energy meter
Image credit: Stock

The energy meter has a significant role in the power distribution business, writes Rajesh Bansal, senior executive vice president and head of network operations for BSES Rajdhani Power Limited.

Based on tariff-related meter data, utilities raise a bill for services provided and energy delivered.

A long-time back, mechanical disc type meters were used to serve energy measurement needs. Almost 25 years ago, static meters were introduced with memory and digital display. These meters could measure multiple electrical parameters, log defined events, do computation & logic operations, store data and communications; and measure energy usage.

This article was originally published in Smart Energy International, issue 5-2019. Read the full digimag here or subscribe to receive a print copy here.

This resulted in the development of various features and functions in the meter, and utilities started asking for new features in meters. In addition, meter manufacturers started integrating various sensors and with other devices to develop new features and functions.

At present, smart meters, prepaid meters and standalone static meters are the most popular meter types. The prepaid meter is an established technology, developed long back.

As far as smart meters are concerned, except in a few regions, most utilities are still buying static meters only.

In spite of the large volume of purchases of static meters, there has been little change in specifications over the years. In fact, the specification of audit meters, HT meters and LT CT meters remained almost the same over the last decade.

Utilities have a lot of expectations from energy meters. No changes to meter specifications could mean one of the following:

  • The energy meter is meeting all issues, concern and expectations of utilities.
  • Or… Energy meters can no longer address the remaining issues, concerns and
    expectations of utilities.
  • Or… Henceforth all developments will be in the direction of smart metering technology i.e. communications, alert, HAN, data analytics. The basic meter will remain the same.

Newer methods of theft are, however, one of the most urgent reasons for the development of new features. This phase of ‘no change in specifications’ cannot be interpreted as meaning that ‘meter tampering’ issues have been resolved.

Envisioning new meter specifications: It is the user need, issues, concerns and expectations which act as a catalyst to upgrade technology and spur innovations.

Based on experiences while working as head of network operations, the author feels the following are a few utility needs/issues which the energy meter if modified, can address with efficiency, the least number of modifications and high financial viability. The need is to think differently, break the boundaries and take a collaborative approach.

Consumer wiring safety:

Electrical energy is one of the most convenient ways to use energy. This is one reason why usage of electrical energy is growing. However, if electrical energy is not used safely, or if there is any safety lapse in the network, it can cause fire, electric shock and death due to electrocution or fire/smoke. Many energy regulators/ safety manuals emphasise the installation of earth leakage protection devices. In practice, however, many consumers draw power without such protection.

Meters have almost all the required hardware, measuring transducers and electronics to offer all the protection features which consumers are supposed to install at their end. Meters can work both as ELCB and MCB. This would require some change in legislation and awareness programmes for consumers but would ensure users had safe power and lower fire incidents at consumer premises due to short circuits.

To prevent fire incident at the consumer end, the provision of suitable logic in the meter to detect waveform means fires can be detected in advance and thus can be prevented by switching supply.

Home smoke or fire detector etc can be connected to the meter so that supply can be disconnected based on the alarm.

Consumer end power quality:

Power quality is defined by a combination of various parameters. All parameters have their own significance, but few parameters have a direct affect both on consumer’s gadgets and utility network equipment/assets’ efficiency and operation life. Voltage unbalance and harmonics content are two such parameters.

In fact, many regulators have started imposing penalty provisions on utilities for voltage unbalance and voltage harmonics, and on consumers due to harmonics generation as a result of consumer load. The meter is the only device which can monitor these parameters and thus can improve power quality and equipment/gadgets’ life and efficiency.

Supply reliability – compensation policy Many regulators are announcing their intention to impose power outage/shedding based compensation policy. Disputes are expected once the policy to compensate against utility deficiency in service are imposed – especially due to reasons beyond the control of the utility, or attributable to the consumer. Meters, being an interface devise can identify outages due to factors attributable to consumers. Meters should have software to compute eligible hours for compensation installed. In fact, meters should directly compute SAIDI, SAIFI based on logic defined by the utility. The key is to prepare algorithms where outage noneligibility can be detected and ignored in computation. In other words, the meter can compute event eligibility for compensation.

Energy meter to improve utility operation efficiency

Two critical parameters which decide utility operations are the demand curve and technical losses. Both these operational parameters can be tamed if relevant information is measured and monitored and the cause of undesirable operations is analysed systematically. Energy meters along with application apps can help a lot in this regard. In fact, the meter is already measuring all required parameters. The only question is to arrange the data in the desired format and analyse it to find performance to improve both load curve and technical losses.

Energy meter for efficient network operations

Reliable and efficient network operations in the utility means the network operates with the least number of outages/faults, the network and power usage are considered safe, loading is balanced based on asset capacity and outage management is managed quickly and efficiently. Apart from network asset audit meters, relays and FPI are two critical devises which help in sustaining safe and efficient network operations. Energy meters have the capability to offer these features. This will reduce the need for many types of equipment in the panel and all necessary work can be done by the energy meter alone. This is a cost-effective, compact and efficient solution.

Present status

A few meter manufacturers have started developing meters with some of the abovementioned features and for these, field trials are in progress. Companies involved in smart metering are also considering these features as these needs are independent of smart metering. So far financial viability is not an issue.

India Utility Week

Conclusions

Enhancement of energy meter power is independent of smart metering system technology. Innovation in energy meters cannot be substituted by the development of smart metering systems. In fact, a powerful meter will improve the gains of a smart metering system.

Today the smartphone has practically replaced many gadgets that used to be on office desks or were carried around.

Similarly, the author envisions energy meters as one powerful device, with the implementation of some of the modifications mentioned above. The meter can do the job of various instruments installed in the utility network and can also help in making power distribution and power usage (by consumers) safer, more reliable and more efficient. Above are just a few examples to prove how much more an energy meter can do.

The list is endless. SEI

About the author:

Rajesh Bansal is senior vice president, head (network operation), at BSES Delhi.

He joined BSES Delhi, a power utility, in 2004. He believes metering plays the most vital role in any distribution utility. He has imparted training and shared his knowledge about various applications of meter data and planning metering roadmaps. He is frequently invited to address delegates on ‘business opportunities in the field of smart grid/ energy storage and power distribution in India’. In India, he is an active member of various technical committees for energy metering and also chairman of CBIP metering standardisation committee.