DRUM project to improve access to electricity in rural areas

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Mumbai, Feb 1 (UNI) The Distribution Reforms Upgrades and Management (DRUM) project undertaken by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Union Ministry for Power and Maharashtra Government at Aurangabad for improving the power distribution system will be completed by the end of this year.

Work at Aurangabad is in full swing which includes eleven 33/11 KV substations, HT/LT lines, 300 distribution transformers, call centre upgradation and energy accounting. The Rs 160 crore project will help rural areas to improve their access to electricity.

Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company (MSEDCL) Managing Director Dr A B Pandey said that ten more such divisions are being earmarked and Rs 1,100 crore will be spent to replicate the DRUM model in these areas.

The USAID, MSEB and Union Ministry of Power had signed an agreement regarding the DRUM project in 2003. Accordingly, an MoU was signed last year with two rural electric associations from USA - Morgan County Rural Electric Association and Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association.

Morgan County General Manager Fred R Grantham and Poudre Valley General Manager Ronand J Carey, who are leading the delegation of US power utility companies on a visit to Maharashtra, said that even their companies face problems of irrigation and customers not paying their electric bills on time.

Mr Grantham said that his company has 8,500 irrigation meters which are read every day.

Mr Carey said that his company faces four per cent losses and has 34,000 customers. Its revenues are around 70 million dollars and meter reading is conducted every month, he added.

Both said that their companies take stern action against defaulters. ''Our Company has a problem with subsidies. Things you do not pay for have no value. This culture has to change,'' they said, adding ''Farmers should understand the process.'' They said the thrust of their company is to ensure how to distribute power in an economical way.

USAID New Delhi Senior Program Manager Gaurav Bhatiani said that apart from Aurangabad, the DRUM project is in progress in New Delhi in association with the North Delhi Power Company, in Doddaballapura (Bangalore) with local power distribution company BESCOM and in Umred (Gujarat) with the local power distribution company.

Dr Pandey informed that Afghanistan Electricity Company officials visited the city recently and requested the MSEDCL officials to train them in power distribution sector.

UNI MR NM AK KP1859

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