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Feature | February 2015

Mission Metering

While the need to have an efficient and reliable power distribution setup at both macro and micro levels is giving a fillip to the energy meter industry, rapid urbanisation and government policies are keeping the revenue meter running.

India is currently witnessing a revolution in the field of energy metering, where advanced products are fast replacing the conventional ones. The current size of the dynamic energy meter market, estimated to be approximately Rs 2,200 crore, is trying to keep pace with the rapidly evolving requirements of end users in India and technological advancements abroad. Extensive power capacity augmentation and improvement of electrical grid networks are supporting the growth of this industry.

¨The current size of the energy metering market is approximately Rs 2,200 crore and it is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8-10 per cent over the next 4-5 years,¨ says SC Bhargava, Senior Vice President, L&T Electrical & Automation, which enjoys a market share of around 21 per cent of the Indian energy meter market. He adds: ¨In terms of current trend, the meters being purchased are intelligent with built-in features like Interval Data Recording, Time of Day (Time of Use) Tariff, Tamper Recording and Communication Facilities.¨

The trends
According to recent industry reports, distribution utilities globally are expected to spend $378 billion in smart grid technologies by 2030, where India is estimated to install 130 million smart meters by 2021. No doubt, intelligent smart meters are going to be the trend in the future, though the progress in India may not be as rapid as one would like it to be, aver industry pundits.

¨Now the whole world is moving towards smart metering solutions with two-way communication, which will help consumers and utilities to connect with each other more effectively,¨ states Ramkrishna Singh, Deputy General Manager, Tata Power Delhi Distribution Ltd (TPDDL) which has been a forerunner in implementing power distribution reforms in Delhi.

¨This has similar potential to transform India like the mobiles did. India is trying but has not kept pace with the developed countries. There is a need for a push from the government and the regulator,¨ he adds.

TPDDL has implemented high-tech automated systems for its entire distribution network like Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA), Geographical Information System (GIS) Outage Management System (OMS) as also High Voltage Distribution System and LT Arial Bunch Conductor to combat power theft. ¨There are several other areas as well where India has to catch up,¨ says B Sreenivas, Executive Director - India Operations, Circutor Energy Management (India) Pvt Ltd. ¨While the global trend in energy metering is energy management, in India it is still energy monitoring, though we have the capacity to move on to energy management. Smart metering is the future for India which will help in achieving significant energy saving and controlling,¨ he explains.

Unfortunately, India is still in the phase of understanding the mode. We need, says Sreenivas, to educate and train the electrical utility team and also assign them a goal to implement and generate indirect and direct RoI (Return on investment). As manufacturers, we are already sharing the case studies and benefits with relevant electrical teams, he says.

Ergo, reduction in commercial losses is one of the principal advantages of using smart metering, particularly of relevance to India, which reportedly has the highest Aggregate Technical and Commercial (AT&C) losses in the world (around 26 per cent). In addition it is also expected to help reduce India´s peak power deficit which is between 12-15 per cent in major cities.

The opportunities
The developing metering industry is opening up a host of opportunities for the manufacturers and others.

¨The meter industry has good scope to grow in the next 10 years,¨ feels G Chandrasekaran, Chief Executive Officer, Industrial Controls & Drivers (I) Pvt Ltd. According to him, the demand for meters with latest technology will be quite high. Basic electronic meters are likely to be replaced by smart meters. The Central government´s recent announcement to invest Rs 100,000 crore to revamp the State Electricity Boards will stimulate further growth, he predicts.

The need for energy efficiency and the green building trend will also open up more avenues, says Madhav Kamat, Managing Director, Electronic Automation Pvt. Ltd (EAPL): ¨With many new projects focusing on the green building concept, immense potential exists for Building Automation Systems (BAS) in the industrial, commercial and residential sectors. GSM-based automatic energy meters for process industries are expected to be another emerging business opportunity.

To achieve optimisation in energy consumption, varieties of sub-metering networks (electronic energy meters with modbus communication feature) have gained a strong foothold. To keep pace with the projected market growth of 25-30 per cent in the next five years, EAPL intends to expand by adding products such as power factor controller, maximum demand controller & DC energy meters. EAPL offers Multifunction Meters, Dual Source Energy Meter, Kilowatt-Hour Meter, Panel Meters with features like Alphanumeric LED displays; parameter scrolling facility, UL approved plastic enclosures, etc.

While Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) schemes are being put in place now, adoption of Automatic Metering Infrastructure (AMI) will be a continuous process. With increasing focus on power quality management, addition of transients and harmonics measurement features to panel meters is expected to be a key growth opportunity in the panel meters market.

The initiatives
Several government policies such as Restructured Accelerated Power Development and Reform Program (R-APDRP) and Central Electricity Authority (CEA) guidelines, have paved the way for intelligent smart metering in the country, but they are not evidently sufficient.

¨CEA regulation & Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) standards are promoting energy metering but there is no national level campaign to educate consumers about energy metering and its importance. I think a national campaign on importance of energy metering would definitely help,¨ opines Singh.

¨There should be a government rule to apply Automatic Power Factor Control (APFC) panels wherever electricity bills are on the higher side as well as to audit energy consumptions (using Energy Audit kits). Also the government should support exports and related taxes and duties should be free,¨ suggests Vijay Gaikwad, Assistant General Manager - Sales & Marketing, Automatic Electric Ltd, which offers Energy Audit Kit and energy meters including multifunction meters. Developing a robust policy and regulatory framework, standard uniform specification, an institutional structure to ensure effective implementation, building technological expertise (smart meters manufactured in the country rely heavily on imported components today), enhancing manpower skills, etc., are some of the other measures put forward by the industry professionals.

The challenges
While the metering industry is aggressively trying to keep pace with changing demands of the market, there are several challenges that have to be countered like technology gaps, poor quality products, lack of standard specifications, demand-supply gaps, unhealthy competition, power pilferage, lack of awareness, etc.

Many units in the organised sector are not performing well financially because the industry is currently under-utilised due to the slowdown in the power sector. The industry´s overall installed capacity is 50 per cent more than the demand. In addition, State electricity boards, who are the major customers, are reluctant to pay a higher price for a better quality meter due to their own poor financial condition. Hence there is heavy price cutting among manufacturers. In addition they have to cope with unhealthy competition from the unorganised sector. Organised market participants, with high overheads, are having difficulty coping with the competition from suppliers of low-end products with relatively less overheads.

¨Manufacturers like us with quality and advanced meters are facing problem in selling the right products to right application because of the competition from poor quality and low end manufactures in the unorganised sector who are selling mainly through assemblers on a very low price base,¨ laments Sreenivas.

¨In addition there is competition from imported components. Competing with the Chinese instrument meters is another major challenge,¨ says Gaikwad. Concurs Kamat: ¨Imported instruments are affecting the local manufacturers. Government can take effective steps to encourage local industries. Other bottlenecks are lack of government incentive schemes for energy efficient technologies, exorbitant tax structure, random pricing. In this context a uniform tax structure like GST (Goods & Services Tax) announced by the government will help in bringing uniformity in price across the country. Lack of product awareness is another issue that needs to be addressed with enhancing awareness programmes¨. The awareness is poor not only about the importance of energy metering but also about the specifications among the end users and even among some consultants and influencers, says Sreenivas: ¨Apart from a few, many end-users and consultants have no knowledge about types of meters, their technology and advantages. When they place an order they do not indicate the kind of meter required, their parameters or specifications. Manufacturers like us are now trying to create the awareness.¨

¨Electricity theft and perception of energy meters running fast are the major challenges faced by utilities apart from cost reflective tariff,¨ says Singh.

Poor policing and antiquated transmission lines result in around 40 per cent of electricity going unpaid for in the country.

Evidently, smart intelligent meters are the way forward for India. But it is still a long way off, with several barriers on the way, which need to be eliminated before the country can achieve its mission.

Types of meters
Energy meters are classified in accordance with several factors such as type of display like analogue or digital type of metering point like grid, secondary transmission, primary and local distribution, end applications like domestic, commercial and industrial; technical like three phases, single phase, HT, LT and accuracy class meters, etc.

Induction-type Energy meter
It is an age-old watt hour meter commonly used in domestic and industrial applications. It is simple in construction and accuracy is somewhat less due to creeping and other external fields. They are easily prone to tampering, requiring an electrical energy monitoring system.

Electronic Energy meters
These are accurate, high procession and reliable instruments as compared to conventional mechanical meters. They consume less power and start measuring instantaneously when connected to load. They might be analogue or digital. Smart Energy Meters

It is an advanced metering technology involving placing intelligent meters to read, process and send feedback of the data to customers. It measures energy consumption, remotely switches the supply to customers and controls the maximum electricity consumption. These meters are capable of communicating in both directions. They can transmit the data to the utilities like energy consumption, parameter values, alarms, etc., and also can receive information from utilities such as automatic meter reading system, reconnect/disconnect instructions, upgrading of meter software and other important messages. Modems are used to facilitate communication systems such as telephone, wireless, fibre cable and power line communications. Tampering is totally eliminated.

Metering monitor 

  • The total market for energy meters in the world is around 40 million pieces with India´s share at 5.2 million (13 per cent).
  • According to recent industry reports, distribution utilities globally are expected to spend $378 billion on smart grid technologies by 2030.
  • The penetration rates for smart metering technology will grow to around 50 per cent in Europe and North America, and to over 75 per cent in the Asia-Pacific region from just around 15 per cent to 25 per cent respectively today. And by 2020, the penetration rate for smart meters is expected to reach 100 per cent in most developed countries.
  • India has a large electricity customer base with about 120 million consumers -approximately 90 million domestic, 13 million agricultural, 12 million comm¡ercial, 3 million industrial, 3 million others (public lighting, waterworks etc.).
  • India has the highest AT & C losses in the world (about 26 per cent). Theft costs the Indian power sector $16.2 billion per year.
  • Maharashtra alone loses $2.8 billion per year, more than all but eight countries in the world.

Janaki Krishnamoorthi

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