Flipping the Switch on AMI: Why DISCOMs Need a Smart Meter Revolution

DISCOMs need to adopt technological innovations and restructure their infrastructure to make it seamless for renewables to become dominant energy providers in the coming future.

October 26, 2023. By News Bureau

A smart meter revolution is the need of the hour to revolutionise the energy landscape of India and achieve the goal of energy efficiency. The government of India launched an ambitious plan to replace 250 million conventional electric meters with smart prepaid meters by March 2026 under the Revamped Distribution Sector Scheme (RDSS) to enhance financial sustainability for distribution companies while reducing aggregate commercial and technical losses. In 2020, power distribution companies (DISCOMs) implementing advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) witnessed an average 15 percent rise in monthly revenue per consumer, equivalent to INR 250. In a study three years ago, Uttar Pradesh, significantly advantaged by smart metering, experienced a notable 36 percent decrease in exceptional billing across four DISCOMs. The New Delhi Municipal Council, the pioneering DISCOM achieving full-scale 100 percent smart meter deployment, successfully tracked all instances of meter tampering and unusual consumption patterns in real-time.

Reforms in power sector: start with DISCOMS
The energy transition requires urgent reforms in the power sector. DISCOMs are one of the most important and crucial components of energy distribution in the country. To achieve India’s green energy potential, DISCOMs need to adopt technological innovations and restructure their infrastructure to make it seamless for renewables to become dominant energy providers in the coming future. Adoption of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) will prepare a ground for the DISCOMs to cater to the consumers’ energy needs as per their requirements by mitigating losses as well as devising their strategies based on the consumption pattern, peak demand & shifting.

Why DISCOMS need a smart meter revolution
DISCOMS needs a smart meter revolution to enable real-time demand and supply monitoring, facilitate pre-emptive network maintenance, implement time-varying tariffs for efficient electricity usage, enhance billing and revenue collection efficiency and most importantly to understand the consumption pattern. In the current scenario, DISCOMS does not have access to real-time data and the capacity to analyse and make sense of the huge amount of data generated due to electricity consumption in the country.

The smart meter revolution will not only provide seamless online, real-time electricity usage tracking but will also transform the energy value chain to prepare it for clean energy transition. The real-time data will empower the consumers to understand their consumption patterns so that they can change their behavior and adopt sustainable practices such as reducing energy usage leading to reduced power wastage and long-term carbon and financial savings.

Enhancing customer satisfaction through smart metering
As per a recent study conducted by CEEW, around 60 percent of smart meter users expressed contentment with their billing and payment experiences. They are also willing to recommend prepaid smart meters to their friends and family. Also, 88 percent of electricity consumers in Rajasthan who would receive irregular bills while using traditional meters witnessed a 19 percent drop in this irregularity when they switched over to smart meters. More than 30 percent of the users reported a greater sense of control over their electricity expenditure, a drop in instances of electricity theft, and improved supply to the locality.

Way Forward
Digitisation of power infrastructure will improve energy capacity, reduce consumption and help in achieving climate goals. DISCOMS should create a comprehensive public education and engagement program to create awareness of the benefits of smart meters. The successful deployment of smart meters will require collaboration from all stakeholders where the state governments will play a leading role in providing a conducive environment in terms of favourable policies, awareness campaigns as well as a commitment to transform the power sector to prepare it for clean energy.

- Saurabh Kumar, Vice President-India, Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP)
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