One of the key highlights of the amendment to the Tariff Policy, announced in January 2016, was the provision regarding the mandatory installation of smart meters for consumers with more than 200 units of monthly electricity consumption. Further, in the amendment introduced in August 2016, smart metering was made mandatory for all consumers up to 132 kV. In line with these provisions, Kota Electricity Distribution Limited (KEDL), a wholly owned subsidiary of CESC Limited and the distribution franchisee of Jaipur Vidyut Vitran Nigam Limited for Kota, is implementing advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) in its franchise area.
A look at the key features of the smart meter roll-out in Kota…
In any smart metering infrastructure, the most crucial component is communication technology. The company conducted trials on three communication technologies, point-to-point GPRS/3G (cellular), power line communication (PLC) and radio frequency (RF) mesh communication. It finally adopted RF mesh technology. While PLC serves better in a cluster of meters and cellular works better for scattered deployment, RF mesh technology proved to be the most suited for bulk communication.
The communication network must have a self-healing feature so that it adjusts itself as per the network requirements under all conditions. When deciding the final technology, the key features and parameters that need to be considered are optimal path selection, auto discovery, and the possibility of adding backhaul connections. Further, the technology should have the ability to recalculate the optimal path, enable automatic re-clustering when backhauls are added, and reconfigure the system in real time in case of backhaul or path failure.
During smart meter roll-out, the utility should aim at optimising and integrating the communication technologies being used for other operations such as street lighting and feeder automation. The technology adopted by KEDL can host a number of applications including smart electricity meters, water meters, gas meters, solar inverters and smart street lighting. It can also be used for pollution sensors, motion sensors, traffic signals, charging electric vehicles and load control. The system is being provided by Silver Spring Networks, which is based on RF mesh (865–867 MHz) using IS 16444-compliant smart meters. The deployment will cover over 180,000 consumers across the franchise service area.
The roll-out of smart meters by the utility is aimed at improving the quality of service. Through AMI, the customers are able to check their everyday consumption and audit their bills. The consumers also have access to their intra-day consumption at 15-minute intervals. This information empowers the consumers, and helps them lower their consumption.
Further, the smart meters electronically index consumers through a synchronised outage restoration method. The readings help calculate the losses of all distribution transformers and feeders. Once the losses are determined, the utility is able to identify the problem areas and work on them. The power outage detection module in smart meters enables proactive restoration of service. The online system allows the utility to respond to the outages even without the consumer reporting them. The geospatial outage monitoring system allows operations and maintenance teams to identify the nature of outage through geographical references, thereby creating a better understanding and enabling faster restoration.
The smart meters being installed by the utility can also double up as net meters. If a consumer installs a grid-connected rooftop solar system, the same meter can be configured as a net meter, that too from a remote location. This meter can also be converted into a prepaid meter with the help of relevant software applications. Such software will add value by providing updates regarding the tentative balance exhaustion date, low balance alert, disconnection warning, usage trend, etc., to the consumers. This feature is not available in the existing meters, but will be added in due course.
Utilities have been grappling with power theft for a long time. While they have fortified static meters over the years, they have not been able to source the information regarding thefts. With smart meters being deployed in Kota, the utility is able to detect neutral disturbances and other abnormalities. The smart meters have an anti-theft system, which helps track theft events through push alerts.
Smart meters in Kota are not being deployed as a solution to any particular problem, but to improve the operational and financial performance of the area.
Based on inputs from a presentation by Udayan Ganguly, Deputy General Manager, CESC Kota