Could you give us a brief overview of the metering industry in India?
The Indian electricity meter market has evolved considerably over the years and is currently transitioning from stand-alone electronic meters to smart and remotely communicable meters. We have seen several examples from different countries on how smart metering solutions have helped in improving operations of the electricity distribution companies. In India, where the distribution losses are high, smart meters will help DISCOMs in improving distribution efficiency and revenue generation through detailed information on the electricity consumption under every distribution transformer and preventing any attempts to tamper with the meter.
Today, the Indian Government is talking about installing 240 million smart meters in the next few years. The Indian metering industry has been manufacturing and supplying more than 40 million electronic meters every year to meet the country’s demand. The industry has sufficient capacity and is gearing up to supply 70 million smart meters per annum. The cost of the smart meter remains a constraint but we are working towards bringing it down.
Talking from L&T’s perspective, tell us more on the product innovations happening in the smart metering front…
L&T has been at the forefront of technology in electricity metering and we are one of the biggest groups globally in terms of manufacturing capacity at a single location. We have a well-equipped in-house design team that works continuously on product and technology development to meet the DISCOM requirements.
On the smart metering front, L&T has recently executed a project in Indore that has helped the DISCOM in improving its revenue collection with the projected improvement being Rs 65-70 crore for the full year and a payback period of 1.5 years for the investment on the project.
We are working on the development of smart meters with cellular and low power radio communication technologies. In terms of manufacturing, we already have the capacity to manufacture 17 million electronic energy meters per annum and are working on adapting the same to deliver smart prepaid meters. In a nutshell, we are working towards building up an ecosystem that can support and adapt to the evolving market requirements.
What kind of market share do you foresee?
We are one of the largest meter manufacturers holding the highest market share in majority of the segments. Our focus has always been on adding value to customers without compromising on quality. We would continue to target and remain a leader in the domestic industry with a market share of 25 per cent or higher, as well as establish our footprints in Bangladesh, Nepal and South-East Asia. Since we have the in-house design expertise, technology and the manufacturing capabilities to address these requirements, we are sure that we will be able to have a global presence in the next five years. We want to focus on these specific markets and deliver truly world class solutions.
When it comes to smart meters, cyber-attack remains a challenge. How are you addressing this?
Yes, that is the reason we are building protection against cyber-attacks in various layers in the meters. We have been very careful in selecting our components, especially the controller from reliable vendors and countries, which we can trust to avoid the risk of breach of data. Also the communication is encrypted and protected. The government is also taking this very seriously because of electricity distribution is one of the most vulnerable areas and cyber-attacks on meters can have a very big impact in case of malintent by an opposing power. We are also discussing these concerns on the IEEMA platform and are working along with the other meter manufacturers to make the system more impregnable.
What are the new metering solutions you showcased at ELECRAMA 2020?
At ELECRAMA 2020, we have showcased the prepaid and smart prepaid meters. We have also showcased our thread through meters which are slowly replacing conventional meters used for distribution transformer metering, meters for the solar industry and, of course, the normal conventional meters from the point of view of cost and size optimization over the years. We have also demonstrated the smart metering solution which ensures almost 100 per cent success rate of communication with the data center.