The role of metering in India has evolved significantly over the years. Besides helping utilities in energy accounting and revenue management, advanced metering plays a crucial role in the reduction of power losses, integration of renewable energy and load management. Metering is carried out at different levels – feeder level, distribution transformer (DT) level as well as consumer level. Several technologies are being adopted by utilities including prepaid meters, post-paid meters, net meters and smart meters. Although these have been in place for some time, utilities continue to grapple with challenges such as data handling and communication network interoperability.
A look at the progress and plans on metering practices adopted by some of the leading public and private discoms…
BSES Rajdhani Power Limited
Currently, all high tension (HT) consumers with current transformers, which comprise bulk consumers, have deployed automatic meter reading (AMR) systems. These meters have smart communication facilities. While some are AMR based (reading every half-hour or-on demand basis), others are supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) (reading every minute). In 2019-20, the company recorded a transmission and distribution loss of 7.2 per cent. Hence, there is not much scope for commercial loss reduction.
The discom has adopted smart meters to overcome a number of issues. For instance, all government connections have smart meters installed in the prepaid mode. In high-loss areas, especially in slums and villages, pole-mounted smart meters have been deployed. Some of these have connect/disconnect facility, while some have AMR facility. Street light meter-cum-controllers with continuous communication facility, have also been deployed by the discom. Also, all e-rickshaw charging points are using pole-mounted CT meters.
There are around 20,000 consumers currently using smart meters in the prepaid mode with BRPL. As for the future plans, the company plans to scale up its smart metering coverage. As for technology selection, it will be decided based on discussions with the vendors.
Madhya Pradesh PaschimKshetraVidyutVitaran Company Limited
Of the 5.2 million consumers of Madhya Pradesh PaschimKshetraVidyutVitaran Company Limited (MPPKVVCL), 1.3 million are agricultural connections, which are not yet metered and the regulator has allowed a flat rate of tariff for such consumers. Other than agricultural consumers, all consumers under MPPKVVCL are metered.
A smart metering project has been completed successfully by the utility in Indore city, under which it has installed 0.12 million smart meters. The cost of implementation of the project was around Rs 8,000 per node. The project uses RF technology, which has self-healing properties and has a 100 per cent meter reading success. This project has particularly helped the discom in the current Covid-19 crisis, wherein physical bill distribution and meter reading activities have been curtailed.
The utility also has 40,000 consumers with AMR meters based on GPRS-based technology. However, only 80 per cent of the meters can be read at any given point of time for such consumers. Recently, the utility has come out with a bid to install 0.35 million smart meters in five different towns of Madhya Pradesh. The cost for this project is estimated at Rs 7,000 per node.
As for communication technology, the discom plans to use RF mesh technology for its future projects.
West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited
West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (WBSEDCL) has a consumer base of 19.5 million, comprising 17.1 million domestic consumers, 1.7 million commercial consumers and 0.36 million agricultural consumers. All its consumers are metered. The utility started its metering journey with the installation of conventional meters in 2003-04 and has now shifted all its consumers to static energy meters. Further, of the 0.275 million DTs in its system, metering has been completed for around 51,980 DTs, while for the rest it is under way.
WBSEDCL has completed a pilot smart metering project in Siliguri district of West Bengal, installing close to 5,300 postpaid meters – 5,164 single-phase meters and 130 three-phase smart meters. The project was a part of the National Smart Grid Mission, which received 50 per cent grant, while the remaining 50 per cent was funded by the discom. The total expenditure incurred in the project was around Rs 70 million. The project covered 46 DTs and went live on December 31, 2018. The experience of the utility from the pilot has been good and it receives around 98 per cent of the data through the infrastructure.
A key area of concern for the discom is its aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses. The state regulator allows 17.5 per cent of the normative loss, while at present WBSEDCL AT&C loss is 22.97 per cent. Amounting to financial losses for the discom. (The discom estimates 1 per cent loss as equivalent to a loss of Rs 1.5 billion.)
The discom is planning to install 322,361 smart meters in the three towns of Asansol, Kharagpur and Mouda in West Bengal. The project is being funded by the World Bank. It covers 315,167 single-phase meters, 7,194 three-phase consumer meters and 4,107 DTs. Because of the Covid-19 situation, the tendering activity for these projects has been delayed and is expected to be completed by September 2020, with the installation work to be completed in another 24 months.
Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited
The total number of smart meters installed by Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited (TPDDL) is currently around 195,000. Of those, 60,000 are polyphase connections, while 135,000 are single-phase connections. During the Covid-19 pandemic, smart metering proved quite helpful because reading-based billing could be done for all these consumers. Of the 72,000 advanced metering infrastructure meters installed by TPDDL for high-end consumers, around 30,000 have been replaced with smart meters. Further, 5,472 prepaid meters are being used in government connections and temporary connections.
TPDDL uses its own RF technology. Backhaul is also being done on its dedicated RF network, hence, ensuring greater dependability and reliability. Going forward, the company’s roadmap is to install smart meters, which can be either in prepaid or post-paid mode. However, due to the Covid lockdown, the pace of smart metering activity at TPDDL has slowed down. The discom was able to install around 15,000 meters per month during the pre-Covid period.
The company has also made different meters interoperable in its network by the use of NIC cards. The NIC card, once inserted in any meter, makes the communication system interoperable with any meter.
The adoption of metering technologies has been driven by various motives across utilities. While some utilities are driven by loss reduction, others are driven to enhance their operations by working on demand response, network planning and peak load management. More importantly, the Covid pandemic has brought into sharp focus the need to obtain meter readings without human intervention. Though the pandemic has hit the timeline for installation of smart meters, going ahead, it is likely to pick up at a faster pace.
(Based on remarks by Rajesh Bansal, Senior Vice-President, BRPL; SurajitChakraborty, Resident Director, WBSEDCL; Manoj Kumar Jhawar, Director (Commercial), MPPKVVCL; and SubhadipRaychaudhuri, Head of Department and DGM, TPDDL, at a recent webinar organised by Power Line)