SC Bhargava, Senior Vice President, L&T Electrical & Automation.
What is the current market size of the energy metering industry in India and what are the current trends?
The current market size is approximately Rs 2,200 crore and it is expected to grow at a CAGR of 8-10 per cent over the next four-five years. 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.
What are the emerging trends and business opportunities in this sector?
There is a serious move by many Indian distribution companies toward the elimination of manual involvement in the process of meter reading and billing. Efforts are on to fully automate the process through Automated Meter Reading (AMR) either with a hand held unit or by using Low Power Radio (LPR) and GPRS to get the data directly to the Data Centre, where the bill is generated.
Smart meters, which enable the utility to get alerts on tampering or failure and which have connect/ disconnect facility for disconnecting or limiting the load of a consumer, are also being tried out in various smart grid pilots in the country. Based on the success of these pilots, larger rollouts should happen from 2017 onwards. Some of the benefits from these meters will be tamper deterrence, demand response, integration of renewable energy resources, brown out instead of load shedding and real time pricing.
What are the challenges faced by energy meter manufacturers?
We do not have standard specifications across different States and even within a State for different discoms, requiring a very high degree of customisation for each tender. There is no incentive for innovation and quality. Being mostly tender based, there is stress on L1 price rather than quality. Thus fly-by-night operators quoting low price have an equal chance of getting orders. This either forces the organised sector units to forego orders or sustain the business despite high pressure on margins. Long term performance of meters is not monitored by the discoms and as a result many brands that pass the initial testing but may not be reliable in the long run, also manage to get in.
What reforms are required to boost the industry?
There should be a rating system for suppliers by the disacoms or by independent agencies taking into consideration quality and reliability of a product, research facilities, testing & validation capabilities as well as the financial capability of the supplier. Monitoring of failure rates in past supplies by discoms should be introduced to ensure only suppliers with good quality are allowed to participate in future tenders.
Please provide details about the metering solutions offered by your company...
L&T enjoys a market share of around 21 per cent of the Indian energy meter market. Our product range includes meters for all segments and they conform to IS and IEC standards and are certified by the BIS. Besides products, L&T also offers metering solutions such as energy management, energy audit, and automated meter reading and prepaid metering. Smart Metering & AMI solutions are under development and will be launched shortly.