By Rajesh Bansal
India’s economy is growing at a rapid pace, but electricity supply remains a problem. In order to maintain the economic growth rate, the power sector has become a priority sector for the government of India.
High aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses and shortage of power during peak periods are typical problems with most distribution companies in India. It is felt that if India’s strengths in IT and its communication network are clubbed with metering technology, then this will help considerably in solving these problems.
As a result the government of India has developed the second phase of the Accelerated Power Development and Reform Programme (APDRP-II), which is focused mainly on the use of IT in the distribution sector.
Present metering status
Up to the beginning of the last decade India, like rest of world, was using electromechanical meters for energy measurement. Until that time, the need was to measure active energy (KWh). In the last two decades, India has seen a rampant increase in the theft of electricity and the distribution companies have lost large sums of money due to poor meter installation and management of electromechanical meters. In 1994 single phase electronic meters were introduced for domestic consumers.
With this change in need, meter technology is also changing in India. Currently meters used in India are digital static meters, with features such as multi- parameter measurement, communication, memory and LCD display. In order to control theft, the meters have various anti-theft features, such as a two wire measurement system in a single phase meter, which was developed by Indian meter engineers and is now being utilised in many other countries.
The trend in metering is very much dictated by the needs of the distribution companies and the trends to date are summarised in the Table.
Future trend of meters in India
Even though the present day meters are very powerful in terms of features, they are still not able to completely solve the problems faced by the distribution companies. Over and above this, the level of awareness of consumers has also grown.
In order that the future meters will be the ones that fulfil all the distribution companies’ needs, it is very important to understand the features that will be required, particularly for loss reduction, demand side management and consumer interfacing. In order the incorporate these features, the meter will no longer a stand alone unit but will become a vital component in the metering solution.
Features for future meters in India include:
- Tamper proofing: In order to reduce losses, meters should have not just anti-theft features but should be theft proof. This can be achieved by making the meter immune to accuracy change/data change and ensuring working of the microprocessor if AC is available. In case immunity is not possible then meter shall record such abnormalities
- Split meter: The meter is installed at a location that need not be accessible to the customer and an interactive display at the consumer premise
- Multi-parameter measurement: The meter should measure all basic electricity parameters and energies, be programmable to determine the occurrence and restoration of events, and have the facility to handle predefined and user defined events
- Communication: The meter should be communicable by all standard means and use a standard protocol, and it should have wired port to interface with other communication media. As communication will be backbone of the future meter it should be rugged, low cost and reliable
- Interfacing: The meter should be able to interface with various appliances including multiple connecting/disconnecting devices. Future disconnect devices will be required for three types of load, viz total load (by the distribution company in case of non payment, etc.), consumer planned load (by the consumer), and prohibited load (load that is prohibited during peak load, etc.)
- Display unit: The unit will provide not only for the display of energy but will improve the interaction between the consumer and distribution company with potential uses including transmission of bills, messages, load outage/ preventive maintenance notification, peak tariff hour notification, complaint lodging, etc.
- Online energy audit: Online energy auditing based on data collected from all the energy nodes (grid, feeders, transformers, poles and consumers) will enable identification of problems and alarm triggering for action, in particular pertaining to energy theft
- Functionality: Functionalities should include prepayment/post payment switching, load planning and demand side management, monitoring of consumer electricity quality, and protection of consumer appliances from electrical surges, etc.
- Flexibility: All future meters should be highly flexible and interoperable in terms of make, accessories, protocol, communications media, mounting, etc. and should follow same standard.
Status of future meters in India
A large number of companies in India are working on metering solutions having some of the above features. However, few distribution companies as yet are planning to do trials of such systems.
The development of future meters cannot be done by the meter manufacturers alone, but requires the knowledge of the meter manufacturers, accessory manufacturer, communication companies and IT companies to be integrated.
Through the APDRP-II the government of India has identified the role of IT in power distribution and is encouraging its development. As the future meter will help in reducing AT&C losses (and thus government subsidy) and bringing better accountability, it will find its place with Indian distribution companies. Thus the future meter has huge commercial potential in India.