Modernisation Drive

Smart meter deployment under various government schemes

The central government has undertaken various programmes and initiatives for implementing smart metering across the country. In August 2022, the prime minister launched the Revamped Distribution Sector Scheme (RDSS), with an overall outlay of Rs 3.03 trillion, to improve operational efficiency and financial sustainability of discoms by providing result-linked financial assistance. 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 advanced metering infrastructure and communicable meters for distribution transformers and feeders, among other things. The scheme incorporates all current projects sanctioned under programmes such as the Integrated Power the Development Scheme (IPDS), the Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY), and the Prime Minister’s Development Package (PMDP) – 2015. So far, around 11,275,739 smart meters have been sanctioned across the country and 5,061,013 smart meters have been installed (as per the National Smart Grid Mission [NSGM] dashboard accessed on October 28, 2022). Additionally, 6,214,726 smart meters are yet to be installed.

Scheme-wise, over 810,250 smart meters have been installed under the IPDS, while 144,259 smart meters have been installed under the NSGM. In addition to this, 122,449 smart meters have been installed under the PMDP and 38,400 under the DDUGJY. Among agencies, Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) has installed 3,055,899 smart meters and REC Power Development and Consultancy Limited has installed 146,662 smart meters. Further, power utilities have cumulatively installed 1,712,683 smart meters and PFC Consulting Limited has installed 145,769 smart meters.

Progress under smart metering

RDSS: In the grand finale marking the culmination of “Ujjwal Bharat Ujjwal Bhavishya – Power @2047”, the prime minister has launched the Ministry of Power’s (MoP) flagship RDSS, which is aimed at improving the operational efficiency and financial sustainability of distribution companies, with an outlay of Rs 3,037.58 billion over a period of five years, from 2021-22 to 2025-26. The outlay includes an estimated government budgetary support of Rs 976.31 billion.

This is a conditional scheme, where funds are released on meeting the pre-qualifying criteria and achieving basic minimum benchmarks. It aims to reduce aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses to pan-Indian levels of 12-15 per cent by 2024-25 and reduce the gap between the average cost of supply and the average revenue realised to zero by 2024-25. Further, it aims to develop institutional capabilities for modern discoms, and improve the quality, reliability and affordability of power supply to consumers, through a financially sustainable and operationally efficient distribution segment.

The scheme has two key parts. Part A comprises metering and distribution infrastructure works and Part B includes training and capacity building as well as other enabling and supporting activities. Part A broadly includes three components – financial support for prepaid smart metering and system metering, upgradation of the distribution infrastructure, and project management. Under metering, the scheme envisages installation of around 250 million prepaid smart meters for all consumers, except agricultural consumers. Priority will be given to all 500 Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) cities, union territories, industrial and commercial consumers including micro, small and medium enterprises, government offices (at the block level and above) and high-loss areas. In addition, the scheme envisages separation works for 10,000 agricultural feeders with an investment of Rs 200 billion. Thereafter, these feeders are solarised under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (PM-KUSUM) – leading to cheap/ free daytime power for irrigation. Apart from this, the RDSS proposes the implementation of the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system in all urban areas and distribution management systems in 100 urban centres.

Recently, the MoP issued the country’s largest ever tender for procuring 10 million smart meters. Close to a dozen meter manufacturers and leading power sector conglomerates have participated in the pre-bid meetings and are likely to submit interest for the same. This includes the Adani Group, Larsen & Toubro Limited, Robert Bosch, EdF, Tata Power, India Power and Ashoka Buildcon. Leading meter makers such as Landis+Gyr, Schneider, Secure Meters, Anvil Cables and Avon have also participated in the pre-bidding discussions and are likely to place bids. Intellismart, a joint venture of state-owned entity EESL and NIIF, has also shown interest. Reportedly, The first phase of the tender is for procurement of 2.5 million meters, which will be installed in the central and western region of the country. The tender has been floated by Power Grid Corporation of India for installing advanced metering infrastructure projects.

IPDS: According to the latest data from the IPDS portal for smart metering, the total approved project cost and project management agency cost is around Rs 2.29 billion and the total government grant is Rs 1.44 billion, of which Rs 812.4 million has been released.

NSGM: Launched in 2015, the NSGM aims to support the development of smart grid projects in the country. Under the NSGM, as of now, 143,920 smart meters have been installed, out of the 179,433 sanctioned. Currently, under the NSGM, two projects worth Rs 1,160.1 million to cater to 179,433 consumers are being implemented. These include two in Chandigarh (sub-division 5), and one integrated project in six towns in Rajasthan. Till September 2022, about 143,651 smart meters have been installed on field in the Chandigarh Subdivision 5 and in Rajasthan projects. Of these, 24,213 smart meters have been installed by the Chandigarh Electricity Department in Subdivision 5 to cater to 29,433 consumers and Jaipur Vidyut Vitran Nigam Limited has installed 119,438 smart meters to cater to 0.15 million consumers. The project entails deployment of smart meters, automated metering infrastructure, distribution transformer monitoring units and SCADA systems. Further, the NSGM will focus on handholding state discoms through state-level project management units for the development of state-specific smart grid road maps. It will also emphasise the adoption of smart grid readiness-self-assessment tool and cost-benefit analysis tool.

SMNP: EESL is implementing the Smart Meter National Programme (SMNP) to provide smart meters to utilities on a rental basis for replacing conventional meters. The programme aims to replace 250 million conventional meters in India, with smarter versions, in order to increase billing efficiencies and reduce the AT&C losses of discoms. IntelliSmart has signed agreements for smart meters with Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Bihar, the New Delhi Municipal Council, Rajasthan and Telangana, and for prepaid meters with Uttar Pradesh and Tripura. The programme has a unique characteristic of the opex model that seeks no upfront capex from discoms or state governments and is modelled on the public-private participation framework.

As per the SMNP dashboard accessed in October 2022, around 1.58 million smart meters have been installed and average discom revenues increased by 20.5 per cent, amounting to an increase of Rs 301 per month per meter. AT&C losses were reduced by 11-36 per cent on an average. Billing efficiency improved by 21 per cent and the total revenue increased by Rs 2.64 billion per annum for about 1.1 million smart meters.

Conclusion

Distribution utilities are revamping their metering infrastructure in a big way, with the adoption of smart meters to improve their operational and financial performance. In the past 12 months (October 2021 to September 2022), about 2 billion smart meters have been installed. The pace of smart meter installation is expected to continue and gain further momentum on the back of the MoP’s RDSS initiative, which envisages deployment of 250 million smart prepaid meters for all domestic consumers by March 2025.

Given the enormous amount of data that will be produced, meter data management systems – that combine and store data from meters and employ meter data analytics to derive relevant, actionable inferences – are anticipated to become an important area of concentration for discoms. Future technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and internet of things may also be helpful for this. Having said that, there is a need to deal with difficulties relating to interoperability, integration of the legacy billing system and workforce training in order to hasten the implementation of smart meters. Furthermore, with the growing interconnectedness and access to granular power consumption data, maintaining data privacy and ensuring cybersecurity are paramount.

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