“Smart meters will empower consumer to monitor power consumption”

The Government should support the industry for timely payment and encourage the deployment of latest technologies which will help utilities to bring down AT&C losses, states Jitendra Agarwal, Chairman, IEEMA Meter Division in an interaction with Electrical India...

What is the size of India Energy Meter industry? At what rate industry will grow in the medium term?

The Ministry of Power is working towards providing reliable and quality power 24X7 to all. The electrical industry is fully committed to deliver meters as per the requirement of the utilities. Last year the meter industry’s growth was down by 15-16% as the meters were not procured as per the anticipated rate. At present, size of the industry is Rs 3000 crore. However, it is not growing at the pace which we as an industry are looking. There are still a lot of unmetered consumers, faulty meters in the field, burnt meters, which need to be replaced on war footing scale. For any utility, meter is the Cash Box; it is the only equipment in entire power distribution, which measures energy flow from generation up to end consumer. The utilities should deploy meters at every point and conduct energy audit which will give them the clear picture about the losses and thus that pain area can be plugged. Looking at the present scenario, I am expecting that the industry will grow @5-6 % in near future.

What kind of potential do you envisage for this sector with the government’s particular focus on upgrading overall infrastructure like roll out of 100 smart cities, commitment to provide 24*7 electricity to all? So, what have been the recent technological innovations in the Indian energy meter industry?

As far as, smart cities project is concerned, the implementing agencies have their own priorities and allocated the budget accordingly. There are different components of smart cities water management, waste management, power management, vehicle tracking etc and to the best of my knowledge not much has been allocated for smart cities power distribution.

The Power Ministry has initiated DDUGJY scheme for providing electricity to every house hold, under this scheme industry will supply meters directly to utilities or to turnkey contractors. We would urge that the same quality norms and approval process should be followed by utilities which they are following for direct buying of meters by them. The Indian metering industry is most advanced in the world rather it has become R&D hub for metering and for providing products and solutions globally.

What are the bottlenecks that the Indian Energy meters industry is facing? What kind of support would you expect from the government?

The Indian meter industry is totally dependent on the financial health of the utilities. The financial health of the utilities in India these days is not good barring few. We are not getting payment on time against supplied material which disturbs the entire cash flow cycle.
Secondly, the prices of the meters are going down with every tender. Entire buying pattern of the utilities needs to be revisited only low price criteria should be followed. Other parameters like field performance, R&D strength, systems and process followed by manufacturers etc needs to be carried out along with price. Vendor rating parameters to be followed by utilities so that they can get real benefit of the capex investment. We request that the government should look into it so reliable and quality meters can be procured by utilities.

Import of Chinese equipment is still a matter of concern for the industry. What is the scenario for Indian energy meters?

Well it’s a good question, if you look at any electronic products most of them are imported or manufacturing in India by MNC. I am proud to say Electronic Meter is truly Indian product. Indian R&D is providing metering technology around the globe. India has now become the R&D hub for metering. In the past, also Chinese meters entered Indian market those can be easily tampered in the field. Ultimately, utilities have to remove Chinese meters from the field.

India is close to implementing smart meters. What will be its implications on general consumers? How will this move benefit the Indian power sector?

The Indian meter industry already has smart metering solution. Some of our members have started supplying smart meters to various utilities. In near future more and more utilities are coming up for implementation of smart metering solution. Just like Smart Phone has empowered the consumers, similar smart meters will empower consumer to monitor and control electricity consumption, can participate in demand side management, can view his daily weekly, monthly electricity consumption, error free bills as the reading of meters is captured remotely so no chance of human error is involved.

Deployment of smart meters will make great impact on the demand side management. At present, government is installing the power generating stations to meet the peak demand. With the installation of smart meters peak demand can be managed effectively. Also with implementation of smart meters TOD (Time of Day) can be implemented by utilities.

What opportunities do you envisage with the Government scaling up the target of renewable energy capacity to 175 GW by the year 2022 which includes 100 GW from solar, 60 GW from wind, 10 GW from bio-power and 5 GW from small hydro-power. ?

Every power plant has to monitor electricity generation be it a Solar, Hydro, Wind Coal etc. With the installation of renewable power plant meters market will definitely grow of net meters. Industry is already supplying net meters to power producers.

What will be the impact of GST on Indian energy meters sector?

It’s too early to say about the impact of GST on industry, we will have to wait.

What is your outlook for the sector?

Future seems to be very promising as well as challenging. The Government should support the industry for timely payment and encourage the deployment of latest technologies which will help utilities to bring down AT&C losses. Our industry is ready to provide full support to the government plans for roll out of smart meters in the country.

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