Discoms turn to smart meters to manage power demand in Delhi

Tata Power Delhi is getting into solar power generation for large customers and installing smart meters for all its residential consumers


BSES, which supplies power to 3.5 million consumers in Delhi, is in the process of shifting to smart meters in phases. Photo: Mint
BSES, which supplies power to 3.5 million consumers in Delhi, is in the process of shifting to smart meters in phases. Photo: Mint

New Delhi: Rising energy consumption in cities is making power distribution companies change the way they are doing business.

Tata Power Delhi Distribution Ltd (TPDDL) is getting into solar power generation for large customers and installing smart meters for all its residential consumers as part of a plan to manage energy demand.

While solar power generation through partner companies will help address rising peak demand, smart meters will facilitate billing of customers based on the time at which power is consumed, TPDDL chief executive officer and managing director Praveer Sinha said.

Utilities, which are currently allowed to charge industries differently depending on the time of the day, plan to seek permission from state electricity regulators for similar charging of residential users as well, once smart meters are in place.

Tata Power, which distributes electricity in the north and north-west parts of the national capital region, will get 400 megawatt (MW) of solar power generated for its large customers over the next few years through partner companies. This is expected to lower consumption of price-regulated electricity.

It is also in the process of finalizing bids for procuring smart meters for 1.5 million customers. It had earlier installed these devices for 170 of its industrial customers under a pilot study.

“Now, we are going ahead with full-fledged implementation. In the first phase, we will install 200,000 smart meters and will scale it up to 1.5 million in five to six years. We will invest about Rs.100 crore a year for this,” said Sinha.

Smart meters will communicate with the distribution company on the consumption pattern and on details of the power supply, which will help in maintaining the quality of energy supply and in determining power bills based on consumption at different times of the day. Power consumption is usually high during the afternoon and at night.

For customers with a rooftop solar power generation facility, smart meters will also facilitate selling surplus power during the day to the grid, get credits and use it to pay for consumption at night.

Reliance Power Ltd-owned BSES Yamuna Power Ltd and BSES Rajdhani Power Ltd, which supply electricity to about 3.5 million residential, institutional and business consumers in Delhi, are also in the process of shifting to smart meters in phases, a person aware of the companies’ plans said, requesting anonymity.

“Considering the huge cost involved, this exercise is being done in phases. In the first, consumers who use more than 500 units a month will be covered by the end of 2017,” said the person.

A BSES official, who asked not to be named, said the two BSES companies in the capital had installed 185 rooftop solar ‘net metering’ connections (smart meters measuring net consumption from the grid after selling surplus solar power from rooftop panels to the grid).

These installations have a sanctioned load of 6.6MW. The companies are installing 30 more with a sanctioned load of 1.37MW. Around 40 schools and educational institutes have opted for ‘net metering’ connections from BSES. The savings consumers make range from Rs.1,800 a month to around Rs.10 lakh a month depending on the sanctioned load.

Around 110-120 sq. ft is required for each kilowatt of capacity, explained the official.

Experts said state electricity regulators have to catch up with the changing industry dynamics.

“Indian utilities have utilized limited functionality of smart meters, or have deployed largely for high-value consumers. There is a case for enhancing both aspects, but for that electricity regulators should innovate on tariff design. This could include time of day, demand response, interruptible tariffs, and allow behind-the-meter applications,” said Kameswara Rao, leader of the energy utilities and mining practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers in India.

Many solar power developers are now independently approaching customers with attractive financing schemes to have panels installed on their rooftops as the cost of a rooftop solar power generation facility lasting 25 years could be recovered in three to four years.

The government has set a target of generating 40 gigawatt (GW) of residential rooftop solar power capacity by 2022 as part of its renewable energy strategy.

Sinha said power consumption in the capital is growing by about 10% a year, partly because of higher consumption by existing customers and partly because of new customers.

According to Delhi Transco Ltd, power demand hit a historic high of 6,268MW on 1 July due to rising heat and humidity.

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