Sunil Misra, Director General, IEEMA, speaks about the technological advancements in the meters of today, the key challenges facing the metering industry and what the government needs to do for better implementation of smart metering, in an interview with
Sunil Misra, Director General, IEEMA, speaks about technological advancements in meters of today, key challenges facing the metering industry and what the govt needs to do for better implementation of smart metering, in an interview.
How do you see the growth potential of smart meters in the wake of government’s ambitious programmes like Smart Grids, Smart Cities, 24X7 Power, etc?
The metering industry has grown in the last couple of years in terms of technology as well as in terms of the number of meters installed. However, at the same time, prices have been fluctuating, witnessing a downward trend. The brighter side is that almost 99 per cent of the utilities’ requirement of products and solutions are designed and developed indigenously by the metering industry, which is a great achievement. The Government of India made ‘Prepayment metering system’ compulsory for all government offices and government buildings, but it has still not been implemented across the country. In fact, only a few states have started the implementation process. States utilities should ensure implementation of the government’s directives so as to implement prepayment metering system.
Kindly shed light on some of the new innovations/ latest launches in the metering segment?
India was second after England to introduce electronic energy meters way back in 1988. These were a lot smarter than the Ferraris disc meters. While meters of today have reasonable intelligence, our key focus has to be on reducing revenue losses and looking at revenue completeness. Smart metering solutions used in the Western world are not directly relevant to India. Our challenges and business drivers are different, and expensive solutions will not be justified. We need a combination of technology, a cadre of competent people to run the utilities (with continuity) and processes that will support. Working smartly is more relevant than using Western style smart meters. It is not a magic bullet for our power sector ailments.
Explain challenges for state electricity boards in rolling out smart meters as per the government’s target?
The main challenge being faced by the metering industry is not getting payments on time. Penalties imposed by utilities inspite of delayed payments and frequent type testing of products is adding to the additional cost impact on the industry Besides, return of defective meters (tampered , burnt, damaged, etc) without any fault of manufacturing, performance guarantee encashment, purchase policy without considering field performance during vendor evaluation are major pain areas for the industry. Field performance measurement is the key point to be considered during vendor selection and proper weightage should be given while deciding the contract. At IEEMA, we are representing our pain areas to different utilities from time to time but we have yet not achieved the desired success. In the near future, we shall again highlight our industry’s issues to respective utilities so that we can sustain our growth.
The govt plans to leapfrog from a scenario where there are no meters (in rural areas) to a complete smart meters deployment. What should be the strategy and will subsidies help?
No, subsidies alone won’t help. The govt should take initiatives to conduct various training programmes involving IT experts, metering experts, communication experts, power distribution experts, users and network service providers, so that they can share their experience with power sector employees and help upgrade their skills. This will help utilities move forward towards automation of the power sector which is the need of the hour.
In the next five years, I see the industry moving towards smart metering/AMI solutions. This can only be achieved if the govt takes bold decisions for implementation of smart metering technology without considering the price criteria. Prices would automatically go down with the mass roll-out of meters.