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Smart Meter and TOTEX MODEL

KSEBL is implementing the Smart Meter AMI project under the GoI funded RDSS Scheme.There are lot of doubts and queries from the KSEBL staff and public regarding the modus of operandi and financial aspects. Hence KSEBEA is releasing a small booklet about the project,it’s pros and cons and the future.

The recent spats in the media regarding Smart Meter implementation have again brought
issue regarding implementation of policies in KSEBL into the forefront. Whether the management
will succumb to the wily plays of trade unions and Associations is a matter to be seen. The
agenda seems to be non-implementation of smart meter even though it is being reiterated that
protest is not against “Smart Meter” and it is only against “TOTEX” mode. This seems to be a
“Smart” move to really stall the implementation. Leaders of the protesters clearly know the
fallacy of their alternate proposals.
TOTEX Mode envisages upfront investment by the lowest bidder for all the implementation
expenses. The successful bidder will fix the meters, fix the communication infrastructures,
develop and install the software packages, establish the communication channels and will
maintain and handhold utility for a specific period as proposed in the bid. The payment to the
firm will start only after successful implementation or “GO Live” maybe after 2 years or
whenever the project is “Going Live”. The payment will be in monthly instalments which will
be directly debited from KSEB account unless KSEBL contractually objects it citing shortfall in
their contractual obligations. It is expected that KSEBL will get additional revenue after the
successful implementation and will be relieved off many unwanted expenditure and will be
able to cover the monthly outgo to the implementation agency. In short TOTEX mode is CAPEX
+ OPEX with no initial investment required from KSEBL side and extra revenue will more than
take care of the related expenditure.
Without clearly recognising the current financial situation of KSEBL, wherein we cannot
think of a huge CAPEX investment for implementation of smart meter, this is a very good
proposal which does not carry much burden.
C-DAC meters, which are the alternate proposal, can clearly be ruled out for the following
reasons. It is an R & D project which envisages transfer of technology after successful
development. C-DAC has clearly stated that they are neither capable nor is their intention for
large scale deployment. Association and Unions suggest that the technology be transferred to
a consortium of public sector companies such as UNILEC, KEL & Keltron and they can
manufacture the same. Remember that in normal circumstances C-DAC will support the
technology transferred for one year only and rest depends on the company which receives the
technology. Here lies the foolishness of the proposal. The requirement of investment for such a
project will be far more than the actual investment required for smart meter implementation in
Kerala. Many of the components of the smart meter are imported and it requires setting up
precision manufacturing for bringing out a successful product in large scale. It requires market
testing and many legal formalities and standardisations to finally come out with such a product.
This may take at least three to four years if it’s fast tracked. How such a project can be sustained
and why such a proposal is being touted is anybody’s guess.
Protesters are touting data security as another concern. In this era of Aadhaar, AI camera
and data collection in almost every area this is also an argument raised for argument sake.
Raising Data security as a concern for such a gigantic project being implemented all over the
country is a “fantastic thought” and how they are going to secure the data when implemented
through the consortium is left to our own imaginations.
An argument aimed at consumers claim that meter rent will be substantially increased
after implementation of smart meter. This also comes from lack of knowledge regarding utilities
regulatory requirements. As stated earlier it is expected that additional income on
implementation will incorporate the outgo required for the investment. The regulator shall
statutorily take care of the requirement of smart meter implementation since it is mandated by
statutes. Hence any shortfall if required will have to be met and only with regulators’ approval
and in a manner which shall alleviate any hard feelings to consumers. If properly implemented,
no such requirement will come in. Alternately if such a shortfall is there Government can think
of granting a onetime relief to KSEB which will be much beneficial than investing huge money
in “Smart Meter manufacturing”
Editorial July – August 2023

The most potent argument is that smart metering is for “Privatisation of the Utility”. We
are of the opinion that non-implementation of Smart metering and depriving such benefits to
consumers will ultimately sway all consumers away from KSEB, if an alternative is offered
before them. The example of JIO and other operators overcoming BSNL in technology is before
us. And it will be better that we must be aware of the public psyche which will be in favour of
better service irrespective of whoever is serving, private or public. Hence, better to gear up with
latest technological offering as early as possible than keeping the door open for others to enter.
KSEB Engineers Association feels that the propaganda regarding “Smart meter”
implementation is only a vested agenda of some leaders. We strongly feel that such a strong
technological infusion is the need of the hour to revive the flagging financials of the company.
The implementation is totally unavoidable, to control the hugely complex future power network
with prosumers, microgrids, real time power market and multiple stakeholders. The pinch of
managing such network is already being felt across many countries and such a scenario is fast
approaching in our country also. Hence we request all to rethink about the unnecessary protests
and urge to reconcile and think about how better to implement this much beneficial technology
in a befitting manner to sustain KSEBL as a public utility. We are at crossroads and which way
to go is our own choice. Hope better sense prevails.

Smart meter and TOTEX