The vagaries of power

Differential metering of peak- and low-load consumption might jolt the power sector out of the red

By Koshy Cherail
Published: Friday 15 July 1994

-- It might sound like an electric ripoff but it's not. Grounded in reality is the wistful look that power corporations involved in genertation, transmission and distribution all over the country are giving to the "consume-more-during-peak-hours-and-pay-more" -- or, simply, the time-of-day (TOD) -- metering system.

Krishna Swarup, chief consultant to the Power Finance Corporation (PFC) and former chairperson of the Central Electricity Authority (CEA), says, "There are 65 million power consumers in India. And there is no foolproof system of correct charging and inducing reduced consumption."

TOD charges for energy consumption in proportion to the load on the system. During peak-load periods, the tariff rate hovers at its maximum, automatically reducing during the low-consumption periods.

B B Das, consultant (distribution) of the Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (PGCIL), which is test-running these meters in the north, says, "In 2 years, we hope to install a system where power sold to different State Electricity Boards (SEBs) in the northern grid will be metered on TOD basis and the SEBs have to actively participate by charging rational tariffs."

The industry sector is the primary TOD target. Says Swarup," The 25,000-30,000 industrial high-tension power users will be covered in the next 5 years, because they account for a high share of consumption." Low-tension industrial users and commercial establishments will follow.

But there are hurdles in introducing the expensive (Rs 25,000 each) TOD meters in the domestic sector. T Sethumadhavan, joint secretary in the ministry of power, says, "There have been many discussions and some effort by different agencies to develop and incorporate TOD and other efficient and reliable metering techniques. But these efforts are disparate. We are still not close to evolving a clear policy."

The introduction of the meters depends on the availability of the technology, the drawing up of standards and an agreement between users on the specifications. The Bureau of Indian Standards has drawn up specifications for the electro-mechanical meter, but is yet to determine specs for static or electronic -- including TOD meters. But the Central Board of Irrigation and Power has drawn up guidelines for electronic meters. Even the Central Power Research Institute in Bangalore has been working on indigenising TOD technology.

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