The much-hyped smart electricity meter project has run into rough weather in Uttar Pradesh. After a glitch that resulted in to a massive power outage in major cities in the state last Wednesday, the Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation (UPPCL) has decided to stall the process of installation of 40 lakh meters in the state for a fortnight.
In a letter addressed to EESL executive vice-chairman Saurabh Kumar, the managing director of UPPCL, M Devraj, has directed that the installation of 40 lakh meters that was being carried out by EESL be put on hold for the next fortnight.
Meanwhile, taking a tough stand on the mass tripping of smart meters on Janmashtami, Uttar Pradesh energy minister Shrikant Sharma has written a separate letter to UPPCL chairman Arvind Kumar who is also additional chief secretary, energy, directing him that the installation of the smart meter programme be stopped immediately to avoid any further inconvenience to the public and said that the UPPCL should proceed with it only after ensuring that the meters are of good quality and tamper proof.
Many areas of Uttar Pradesh suddenly plunged into darkness for many hours last Wednesday after 1.6 lakh smart meter connections snapped in several cities, including Lucknow, Kanpur, Varanasi, Allahabad, Gorakhpur, Meerut, Moradabad, Mathura, Aligarh Saharanpur, Jhansi, Bareilly and Faizabad, forcing thousands of angry consumers to protest outside sub-stations.
The minister said that the incident is unpardonable. “The process to adopt a superior technology smart meter programme was being done with the expressed motive of giving electricity consumers respite from a host of problems, but this incident has sent out a wrong message to the consumers,” the minister said, adding that to ensure that such an incident does not recur in future, the chairman should personally monitor the matter and also form an expert committee to look into the fault of the already installed 12 lakh smart meters in the state.
Speaking to FE on condition of anonymity, officials of UPPCL said the minister is also said to have told top officers that no laxity will be tolerated in the implementation of the scheme and that they cannot wash their hands off the fiasco by shifting the blame on a few lower rung officials and engineers. Two senior officials of EESL and L&T had been placed under suspension for dereliction of duty.
Three companies had bagged the contracts to supply smart meters to EESL. While Genus Power was to supply 50% of the order, L&T was to supply 30% and Allied Engineering the remaining 20% of the order.
Meanwhile, the special task force (STF) team and the expert committee of UPPCL are still to unravel the mystery shrouding the incident. While it is understood to have resulted from a wrong server command generated from the centralised control and command centre, no one is sure as to who gave the wrong command and why.
The smart meter programme is meant for reforming the power sector and is one of the operational performance parameters of UDAY. It was expected to improve the discoms’ billing efficiency and ensure consumer satisfaction. UP had signed an MoU with EESL to replace 40 lakh conventional metres with energy efficient smart metres in 2018 and as many as 12 lakh smart meters have already been installed.