Smart meter rollout rejig in the works to target 500 cities in first phase

The government is revising the smart meter rollout plan by switching to an aggregation model, similar to the bulk procurement strategy it had adopted for LED bulbs which helped reduce prices to almost a fifth in four years.

A senior government official said the government was revising its smart meter launch strategy under the ₹3.1 lakh crore proposed distribution reforms scheme. The Centre would now target the rollout on a mission mode in 500 AMRUT cities, union territories and industrial and commercial cities in the first phase.

The revised scheme will be sent to the Cabinet for consideration.

The scheme, announced by finance minister. The proposed reforms-based and results-linked, distribution sector scheme seeks to improve the operational efficiencies and financial sustainability of discoms by providing conditional financial assistance for strengthening of infrastructure.

Implementation of smart metering forms a major portion of the scheme, accounting for nearly half of the funding.State-run Energy Efficient Service that implemented the Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All (Ujala) programme, has already procured 10 million single-phase smart meters for Rs 2,200 apiece in the aggregation model. With a bulk purchase programme, the government targets a further cut in the meter prices. Due to the Ujala programme, the average LED price has dropped to Rs 70 a piece from Rs 310 in 2014.

“We are working out a revised roll out strategy. The smart metering rollout programme would be more focused on urban areas initially so that the results are visible and costs come down like the Ujala scheme for LED bulbs,” the official said.

“Once success is demonstrated in the urban areas, the scheme is expected to find more acceptability among discoms and consumers. Cost analysis shows that the initial intervention in high energy consuming areas will bring down the cost of new infrastructure so that it will be easier for implementation in the smaller towns,” he said.

Implementation of smart metering is a major change in how business is done by discoms. Power regulators have also suggested gradual implementation of the metering programme, the official said.

Under the scheme, state power distribution companies will receive grants each year under the Centre’s new results-linked scheme, but only if they have achieved the milestones agreed for the previous fiscal year. If a utility is found ineligible in any year, then the gap in funding to complete its projects will have to be met by the discom or its state government.