Friday, February 23, 2024

State electricity regulators should issue smart metre guidelines: Report

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New Delhi: State electricity regulators should issue guidelines for smart prepaid metres to ensure uniform consumer experience, according to a recent study. The CEEW’s study titled ‘Enabling a consumer-centric smart metering transition in India’ noted that currently, provisions for smart metres are scattered across different regulatory orders and directives, which makes them inaccessible to key stakeholders, especially consumers who are often unaware of key provisions such as rebates or specified disconnection hours.

“Dedicated smart metre guidelines in each state for metre installation and charges, billing, recharge, payments, and rebates would help ensure a smooth consumer experience,” it said.

The report also said that discoms, along with REC Ltd, should undertake sustained consumer engagement to spread awareness of the benefits and features of smart metres and their mobile apps.

Discoms should use diverse channels to reach consumers, particularly, they should encourage one-on-one interactions with consumers by the field staff installing smart metres, in addition to promoting smart metres through social media, pamphlets, and loudspeakers. The smart metre app needs to be made available to consumers in a user-friendly format and in vernacular languages to promote ease of use.

“Discoms should continue giving paper bills and phase out their withdrawal. Where bills have already been discontinued, consumers may be given the option to opt for paper bills,” it said.

The report also suggests linking minimum recharge amount with consumption level, waiver of any additional fee (convenience charge) associated with recharging or making digital payments, giving rebates to prepaid users and educating consumers about these benefits, applicable tariff structure, and the bill deduction process.

“REC Ltd must facilitate cross-learning and the sharing of best practices among discoms. Both the survey findings and our interactions with discom staff during field visits indicate several opportunities for cross-learning between states,” it said.

Arunabha Ghosh, CEO, CEEW, said, “Discoms must leverage smart metering infrastructure to deliver affordable and quality electricity services to consumers by improving operational efficiency and integrating distributed renewables into the grid cost-effectively. Scaling up awareness campaigns to educate consumers about the benefits of smart meters and their mobile apps would be critical.”

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