Adoption of an international energy meter protocol in India


By Navaneethakrishnan Murugesan

The electric utility environment in India is undergoing rapid changes. Until recently the system was vertically integrated, but the Electricity Act 2003 introduced open access in the transmission and distribution sectors. In this environment much information needs to be exchanged among the various participants, including consumers, for which the electronic energy meter is key. As a result the issue of the communication protocol adopted in the meter has become increasingly important and to date Indian meter manufacturers have adopted a variety of communication protocols in their meters.

India’s metering industry is a growing and vibrant sector, with numerous Indian and international manufacturers serving the market, and currently there is move by stakeholders to adopt a standard communication protocol for electronic meters. This article reviews the initiative around the introduction of IEC 62056 (DLMS/COSEM).

India’s metering scenario
India’s electricity market has the unique problem of a high level of losses at the distribution level. The main reason for these losses is attributed to theft and there is a strong focus both from the government and utilities as well as the manufacturers to address this issue. Over the years meter specifications and features have been more and more adapted to detecting tampering of the meter. In addition the monitoring and tracking of metering assets has become more important for utilities, as has the requirement for analysis and load management applications. To manage these requirements, the utilities have been resorting for some time to ordering not only the meter but also the metering software and communication system from a single meter vendor. In some cases utilities have duplicate systems from multiple vendors.

Over the years a number of metering protocols have come to exist in the Indian market. Among these are the older IEC 61107, ANSI Standard c12.18, PACT protocol, various versions of the Modbus standard, and company proprietary protocols. However, the communication protocol is an issue that Indian manufacturers have been reluctant to open up for the public scrutiny and each manufacturer’s protocol is private to itself and only provided to utilities on request. This is hampering the integration of meters from different manufacturers and thus the market development. But perhaps the biggest drawback is the large investment being made by individual metering companies, systems integrators, software implementers and the utilities themselves in maintaining their own sets of communication protocols, drivers, adapters, XML converters and application solutions.

Introduction of IEC 62056 in India
Most Indian standards (Bureau of Indian Standard – BIS), including energy meter standards, are based on the IEC standards. However, there is no BIS standard for meter communication and thus it became necessary to look into the adoption of an international protocol, with IEC 62056 (DLMS/COSEM) an obvious choice.

The Accelerated Power Development and Reform Programme (APDRP), which was launched by the government of India during 2001, has placed emphasis on the reduction of aggregated technical and commercial (AT&C) losses. As part of this initiative a committee from NTPC, India’s largest power company, and the Indian Electrical and Electronics Manufacturers Association (IEEMA) was entrusted with framing a specification for energy meter communication as well as a protocol for meter procurement under this scheme.

Realising the importance of the communication protocol in a deregulated environment, the Central Power Research Institute (CPRI) also set up a meter test facility in 2004 for testing under IEC 62056 – the first such facility in Asia. The purpose of this facility was to assist manufacturers in developing meters to IEC 62056. Both before and after its setting up the CPRI conducted conferences to promote the importance of the protocol to the utilities and vendors.

The CPRI also initiated work with the BIS as well as with the Central Board of Irrigation and Power (CBIP) to introduce the IEC 62056 protocol in India. Comments received indicated the need for the inclusion of tamper related issues more specific to Indian conditions and a request was made to DLMS to include these in its standard. This has now been done and the DLMS standard meets the specific requirements of India in addition to the international requirements.

Now the CPRI holds the record for issuing the largest number of test certificates (30 out of 94 meters certified) for energy meters as per DLMS. Foreign manufacturers such as LSIS, Omnisystems, Korea, Siemens Energy Services and PRI have utilised the services of this laboratory in addition to many Indian meter manufacturers. Currently 12 meters from Indian manufacturers are certified under DLMS. M/s Kalki Communication Technologies has developed a protocol stack under IEC 62056 to aid manufactures to shorten the development period, while local integrators like M/s SANDS India Ltd, Analogics Ltd and Easun Reyrole have developed clients to read DLMS-compliant meters. These developments have made it possible in India to have all the facilities – laboratory, stack developers and integrators – available in one country.

Advantages to the Indian industry
The adoption of DLMS/COSEM by Indian meter manufacturers enables them to develop products that are future-proof, have reduced integration costs, and facilitate future applications that enable proper monitoring and control of electricity distribution and loss reduction in India. Also it enables the local industry to develop new and innovative applications integrating meters for the evolving requirement of energy savings, loss reduction, liberalised energy markets, energy trading, etc.

This enables the Indian manufacturers to compete on a level footing in the global market. Moreover, with the increased use of gas in India it provides for the future use of meters in gas/water metering applications under a similar protocol.

IEC 62056 (DLMS/COSEM) is a standardised protocol, which enables utilities to use common and structured means of modeling their meters and reading their data. It also enables the utilities to adapt unique AMR applications with very low operational costs.

Aligning with international standards bodies helps customers to safeguard their investments in the long term as the standards bodies make provision for backward compatibility when they migrate to other technology. The DLMS UA provides a non-discriminatory opportunity to be in the committee and Indian manufacturers and customers can benefit through membership.

The DLMS protocol also offers space for new and manufacture-specific features, which can be introduced as standard within a reasonable time.

With the second phase of the APDRP (APDRP-II) under consideration by the government of India, laying emphasis on IT in the power sector and thus an enhanced role of the energy meter, it is all the more important to introduce IEC 62056 without further delay.

For more background on this project see Smart Energy International Issue 1 2008 p 98.