SC Bhargava, Member - Executive Committee & Senior Vice President (Electrical & Automation), Larsen and Toubro
Do you think EESL is pushing down the cost of smart meters?
Yes of course! Energy Efficiency Services (EESL)'s procurement of smart meters have already started pushing down the cost. In November-December, last year, EESL has come out with a large tender, and I remember, an announcement of 14 per cent lower pricing than the earlier tenders. So what will happen is as more procurement of smart meters will bring down the cost to a comfortable level. Today, the prices have come down reasonably and are lower than anywhere else in the world. In the metering business, every year, we are witnessing price drop, and, considering the requirement for meter across India, we see a huge price drop due to economy of scale. As of now, our current order book position is about 3-4 million meters, which will be delivered in next six-seven months.
With discoms switching to smart metering infrastructure, do you find resistance from consumers?
Yes, earlier the discom faced a lot of resistance from consumers. For instance, in Delhi, when the discom replaced the electronics meter to smart, it created lot of confusion as the meter readings of the consumer jumped drastically. This is not because of alleged faulty smart meters, but, due to faulty meters installed earlier.
Smart meters have a very strong calibration system even though we are making 9 million meters but each meter is calibrated. So calibration accuracy of electronic meters is very high. I agree that a lot of discoms are looking at it as an opportunity to find out and reduce the non- lawful usage of electricity, so upto that extent, smart meters play a big role.
These smart meters are part of the network and are connected into controls networks. This helps utilities who have installed these meters to keep a watch on the power consumption patter. So, if they see that a meter is not using electricity for three days, utilities have something to worry about.
For discoms the revenues come from meters. If the meter stops functioning even for five days, it's a big loss for any utility. Hence, utilities are making sure that meters are 100 per cent functional and tamper proof.
How are smart meters likely to bring down the aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses?
If you look at AT&C losses, how much are they coming down? Just 1 per cent. While UDAY is a good scheme, state discoms need to leverage the opportunity given by the Centre through this scheme. In fact, states, which are serious about bringing down the AT&C losses, are making all efforts to leverage this scheme in their favour. I firmly believe that segregation of feeders is an important part of it and until the segregation of feeders happens, chances of AT&C losses below 15 per cent are difficult. You can see the progress on UDAY Dashboard. The segregation of feeders on the score is very little. Smart meter of course scores low as it's a trend and is yet to catch up.
However, states which have done feeder segregation like Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, have all come down to below 15 per cent.
Is the company aligning its product with the usage of electricity by consumers?
If you look back, around 30-40 years ago, 45-50 per cent of electricity usage was by industrial sector. Since the major activities were in industrial segment, our products were aligned with the same. Now, we see a change in trend where electricity consumption is more on by individual consumers than industry. What that means for us? It means we need to have products which are optimised for building and we have realised that need for building and industry are different. The industry requires very high levels of short circuit performance products whereas buildings have smaller transformers and they require lower but aesthetics products. So in the last 15 years, if you ask me, we have shifted our focus from industries to building segment.
Tell us about the advanced technologies in smart metering segment? Which are the states L&T is currently working with?
At present, we are working with many states. We have recently won Rs 10-billion contract to maintain 5 million smart meters in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar over the next eight years.
The smart meter tender, floated by state-owned EESL last year, was divided into two parts - meter procurement and systems integration. The latter exercise would involve meter installation, data storage on cloud and preparing dashboards, among other things.
As a systems integrator, we will provide the GPRS-based solution that requires placing of SIM card in the meter for communication.
In Maharashtra, we have recently placed an order to CyanConnode Holdings plc, a provider of narrowband radio mesh networks, for 10,400 smart meters. CyanConnode will provide communications hardware and software for the implementation of its narrowband RF mesh AMI solution for 10,400 smart meters for Tata Power consumers in Mumbai, bringing the total orders so far to 25,100.
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