Uttar Pradesh energy regulator has issued notice to state power utility over the installation of smart meters that are based on old 2G and 3G technologies.
The total project cost of installing 4 million smart meters in consumers' premises across UP has been estimated at Rs 1,927 crore. 200,000 installations have already been done.
Hearing a petition filed against the installation of smart meters and modems based on old technologies, the UP Electricity Regulatory Commission (UPERC) recently sought a detailed report from the managing director of UP Power Corporation Limited (UPPCL).
The petitioner, UP Power Consumers Council president Avadhesh Kumar Verma had urged the watchdog to review the whole matter and to find out to why smart meters currently being installed were not based on latest 4G technology, even as 5G technology was projected to be introduced in India soon.
In its notice, the UPERC has asked UPPCL as to who would bear the cost of upgrading smart meters and what would be the net impact on operational expenditure.
When the matter was first highlighted to state energy minister Shrikant Sharma and UPERC by the council, the executing agency – Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) – had said the smart meters would be replaced with the latest ones without any extra charge.
However, Verma has alleged it was a serious matter and that it will result in the loss of huge sums of public money.
“It is a perfect case for investigation as to why the state power companies are bent upon installing assets based on technologies being phased out. The sole responsibility in this matter rests with UPPCL if the issue boils into a major controversy going forward,” he told Business Standard.
The installation of smart meters is part of the grand roadmap to improve the country’s rather shaky power sector and is currently being undertaken in several states.
Recently, UPERC had banned UPPCL and power distribution companies (discoms) from inking fresh long term power purchase agreements (PPA) till December 2022. The regulator observed that power utilities had contracted for “sufficient” thermal power with coal-fired plants to meet their projected demand till 2026-27.
The commission said it would review the energy capacity, energy demand and availability status in December 2022 to reassess the need for any long term PPAs with thermal power plants keeping in view 54 months’ gestation period required for such projects.
In the meantime, UPPCL and discoms are free to procure power from energy exchanges, Centre or through bilateral banking arrangement with discoms in other states to meet any extra demand.