By Anil Rawal
Smart metering as a core enabler of smart grid architecture brings operational efficiency; enables integration of renewable energy resources; strengthens the financial efficiency by controlling losses; empowers consumers to have better control of power consumption and makes the power distribution ecosystem more sustainable.
The performance of the power sector is a leading indicator of a resilient economy, economic growth, and a sustainable socio-economic development. Electricity enables transformation at the bottom of the pyramid with underprivileged sections empowered through various economic benefits. Adequate access to equitable and optimally priced electricity at all levels of demography is the driving force behind all power sector reforms. Given the sector’s relevance, growing concerns around availability of fuels like coal, high power generation costs and poor financial health of DISCOMS, the mounting Aggregate Transmission & Commercial (AT&C) losses and operational efficiencies have to be addressed to ensure sustainable development.
Country faces a very high percentage of AT&C losses– about 22% – which means one fifth of electricity generated does not either reach consumers or if it reaches, utilities do not get revenue for that power. This is on account of poor infrastructure, operational inadequacies, inefficient billing and poor collection. It becomes imperative, therefore, for the country’s energy conservation and sustainability initiatives to incorporate steps that enhance efficiencies for optimum use of resources and reduction of energy wastage. This wastage not only leaves utilities financially and operationally inefficient but also makes it difficult for them to serve the consumer effectively, and the utilities tend to resort to load shedding instead of supplying desired quantum of power to consumers. This is a loss-perpetuating business where more business means more losses, thereby supporting the economic logic to having less business by utilities, resulting in poor supplies to the customer leading to overall dissatisfaction to all the stakeholders.
Addressing the concerns of Consumers and Utilities
As technology emerged as the biggest transformation driver, the power sector is leveraging its benefits to address core challenges. The Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) seeks to deploy smart prepaid meters at scale and is committed to reach every household. The pilots, so far under which about 5 million smart meters have been installed, have proven the benefits by addressing the concerns of utilities and law-abiding consumers. Apart from benefits such as preventing electricity theft, wastage and losses to DISCOMs, smart metering will boost energy efficiency, promote responsible power consumption and turn the system profitable. For India to efficiently meet its sustainability goals, the implementation of AMI-based smart metering thus becomes crucial.
Net Zero, Energy Transition and Grid Integration
India has taken a lead in driving global action for sustainable development. As a responsible nation, it has taken significant steps to reduce the national carbon footprint and lower dependency on fossil fuels to combat climate change. It follows a natural course of action therefore that the country accelerates its endeavours towards smart metering and the digitalisation of its grid networks. India has set a target of achieving net zero emissions by 2070 and secure 50% of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2050, driving up the potential need to develop the national electricity grid to handle demand-side flexibility and integration variability. The smart meter AMI, in this regard, will create a value proposition for the Discoms that will go beyond the immediate utility of billing & collection, network maintenance and outage management to step into the ambit of demand response through predictive analysis to help the power system achieve operational efficiency by embracing digitalisation.
Catalyzing Behavioural Change
While at a fairly nascent stage, the smart meter programme is proliferating in the country. On the back of the notification of the Revamped Distribution Sector Scheme (RDSS) by the Ministry of Power, the country has already seen smart meter tenders worth Rs 40,000-50,000 crore floated by various Discoms this year.
Once deployed at large scale, smart meters will pivot consumer behaviour towards energy consumption. With everyday consumption patterns – and eventually appliance-wise consumption data – at hand, consumers will gravitate towards the idea of an ‘Environmental Conscious Life Style’ through ‘mindful and deliberate utilisation’ of energy, shedding arbitrary consumption habits. Discoms and industry players, at the other end of the spectrum, can deploy energy efficiency programmes to further reduce energy wastage. Together, this can lead to instilling energy conservation in consumer behaviour and unlocking the mammoth energy transition programmes – the first step necessary to achieve total sustainability.
Author is the MD & CEO of IntelliSmart Infrastructure Private Limited. He is an ex-Civil services officer of 1996 Batch and has more than 24 years of leadership experience, across both Corporate and Government organizations.
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