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Prepaid smart meters and benefits

November 2, 2023 5:47 pm

Prepaid smart meters and benefits

The smart meter national programme (SMNP) is set to transform the nation’s energy landscape by aiming to replace 25 crore conventional meters with smart meters.

India’s power sector is undergoing a remarkable transformation, fueled by the introduction of prepaid smart meters, which are revolutionising the way electricity consumption is monitored and billed. The Smart Meter National Program (SMNP) initiated by the Indian government aims to replace 25 crore conventional meters with smart meters nationwide. This ambitious program promises a host of benefits for both consumers and distribution companies (DISCOMs), reshaping the energy landscape of India. In this article by Winston S. K Adams from Fluentgrid, we will delve into the advantages of prepaid smart meters and their significant impact on the power sector in India.

Benefits of Prepaid Smart Meters

A Smart Meter is an advanced metering device used for measuring and recording electricity, water, or gas consumption at homes, businesses, and other utility service locations. Unlike traditional analogue meters, smart meters are equipped with digital technology and communication capabilities that enable them to provide a wide range of benefits to both utility providers and consumers. It collects and transmits real-time data about energy consumption. This technology allows consumers to track their energy usage, save money through efficient energy management, and remotely control appliances. For utility companies, smart meters enable improved grid efficiency, enhanced customer service, and valuable data insights to optimise operations.

Consumers can get instant data on their energy usage, allowing them to identify areas where they can save money and reduce wastage; able to control appliances remotely and get accurate meter readings, while DISCOMS can identify issues with the grid, reducing downtime and minimising outages and provide timely alerts to customers about high energy usage or grid-related problems, delivering better customer services. At the same time, DISCOMS can collect a wealth of data about energy consumption, enabling them to improve grid efficiency, develop innovative products and services, reduce aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses, and improve operational efficiency.

Role of advanced metering infrastructure service providers (AMISPs) in the government’s RDSS scheme

The government has launched the RDSS with a budgetary outlay of Rs. 3,03,758 crores, aiming to reduce the aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses to pan-India levels of 12-15 percent and an average cost of supply (ACS)-average revenue realised (ARR) gap to zero by 2024-25 across the nation. As part of this scheme, 25 crore smart meters will be installed through a competitive bidding process. The Scheme has two major components:

Part – A: Financial support for prepaid smart metering and system metering and upgradation of the distribution infrastructure.

Part – B: training and capacity building and other enabling and supporting activities.

Financial assistance to DISCOMs is provided for the upgradation of the distribution infrastructure and prepaid smart consumer metering and system metering based on meeting pre-qualifying criteria and achieving basic minimum benchmarks in reforms.

Advanced metering infrastructure service providers (AMISPs) will be selected to oversee the project, and their performance will be linked to service level agreements (SLAs) to ensure end-to-end responsibility for project delivery.

Currently, there is intense competition in the advanced metering infrastructure service providers (AMIS) space, and close to forty-three companies have already enrolled in Rural Electrification Corporation participating in the tenders invited by various DISCOMS. As per the recent data, close to twenty companies have been awarded 4.38 crore Smart Meter contracts by various DISCOMS. Various companies are participating in Smart Meter projects of various DISCOMS such as Anvil Cables, Apraava, BCITS, EESL, IPCL, Genus, GMR Infra, HPL, HPMS, India Power Corporation Limited, IntelliSmart, Monte Carlo, Secure Meters Limited, Adani Energy Solutions Ltd, Shirdi Sai, Tata Power, Techno Electric & Engineering Co. Ltd to name a few.

Advantages of prepaid smart meters for customers and DISCOMs

Prepaid smart meters offer a range of advantages for both customers and Distribution Companies (DISCOMs) in India, contributing to the transformation of the power sector and addressing various critical challenges.

Customer Benefits

Improved Budgeting: Prepaid smart meters empower customers with real-time energy consumption data, aiding effective budget management and leading to reduced energy bills as they become more conscious of their usage.

Reduced Debt: These meters help customers alleviate debt concerns, as they can only consume what they’ve prepaid for, a significant relief for low-income households and individuals struggling to meet electricity payments.

Enhanced Control: Customers gain control over their energy consumption. They can conveniently recharge their meters when needed, set up low balance alerts, and modify their habits for cost savings, making the process akin to topping up a mobile phone.

Recharge Alerts: Users receive notifications through the meter or SMS when their balance runs low, preventing unexpected disconnections and facilitating precise budgeting.

Remote Recharge: Offering convenience, customers can recharge their prepaid meters online or at designated points, eliminating the need for physical meter readings and manual bill payments enhancing their satisfaction.

DISCOM Benefits

Theft Reduction: Prepaid smart meters act as a deterrent to electricity theft, as unauthorised connections can be remotely detected and disconnected. This curbs losses and fraudulent activities, ultimately saving DISCOMs significant money.

Improved Efficiency: Real-time energy consumption monitoring allows DISCOMs to swiftly identify and rectify network issues, reducing outages and ensuring a more reliable power supply, thus enhancing overall operational efficiency.

Increased Customer Satisfaction: Empowering customers with control over energy usage and assisting in debt reduction boosts customer satisfaction levels, improving the overall consumer experience.

Operational Efficiency: Prepaid smart meters minimise losses associated with manual revenue collection and reduce administrative costs for DISCOMs. The accuracy of these meters enhances revenue collection, subsequently supporting power supply improvements.

Additional Benefits:

Carbon Emission Reduction: Prepaid smart meters motivate customers to become more energy-conscious, helping reduce carbon emissions by encouraging more responsible energy use.

Grid Resilience: These meters provide DISCOMs with visibility into energy consumption, enhancing grid resilience, particularly in regions susceptible to power outages.

New Services: Prepaid smart meters open doors to innovative services like demand-side management and dynamic pricing, which can alleviate peak demand and improve energy system efficiency.

The adoption of prepaid smart meters in India, supported by government initiatives, is gaining momentum and has the potential to revolutionise the power sector. With a current installation of over 9,02,652 prepaid smart meters as part of the Smart Meter National Programme, the advantages span from improving customer satisfaction and reducing debt to enhancing operational efficiency, curbing theft, and contributing to a more sustainable and resilient power system. These meters are undoubtedly a game-changer for the Indian power sector, addressing various long-standing issues.

Expertise shared by: Winston S. K Adams, VP – Corporate Affairs, MarComm and Partner Relations- Fluentgrid Limited

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