ISLAMABAD: As it eyes zero loadshedding and automation of the power supply system, the Islamabad Electric Supply Company has installed over 16,000 meters under the automated metering infrastructure (AMI) which will subsequently allow the company to introduce a pre-paid system.

Under the project funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), 1.21 million meters will be installed in the Iesco circles; however, the number of meters may be increased to 1.4 million. The meters will enable Iesco to manage the load within houses due to which there will be zero loadshedding and also minimise the chances of electricity theft.

According to Iesco, the project was started in 2016 after the ADB allocated $160 million for the AMI system. Initially, it was approved to install 890,000 meters but later the ADB agreed to expand the project and increase the number of meters to 1.21 million. However, it is being considered to replace 1.4 million meters and approach the ADB again. The project was initially approved in 2017 but due to bureaucratic hurdles it was delayed.

In 2018, it started again, but soon litigation followed contesting the move to invite international bidders for the project. But Iesco won the case and the work started again. Under the project, industrial units and all the consumers using over 500KV electricity will be shifted to the AMI system.

16,000 AMI meters installed in Rawalpindi, Cantt circles; company plans to introduce prepaid billing, end load shedding

Concerns over AMI system

With the project in full swing in Rawalpindi, people are concerned about its implications, particularly the chances of overbilling and faulty meters. They ask if they will have to pay for these meters and why a two-year warranty period has been mentioned on the meters “which do not look like quality products”.

Consumers are also worried about how new meters will enable Iesco to switch off two out of four air conditioners or other heavy appliances.

Documents available with Dawn show that Iesco will replace old meters with AMI meters without any charges and there will be 100pc accurate meter readings.

Similarly, meters will not be connected through Wi-Fi as Iesco will get the information from the AMI meters using Power Line Communication (PLC).

Moreover, AMI meters also have built-in net metering functions and the facility will be offered after the completion of documentation. In the pilot phase, the project is being implemented in two circles: Rawalpindi City and Cantt Circle.

In Islamabad, AMI meters will be installed on 22,000 transformers.

The system will also allow consumers to get an idea about their electricity use and the expected bill through monitoring of electricity usage. It will automatically register complaints to the power company in case of any interruption in the power supply.

Iesco spokesperson Raja Asim, while talking to Dawn, said that the data of the meters will be stored in the Iesco Headquarters and a backend data centre has been established in Gujar Khan so that data would be recovered in case of any fault.“Metering and Testing (M&T) Lab has been established in Pirwadhi, Rawalpindi. The first phase was started almost two months back…and so far over 16,000 meters have been installed,” the spokesperson said, adding that AMI meters will be installed on every transformer and every house to check the incoming and outgoing load of the electricity. It will enable us to check the theft or in case of technical fault/line losses we will be able to address it immediately as it will be monitored in real-time,” he said.

According to the spokesperson, even though these meters will automatically generate the reading, the meter readers will not be laid off and rather adjusted in the company in other roles.

Speaking about the application, he said the mobile app would be functional by “September/October…consumers will be able to check the meter reading and number of units consumed in a day in real-time”.

“As meter reading will be done automatically, a message will also be sent via email to the consumers regarding the bills and they will be able to verify it physically and through the app,” he said.

When asked about the two-year warranty of the meters, he said that it was the existing policy and that in case of any fault by Iesco the meter would be replaced by the company. However, in other cases, the consumers would have to pay the charges, he said, adding that the company had not decided about the cost of a new meter.

While replying to a question, Mr Asim said that there was also a built-in feature for prepaid billing and in case of consumption of the prepaid amount electricity would be disconnected automatically.

But the prepaid option would be introduced at a later stage. Similarly, if a consumer has exceeded their load, a message will be sent to them, asking them to seek approval for load enhancement, the spokesperson added.

When asked to clarify, Mr Asim said: “Let’s say Iesco’s requirement is 2400MW and it gets 2000MW, the company will generate a message to consumers that from 5pm to 8pm they cannot use more than 2KV load and the AMI meter will not allow them to use more than 2KV. So consumers will know that they can only run their fans,” he added.

Published in Dawn, June 2nd, 2024

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