Views of Vishal Kapoor: “To achieve 100 per cent metering, market readiness is essential”

“To achieve 100 per cent metering, market readiness is essential”

Meters are the most important element in the power distribution segment. They enables measurement, monitoring and modification of energy consumption. The Ministry of Power (MoP) has been working on 100 per cent metering in the country through various programmes such as the Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS), Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY), Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojna (DDUGJY) and Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana (Saubhagya). The metering landscape is also witnessing a significant change with an increased focus on the installation of smart meters. At a recent Smart Utilities conference on Metering in India, Vishal Kapoor, director, distribution, MoP, discussed the status of metering, the various ongoing government initiatives and the future initiatives. Excerpts…

Metering requirement and provisions

The increased focus on metering is driven mainly by the positive correlation between the level of metering and the level of aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses. The government aims to bring down the AT&C losses to 15 per cent by end-2019 from the current level of around 19.8 per cent. AT&C losses have already declined post the implementation of UDAY. The billing efficiency in 2016-17 was recorded at 83 per cent, however, the target is to increase it to around 88 per cent. It cannot be done just through consumer metering. End-to-end metering is crucial for identifying the loss pockets and undertaking loss reduction measures.

Amongst the regulatory provisions, the most central provision is laid out in the Electricity Act, 2003, which says that no licensee shall supply electricity without the installation of a correct meter. The National Tariff Policy, 2016 also lays special emphasis on metering. As per the policy, metering is crucial to segregate technical loss from commercial loss. The completion of metering is also an important pre-requisite for setting the baseline data for multi-year tariffs for a control period. The policy also talks about smart metering and says that all meters should progressively become smart meters. It also advises state electricity regulatory commissions to “encourage metering and billing based on metering” by incentivising the consumer categories that are unmetered. The Central Electricity Authority had also specified the Metering Regulations, 2006 that have been duly amended from time to time.

Current status

As of May 2018, the total number of unmetered consumers was estimated to be around 12.3 million, excluding the unconnected consumers which aggregated to around 31.9 million, taking the total number of meters required to be installed to about 44.2 million. Almost half of the unmetered connections are in Uttar Pradesh, followed by Maharashtra (20 per cent) and Jharkhand (13 per cent). DT metering stands at 51 per cent and 58 per cent in the rural and urban areas respectively. However, 100 per cent feeder metering has been already achieved.

Of the total meter requirement of 44.2 million, IPDS and DDUGJY cover around 23.4 million meters. The two schemes also cover over 600,000 system meters, including DT meters. The remaining are expected to be covered by the states. Further, there are some provisions in Saubhagya as well. All the government schemes together largely cover all the metering requirements of the country. With the feeder metering complete, the focus is now on enabling communication with the feeders. IPDS and DDUGJY have already covered a significant number of feeders. Currently, about 31,500 feeders are already communicating data to the national power portal (NPP) and around 11,500 are remaining. Of the remaining feeders, about 2,500 are already integrated with the national power portal, but not yet communicating data. Online metering for the remaining 9,000 meters has also been sanctioned under the IPDS IT-enablement Phase II of the 125,000 rural feeders, 30,000 feeders are communicating data with the NPP. Further, 47,000 modems have already been installed and are expected to be fully integrated by end-2018.

Metering initiatives

Metering is amongst the principal objectives under all government initiatives related to power distribution. Aimed at providing 24×7 power supply in urban areas, IPDS has metering of distribution transformers/feeders/consumers in the urban areas among its key objectives. It envisages the installation of smart meters with supervisory control and data acquisition systems in all urban areas. About 248,000 smart meters have been sanctioned under the scheme. DDUGJY aims at strengthening of distribution infrastructure in rural areas, including metering distribution transformers, feeders and consumers. UDAY, launched in 2015, has made feeder and DT metering compulsory in order to improve the operational efficiency of discoms. It has also mandated the deployment of smart meters for all consumers with a consumption of more than 200 units per month. Saubhagya aims to connect all the remaining unconnected households by end-2019. Under the scheme, all connections are to be metered. No connections will be released without a meter.

The development of smart metering infrastructure is an emphasis area under the multiple initiatives undertaken by the Indian government. Recently, under IPDS, sanctions worth Rs 7.5 billion have been issued for the procurement of over 3.7 million smart meters to discoms based on their performance under UDAY. Apart from UDAY and IPDS, the government has set up the National Smart Grid Mission (NSGM), which is mandated to plan and monitor programmes related to smart grids, including smart metering. Under NSGM, two projects, one in Maharashtra and the other in Chandigarh, are being implemented with smart meters planned to be installed for over 300,000 consumers. Various pilot projects (including the establishment of knowledge centres) implementing various functionalities through smart meters are also being executed. Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) is assisting in the implementation of smart meters. It has already procured over 50 million smart meters that are now being installed. It is also in the process of procuring 100 million prepaid meters.

Future initiatives

In order to achieve 100 per cent metering and large scale roll-out of smart meters and prepaid meters, market readiness is essential. Estimates suggest that the industry capacity for metering is around 50 million per annum, including smart metering capacity of 25 million per annum. It is not just the manufacturing capacity that needs to be scaled up, but the deployment capacity too. Given that the business environment of metering is changing, new types of players and models are required. Interoperability, especially in the field of smart meters, is also an important factor to be considered. The imperative for interoperability comes from the trade-off between innovation and standardisation, as well as the need to balance risks and costs.

Readiness of all stakeholders (market as well as the utilities) for different kinds of models and investment is also important. The ecosystem for prepaid metering has to be in place. While such meters are already available, innovations are required to ease the implementation further and enhance the takeup. An enabling environment needs to be created. The most important thing that has been largely overlooked till now is consumer engagement. The industry and utilities have a responsibility to make a value proposition for consumers. There is a need to improve consumer interaction through metering by providing them information about energy consumption, sending periodic updates and suggesting avenues for energy savings.