Government and public utilities have moved beyond the basic application of information and communication technology (ICT) and are now using next-generation technologies to transform their information dissemination and service delivery mechanism to bring in greater efficiency in their business processes. The following are some examples of how government utilities across various infrastructure sectors are using ICT to keep pace with the digital transformation…

Power: BRPL’s experience with smart grid applications

BSES Rajdhani Power Limited (BRPL) is one of the most technologically advanced distribution utilities in the country. The discom, which is a joint venture of Reliance Infrastructure Limited and the Delhi government, has achieved several milestones in terms of enhanced consumer services and robust power distribution network through the use of technology.

BRPL has successfully deployed smart grid technologies such as smart metering, as well as load management and outage management systems, to build a better power distribution network. The utility has adopted smart metering for its special consumers such as tenants/customers with temporary connections and prepaid customers. It has started providing temporary connections through smart meters within 24 hours of application. All government consumers have prepaid meters installed on their premises. In high-theft areas, too, pole-mounted General Packet Radio Service (GPRS)-based smart group meters have been installed.

In order to reduce technical losses, BRPL is carrying out online monitoring of grid transformers and 11 kV feeders. For balancing the load, data is continuously monitored to identify overloaded and underloaded assets, and the load is transferred accordingly. BRPL has also installed an application to monitor grid stability, which has helped reduce technical losses. It has adopted various smart technologies for outage management such as digitalisation of ring main units (RMUs), automated meter reading (AMR), distribution transformer (DT) health monitoring and low tension (LT) feeder monitoring. Further, 4G- and 2G-based AMR is being undertaken for DT monitoring and field force application has been deployed for digital tracking of work. Further, real-time condition-based monitoring of DTs and load monitoring of critical LT feeders/aerial bunched cables is being carried out through sensors. DT health monitoring has helped BRPL in taking informed decisions regarding the operations and maintenance of transformers based on data sent by sensors.

Some of the other initiatives that the company has taken are the configuration of intelligent electronic devices at 11 kV panels in extra high voltage grids, FPI installation on RMUs, online monitoring of first switching stations, installation of single-way breakers, and implementation of the distribution management system for quick restoration of power supply in case of outages. Overall, these solutions have helped BRPL in significantly reducing outages. The total outage duration has reduced by 44 per cent across 119 high-breakdown feeders. The typical outage handling time has also gone down from 60-90 minutes to 17-25 minutes in 86 per cent of the cases. Also, data from the geographic information system (GIS) and GPRS has helped the utility to plan the location of batteries and solar PV systems.

Going forward, BRPL plans to aggressively pursue emerging technologies such as blockchain to transform the grid. It has partnered with Power Ledger, a blockchain-based technology start-up in Australia, to launch trials for a peer-to-peer energy trading platform in Delhi.

Oil and gas: ONGC leverages technology solutions to remotely manage operations

The Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) is the largest producer of crude oil and natural gas in the country. Over the years, it has deployed several information technology and operational technology  solutions, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) for optimising and standardising business processes, SCADA for real-time monitoring of pipelines and rigs, and a paperless system for the complete digitalisation of processes. These solutions have helped ONGC in quick decision-making besides ensuring cost optimisation. ERP, for instance, has been introduced as part of the Information Consolidation for Efficiency project for enabling the standardisation of business processes. Under the project, a complete ERP package comprising 23 modules such as mySAP Oil and Gas Upstream (for joint venture accounting and the management of production sharing agreements and offshore logistics), mySAP Strategic Enterprise Management and mySAP Product Lifecycle Management have been installed in over 500 offices of ONGC.

Other modules for corporate financial management, business intelligence, supplier relationship management and enterprise portals (workplace) have also been incorporated. This IT-based system facilitates the availability of information on a real-time basis and eliminates the duplication of activities across business processes by capturing data at source. ONGC has also implemented an enterprise-wide paperless office project called DISHA. The initiative, which is in line with the Digital India programme, aims to eliminate fraud at all levels within the organisation. As part of the project, paperless Office solution35 has been introduced. Apart from this, computing systems for seismic data, invoice monitoring systems, grievance management and vigilance portals have been installed. Further, the utility has deployed advanced well monitoring systems with a satellite data transmission and communication facility for the real-time monitoring of progress on drilling works by geoscientists. ONGC has also set up 3D virtual reality centres called “Third Eye” for the real-time supervision of oil and gas fields. Going forward, the utility plans to foray into new technology streams such as artificial intelligence by setting up a venture funding corpus.

Water: DJB deploys revenue management system to improve collection efficiency

The Delhi Jal Board (DJB) has been using a revenue management system (RMS) since 2012 to improve its revenue collection. The aim is to replace the manual billing process with advanced digitalised metering, billing and collection processes. Over the past five to six years, the RMS has improved DJB’s revenue collection, service delivery and decision-making; increased the number of billed connections; and reduced tax evasion.

An RMS is a multilevel management system that automates different functions of the utility. The system comprises an intranet portal, mobile applications (separate for meter readers and customers) and an internet portal. It has been developed with technical assistance from Tata Consultancy Services. A customer care and billing software has been developed by the Oracle Customer Care and Billing 2.3 (CC&B) platform at the National Data Centre for performing functions like metering, billing, collection and grievance redressal. At the centre, information related to outstanding bills, payment receipts and customer complaints is collated. Further, a standardised online database of customers (containing their addresses, the number of metering connections, etc.) is prepared by mapping customers using the existing GIS maps. The collated information can be accessed by the DJB management at their headquarters as well as at 40 zonal offices through the portal. Besides, a data recovery site has been established in Hyderabad to ensure data security.

Through this software, DJB manages the revenue collection process efficiently. The tasks of viewing and printing of bills, generation of receipts and tracking grievances of customers are performed through a single dashboard. The platform provides other value-added services like SMS alerts, payment receipts and automated notices for late payments and defaulters. DJB has deployed mobile tablets to capture the digital images of meters through GIS.

Post the adoption of RMS, water meters are read through digital machines as opposed to manual reading. There are about 900 meter readers who provide door-to-door billing facilities with the help of hand-held machines. Customers can now pay their water bills through an online portal, payment kiosks and mobile wallets. The number of billing cycles has also increased from two to six per year. All functions, including new connection, disconnection and mutation, are available online, thereby completely eliminating manual processes. Further, DJB has set up an online grievance redressal system and dedicated call centres for improving customer experience. RMS has helped DJB improve its billing accuracy. Earlier, only 40 per cent of the customers were billed on the basis of actual consumption while the remaining were billed on an ad hoc basis. Today, about 90 per cent of the customers are billed on their actual consumption and the remaining 10 per cent are charged the average of their actual consumption. DJB has set up a dedicated data centre for collecting real-time data on consumption, billing, payment, etc.

Currently, the portal is being upgraded from the CC&B 2.3 version to the CC&B 2.5 version for additional facilities. The upgradation, being carried out by Wipro, is expected to be completed by March 2023. As part of this, the existing universal content measuring and data entry portal, hardware and servers will be upgraded. The utility is planning to commence spot collections on premises using hand-held devices.