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Feature | January 2016

To cut carbon footprint and billing exercise

Anil Sardana, Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer, Tata Power

What are the smart metering options that Tata Power offers?
Tata Power is the first Indian power utility to launch the Automated Demand Response (ADR) project with smart meters in Delhi last year. It is one of the first projects in the world where ADR and AMI (Advanced Metering Infrastructure for Smart Meters) are conceptualised together. The project is implemented in partnership with IBM, Honeywell, Landis+Gyr with participation of select industrial and commercial consumers of Tata Power Delhi Distribution; and has been rolled out post the approval of the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC).

Tata Power, Mumbai installed Automatic Meter Reading system in year 2009, covering all industrial and commercial consumers as well as DT check meters. The data from meters is captured in central server every midnight using GPRS modems. The process of meter reading and billing was thus fully automated and requires no human intervention. In year 2013, one of the largest Radio Frequency based smart metering projects in India was installed in Mumbai covering about 5,000 number low end residential consumers. This project included the installation of meters with built in RF communication modules, data concentrator units (DCUs), head end software and meter data acquisition (MDAS). Metered data is collected every hour through RF mesh network communication and transmitted to a central server using GPRS network. Meter data received is used for automated generation of bills without human interference.

How does your DMS system for Mumbai tie up with smart metering?
The DMS system along with FLISR (fault location, isolation, switching and restoration) system instantaneously determines fault location and restores power supply to consumers (in the unlikely event of a power failure) automatically in the shortest possible time.

The DMS system is planned to be integrated with meter data management system (installed as part of AMR system) to obtain the dynamic status of distribution transformers as well as HT consumer loads. The DMS system uses this dynamic load data to decide the optimum network reconfiguration for restoration of supply during breakdown, and for deciding the switching optimisation in order to minimise technical losses.

How would smart metering benefit the customers and the company?
Utilities can use smart metering data to manage power distribution system more efficiently and avoid overloading of the grid/blackouts. The smart meter data collected in AMR system can be accessed by consumers. This data provides consumers an insight to the usage of electricity in their homes and offices and thus empowers them to take informed decisions for reducing power bills. The company has been able to consistently achieve a success rate of more than 98 per cent for the AMR system. The smart metering technology has also provided benefits in terms of lowering the carbon footprint involved in a typical manual meter reading and billing exercise. Also the accuracy of entire meter reading and billing system is very high as it does not require any human intervention.

What is the potential for smart metering in India?
Smart metering is becoming the trend in many countries such as Italy, Sweden, Australia, Canada and UK. It enables power players to provide accurate bills without the need for manual reading of the meter; helps in managing supply and distribution remotely and assists customers reduce their consumption by providing accurate real time data on their consumption as and when required.

With growing economy of India and its ever increasing demand for electricity, use of smart metering technologies can offer varied benefits and help address some of the most pressing challenges of power sector like high AT&C losses, poor customer service, peak load management etc.

The government policies are encouraging installation of metering for all customers. Adoption of smart metering technologies is emerging to be the most relevant next step. Realising the importance of smart meters, the Central Electricity Authority of India had brought out a report outlining the functional requirements.

Smart metering in India is under development, will this witness a turnaround?
Smart metering and smart grid technology in the power sector have recently attracted much attention to improve the performance of power utilities. Many countries in the west have already started using smart metering on pilot projects or in selective roll out for specific urban areas. India is a very important market for new emerging technologies such as this, as the country gets ready to transform its power sector.

Power utilities procure meters from various meter manufacturers. This ensures completion and the utility is able to negotiate competitive pricing. As a result, it is critically important that smart metering solutions are interoperable, enabling meters from multiple vendors to be incorporated into an ´open system´. Currently, the Indian meter manufacturing industry does not have standardised communications protocols, a gap that could prove problematic when sending data across a wireless network. The implementation of an ´open meter protocol´ that is tailored to the requirements of the Indian utilities and optimised for real time monitoring over wireless mesh networks will prove invaluable and should be implemented as soon as possible. To witness a turnaround and make this technology mainstream, a collaborative approach through vendor partnership and an economics of scale needs to be worked out before the large scale rollout of this technology.

By when do you see demand picking up?
With the announcement of Smart Cities, the smart grid technologies are expected to gain importance. The smart metering will be the first step towards this cause. However, these technologies needs huge investment and the industry does not have the financial capacity to fund for the technologies. Successful implementation would require support of government programmes to provide incentives for investment. The government is also trying to push the technology through enabling policies, which along with regulatory directives/mandates will propel faster implementation. Additionally, integrating it with R-APDRP will help address the funding problems faced by most distribution utilities.

GoI had announced 14 smart grid pilot projects, could they boost smart meters too?
The Smart Grid pilot projects are still in the testing phases, so we need to watch the space. Smart meters are important building blocks of the smart grid, so it will definitely help in boosting up the metering technologies too.

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