The Power Finance Corporation Limited (PFC), in a recent filing on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), said that it had approved the infusion of ₹1.5 billion (~$20.4 million) in a joint venture company.
The joint venture company will be promoted by NTPC Limited, the Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (PGCIL), REC Limited, and PFC for providing a common backend infrastructure facility (CBIF) to distribution companies (DISCOMs) for faster roll-out of smart meters in the country.
In another BSE filing, REC announced that its board, in a meeting on Tuesday, approved the infusion of ₹1.5 billion (~$20.04 million) as equity in the joint venture company for CBIF.
According to a PTI report, the boards of NTPC and PGCIL are still to approve the infusion of ₹1.5 billion (~$20.04 million) each in the joint venture. The report further points out that there will be an equity investment of ₹6 billion (~$81.53 million) by the four promoters, and the debt component will be ₹14 billion (~$190.25 million).
As per the report, the development of a CBIF will facilitate the roll-out of smart meters by offering a plug and play architecture with standardized, integrated, and scalable backend infrastructure.
CBIF is expected to help the DISCOMs install smart meters in a phase-wise manner, wherein the meter data management (MDM) services can be expanded depending on the demand and requirement. It will also help in centralizing the metering data, and the facility will be offered to DISCOMs as software or solution-as-a-service approach, where the DISCOMs will be charged only a usage fee.
In April 2019, the government announced its plans to replace all existing electricity meters with smart prepaid meters. The process of switching over was to be completed in three years. The program is implemented by Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), which has installed over 1.2 million smart meters in India to date.
Another government program, Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS), aims to strengthen the power distribution system in urban areas. The program is designed to help reduce aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses, establish IT-enabled energy accounting, auditing, and improve power bill collection efficiency. PFC is the nodal agency for the implementation of the program. Providing infrastructure for smart metering is part of this program. A centralized/common backend infrastructure facility managed by the central government is planned to be set up at the national level through system integrators, smart meter service providing agencies to manage meter data, billing, and related systems of smart metering projects.
The integration of utilities and states for setting up the CBIF and the assimilation of existing multiple billing systems, along with a sustainable payment security mechanism for implementing agencies, is being implemented by PFC for which the amount is being infused.
Smart meters can unlock a slew of capabilities that the utilities in India badly need – increase billing efficiency, remote billing, automatic outage reporting, flexibility with time-of-use tariffs, and add new revenue streams.
Rakesh Ranjan is a staff reporter at Mercom India. Prior to joining Mercom, he worked in many roles as a business correspondent, assistant editor, senior content writer, and sub-editor with bcfocus.com, CIOReview/Silicon India, Verbinden Communication, and Bangalore Bias. Rakesh holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). More articles from Rakesh Ranjan.