Jul 21, 2022
Digitization has revolutionized several sectors and continues to disrupt several others. The power sector has been one which has witnessed this transformation. How we consume and monitor usage of electricity has significantly transformed over the last 10 years. Electromechanical meters have made way for smart and intelligent meters.
Let us understand the various aspects of this technology and how Syrma SGS is playing a small role in contributing to this transformation.
A smart meter is one of the most important devices used in the Smart Grid (SG). The device is an advanced energy meter that gathers information from the end users’ load devices, measures the consumer’s energy consumption and then provides additional information to the utility company or system operator. A smart meter incorporates several sensors and control devices and is supported by dedicated communications infrastructure. A key feature is data analytics that deals with data acquisition, communication, processing and the intelligence it brings to the consumer, utility company and the Government for demand / investment planning, dynamic tariffs, load planning, etc.
The Government of India’s initiatives like ‘Make in India’ and ‘Smart Cities’ need reliable and continuous power supply. India’s power sector has traditionally faced several challenges like AT&C (Aggregate Technical & Commercial) losses, inefficient transmission and distribution due to dated infrastructure, and power theft. Advanced energy management coupled with increased use of renewable energy sources is key to ensure sustainable ways to power our nation.
As the world’s sixth largest consumer of energy, India accounts for 3.4% of the global energy consumption. The consistent high growth of the Indian economy has resulted in a surging demand for energy. Since independence, the installed capacity has grown from 1,362 MW to 400 GW. In the last decade alone, the installed capacity of renewable sources of energy for electricity generation has grown at an annual rate of 20%. Despite this, millions of households still receive electricity for just a few hours each day, particularly in remote regions. The distribution system suffers from frequent and long duration outages.
The AT&C losses across India have reduced from 23.70% in FY15 – 16 to 21.83% in FY19 – 20. While 18 DISCOMs witnessed a decline in AT&C losses, 12 DISCOMs witnessed an increase between FY16-20. These losses are economically draining the distribution facilities across India. In fact, a few states have AT&C losses upwards of 40%.
To address these issues, bring efficiency, and seamlessly integrate emerging technologies in the areas of monitoring, automation, control, communication and IT systems, active participation of all stakeholders is key. It is expected that the ambitions goals of the Indian power sector can be achieved by deploying smart grids, thus improving efficiency of the sector.
The Smart Meter National Programme (SMNP) aims to replace 250M conventional meters with smart meters in India. This programme is being implemented under the BOOT model on cost plus approach, which means a significant portion of the Capex and Opex are taken care by EESL (Energy Efficiency Services Limited) and private infrastructure companies. EESL has signed MoUs/agreements for smart meters with the states of Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Bihar, NDMC-Delhi, Rajasthan, Telangana and for prepaid meters with the states of Uttar Pradesh and Tripura.
Currently, there are ~4 million smart meters installed in India by various entities. 7.3 million meters are under implementation. The government’s plan is to install 250M smart meters in the next 3-4 years across all the states. Bihar has taken the lead to install prepaid smart meters because of high AT&C losses. For a distribution company, prepaid reduces the working capital requirement significantly as payment is upfront. This increases their ROI by about 0.5%.
Major OEMS who have won in the SMNP tenders include Bosch, EDF UK (Genus), Gram Power, Genus, Synergy, L&T, Landys Gyr, Schneider, Enzen, Dongfang, PSPCL, Radius, Wipro, Chemtrols, Secure Meters, Zen Meters and Synergy.
Smart meters enable a very accurate measurement of the usage of the electricity. This usage is converted to a digital format before it is passed to a processor. The processor section formats the data, and will normally display it on the smart meter itself and also passes the data in a suitable format into the radio communications section and for these operations, the smart meter requires 3 major boards.
The first is the communication module for wireless communication. The second section is the main board for installation display, microcontroller unit (MCU) and two batteries. This is responsible for display, data processing, storage and power-supply of the meter. The main board is connected through wire-to-board interconnect to the third board, a power board. The latter is responsible for system power-supply, voltage stabilization and circuit regulation.
The radio communications section of the smart meter will communicate with the utility provider so that consumption can be monitored on a regular basis. A number of communications technologies can be used for this including power line, cellular (often 2G GSM), LoRa, RF and others. Typically the system provides two way communication.
A consumer monitor also called a smart energy monitor or In Home Display, IHD, is also provided and a short range wireless communication technology is used for this. Again there are a variety of systems that can be used. These smart energy monitors or IHDs provide accurate insights providing information on monthly, weekly, and daily usage and current consumption. This helps the user manage the energy consumption more effectively.
The smart meter draws a very small amount of electricity from the line supply to function, enabling it to communicate with the user display and also the utility supplier.
Smart meters support bidirectional information flow. They are installed at the end user premises to collect information on electricity usage of appliances at regular intervals using Local Area Network (LAN). The data from the individual smart meter is collected by local data aggregators using Neighborhood Area Networks (NAN). Smart meters communicate with each other forming a mesh to reach the local data concentrator (distribution transformer) this is called as NAN, and this information is then passed to utility center using Wide Area Network (WAN). Similarly, the utility center also can send some commands or signals to the smart meter at end user premises when required.
The smart meter is expected to transmit data to the utility center in a highly reliable and secure way. The system collects data from local smart meters and sends it to utilities using different wired and wireless technologies involving the HAN, NAN and WAN. The data communication in HAN is carried by using power line communication (PLC), radio frequency (RF), ZigBee and Wi-Fi. The data communication in NAN involves copper or optical fiber, Wi-Fi, General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) and WiMAX. The data communication using WAN includes optical fiber, cellular and satellite.
The smart meter system communication technologies at the end user premises are PLC, RF, ZigBee, 2G and Wi-Fi. These technologies are employed based on geographical conditions and business needs defined by the utility. The factors determining the choice of technology include assessment of the existing equipment, impact of the new technology on existing appliances, functionality, and economic viability at the end user point. Also considered is the durability and adaptability for present and future needs.
Unlike smart meters used for measuring electricity consumption, gas and water meters cannot draw electrical power from their supply to drive their electronic circuitry. Instead they seek electrical power from another source.
To power any internal circuitry, they often use a long-life battery, and use very low consumption electronic circuits for measurement. Data is often transmitted over a low power link periodically to minimize the power consumption.
As gas and electricity are often supplied by the same company in many countries, the gas smart energy meter can be paired with the electricity one – a short range link transmits data, possible every half hour or less from the gas meter to the electricity meter, which has access to power. This electricity smart meter then acts as the hub communicating electricity and gas information to the utility provider and to the user smart energy monitor.
Battery lifetime is key as it requires a field replacement of the battery by a qualified engineer. Battery lifetimes of ten years are frequently quoted.
Syrma SGS has proven expertise in manufacturing communication modules, energy monitoring and asset monitoring devices. The company is enabling the Smart Meter National Program with its capabilities in manufacturing RF nodes and modules that go into the box build assembly of smart electric meters. Syrma SGS is also engaged with major players for smart water meters with IoT features incorporated.