Cyan interview: Lengthy tender process, regulatory woes slow smart grid in India

Shiv Kaushik, Country Manager, Cyan Technologies

India is set for the next level of growth through initiatives like Digital India and Make in India under the leadership of new Prime Minister Narendra Modi. With ambitious plans like 100 Smart Cities, the Digital India initiative provides a good growth opportunity for ecosystem providers and all those involved in the digital empowerment process.

Shiv Kaushik, country manager – India, Cyan Technology, a provider of smart metering and energy efficient lighting systems, recently shared the company’s views on the latest developments in India in the smart grid and smart metering segment.

Shiv Kaushik, Country Manager, Cyan Technologies

What are the potential opportunities in smart metering in India over the next decade?

The Smart Grid Vision and Roadmap for India released last year by the Ministry of Power envisaged AMI for all customers with a load above 20Kw by 2017, for all customers with 3-Phase connections by 2022; along with a nationwide rollout of AMI by 2027. India has 200 million existing electricity meters and all of these meters can be upgraded to, or replaced with a smart meter.

There is also a strong business case for smart meters. The demand for electricity in India is growing at an average annual rate of 6 percent and there is an urgent requirement for utilities to reduce transmission and distribution losses. In December last year, the Ministry of Power allocated fourteen smart metering pilot projects, which are currently underway, evaluating solutions suitable for the Indian market. As the results of these pilots are assessed, we anticipate the smart metering adoption to gain momentum across utilities.

The emergence of smart cities on the national economic agenda is further likely to boost the adoption of smart metering. So far, plans have been drawn up for 24 smart cities, situated along high-speed regional transport networks. These cities are being conceived on a grand scale. One of them, to be called Dholera, is being planned to cover 903 sq km, which would make it twice the size of Mumbai. In addition, seven new smart cities are being developed from scratch along the proposed Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC).Gujrat International Finance Techcity (GIFT) City, centrally located in the state of Gujarat, between Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar, on the bank of river Sabarmati, in all likelihood, will be India’s first ‘smart city’ to be built from scratch.

All of these factors are expected to combine to create a favourable environment for greater smart metering adoption in India in the years to come.

What are the growth drivers of smart metering market in India?

Smart meters help address a number of issues for utilities, consumers and the power sector of India. The Indian power sector is heavily focused on reducing transmission and distribution losses. Smart grid technologies have been identified as a solution that could address these losses effectively. Implementing a smart metering solution allows the utility to collect and analyze data from every meter ensuring accurate billing and collection for every customer. In addition, it reduces meter reading and billing costs, as well as the cost of correcting many of the errors that occur due to faulty meter readings. It also allows utilities to shift the load between industrial and domestic consumers during peak hours through tools such as Time of Use tariffs and incentives.

Smart meters would also help consumers manage their power consumption more efficiently and save money by enabling them to control their electricity devices remotely and monitor their power consumption at all times.

What are some of the major trends in the smart metering adoption worldwide?

Public and private utilities around the world recognize smart meters as vital components of their infrastructure for the future. While France and Italy too have rolled out ambitious smart metering projects, Sweden has moved to a 100 percent adoption of smart meters. In Asia Pacific, China is the leader with over 250 million smart meters installed.

Global cities like Barcelona in Spain and Montpellier in France are implementing smart city solutions to deliver better services to their citizens. A new report from Pike Research forecasts that investment in smart city technology infrastructure will total $108 billion during the years from 2010 to 2020. Additionally, many other countries are in various stages of evaluating, piloting or deploying smart meters.

What are the main global markets for smart metering? Where does India stand in terms of smart meter adoption?

The adoption of smart meters is on the rise globally. Sweden has moved to 100 percent smart meters, while France and Italy too have rolled out ambitious smart metering projects. China has over 250 million smart meters installed. Many other countries are in various stages of evaluating, piloting or deploying smart meters. Global cities like Barcelona in Spain and Montpellier in France are implementing smart city solutions to deliver better services to their citizens. A new report from Pike Research forecasts that investment in smart city technology infrastructure will total $108 billion during the years from 2010 to 2020.In Asia Pacific alone, annual smart city technology investment will almost quadruple by 2023, reaching $11.3 billion.

Whilst the current deployment figures are low, this does not reflect the level of activity in the smart metering market in India. There are several pilot projects currently being evaluated and consortiums are creating integrated solutions suitable for the market. In recent months, Cyan has also announced commercial deployments at Tata Power and Essel Utilities.

smart grid deployment across worldWhat are the major barriers for smart meter adoption in India?

Despite an ongoing and successful evaluation of smart metering technology in India in the last five years, the advancement to large scale deployments has been delayed. This is due to a number of factors such as lengthy tender processes and apprehensions around standards and regulations.

One requirement of every utility is to procure meters from various meter manufacturers. As a result it is important that the smart metering solution is interoperable, enabling meters from multiple vendors to be incorporated into an ‘open system’.

The Indian meter manufacturer market currently has disparate communications protocols, which could prove problematic when sending data across a wireless network. The standardization of protocol is important and will support efficient communication to and from the meter.

Through Cyan’s wireless mesh networking platform, meter manufacturers could adopt Cyan’s Open Meter Protocol that allows utilities to interface between meters from different manufacturers. This would address the need of every utility to procure meters from various manufacturers to ensure they have a reliable supply chain and are able to negotiate competitive pricing.[1]

What is your strategy for growth, expansion in India over the next 10 years?

Cyan has invested millions of dollars in the Indian market and we will continue with our investment in the future. In March 2013, Cyan appointed a country manager as well as local sales and technical resource.  Going forward, Cyan will continue to grow our team in India with additional sales and business development staff.

Our strategy is to build strategic partnerships with system integrators, utilities and meter manufacturers in our target markets. These partnerships withcompanies such as Wipro, Larsen & Toubro, Ecolibrium Energy and Innologixwill ensure Cyan has expert knowledge andconnections.

Additionally, Cyan has qualified two India based Tier-1 Contract Equipment Manufacturers to build our hardware solutions for the Indian market. As utilitiesmove from pilot projects to commercial deployments, our manufacturing facilities in India are fulfilling their requirements.

We also want to act as thought leaders providing ’last  mile’ connectivity for smart metering as a platform to incremental solutions such as electricity meters, gas and water meters, lighting and home appliances.

Any partnership with local companies, suppliers, etc.? Give details, if any.

Recently, Cyan  signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Ecolibrium Energy and Innologix Consulting to enter into a partnership to develop, market and deploy integrated smart metering solutions in India.

Ecolibrium and Cyan, as a consortium, will tender for a number of smart metering projects in India. The consortium’s solution will provide seamless integration between Cyan’s sub GHz wireless communication platform, delivering last mile connectivity, and Ecolibrium’s smart grid platform, GridSense. Similarly, Innologix will integrate Cyan’s Advanced Metering Infrastructure (“AMI”) Head End Software platform with its energy management solutions.This will enable utilities to track all existing meters in the network and monitor their usage, allowing timely and accurate billing for customers and leading to improved revenue assurance for electricity distributors.

Give three suggestions to policy makers/government in India, which you think will transform the industry in the next couple of years. 

The Indian government has rightly identified the adoption of smart metering as one of the critical solutions to reform the power sector; with the ultimate goal of providing 24×7 uninterrupted power supply to all of India in the near future. As the policy direction is positive, we look forward to a sustained push from the policy makers in promoting smart metering adoption by utilities across India. Specifically, the government or the policy makers may focus on the following three imperatives:

  • Simplification of the tendering regulations used by public utilities in India for smart metering technology
  • Acceleration of the planned rollout schedule of smart metering in India in order that the issues faced by the State Distribution Companies such as rolling blackouts and significant AT&C losses are addressed earlier
  • Provision of financial incentives to State Distribution Companies to assist with the initial pilots and roll-out of smart metering

Summarize Cyan’s activities in India and major customer wins in recent months.

Cyan’s focus is on smart metering and energy efficient lighting in India as well as other emerging markets as we believe that our technology will yield significant benefits for energy providers and distribution utilities, consumers and most importantly, the environment. These benefits include more efficient procurement, management and delivery of energy, improved grid reliability, capital and operational savings, consumer empowerment and reduced carbon emissions.

Indian utilities realize the importance of adopting smart metering and the quality of solutions that Cyan offers.

In June, Essel Utilities selected a consortium led by Aquameas Instrument for the first deployment of Cyan’s CyLec Retrofit Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) solution in India. As part of the contract, 5,000 retrofit modules containing Cyan’s CyLec 865MHz RF modules are being supplied along with additional hardware and software required for a full AMI deployment at Essel. The additional hardware and software includes Cyan Data Concentrator Units, custom antennas, Head End Server software licenses and onsite software implementation services. The 5,000 retrofit modules are expected to be fitted to existing consumer meters in Muzaffarpur (Bihar) during the fourth quarter of this year and the first quarter of 2015.

In July, Cyan won another order as part of a consortium, led by Larsen & Toubro (L&T),to provide an integrated AMI solution consisting of 865MHz RF modules, Data Concentrator Units, HeadEnd Server software licenses, onsite software installation services and an annual software maintenance contract. Cyan’s CyLec 865MHz RFmodules will be installed inside 5,000 new L&T smart meters that will be deployed by Tata Power in Mumbai. The initial contract with Tata Power is for the deployment of 5,000 consumer meters and is currently planned to go live in early 2015.

[1]http://www.eprmagazine.com/article.php?ItemId=696&CategoryId=24

Rajani Baburajan

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