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Smart electricity meter scheme gets fresh thrust from Centre- Mrit News

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The Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) is moving ahead with its plans to introduce smart electricity meters with prepayment feature even as the Union government has, in a new notification, reiterated that the first stage roll-out of the nationwide programme should be over by December 31, 2023.

As per the May 23 notification, the Union Power Ministry wants smart ‘prepaid’ meters in place by 2023-end in all electrical divisions with high AT&C Loss (urban areas where AT&C loss is above 15% and rural areas where it is above 25%), industrial and commercial consumers, all government offices at block level and above, and all Union Territories.

By March 31, 2025, the roll-out should be complete for all consumers, except agricultural consumers, in areas with communication networks, across the country. This notification replaces an earlier one issued on August 17, 2021.

The KSEB has designated REC Power Development and Consultancy Ltd. (RECPDCL), a Union government agency, as the project implementation agency for smart metering in the State. Finer details, including the costs, will be finalised in due course, a KSEB official said. The Central assistance per meter will be to the tune of 15% or ₹900, whichever is lower. The KSEB hopes to have a little over 1.33 crore smart prepayment meters in place by December 2025.

Smart prepaid metering, which requires consumers to pay the electricity charges in advance, is a major component of the Centrally funded Revamped Distribution Sector Scheme (RDSS) aimed at strengthening government-run distribution companies.

In March, the Centre had cleared a ₹10,475.03-crore proposal for RDSS implementation in the State, of which ₹8175.05 crore has been earmarked for smart meters working in prepayment mode.

As per the capital investment plan of the KSEB, Phase I will cover HT/EHT consumers, government consumers, all industrial and commercial consumers and also domestic consumers with monthly average consumption above 200 units by December-end, 2023. Phase II will cover 63 towns under the Accelerated Power Development and Reform Programme (APDRP) and the Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS) by December 2025. Phase III, also to be completed by the same deadline, will see replacement of remaining LT consumer meters.

Concern over finances

Meanwhile, concerns have been raised over the possible impact the proposal will have on KSEB finances and on the consumers. While smart metering will be required in the State’s power system in the long run, large-scale investment by the KSEB at this stage when meter prices are still relatively high could burden the consumers, the KSEB Seniors Forum – a collective of retired KSEB engineers and officers – has told the Kerala State Electricity Regulatory Commission.

The forum has urged the regulatory commission to appropriately phase the investment in meters so as to have minimum adverse impact on the aggregate revenue requirement of the KSEB and electricity tariffs.

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