IntelliSmart aims to create difference by digital interventions in power distribution sector: Anil Rawal

IntelliSmart Infrastructure Pvt Ltd, also known as IntelliSmart, is India’s leading smart metering and digital solutions provider company for utilities. It is a joint venture of Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL) and National Infrastructure Investment Fund (NIIF), with the core purpose of being the most preferred digital partner of the utilities.

IntelliSmart aims to create difference by digital interventions in the power distribution sector of the country, while shouldering the responsibility of mass-scale rollout of smart meters under the Smart Meter National Program (SMNP). Since its inception in 2019, IntelliSmart is enabling the large-scale deployment of smart meters through the BOOT (Build, Own, Operate, Transfer) model. The BOOT program is precursor to the current DBFOOT (Design, Build, Finance, Own, Operate and Transfer) or the TOTEX model of Smart Meter Deployment, currently underway.

Here, Anil Rawal, MD and CEO, IntelliSmart Infrastructure Pvt Ltd, tells us more. Excerpts from an interview:

DQ: Even though IntelliSmart has ventured into several states, the number has not been high. Why has India been slow with smart meter adoption?

Anil Rawal: It is true that the deployment of smart meters was slow to start with. In the initial rollout phases, several factors such as distribution companies’ (discoms) inertia and lack of awareness possibly contributed to this. The pandemic also thwarted the pace of installation. However, rollout has since gained momentum owing to several initiatives by both the central and state governments.

DQI Bureau | DATAQUEST Anil Rawal.

Discoms and advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) service providers have also contributed in spreading awareness about the benefits of smart meters especially in preventing power theft, improvement in billing performance and collection efficiency. This has contributed to greater consumer acceptance.

Favorable policy initiatives, such as the launch of the reforms-based and results-linked Revamped Distribution Sector Scheme (RDSS), and the standard bid document (SBD) being developed by the Government of India are also precipitating smart meter rollout at scale. It is expected that the smart metering program, adopted in the right spirit by the state utilities, will enable the nation to meet the planned target of 250 million smart meter implementation by 2025.

Today, approximately 4 million smart meters have been installed across the country, of which over 2.6 million smart meters have been installed by Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) along with IntelliSmart in six states and union territories.

DQ: How can smart meters provide more detailed electricity consumption information that is readily available at the fingertips?

Anil Rawal: Smart meter AMI establishes a two-way communication channel between the point of consumption of electricity, i.e., the consumer side and the Discom legacy system, automatically records electricity consumption and enables the utilities to monitor consumption real-time and collect data at a granular level. These allow for the interpretation of consumption behavior pattern of individual consumers and determining energy demand.

This data, when copiously generated over a span of time, can be utilized by the Discoms to provide consumers with information of energy consumption of individual household appliances and allow better control on their daily energy usage. The smart meter mobile application enables consumers to easily access consumption information. IntelliSmart and EESL are currently developing a user-friendly app, which can also be adopted by all Discoms for consumer empowerment.

DQ: Performance of communications infrastructure determines the success of smart metering. What is the status of this infrastructure across India?

Anil Rawal: Digitalization in smart metering is enabling the development of a common and scalable architecture that is assisting Discoms in the areas of data collection, optimization of operations, and performance improvement.

The digital enablement created by AMI further allows Discoms to innovate and provide value-added services to consumers in real time and create substantial advantage in optimisation of load management and efficient billing. This kind of holistic digital enablement, however, requires substantial reach (coverage and penetration) and scale (distributed intelligence and network resilience) of the AMI communication network capacity.

To ensure the robustness of AMI for all smart metering undertakings, the Ministry of Power has made it mandatory for interested smart meter AMI service providers to successfully demonstrate their AMI solution and capability to be able to participate in all subsequent smart meter project tenders that will be floated as part of RDSS.

DQ: How can smart meters ensure that repair time gets reduced during critical events and power restoration can be faster?

Anil Rawal: Smart meter AMI manages the system network and supplies requisite meter data including those related to outage events to Discom’s outage management system. This empowers utilities to carry out advanced planning of critical events, allowing them to take both preventive and corrective measures based on the data collected.

All smart meters have GSM-enabled SIM, which sends the alarm/event via SMS. In the case of a power outage, the smart meter sends the notification to the backend application HES/MDMS which further aggregates (through AI/ML) the message. In extreme circumstances, smart meters send a ‘last gasp’ message before breakdown. Smart meters allow discoms to inform consumers through app notifications if there is any load shedding, major breakdown or shutdown. Utilities can also identify areas where frequent outages are being reported for faster redressal.


DQ: How can the increased smart meter rollouts help in weaning off from India’s dependence on fossil fuels?

Anil Rawal: Achieving Net Zero in India would require fast-paced transition to renewable to reduce dependence on fossil fuels significantly. The estimates show that country would need to transition to energy mix where 50% of energy needs are met from non-fossil fuel sources. This means that against the estimated capacity of 1130 GW by 2030, the country will need to have solar energy installed capacity of 280GW and wind energy installed capacity of 140GW. The rest of the energy needs will need to come from nuclear.

Such high reliance on non-fossil sources, increased penetration of green energy in the grid and mass adoption of EVs would cast a significant threat to the balance of the grid by disrupting the variability of energy flows. To be able to achieve increased integration of renewable energy sources, there is a need to enhance grid flexibility while maintaining low cost of the energy units delivered to the consumers.

Due to the limitations of the generation-side flexibility, the immediate impact can be created through demand-side management which will support seamless integration of renewable energy sources without destabilizing the network.

Roll out of the mass scale AMI in India is offering the opportunity to manage demand side requirements in a far more granular manner in the key consumption zones of residential, commercial and industrial segments. Internationally, the widespread digitalisation and the use of residential smart meters have been instrumental in boosting mass-scale decarbonization.

In India, along with mass scale AMI, the data emerging from smart metering need be tightly mapped to the demand side management tools of SCADA, DT level metering, and energy audit, as well big data analytics, to drive actionable insights for demand side management and grid flexibility.

DQ: Are water, gas, and electric utilities identified separately in the smart meters? Water, gas, and electric utilities can be identified separately in smart meters. Are you providing this facility? Or, by when can you add this, or some features?

Anil Rawal: Yes, water, gas and electric utilities can separately identify in smart meters. However, it needs to be borne in mind that the devices and their modules are separate for each of the utilities, and the purpose which they serve.

We are already present in the electricity smart metering, and are in advanced stages of the application in gas. Going ahead, depending on the business opportunity, smart metering in the water industry can also be explored.

DQ: Do you see the role of the distribution grid growing and evolving where smart meters are the fundamental building block? Smart meters have a distribution grid. How is this growing, if available? Are the smart meters part of the fundamental building block for the grid?

Anil Rawal: Smart meter AMI sets the groundwork for addressing the operational challenges of a complex power grid. Building a robust and decarbonized energy system backed by wider digitalization is pivotal for building a responsive and reliable grid. As we move forward, we will witness an even greater integration of digital innovation into the energy system which will create a smarter and more flexible grid. Grid flexibility, the fulcrum of the smart grid concept, is essential for seamless integration of renewable energy.

Smart meter AMI, with its granular demand-side data management capability, can adequately address the grid flexibility issue. That is precisely why the Smart Meter National Program has been conceived besides addressing the financial and operational concerns of the Discoms. Smart metering, once deployed at mass scale, will enable the power distribution sector to employ smart grid in the country to address the existing concerns of T&D losses, peak load management, improved reliability, better asset management and increased grid visibility while ensuring uninterrupted electricity for all.

DQ: Are you able to capture the full range of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) networks? If not, by when?

Anil Rawal: We, along with our partners, are already providing AMI system architecture and solutions. Our AMI capability is being continuously demonstrated in our ongoing implementation achievement, along with EESL, of more than 26 lakh smart meters across the country.

DQ: What is the way ahead for Intellismart?

Anil Rawal: Since its inception, IntelliSmart has been at the forefront of smart metering in the country. Of the current 43.58 lakh smart meters deployed across the country, 60% has been achieved by IntelliSmart and EESL. With the proven end-to-end meter asset solution in place, we are now gearing up to participate in the upcoming tenders on our own. In fact, the first smart metering project rolled out under RDSS in Assam has been won by us, and work has already commenced. Based on our deep digital capability, it is our endeavour to become the most preferred digital partner of the Indian utilities.

Moreover, IntelliSmart is not only providing the meter asset solutions, but also pioneering digitalisation in the power distribution space with its ground-breaking digital initiatives such as enterprise IT infrastructure, data analytics for demand forecasting, development of electricity grid to support EV growth, smart meter hub, gas metering, P2P block chain for solar rooftop, etc.

DQ: Give us some examples of successful deployments.

Anil Rawal: Since the inception of SMNP, EESL and IntelliSmart have implemented 7.3 lakh smart prepaid meters or 92.94% of the total smart prepaid meters deployed so far in the country.

The implementation of the smart meter projects under the Build Own Operate Transfer (BOOT) model or TOTEX model, introduced and applied by EESL and IntelliSmart, have successfully enabled the state electricity distribution companies to adopt mass-scale rollout by helping them circumvent the issue of upfront investment.

In Bihar, where almost 7 lakh smart meters have been implemented in prepaid mode, the program has achieved an average bill read of more than 98% and helped the DISCOMs accrue a revenue of more than INR 561 crore in the last two years. Furthermore, Bihar has seen a significant adoption of the Bihar Bijli Smart Meter mobile application. Revenue collected by the DISCOMs through the process of recharge through the mobile app stood at approximately INR 304 crore, or more than 54% of the total revenue collection.

In fact, smart metering program saw stellar success during the Covid-19-induced lockdown period. Smart meter billing, during the time, hit 85% against a provisional billing of 71% in areas with conventional meters. During March-April 2021 period, revenue collection in Bihar DISCOMs increased 12% in areas where smart meters were deployed while other areas saw a significant drop. Daily revenue collection of Bihar DISCOMs during lockdown stood at approximately INR 4.9 lakhs through smart prepaid meters.

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