Energy metering is the most important pillar of the power business, and in the last two decades or so several changes or transformations have been witnessed in this field. In today’s situation, when the COVID – 19 pandemic protocols are suggesting social distancing and staying at home as far as possible, physically checking energy meters at each and every corner of a country is not only difficult but also apparently impossible. However, because of compulsory stay-at-home situation domestic energy consumption is increasing at most of the individual consumer’s residence. With such backdrop, there cannot be any ambiguity but to opt for Smart Metering.
According to a nice definition from Wikipedia, “A smart meter is an electronic device that records information such as consumption of electric energy, voltage levels, current and power factor. Smart meters communicate the information to the consumer for greater clarity of consumption behaviour, and electricity suppliers for system monitoring and customer billing. Smart meters typically record energy near real-time, and report regularly, at short intervals throughout the day. Smart meters enable two-way communication between the meter and the central system. Such an Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) differs from Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) in that it enables two-way communication between the meter and the supplier. Communications from the meter to the network may be wireless, or via fixed wired connections such as Power Line Carrier (PLC). Wireless communication options in common use include cellular communications, Wi-Fi (readily available), wireless ad hoc networks over Wi-Fi, wireless mesh networks, Low Power Long-Range wireless (LoRa), Wize (high radio penetration rate, open, using the frequency 169 MHz) Zigbee (low power, low data rate wireless) and Wi-SUN (Smart Utility Networks).”
Development of Smart Meters
Wikipedia also presents, “In 1972, Theodore Paraskevakos, while working with Boeing in Huntsville, Alabama, developed a sensor monitoring system that used digital transmission for security, fire and medical alarm systems as well as meter reading capabilities. This technology was a spin-off from the automatic telephone line identification system, now known as Caller ID.
In 1974, Paraskevakos was awarded a U.S. patent for this technology. In 1977, he launched Metretek, Inc., which developed and produced the first smart meters. Since this system was developed pre-Internet, Metretek utilized the IBM series 1 mini-computer. For this approach, Paraskevakos and Metretek were awarded multiple patents.”
Market Growth of Smart Meters
Before the world slipped into the dark era of COVID – 19, the usefulness of smart meters was realised by the electrical energy measuring experts in almost all countries. Thus, its commercial production also was gaining momentum. However, the COVID-era has accelerated the pace of its growing demand.
As per the latest finding of Research And Markets, “Among the many benefits of smart meters are monitoring of electric system in real time & provision of responsive data for balancing electric loads; reduction of waste by forecasting energy demand more efficiently. The advanced metering infrastructure holds several merits over conventional metering and supports bi-directional communication. Smart meters are increasingly replacing traditional electric meters, mainly in developed countries, and enabling power system to undergo notable transformation in terms of efficiency and reliability.
These devices provide utilities with the opportunity to exploit data to ensure efficient use of energy, reduce wastage, and minimize human intervention. Smart metering devices in homes deliver accurate readings and eliminate incorrect billing or irregularities. By monitoring gas, water or electricity consumption, these devices allow users to reduce consumption and save on utility bills.
Smart meters represent a revolutionary technology for utility companies that allow them to ensure efficient transmission and distribution while monitoring energy usage and efficiency. These meters integrate three primary components that include an electricity meter, processing unit and communication module.
While the electricity meter measures power consumption and translates the readings into usable data, the processing unit processes and stores the data. In addition, the processing unit controls the electricity meter and the communication module. The communication module, usually found integrated into the smart meters or installed in external slots, facilitates the communication of meter data with the utility and the customer. Among the three components, the meter part is highly regulated one and in most cases needs to conform to a set of standards placed by regulatory authorities. The technology has gained extensive adoption among utilities and is receiving support from various countries.
Governments are investing in smart metering infrastructure to gravitate towards smart grids and accommodate renewable energy. Smart meters technology is poised to experience large-scale installations in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific, with the latter holding a key role in driving global adoption of smart meters. The increasing adoption of smart meters is attributed to their various benefits such as energy usage monitoring, energy saving, reduction in energy wastage, tab on power thefts and reduction in carbon emissions.”
India and Smart Meters
Aiming to bring efficiency in the distribution system leading to better service delivery, in the last financial year (2020-21), the Ministry of Power (GoI) had issued guidelines to all states to convert all existing consumer meters into smart meters in prepaid mode. Operation of smart meters in prepaid mode would allow consumers to pay as per their own financial convenience and electricity consumption requirements.
EESL, a Joint Venture (JV) between CPSUs in the power sector, has been providing smart metering services to various utilities as per MOUs signed with them. EESL has also established innovative financing arrangements for the smart metering projects that would enable them to provide smart metering services to the DISCOMs without requiring any outright CAPEX funding from the states or utilities. The recoveries against the funding towards smart metering installations would be taken as a monthly annuity from the utilities over a period of seven to eight years.
Accordingly, apart from installations in NDMC for 50,000 consumers, EESL has also started installation of smart meters in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan. Out of these states, the maximum installation is in the state of Uttar Pradesh, where more than 7.78 Lakh smart meters have already been deployed across 11 cities.
As per the available information through* Capgemini; the French multinational Information Technology (IT) services and consulting company with a strong presence in India; which is globally working with EDF International Networks – a group entity that exports electricity network activities internationally: “Between 2014 and 2019, the deployment of smart metering in Europe increased from a 24% penetration rate to around 50%, compared to 65% in North America. This rate is expected to exceed 70% in both regions by 2024. At the same time, projects are multiplying in Asia. India is entering the race, aiming to deploy more than 250 million smart meters in the coming years.” (*From a report by Berg Insight: “SMART ELECTRICITY METERING 2020 – THE CURRENT STATE OF PLAY)
Although, India is a bit late in its smart meter initiative, in last year itself, it successfully completed installation of 10 lakh smart meters under the Smart Meter National Programme (SMNP) (PIB report posted on 25. 02. 2020). Nobody expected the sudden arrival of this COVID-era. Otherwise, we would also have progressed much in our mission to install smart meters. However, this is an experience that will guide us to accelerate the process of installing smart meters everywhere as soon as possible. We are in the right direction.
By P.K. Chatterjee (PK)