Smart meters India: ISGF backs leasing model


India’s ministry of power has set a target to equip consumers with a monthly power usage of above 500KWh with the new meters by 2017. The ministry’s phase 2 of the smart meters installation is set to focus on smart metering consumers using 200KWh per month, by 2019.

Smart meters standards

To simplify and standardise advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) in India, the ministry requested the Bureau of Indian Standards to develop a national standard for smart meters. The development resulted in the creation of two smart meters standards in August 2015 and March 2016.

The decision to establish the standards followed the implementation of 14 different smart meters projects being implemented in India but with different specifications.

The efforts by the ministry marks a step forward towards transitioning the country’s power grid to reliability and utilities’ operations to optimised characterised by improved grid management and customer satisfaction. But still, the huge capital investments required for the full roll out of the projects is still hindering utilities’ massive deployments of the smart meters.

Smart meters deployment

To help the power distribution companies to tackle the challenge of capital availability to implement the projects, the India Smart Grid Forum (ISGF) drafted a whitepaper entitled ‘Advanced Metering Infrastructure: Rollout Strategy for India’.

The paper states that if India is to have a successful rollout of the new metering system, the country needs to implement projects using either the Leasing or Service model.

In using the leasing model, ISGF recommends the need for the establishment of an agency responsible for releasing and processing tenders for the provision of smart meters as per the two BIS standards.

According to the paper, the distribution companies should be stipulated to buy the smart meters only from vendors whose smart meters and communication devices adhere to the BIS standards.

AMI projects funding

However, since India is targeting to install smart meters in large numbers within a short amount of time, neither the utilities nor the vendors are able to fund the supply and the rollout of the system at once.

[quote] Hence the need to include the backup from a financial institution, for instance a bank which would buy the meters and their communication models from the manufacturer and lease it to the utility against a monthly rent for a period of ten years.

In the services model, the organisation highlights the importance of utilities partnering with multiple firms such as telecommunications and technology companies in order to divide the work loads and fields primary to AMI systems.

ISGF recommends that there be created a Metering Services Agency responsible for a variety of functions related to the implementation of AMI and its maintenance.

Some of the primary roles of the agency will be to:

  • Test and certify the smart meters and their communication devices to be purchased by the distribution firms in line with the defined scope of AMI in a given area/town
  • Deliver the meters and communication devices from utilities to points of installation as well as install
  • Establishing and maintaining the last mile communication connectivity for smart meters for a period of at least 10 years
  • Select the appropriate communication technology for providing a Wide Area Network, leasing bandwidth and ensuring the availability of complete AMI system at mutually agreed Service Level Agreements.

The ISGF reiterates that in choosing either one of the models to implement the AMI projects, utilities share the cost of the system with their consumers on a 50% basis. ISGF believes that the targets set by the ministry of power can be achieved if utilities increase consumers’ monthly bills by INR69 to fund the projects.

“We believe that market forces and innovation will evolve in this direction at a fast pace once we unleash this revolution-300 million smart meters in India in the next 5-7 years,” states the ISGF.

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