Metering industry to develop most robust electricity infrastructure

Metering industry to develop most robust electricity infrastructure
A comprehensive analysis on how the metering industry is moving toward better future
Indian metering industry has been growing for the last 4-5 years, as majority of the customers have moved to electronic energy. The present market size is about Rs. 2,200 crore and growing at 10 per cent a year. Currently, 15-20 million single-phase and 2-3 million three-phase static energy meters are being procured and installed every year. The CAGR for the energy meters in India is estimated at 15 -18 per cent in the future.Energy metering market in IndiaEnergy metering industry in India is a mix of multinational players, and a few domestic Tier-1, Tier-2 and Tier-3 players. There is a lot of churn at the Tier-2 and Tier-3 level with new players coming in every year and a little more closing down.
“Energy metering market is going to be huge for the next 20-25 years,” predicts Narang N. Kishor, Mentor & Principal Design Architect, Narnix Technolabs. “In the next few years, say by 2015, the market is expected to come at a reasonably mature level.”
The Indian metering industry is also technically comparable to overseas suppliers. Sunil Singhvi, Vice President – Energy (India, Africa and South-East Asia), Secure Meters said, “Indian manufacturers have designed and manufactured state-of-the-art AMI as well as prepayment meters, and have exported to Europe, Australia, New Zealand and various other countries.”Current scenarioIndian metering industry has been steadily growing over the last 5 years as there is greater thrust by the government to reduce the losses and go for quality electronic meters. Mr Singhvi explained, “In the next 5 years, the demand for the electronic-energy meters will be about 15 million a year, and we will see several new technologies such as prepayment and smart meters.”
However, there is a lot of confusion and chaos on specifications, communication interfaces and protocols, and tampers. “This is simply because there is no standardisation or harmonisation or both on meter specifications,” Mr Kishor explained.
Dependency on telecommunication technologiesThe success and failure of the new electricity infrastructure highly depend on deployed electronics, IT and telecommunication technologies. Mr Kishor emphasised, “A single mistake in choosing the wrong technology might result in a setback, which will take many years to rectify and move forward in the right direction, jeopardising the nation’s progress.”
Even, a whole lot of medium scale and grid scale renewable energy generation projects are being deployed and commissioned nationwide; and there is no co-ordination or intervention with such initiatives to enable these generation plants to seamlessly blend into the nation-wide smart grid infrastructure.
Facing challengesThe major challenge for metering industry is the poor financial health of SEBs along with acceptance of new technologies by government-owned utilities and procurement process to select right quality. “With the debt restructuring the situation will improve,” feels Mr Singhvi. “We are pleased to note that the government has initiated to introduce new technologies such as prepayment and smart meters in India.”
According to Mr Kishor, the challenges for metering industry include lack of funds, lack of harmonisation of meter specifications across utilities, skewed procurement practices and unfair commercial terms in utilities, and confusions in communication technologies harmonisation across utilities.
Coping challengesIndian metering industry is mainly dependent on the government to define the standards, policies, procurement practices and specifications. The industry is reduced to function in a reactive and complying mode only. In spite of repeated involvements by the metering industry, there is no improvement in the procurement practices and specifications standardisation or harmonisation by the utilities.
In the name of “smart grid”, huge investments are envisaged in the name of pilots without defining the standards, architecture, interfaces and protocols for the communication among different layers as well as nodes and components of the whole infrastructure. Mr Kishor emphasised, “This is a definite step toward ensuring that the investments done today in the pilots should not be fully leveraged in the final smart grid deployments.”
He added, “It is imperative to explore these crucial aspects of our new electricity infrastructure, the challenges, the current practices and technologies, architectures, interfaces and protocols. It also helps identify the way forward for unified and secure communication architecture to provide a scalable, versatile and robust communication backbone for the next-generation electricity infrastructure.”
Mr. Singhvi said, “Metering industry is working closely with utilities for introduction of new technologies. The tender-based buying is still an area of concern because sometimes unorganised players quote unsustainable prices, and it affects metering programme of utilities.”
Inventions in meter industryAs Indian power and energy market is undergoing a major transformation as a preamble to the “smart grid”, there is innovation happening in every aspect of the metering, distribution and generation. Only at the generation and grid level, the activities are reasonably structured, synchronised and close to the nation’s need. “In distribution and metering, all the innovations and reforms are at the moment quite scattered and disconnected from one another, causing confusion and chaos.”Mr Singhvi said, “In future, energy meters will be the gateway to home, and able to manage and control various loads from remote using energy meters gateway. Smart meters, which are equipped with communication capabilities such as Zigbee or Z wave, can communicate with various controller and devices, and manage load of user effectively.”
He continued, “In future, homes will have various appliances with communication interface, and these can be remotely switched on and switched off for better comfort and energy savings. Other innovative concepts in metering such as state-of-the-art distribution transformer metering are being implemented by many utilities across India.”
Metering industry in futureThe overall outlook for metering industry in India is positive. However, there is a need of a comprehensive, co-ordinated effort to address challenges of Indian electricity infrastructure industry. Metering will remain key priority for most of the government-owned as well as private utilities. “We expect that present volume will sustain for minimum 5 years. The global electronic metering market is growing because of AMI. Therefore, the demand for meters is growing, and quality manufacturers can exploit these opportunities.”
According to Mr Kishor, “The consensus is gradually building on various aspects of the technological and policy initiatives’ needs.” Once the clarity for the future arrives, the stakeholders will be busy developing one of the most robust electricity infrastructures in India.
A single mistake in choosing the wrong technology might result in a setback, which will take many years to rectify and move forward in the right direction, jeopardising the nation’s progress.Narang Kishor Narnix Technolabs
“In future, homes will have various appliances with communication interface, and these can be remotely switched on and switched off for better comfort and energy savings.Sunil SinghviSecure Meters

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