Water utilities in India are struggling to meet the rising demand for water, resulting in a growing disparity between supply and demand. Some of the major issues and challenges faced by the water sector are pipeline leakages, high non-revenue water (NRW), intermittent water supply, depletion of groundwater sources and rapidly polluting surface water. This is necessitating an expansion of the service network in cities and the adoption of state-of-the-art digital technologies.
City authorities are taking proactive measures to implement technologies across the water network value ch­ain. These include the adoption of smart meters and their enhancement with advanced features such as low po­wer, wide area networking, integrated mobile interfaces for reporting water usage by consumers, and intelligent self-administered automatic chemical dosing in STPs. As urbanisation continues to pose challenges in the water sector, new technologies are also gaining traction in network management to address these evolving needs.
Going forward, the implementation of continuous water supply projects involving improvements in the existing water infrastructure and a reduction in leakage and NRW through technological interventions is key to ensuring better water delivery throughout the country. Meanwhile, the city gas distribution (CGD) sector is working towards the adoption of automation and advanced technologies to lower costs, improve operational efficiency and enable real-time monitoring. Key application areas include predictive maintenance, queue management, logistics management systems and asset monitoring. CGD operators are also scaling up efforts to integrate SCADA systems with geographic information systems (GIS). Smart metering is increasingly being adopted to support the long-term growth of the CGD sector. As the price of gas increases and local supply decreases, the government and gas suppliers are collaborating to find ways to monitor, conserve and reduce the loss of gas by leveraging technology. One of the key challenges for the CGD industry is customer convenience. In order to compete with petrol, diesel and electric vehicles, it is essential for the CGD industry to work towards reducing wait times to as little as five to seven minutes to ensure consumer convenience.
Analysing a distribution network involving consumers requires numerous assessments along with the formulation of a complete connectivity model based on real-world scenarios. The integration of GIS with other systems, growing cloud infrastructure, increased demand for cloud availability, and the need for internet of things and real-time data have highlighted the need for a system that offers comprehensive GIS solutions for gas utilities. Further, there is a need for all information and services to be available on the mobile.
In the power sector too, smart meters are becoming increasingly prominent in the distribution segment owing to their ability to improve the operational and financial performance of utilities. As of November 2023, the total number of consumer smart meter installations in the country crossed 7.3 million. Government schemes and programmes, especially the Ministry of Power’s Revamped Distribution Sector Scheme, have given a significant impetus to the deployment of smart meters in the country. These programmes provide power departments and discoms greater access to funding for prepaid smart metering, distribution infrastructure upgrades, and system-wide metering for modernisation and loss reduction.
Overall, the power distribution segment is preparing for a complex future driven by several external factors, including increasing power demand, variability in demand and supply due to the growth in renewables, electrification of transport and increased distributed generation.
This issue of Smart Utilities discusses gas utilities’ experience with digital practices, the key challenges they face and their future plans. The issue also highlights the benefits of utility asset modelling and IT-OT convergence in the CGD sector. The water section covers city-level initiatives for water and wastewater management, and the applications of digital solutions such as GIS and SCADA in the sector. The power section takes a look at utility plans to invest in a wide array of new and innovative technologies such as meter data and power procurement analytics, storage, cloud infrastructure, AI, IoT, demand forecasting and load curve analysis platforms, and AR/VR.