The Covid-19 crisis has brought in sharp focus the metering practices of distribution companies and the benefits that they can derive from smart meters. Some of the smart meter features that are proving to be most relevant to utilities during these challenging times are real-time monitoring of consumption data and remote disconnection and reconnection. Madhya Pradesh’s state discom, Madhya Pradesh PaschimKshetraVidyutVitaran Company Limited (MPPKVVCL), which has implemented a smart metering project in one of its circles, has benefitted significantly from switching over to this technology. A look at the utility’s smart metering experience.
MPPKVVCL’s smart metering journey
MPPKVVCL has a consumer base of around 5.2 million, which is almost entirely metered, barring around 1.3 million agricultural pump connections, which remain unmetered.
Earlier, the discom had implemented automatic meter reading (AMR) systems for about 40,000 consumers. For these consumers, GPRS-based technology was being used. However, this GPRS-based communication was not very reliable, and only 80 per cent of these 40,000 meters were readable at any given point of time.
MPPKVVCL’s smart metering project entailed the installation of about 140,000 smart meters in Indore Smart City at a cost of around Rs 600 million. The project, which is one of the biggest in terms of smart metering installations in the country, has been functioning successfully. For this project, the discom opted for radio frequency (RF)-based technology. This has given the network self-healing capabilities and better reliability, thus helping the utility achieve 100 per cent readability.
The utility has derived a number of other benefits as well from the smart metering project, including lower losses in high-loss feeders. These losses have come down from 34 per cent to 19 per cent. Another positive is that the utility has been able to recover the amount spent on the smart metering project within one year. Smart meters have also helped the discom in energy accounting by cutting down the delta between the recording of sales and input energy, thereby removing any reading errors. Smart metering has particularly helped the discom during the Covid-19 pandemic by enabling it to obtain remote meter readings. Also, since each smart meter has a unique ID, it can be monitored, blocked or even be given higher loads to handle, without any risk to security.
Smart metering in Indore has helped the company gain confidence in implementing more such projects. The discom is now coming out with another bid wherein it will install 350,000 smart meters in five other towns of Madhya Pradesh, with the per-node cost estimated at Rs 7,000.
Meanwhile, during the current pandemic, the discom is billing customers based on implicit consumption values in cases where AMR and smart meters have not been implemented. It has uploaded all bills on its website to circumvent the challenge of physical distribution of bills and thereby maintain social distancing. The utility is also encouraging consumers to make payments through its online payment platform and is offering a bouquet of payment options.
In the long term, MPPKVVCL plans to cover the entire Indore city and as many urban conglomerations and areas as possible to deploy smart meters, provided the commercials work out. The utility is more inclined to adopt RF technology for future projects. Another technology platform it is considering is MBit, for which it plans to undertake some pilots to assess the feasibility of the technology. Lastly, as a part of its efforts to improve the distribution infrastructure under the Smart City Initiative, apart from smart metering, the utility is planning to undertake projects relating to underground cabling, installation of transformers, GIS-based substations and communications through SCADA.
Based on remarks by M.K. Jhaw ar, Director Commercial, MPPKVVCL