Come May, you can get smarter. You can operate your home appliances remotely by just installing a smart electricity meter. Soon, you would also be able to check which appliance is consuming more electricity and synchronise usage of power-hungry equipment, such as geysers, with off-peak hours, when pricing would be lower.
The Internet of Things (IoT) solution would be made possible for the first time in India by Tata Power Delhi Distribution Ltd (TPDDL), a joint venture of the Delhi government and Tata Power, which is set to install smart meters and also launch a mobile app for Android (to start with). In the first phase, 2.5 lakh smart meters would be installed in north and north-west Delhi. By 2025,16 lakh smart meters would be operational.
Consumers need not buy a smart appliance but can use their existing appliances and still automate their homes. With smart meters and the back-end infrastructure of a smart-grid network, even the distribution company would start behaving smartly.
In future, during peak-demand hours, consumers would get a message on their mobile phones offering them incentives to lower unit consumption. During off-peak hours, consumers would get a message incentivising consumption — helping in optimum usage of power-hungry appliances such as geysers or batteries of electric vehicles. The smart model, which could be tied to a dynamic tariff, would help domestic and institutional consumers.
Domestic consumers, as of now, mostly get a flat tariff throughout the day, with no distinction between peak and off-peak prices.
“Right now, there is one-way traffic between us and the consumers. With a smart grid and smart meters, it will be two-way communications, ” says Praveer Sinha, managing director of TPDDL, which services 7 million people in Delhi.
As part of the modernisation, linemen would also get a makeover. The days, sometime nights, of linemen arriving on bicycles to figure out why your house is in the dark is already a thing of the past.
TPDDL’s field force automation programme would help the lineman track consumer complaints, do remote diagnosis and find the best solution — all the while keeping the customer constantly updated by an SMS or via the app.
The lineman would also be equipped with a tablet, a global positioning system for better tracking, route optimisation for shorter commute and augmented reality systems for faster identification of the problem. An auto-dispatching system would ensure that the closest lineman is given the job. And he might just pull up in an electric vehicle.
Power theft is a huge challenge in a country like India, where the aggregate technical and commercial losses are over 20%. Pilferage by tampering with meters and distribution lines has been plaguing the sector. But the smart grid would help tackle this. TPDDL, with Omron, has developed a tamper-proof sensor that can withstand high temperature and is water- and fire-proof.
The sensor detects tampering, stores the information on the meter and communicates it to a central server. It also enables the discom to disconnect power supply remotely. Wireless power sensors detect hooking and other such tampering of distribution lines.
This move would set the stage for Delhi to move towards the Smart City mission, a project the government has been pushing hard. For this, TPDDL is collaborating with 30 entities, including GE, IBM, Raychem, 3M, EDF, GIZ, USAID and USTDA. It is also working with the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay, Stanford University, University of Canada, University of California and the University of Finland, to research, pilot and introduce energy efficiency and home automation technologies.
For example, USTDA has given a grant to explore and develop opportunities in the areas of rooftop solar energy, energy storage systems and electric vehicles. Apart from aligning with the Smart City mission, TPDDL’s roll-out of smart meters and a smart-grid backbone would help in managing demand and growth in consumption.
Today, residential consumption accounts for 24% of electricity produced in India, of which 75% is used for lighting and cooling. By 2021, according to the World Bank, residential consumption would surge 260%.
Thrust on efficient appliances, use of solar energy and demand management are some of the ways to deal with consumption growth in a sustainable manner. The World Bank has estimated India’s energy efficiency market at Rs 1.6 lakh crore. For example, 280 million LED bulbs sold under the UJALA scheme have resulted in a saving of Rs 14,618 crore.
Another important aspect in managing consumption is renewable energy. For example, solar is 1% of TPDDL’s grid supply today; the discom wants it to be 10% in five years. The rise of rooftop solar power systems is a critical component of this strategy. With the help of USTDA and others, efforts are on to explore technologies to integrate distributed energy resources (rooftop solar power) with the grid, while maintaining grid efficiency and stability.
“All this will empower consumers and discoms like us to optimally and efficiently use and supply electricity,” says Sinha.
Smart meters can integrate home appliances and even, say, the window curtains for remote operation via a smart phone or tablet PC. The system entails installing modular intelligent switches with radio frequency communication technology integrated with smart sensors to control appliances.
The home automation market in India is estimated to touch Rs 30,000 crore by 2022, with the residential segment accounting for 60% of the industry.
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