G Chandrasekaran, Chief Executive Officer, Industrial Controls & Drivers (I) Pvt Ltd.
How has the energy metering industry in India evolved?
The manufacturers have developed different types of single and three phase electronic meters over the years like, basic electronic meter with optical port/ IrDa port, meter with RF/zigbee communication, which can communicate consumption data to a distant data collector/server, smart meters with GPRS modem to connect directly to the server system, smart meter with PLC (Power-line Communication) and prepaid meter. Currently, the basic electronic meter with optical port is being commonly used in all the State utilities. Other meters are in trial stage only.
The growth of the industry is largely dependent on the government organisations, the State Electricity Boards (SEB), who are not progressing uniformly in the implementation of different type of meters. Each electricity board has its own specification, technology and floating of tenders. Due to tender based meter purchase, the manufacturer offering the lowest price is selected. Also some manufacturers quote very low price to get volume orders. Hence the new technologies are not catching up. The growth could be possible only with better technology and if SEBs offer a better price for the advanced meters. The Central government´s recent announcement to invest Rs 100,000 crore to revamp the SEBs will stimulate further growth. But the States have to conduct adequate trials or experiments on small projects before taking up the large scale ones.
Our meters do not meet international standards. What are the reasons behind this issue?
The manufacturers are knowledgeable in the latest technology existing in the world market. But since there is no demand from SEBs, high-end meters are not manufactured in volumes. The SEB specifications concentrate on tamper related functions and not on the technology oriented improvements. In addition SEBs are not ready to offer the right price for technologically advanced meters. SEBs must support new manufacturers in the field by offering a good price. They must also award small orders of a few thousand meters involving interchange of old mechanical/basic static meters with latest electronic/smart meters as a project on cost basis.
What reforms are required to boost the industry?
CEA should come out with standard uniform specifications for at least a few models and the same should be followed throughout India. All State capitals should have National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL), aggregated Labs like Electronics Test & Development Centre (ETDC). But SEBs does not recognise these labs and insist on meters being validated only at CPRI (Central Power Research Institute) labs which are overcrowded. It takes 3 to 6 months to get a slot and they are expensive too. Hence government should allow meters to be validated by NABL aggregated labs equipped with all modern facilities. Government should also encourage private sector participation in power distribution as they will bring in latest technology and distribute power with effective metering and reduce tampering losses.
Please provide details about the metering solutions offered by your company, major clients, and current order book position?
We offer ISI marked single phase, three phase meters with following ranges: Single Phase Static Meters with Optical port/RS232/RS485 communication; single phase static meters with LPRF communication; single phase bi-directional static energy meter - for solar net-metering; single phase prepaid static meters; single phase smart meters with connect/ disconnect feature through LPRF/GPRS modem; three phase static meters with optical port / RS232 / RS485 communication; three phase smart meters with connect.