Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Monday, Oct 04, 2004

Port Info

Group Sites

eWorld - Software
Industry & Economy - Power

Recharge your energy... with a card!

Ambar Singh Roy

No more waiting in long queues to pay your electricity bills. If an ongoing experiment in West Bengal succeeds, then a prepaid energy card should do the trick.

AN ENERGY meter no bigger than a card... that's the latest innovation from the West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency (WBREDA) and the Durgapur-based Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (CMERI). This embedded-chip based, smart-card operated, prepaid energy meter will revolutionise the way electricity revenue is collected in isolated pockets and far-flung areas. This would also facilitate improved cash flow management in energy utilities.

The idea was mooted by WBREDA, which supplies solar photovoltaic power in isolated islands in the Sundarbans region. Instead of the usual billing-after-consumption pattern, the agency felt the need for a transition to a consumption-after-payment regime. This would help address several crucial issues.

First, the problems associated with billing consumers living in isolated areas. These include deployment of manpower for taking meter readings and reaching bills to consumers on time. Second, the technology can be transferred to entrepreneurs interested in manufacturing such smart-card operated energy meters. And third, with such meters in operation, one can do away with fears of power theft. The customer has to simply take the smart card out of the meter whenever it is not in use. For WBREDA, it means healthier cash flow management, as money would flow into its coffers ahead of supply. It took WBREDA and CMERI more than eight months to develop the smart-card operated energy meter, which will be marketed under the Solaris brand name. Based on state-of-the-art, real-time embedded technology, the Solaris prepaid energy card is compact and can function even under harsh conditions and saline environments.

The energy meter can be activated by inserting the prepaid Solaris energy card. The customer can then use electricity for the card value. The card can be recharged by making fresh payment after the initial amount is exhausted. In fact, the energy meter will alert the customer when 75 per cent of the prepaid amount has been exhausted. By recharging the card, the customer can avoid automatic disconnection that would ensue once the charged amount has been exhausted.

Soumya Sen Sharma, a CMERI scientist involved in the development of the Solaris energy card, says: "Two prototypes would undergo extensive field trials over the next two months, at least. Following that, we hope to have at least 100 such meters running by March 2005. The technology would be transferred to any entrepreneur who wishes to manufacture these meters at the Science & Technology Entrepreneurs Park, which is proposed to be set up at CMERI." Depending on the scale of manufacture, the price of each meter has been pegged between Rs 1,500 and Rs 2,000. And if this becomes a reality, it is only a question of time before city-based power utilities resort to smart-card based prepaid meters, a move that would ensure improved cash flow management in their respective companies.

Article E-Mail :: Comment :: Syndication :: Printer Friendly Page

Stories in this Section
Aiming for the sky

It's all coming back to us
A smooth crossing
Recharge your energy... with a card!
Fettered for profits
Internet disconnection
Transfer of files
`The key to growth is the sales organisation'
Making a BI(G) difference
Owner's pride
Lead by example

The Hindu Group: Home | About Us | Copyright | Archives | Contacts | Subscription
Group Sites: The Hindu | Business Line | The Sportstar | Frontline | The Hindu eBooks | Home |

Copyright 2004, The Hindu Business Line. Republication or redissemination of the contents of this screen are expressly prohibited without the written consent of The Hindu Business Line