By Ajoy Rajani

In 2007, Reliance Energy began formulating a roadmap for smart metering that would not only encourage energy conservation and lower the carbon footprint but also achieve the highest levels of best practices in the industry.

Reliance Energy has been engaged in the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity. Reliance Energy companies distribute more than 28 billion units of electricity to 7 million consumers across different parts of the country including Mumbai and Delhi in an area that spans over 124,300 km2.

Considering the vast potential of energy savings and benefits for improving energy efficiency, the Government of India enacted the Energy Conservation Act, 2001 (52 of 2001). The Act provides the legal framework, institutional arrangement and a regulatory mechanism at the central and state levels to embark upon energy efficiency drives in the country.

In this regard Google PowerMeter has been an appreciable effort from Google.org with an objective to provide real time energy usage data to customers and spread the message of energy conservation. We evaluated and partnered with Google to facilitate Google PowerMeter for our customers, to access their home electricity consumption on their iGoogle homepage. The underlying key to integration with Google PowerMeter was to have high frequency simultaneous meter reads from different meter manufacturers, collating them in a defined format as specified for Google PowerMeter meter data upload.

The development of our meter data management (MDM) software that has now enabled Google PowerMeter started far back, with group company Reliance Communications putting forward its knowledge and domain expertise to leverage an end to end service with the development of a reliable, scalable and secure solution which was deployed on 25,000 remote locations across Mumbai. Modems were connected to the digital meters for 4,916 substations/distribution transformers, 2,687 streetlights, 14,000 high value customers and 57 receiving/grid stations. These modems were installed at the customer premises and installation details were captured. They were then verified through remote software to check connectivity with the remote servers. A forward and backward integration of the AMR server with existing platforms such as SAP-ISU server, SAP-Billing server (for consumer billing) and a web based portal for monitoring and analysing energy parameters was also developed.

Today utilities are looking at technology innovations to enhance operational efficiency and profitability, while simultaneously reducing technical and commercial losses. Reliance’s smart metering solution was developed for power utilities as a turnkey solution to successfully overcome metering challenges and provides business analytics of consumption and consumer behaviour through which utilities can better support their customers.

Providing real time data and analysis reports to users through Google PowerMeter is part of this solution, which is aimed at helping customers make smarter energy choices. They can understand their daily consumption pattern and schedule usage according to their time of day charges, leading to better management of energy, a lowered carbon footprint and reduced peak demand.

OTHER VALUABLE BENEFITS
The initiative was very successful in achieving its primary goals to provide real time usage data to customers and also resulted in many other benefits and savings to Reliance.

Optimum utilisation of manpower
The manpower deployed for the monthly manual meter reading activity was relieved which led to savings in man hours per month. Also, the reduction in transport costs for meter reading has been reduced by 40% per month.

Increased billing efficiency and customer service
During the manual meter reading process the meters which could not be covered were billed on the basis of assessed bills. These bills led to major consumer complaints which required manpower to address.

Automation gave us an opportunity to increase our cash flow as it made on-time billing possible in one go. The assessment periodicity for customers has reduced by 50%. The loss calculation process has been speeded up and this helped in achieving a loss reduction of over 1% in one year.

Reduction in commercial and technical losses
The meter data captured is used for analytic purpose to identify the commercial and technical losses in the system. The data helps in identifying meter tampering events, power outage events, energy consumption of the consumer exceeding the contract demand, etc. Some 20 cases of power theft were reported through AMRs during the 4th quarter of the last financial year.

Technology supremacy
As compared with circuit switched or other architectures of AMR, our system provided packet data service which is many times more reliable than other architectures. The modem is a rugged IP55 compliant device and can withstand harsh and high temperature and humidity. Round the clock operation provides real time alerts and diagnostic information.

FUTURE ROADMAP
Smart metering has been a significant upgrade to Mumbai’s electricity distribution infrastructure. Foreseeing that the major conversation initiatives would come from the commercial and industrial sector, we are also in the final stages of developing a complete suite of detailed analytic reports and graphs of power factor variations, phase-wise load profiles, etc. in real time hosted over a web portal where industries can login to monitor and better manage their electricity consumption.