Uttarakhand Power Corporation Ltd. powers up a smarter network

Cutting costs and improving network health with an IBM solution built on Smarter Computing principles

Published on 08 Apr 2013

"IBM technology provides the perfect backbone for running a state-of-the art utility management system, which has truly transformed the way that we run our power distribution network. We are cutting our commercial losses, boosting reactiveness and improving service." - JMS Rauthan, Superintending Engineer, Uttarakhand Power Corporation Ltd.

Customer:
Uttarakhand Power Corporation Ltd.

Industry:
Energy & Utilities

Deployment country:
India

Solution:
Automation, Energy Efficiency, Enterprise Modernization, Smarter Computing, Systems & Network Management, Transforming Business

IBM Business partner:
Phoenix IT Solutions Ltd.

Overview

Uttarakhand Power Corporation Ltd. (UPCL) manages the distribution of electricity in the state of Uttarakhand, India. Established in 2001, the utility delivers power supply to more than 1.59 million consumers across 13 districts.

Business need:
UPCL found it difficult to monitor the state of its extensive power distribution network, resulting in reduced service levels and mounting commercial losses. The utility sought a way to gain control over network and revenue management, with the aim of reducing service interruptions and outages, and better targeting energy theft.

Solution:
UPCL modernized its power distribution network with a utility management system built by Phoenix IT Solutions Ltd. and based on IBM hardware and software technology. The solution provides real-time monitoring of asset health and consumption levels, helps to balance power loads, and detects network weaknesses and areas where theft is most likely to occur.

Benefits:
Anticipated to decrease Aggregate Technical and Commercial losses from 25 - 30 percent to 20 percent or less, and reduce billing cycle by half, increasing revenue and improving customer satisfaction. Delivers up-to-date information on network health and assets, boosting service levels and supporting better decision-making.

Case Study

Uttarakhand Power Corporation Ltd. (UPCL) manages the distribution of electricity in the state of Uttarakhand, India. Established in 2001, the utility delivers power supply to more than 1.59 million consumers across 13 districts.

UPCL’s distribution network covers a geographical area of more than 50,000 square kilometers, presenting a significant challenge when it comes to meeting Uttarakhand’s daily energy demand.

Improving insight into network health
The utility wanted to gain deeper insight into the performance of its network, so that it could better serve customers, cut costs and guarantee more reliable power supply. Lacking a proper asset management framework, UPCL found it difficult to accurately pinpoint faults or weaknesses in the network.

JMS Rauthan, Superintending Engineer at Uttarakhand Power Corporation Ltd., states: “It was challenging for us to assess network health as we lacked up-to-date asset data. We wanted to enhance the quality of information that we received from the field, so that we could better balance distribution loads and thereby reduce service interruptions and blackouts.”

The company also wanted to reduce instances of energy theft. By improving detection of spikes in electricity usage across its network, UPCL would be able to better identify anomalous consumption levels that could point to theft.

Lack of key financial data
These issues were compounded by poor availability of business information, as UPCL relied on third-party agencies to house power consumption data and manage billing.

“In the past, we would send out meter readers to manually record meter data and forward it to private agencies, who then used the information to create bills and send them to our customers,” says JMS Rauthan. “Customers would frequently file complaints about inaccurate charges, forcing bills to be revised, a time-consuming and costly process.”

Without proper data and reliable access to customer records, UPCL had no way to track how many customer service requests it received and how many had been addressed. This exposed the company to fines and penalties from the Uttarakhand Electricity Regulatory Commission (UERC) for failing to meet established service levels in a timely fashion.

For UPCL, the stakes were high: with estimated commercial losses contributing 60 - 70 percent to overall aggregate technical and commercial losses, which stood between 25 - 30 percent, it was vital for the utility to find a way to take control of network management, improve service levels and reduce its exposure to theft.

Transforming network management
UPCL turned to IBM Business Partner Phoenix IT Solutions Ltd. for a utility management solution, and selected the mPower Smart Utility Suite: an end-to-end system for handling meter-to-cash and customer care processes, which is supported by powerful IBM technology for optimum performance.

The solution provides integration with a geographic information system (GIS), a meter data acquisition system and a billing system. A metrics dashboard allows UPCL to view and manage outages and interruptions, helping to ensure swifter resolution of service issues.

Previously, the utility had no insight into the state of the network or where outages and interruptions were occurring, preventing it from performing essential maintenance activities. Now, the solution identifies where each and every meter is, and locates defective meters and tracks interruptions and outages end-to-end. The system uses statistical data and demand load flow analysis to assess the health of the network, trace energy imbalances across it and determine if it can withstand any additional proposed loads.

Secure control over applications and data
A broad suite of IBM solutions form a solid backbone for UPCL’s utility management system, ensuring top performance and stability for vital applications, and secure access to company systems and data.

IBM DB2 acts as the back-end database for the mPower technology suite and associated applications, providing easy management and top performance for high-volume workloads.

UPCL uses IBM Tivoli® Identity Manager and IBM Tivoli Access Manager to rationalize access to a variety of applications running on different platforms and technologies, with centralized user management and single sign-on capabilities. With Tivoli Continuous Data Protection for Files—a real-time, continuous data protection solution—the utility can automatically back up critical files, protecting against corruption, file loss or system loss.

The company implemented IBM System x 3950 X5 and IBM System x3650 class servers to deliver the high levels of performance and availability needed to support its utility management solution. The System x servers make it quick, easy and economical to deploy and scale the mPower Smart Utility Suite, helping UPCL to get the most out of the solution.

An IBM System Storage® DS8300 device is used for primary storage, with the IBM System Storage TS3500 Tape Library providing a highly scalable backup and archive solution.

Reducing fines with improved visibility and control
The utility management solution has transformed the way UPCL manages its power network and operates as a business. By integrating many aspects of the utility management cycle and delivering accurate baseline data, the solution provides UPCL with network-wide visibility, delivering sound, up-to-date information to support decision-making.

Data that was once owned by third-party agencies is now in-house, accessible and available, and key business processes that were previously paper-based and manual have been streamlined and replaced by automation.

“By running the mPower Smart Utility Suite on high-performing IBM systems, we have considerably boosted our responsiveness to customer service requests, resulting in higher service levels and reduced exposure to fines,” notes JMS Rauthan. “We expect to see a 50 percent reduction in costs and fines in the first two years and an 80 percent reduction for the following three years.”

Faster billing, happier customers
The company uses hand-held computers and terminals to ensure on-time and more accurate billing. Technicians can upload and download consumer data, business logic and tariffs on-site, and a system will automatically generate a bill that can be printed out on the spot.

Automation will significantly accelerate the billing process: UPCL expects to reduce its billing cycle from two months to one month, and the billing period by about two months, once the solution has been fully rolled out across the state of Uttarakhand.

Safeguarding against energy theft
UPCL can now pinpoint where energy theft is most likely to happen, and take suitable action to prevent it. The solution’s energy audit module maintains and monitors the entire power network, while the automated meter reading (AMR) system provides consumption readings at each asset level.

By calculating when consumption varies 10 - 15 percent below or above of the normative low power factor, the solution automatically flags up instances of possible theft, and sends alerts to the vigilance department via email for investigation and rectification.

The ability to more proactively manage the network and better detect theft is contributing to a significant reduction in UPCL’s losses. The company anticipates that it will be able to cut commercial losses from 25 - 30 percent to 15 percent or less in the next five years.

JMS Rauthan concludes: “IBM technology provides the perfect backbone for running a state-of-the art utility management system, which has truly transformed the way that we run our power distribution network. We are cutting our commercial losses, boosting reactiveness and improving service, and we expect to build on these improvements to create a more productive power network and better service for homes and businesses across the state of Uttarakhand.”

Legal Information

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