Smart Meter National Programme

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Context: Working to rapidly establish its stated goal of pan-India universal electricity access, the government of India is enabling Smart Grids which can offer affordability and other benefits to consumers. The first step towards realizing Smart Grids is the implementation of Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI).

Relevance:
Prelims: Current events of naitonal and internaitonal importance.
Mains: GS III- 

  • Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nanotechnology, biotechnology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.
  • Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways, etc.
  • Conservation, environmental pollution, and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
Smart Meter National Programme
  • The Smart Meter National Programme is being implemented to deploy smart meters across the country. The scheme is being implemented by Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), a JV of PSUs under the Ministry of Power.
  • The smart meters are installed as per guidelines issued by the Central Electricity Authority.
  • Smart meters are part of the overall Advanced Metering Infrastructure solution (AMI) that measures and records consumers’ electricity usage at different times of the day and sends this information to the energy supplier through GPRS technology.
  • This gives consumers better access to information and enables them to make more informed decisions on the use of electricity in their homes.
  • This can immediately control the Aggregate Technical and Commercial (AT&C) losses, due to power pilferage, bypassing meters, defective meters, or errors in meter reading.
  • Every kilowatt of power drawn from the grid is accounted for – and billed, thereby reviving revenues of the distributing companies (discoms).
  • The programme is expected to better billing efficiency by 75 to 100% while increasing the revenues of the utility companies to Rs. 1,38,100 crore.
  • EESL recovers the cost of these meters through the monetization of energy savings, resulting from enhanced billing accuracy, avoided meter reading costs and other efficiencies.

Energy Efficiency Services Limited
  • Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) is a joint venture of four national Public-Sector Undertakings – NTPC Limited, Power Finance Corporation Limited, Rural Electrification Corporation Limited and POWERGRID Corporation of India Limited, under the Ministry of Power.
  • It was founded in the year 2009 by the Government of India.
  • As South Asia's first and foremost energy efficiency leader, EESL leads the market-related activities of the National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency (NMEEE), one of the eight national missions under the Prime Minister’s National Action Plan on Climate Change.
  • NMEEE consist of four initiatives to enhance energy efficiency in energy-intensive industries which are as follows:
    • EESL:
      • It is implementing the world’s largest energy efficiency portfolio.
    • Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All (UJALA):
      • World’s largest zero-subsidy domestic LED bulb programme
    • Street Lighting National Programme (SLNP):
      • World’s largest street light replacement programme
    • Agriculture Demand Side Management (AgDSM):
      • To reduce the energy intensity of the agriculture pumping sector by carrying out efficiency up-gradation of agricultural pump sets.

Advanced Metering Infrastructure
  • AMI (Advanced Metering Infrastructure) is the collective term to describe the whole infrastructure from Smart Meter to two way-communication networks to control center equipment and all the applications that enable the gathering and transfer of energy usage information in near real-time.
  • AMI makes two-way communications with customers possible and is the backbone of the smart grid.
  • The objectives of AMI can be remote meter reading for error-free data, network problem identification, load profiling, energy audit and partial load curtailment in place of load shedding.

Building Blocks of AMI:

  • AMI is comprised of various hardware and software components, all of which play a role in measuring energy consumption and transmitting information about energy, water and gas usage to utility companies and customers.
  • The overarching technological components of AMI include:
    • Smart Meters:
      • Advanced meter devices having the capacity to collect information about energy, water, and gas usage at various intervals and transmitting the data through fixed communication networks to utility, as well as receiving information like pricing signals from utility and conveying it to the consumer.
    • Communication Network:
      • Advanced communication networks that support two-way communication enables information from smart meters to utility companies and vice-versa.
      • Networks such as Broadband over PowerLine (BPL), Power Line Communications, Fiber Optic Communication, Fixed Radio Frequency or public networks (e.g., landline, cellular, paging) are used for such purposes.
    • Meter Data Acquisition System:
      • Software applications on the Control Centre hardware and the DCUs (Data Concentrator Units) used to acquire data from meters via the communication network and send it to the MDMS
    • Meter Data Management System (MDMS):
      • The host system receives, stores and analyzes the metering information.
Benefits
  • The benefits of AMI are multifold and can be generally categorized as:
    • Operational Benefits:
      • AMI benefits the entire grid by improving the accuracy of meter reads, energy theft detection and response to power outages while eliminating the need for an on-site meter reading.
    • Financial Benefits:
      • AMI brings financial gains to utility, water and gas companies by reducing equipment and maintenance costs, enabling faster restoration of electric service during outages and streamlining the billing process.
    • Customer Benefits:
      • AMI benefits electric customers by detecting meter failures early, accommodating faster service restoration, and improving the accuracy and flexibility of billing.
      • Further, AMI allows for time-based rate options that can help customers save money and manage their energy consumption.
    • Security Benefits:
      • AMI technology enables enhanced monitoring of system resources, which mitigates potential threats on the grid by cyber-terrorist networks.
Challenges
  • Despite its widespread benefits, deploying AMI presents three major challenges that include high upfront investment costs, integration with other grid systems, and standardization.
    • High Capital Costs:
      • A full-scale deployment of AMI requires expenditures on all hardware and software components, including meters, network infrastructure, and network management software, along with the cost associated with the installation and maintenance of meters and information technology systems.
    • Integration:
      • AMI is a complex system of technologies that must be integrated with utilities' information technology systems, including Customer Information Systems (CIS), Geographical Information Systems (GIS), Outage Management Systems (OMS), Work Management (WMS), Mobile Workforce Management (MWM), SCADA/DMS, Distribution Automation System (DAS), etc.
    • Standardization:
      • Interoperability standards need to be defined, which set uniform requirements for AMI technology, deployment, and general operations and are the keys to successfully connecting and maintaining an AMI-based grid system.

AMI in the Indian Context
  • Modernizing India's grid system by investing in AMI promises to mitigate a number of strains placed on the grid due to the growing demand for electric, gas and water resources.
  • In particular, AMI will improve three key features of India's grid system including:
    • System Reliability:
      • AMI technology improves the distribution and overall reliability of electricity by enabling electricity distributors to identify and automatically respond to electric demand, which in turn minimizes power outages.
    • Energy Costs:
      • Increased reliability and functionality and reduced power outages and streamlined billing operations will dramatically cut costs associated with providing and maintaining the grid, thereby significantly lowering electricity rates.
    • Electricity Theft:
      • Power theft is a common problem in India. AMI systems that track energy usage will help monitor power almost in real-time thus leading to increased system transparency.
Implementation of SMNP
  • The SMNP aims to replace India’s 250 million conventional meters with smart meters. The smart meter procurement will be procured by EESL.
  • To begin with, the programme is initiated for the states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh states with AT&C losses as large as 28.42% and 34.36% respectively.
  • EESL's proven model of bulk procurement, aggregation of demand, and monetization of savings will be the approach to roll out smart meters.
  • This roll-out is proposed under the Build-Own-Operate-Transfer (BOT) model, wherein EESL will undertake all the capital and operational expenditure with zero upfront investment from states and utilities.
  • EESL, on its investment, shall earn a nominal Internal rate of return (IRR) through a mutually agreed automated payback structure during the concession period, along with payment security mechanism from state governments and utilities.
  • Installation of these smart meters along with its associated communication and IT infrastructure will enable the DISCOMs to obtain real-time energy consumption data of each consumer for subsequent analysis and will pave the way for initiating various smart measures by DISCOMs like Time Of Day (TOD)/Time Of Use (TOU) billing, prediction, and management of peak demand, providing real-time energy consumption data to the consumer, prepaid billing facility, remote connection and disconnection of load, accurate billing, etc.
  • Installation of these meters will also obviate the need for the meter reader’s visit to each and every consumer.



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