Smart Systems: Increasing adoption of cutting-edge technology across discoms

Increasing adoption of cutting-edge technology across discoms

In recent years, the power distribution segment has witnessed an upsurge in the deployment of smart metering solutions, smart grid infrastructure and digital solutions to improve operational and financial performance. The Ministry of Power’s Revamped Distribution Sec­tor Scheme (RDSS) focuses majorly on network strengthening and smart me­te­ring infrastructure. With an outlay of Rs 3,037.58 billion for a period of five years (2021-22 to 2025-26), the scheme aims to provide financial assistance to disco­ms to enable modernisation and streng­thening of distribution infrastructure, and improvements in reliability and quality of supply to end consumers. It also aims to provide 250 million smart prepaid meters to consumers all over the country. Around 100 million prepaid smart meters are proposed to be ins­tall­ed by December 2023, under the sche­me’s first phase.

Additionally, in order to enhance operations, electricity distribution companies are rapidly implementing cutting-edge technology. New and evolving technologies such as the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can improve situational awareness, control and security in order to revolutionise the grid, going forward.

Smart metering

The deployment of smart meters is gaining traction in a big way in the power distribution segment. Smart meters can improve the operational and financial performance of discoms by automatically generating bills, preventing delayed payments through the remote disconnections feature and reducing AT&C losses, among other things.

So far, 5.41 million smart meters have be­en installed in the country. Scheme-wise, over 810,257 smart meters have be­en ins­talled under the Integrated Power Deve­lop­ment Scheme (IPDS), while 155,841 have been installed under (NSGM). In addition, 153,813 smart me­ters have been installed under the Prime Minister’s Development Package and 38,400 under the Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yo­jana (DDUGJY). Among ag­encies, Energy Efficiency Services Limi­ted has installed 3,291,838 smart meters, REC Power De­ve­lopment and Consultan­cy Limited has installed 178,027 smart meters, and PFC Consulting Limited has installed 151,015 smart meters. Further, various power utilities have cumulatively installed 1,790,486 smart meters.

The RDSS is focused on reducing aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses to 12-15 per cent across India. Th­rough 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. Prepaid smart metering is the critical intervention envisaged un­der RDSS, with an estimated outlay of ar­­ound Rs 1,500 billion. So far, 173,439,869 prepaid smart meters, 4,902,755 distribution transformer me­ters and 168,085 feeder meter have been sanctioned acro­ss 23 states/40 discoms under RDSS, with a total sanctioned cost of Rs 1,154.94 billion.

Smart grid projects

Currently, two smart grid projects are be­ing implemented under the NSGM to cater to 179,433 consumers at a cost of Rs 1.16 billion. These projects are being im­­plemented at Subdivision 5 of the Chandigarh Electricity Division (CED), and the six towns of Baran, Bharatpur, Bundi, Dholpur, Jhalawar and Karauli un­der Jaipur Vidyut Vitran Nigam Limi­ted (JVVNL). The key functionalities to be implemented by these projects are ad­­vanced metering infrastructure (AMI), distribution transformer monito­ring units, and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems. As of December 2022, a total of 151,714 smart meters have been installed under the projects, including 24,214 smart meters at CED’s Subdivision 5, and 127,500 under JVVNL.

Smart meters, which are powered by AMI, enable a two-way communication bet­ween the utility and customers as well as the collection and transfer of in­formation about energy use almost in real time. The AMI has a variety of features, including load management, outage handling, remote meter reading, re­mote connection and disconnection, self-diagnosis, automatic and timely in­voicing, and a prepayment option. The implementation of smart grids is quickly gaining pace due to the constantly ev­olving power industry and governmental policies aimed towards grid modernisation and digitisation. By utilising rene­wable energy sources more often and reducing the usage of fossil fuels, smart grids help protect the environment, reduce carbon emissions and assist utilities by enhancing distributed generation and demand response. Addi­tionally, they can cope with ageing infrastructu­re, enhance asset utilisation and impro­ve dependability. A crucial role is also played by communication techno­logies. A specialised network controlled by utilities, such as SCADA systems, can now be used for communication. By optimising network operations, a SCADA system enhances system safety, increases process efficiency and enables energy savings. In addition to helping utilities su­pply power to their customers consistently and safely, a well-planned and managed SCADA system also helps re­du­ce costs and increase customer satisfaction and retention.

New and emerging digital tools

AI and ML can significantly transform the operations and performance of power dis­tribution utilities. Depending on the requirements of utilities, they can be ap­plied across the value chain. Based on analysis of the data gathered by the system’s installed sensors, AI and ML modules could be developed. Insights gained via the use of AI and ML may in turn be used to forecast network failures, schedu­le early interventions and prevent disruptions. Discoms are also utilising conversational AI or chatbots to handle frequent client enquiries. To tackle frequent consumer queries and interactions, several discoms nowadays use mobile applications and chatbots on their websites. The AI and ML applications could also used for demand forecasting and time-of-day predictive analysis.

The efficiency of distribution networks can be increased considerably by implementing IoT-based solutions. IoT refers to a system of interconnected devices that transmit data. IoT devices enable seamless data interaction by using sensors and actuators to gather data in real time and store it in the cloud. The system can detect flaws immediately and take suitable action by using IoT. Going out and physically inspecting the distribution network and equipment takes a lot of human effort. Using IoT systems and devices minimises this human intervention. The location of the equipment in need of repair may be determined by uti­lising online monitoring.

Another technology that is gaining traction among distribution utilities is advan­ced distribution management systems (ADMS). ADMS automates outage resto­ration and improves distribution grid performance, and it supports the complete range of distribution, management and optimisation. In addition to fault id­entification, isolation and restoration, peak demand management, volt/volt am­pere reactive optimisation, conservation through voltage reduction, and support for microgrids and electric cars are also aspects of the ADMS.


Insights gained from IoT device data may be applied in a variety of ways to better serve customers, increase productivity, facilitate decision-making, avoid failures and boost asset performance. IoT coupled with AI and ML is an emerging technology being used for discom operations. It has proven to be a ground-breaking te­chnology that has opened up a wide range of possibilities and prospects for in­novation across the sector. Utilities need to engage in innovation to confer on the existing grid co­m­ponents reliability, robustness and affordability, as the energy sector shifts toward renewable energy and electric cars in the near future. Th­ro­ugh sensors, real-time information can be obtained. Algorithms can be employed to analyse the data acquired from real-time data to optimise scheduling and forecast load patterns, hence improving efficiency.

The insights and visibility needed to de­crease downtime are being provided by advancements in data collection and analysis, assisting utilities in becoming more efficient. Utilities may utilise this data to predict breakdowns and proacti­vely solve issues before they arise by mo­nitoring the distribution network’s status in real time. In order to improve efficiency and reliability, utilities are leveraging data to improve the accuracy of their plans.

Given that the country’s energy consumption is growing and is expected to soar in the years ahead, implementing new technologies will undoubtedly be ad­­vantageous for utilities. Going forwa­rd, new and emerging technologies will play a key role in building a resilient sm­art grid of the future.