Smart Metering Update

Government schemes and deployment challenges

Smart meters provide remarkable solutions to increase the operational efficiency of discoms. Due to a plethora of proven commercial benefits offered, discoms have been adopting smart meters increasingly and this has created a huge market potential for sm­art meters.

So far, discoms have been installing smart meters under various government schemes such as the Smart Metering National Programme (SMNP) that has an ambitious goal of replacing 250 million conventional meters with smart me­ters across India, the Integrated Pow­er Development Sc­he­me (IPDS), the Na­tional Smart Grid Mi­s­sion and the Mi­nis­try of Power’s (MoP’s) smart grid pilots. In addition, va­rious states including Bihar, Uttar Pra­desh, Manipur, and Tripura undertook projects of their own. With electricity consumers experiencing a phenomenal change in terms of how they receive and pay their bills, owing to the introduction of an advanced smart metering technology, over 11,249,751 smart meters have been sanctioned acro­ss the country and 4,053,138 smart met­ers have been installed (as per NSGM da­shboard accessed on March 24, 2022).

Scheme-wise, over 1,412,161 smart mete­rs have been installed under IPDS, wh­ile 129,768 smart meters have been in­stalled under NSGM. In addition to this, 39,167 smart meters have been ins­talled under the Prime Minister’s De­velopment Pack­age (PMDP) and 38,400 under the Deen­dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY). Among agencies, Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) has installed 2,427,984 smart me­ters and REC Power Development and Consultancy Li­mited (RECPDCL) has installed 62,543 smart meters. Further, power utilities ha­ve cumulatively installed 1,486,899 sm­art meters, and PFC Consulting Limi­ted has installed 75,712 smart meters.

Major smart meter deployment schemes in India

RDSS

For helping discoms in improving operational efficiencies and gaining more financial sustainability, the government approved RDSS in 2021 for strengthening the supply infrastructure of the distribution sector, based on the fulfilment of pre-qualifying criteria and achievement of basic minimum benchmarks.

With an outlay of Rs 3,037.58 billion over five years, the scheme aims to reduce ag­g­­regate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses to 12-15 per cent pan-In­dia. The outlay also includes an estima­ted government budgetary support of Rs 976.31 billion. With the help of this sche­me, discoms and power de­partments will have increased access to funds for prepaid smart metering, distribution infrastructure works and system metering for modernisation as well as loss reduction. The scheme focuses on facilitating installation of prepaid smart meters for all consumers along with associated AMI, and communicable meters for DTs and feeders, among other things.

SMNP

Implemen­ted by EESL, SMNP aims at replacing 250 million conventional me­ters with smart meters in the country. Functio­ning un­der the MoP as a superior energy service provider, EESL’s business model requires no upfront investment by discoms and the agency will be bearing all the capital expenditure and operating expenses. With the aim of en­abling consumers and industries to control and manage their energy needs th­ro­ugh smart and energy-efficient sol­u­tions, EESL has signed ag­reements for smart meters with Bihar, Andhra Pra­de­sh, Uttar Pradesh, Raja­sthan, Telan­ga­na, Har­yana and the New Delhi Munici­pal Council. Mean­while, for prepaid meters, the agency has sign­ed agreements with Tripura and Uttar Pradesh. To further fi­nance, operate and implement the sma­rt meter roll-out program­me, EESL en­ter­ed into a joint venture with the Na­tional Investment and Infra­structure Fund and IntelliSmart Infra­structure Private Limited.

As per the SMNP dashboard accessed in March 2022, around 1.57 million smart meters have been installed so far. The average discom revenues have increased by 20.5 per cent, leading to an increase of Rs 301 per month per meter. Also, AT&C losses were reduced by 11-36 per cent, while billing efficiency increased by 21 per cent. Furthermore, the total re­ve­nue increased by Rs 2.64 billion per an­num for about 1.1 million smart me­ters. It is also worth noting that prepaid meters in Bihar witnessed an increase in revenues by 140-150 per cent.

Remarkably, several states have come forward to enhance smart metering infrastructure in the country and implementation works have commen­c­ed in several states such as Haryana (for 246,951 smart meters), Uttar Pradesh (1,144,932 smart meters), Bihar (103,941 smart meters), Delhi (58,840 smart me­ters), Rajasthan (494 smart meters) and Andaman & Nicobar Islands (for 23,906 smart meters). The SMNP is under discussion before implementation in Ar­unachal Pradesh (182,699 smart me­te­rs), Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir (913,132 smart meters), West Bengal (2 million smart meters).

IPDS

The IPDS notified by the MoP in 2014, aims to provide quality and reliable po­wer supply for strengthening the power distribution network in urban areas. The scheme focused on reducing AT&C losses as well as establishing IT-enabled en­er­gy accounting to further improve collection efficiency. As per the latest information available from the IPDS portal, for smart metering, the approv­ed project cost and project management agen­cy cost are Rs 3.84 billion and Rs 19.2 million, respectively. The total go­v­ern­me­nt grant approved is Rs 2.37 billion, of which Rs 422.7 million has been releas­ed. Further, the MoP has ap­p­roved sm­art metering projects under IPDS, based on improved performance parameters as per the Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana.

NSGM

Established in 2015, NSGM has been operational since January 2016, aiming to accelerate the smart meter deployment in the country. As of now, 129,768 smart me­ters have been installed out of the 723,433 sanctioned. In order to bring a uniformity of approach for the implementation of smart consumer metering solutions across the country by utilities, NSGM also focused on issuing standard bidding documents for the selection of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) service providers. As of now, four smart grid projects have been sanctioned under this programme. These projects are un­der various stages of development and are to be executed in the entire city of Ch­an­digarh, excluding Subdivision-5 (und­er the Chandigarh Electricity Division [CED]), in Ranchi city (under Jharkhand Bijli Vitran Nigam Limited, in Sub­divi­sion-5 of Chandigarh (under CED), and in six towns under Jaipur Vidyut Vitran Nigam Limited.

Challenges

One of the key challenges facing the seamless deployment of smart meters de­als with the aspect of smart meters being more than just mere hardware co­mponents. Smart metering requires an entire infrastructure to support functions spanning from billing to payment, since replacing conventional meters with smart meters is bound to have implications beyond addressal of metering and billing issues in the sector. To reap the benefits of improved detection of outages and losses in the system, better service quality and load management, it becom­es crucial to closely monitor the implementation of various smart metering sc­hemes and programmes. In addition to this, utilities will have to adopt communication systems that can be updated securely and remotely. In addition to the aforementioned issues, the integration of data from smart meters with the help of the meter data management system and collection software is another challenge, since the entire process needs seamless automation through cloud-based services for reaping maximum benefits. The lack of communication by some installed smart meters and excessive time taken for integrating AMI with the legacy billing software of discoms are some other issues that need to be addressed.

To conclude, smart meters are set to be the main interface between consumers and discoms all over the country and la­r­ge-scale implementation can be achie­ved through extensive analysis and evaluation by regulators, focusing on lear­nings from various schemes and pilot projects. A lot needs to be done in terms of addressing issues related to transmission and distribution losses, po­w­er theft, metering efficiency and sp­reading awareness about smart meters.

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