India plans to change All electricity meters to be smart prepaid in next three years

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The government has urged Electricity Meters manufacturers to scale up production in India, as it plans to shift all connections to smart prepaid meters over the next three years. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government plans to convert all electricity meters into smart prepaid meters by 2022.

In the next three years, metering will go smartly prepaid, and gone will be the days of bills reaching your house. This step is likely to bring revolution in power sector by way of reduction in AT&C losses, better health of DISCOMs, incentivization of energy conservation, ease of bill payments and doing away with the paper bills,” said an official statement from Ministry of Power.

Creating a smart meter architecture minimizes human intervention in metering, billing and collection process and helps in reducing theft by identifying loss pockets. It requires a two-way communication network, control center equipment, and software applications that enable near real-time gathering and transfer of energy usage information.

The need of the hour is to scale up manufacturing of smart prepaid meters and to bring down their prices, Minister of Power and New & Renewable energy R.K Singh said in a meeting with meter manufacturers.

The statement said, “Move towards smart meters is a pro-poor step as consumers need not pay the whole month’s bill in one go, they can pay as per their requirements.” “Manufacturing of smart prepaid meters will also generate skilled employment for the youth,” it added. 

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The Power Minister has made a strong pitch for smart and pre-paid metering as a means of making state utilities more efficient and bringing down their losses in the past. The meter manufacturers were also assured of a steady demand for smart prepaid meters which the government is also planning to make mandatory after a particular date. The strategy is part of the government’s electricity distribution plan prepared by the Central Electricity Authority (CEA), India’s apex power sector planning body, and comes at a time when the new government is trying to step up its efforts to supply 24×7 power to all.

The meeting discussed aspects of smart meters like BIS certification, compatibility with GPRS, harmonization with existing digital infrastructure among other things. The power sector is reeling under bad loans worth about Rs1 trillion, with around 66 gigawatts (GW) facing various degrees of financial stress.

“Smart metering would empower consumers with tools to help them conserve energy and plan their electricity usage in an efficient and optimum manner. Under this,  the distribution licensee shall provide 24×7 power to their consumers earlier. However the appropriate Commission in exceptional circumstances for the reasons to be recorded in writing may grant extension in this time period,” the statement said. 

The government believes that the plan will increase distribution substation capacity by 38% by 2022. During the review of the plan, power minister Raj Kumar Singh directed a core group of power ministry officials to “study the power sector ‘Reforms 2.0’, which would be integrated with Distribution Perspective Plan before it is released.”