non Performing Assets coming from bankers.

Kumar defended the government move and said, “Bajaj Energy was an outlier case. Under the ‘Power for All Document,’ Bajaj Energy’s five power plants were identified as a high cost power purchase source. Parties that do not find the contract economical have the right to exit under any contractual agreement. There are consequences for exiting a contract. In the commercial world, there are many such cases. They have now gone to the High Court and the matter is sub judice.”

Not just thermal power, even high cost solar power too has faced the wrath of the cost optimisation measures. Kumar said, “There were around 15 solar power projects bid out on a competitive basis. The law requires tariff adoption by the State Electricity Regulatory Commission. Last year when the parties went to SERC, they passed a judicial order saying that the tariff is very high as compared to the benchmark and that the tariffs need to be re-looked. So after having re-looked at the tariff, we have again filed our position in the SERC and they will consider it.”

Off-grid solar power

The State is one of the few where the off-grid solar power has worked. Kumar said, “Off – grid has been an extremely successful policy in Uttar Pradesh. We are now trying to converge this off-grid power generation with our rural electrification. Whenever there is deficit they can draw from the grid and whenever there is a surplus, they can inject to the grid. We are trying to structure some big projects, building on the strength of mini-grids.”

Kumar said that the these mini-grids are elemental to the success of rural and household electrification in the state. He said, “There are around 50 villages in UP where the grid cannot reach. These will be electrified through the mini grids. But other villages will have the benefit of regular grid aided by mini grids.”

“We do not envisage a large number of villages remaining only with solar. It will remain a hybrid type of a system,” he added.