Govt. says ‘no’ to TOTEX model for smart meter roll-out

Decision taken at a meeting called by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan where it was decided to opt for a cost-effective model

August 25, 2023 08:50 pm | Updated August 26, 2023 08:44 am IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has urged the KSEB to avoid loadshedding to tide over the present crisis in power supply. File photo 

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has urged the KSEB to avoid loadshedding to tide over the present crisis in power supply. File photo  | Photo Credit: PTI

The government has decided to avoid the total expenditure (TOTEX) model for the roll-out of prepaid smart meters in the State.

The decision was taken at a meeting called by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan where it was decided to opt for a cost-effective model. The meeting was attended by Electricity Minister K. Krishnankutty, Finance Minister K.N. Balagopal, and senior officials of the Power and Finance departments.

Under the alternative proposal, the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB), the implementing agency, will develop the software for billing and allied services for the smart meter project. The Kerala Fibre Optic Network (KFON) will be used for the communication systems necessary for the smart meter project. The Data Centre of the KSEB will be used for storing data. An earlier decision to equip 37 lakh consumers with prepaid smart meters in the first stage also has been dropped.

As per the decision taken on Friday, only the industrial and commercial consumers of the KSEB, who are less than three lakh in numbers, will be equipped with the meters.

Prepaid smart meters form one of two components under the Revamped Distribution Sector Scheme (RDSS), a Centrally aided scheme for improving the operational efficiencies of distribution companies. The Centre had cleared a ₹8,174.96-crore State government proposal for the meter roll-out last year.

The implementation method, however, drew flak from the KSEB unions who argued that it would pave way for privatisation in power distribution.

On Friday, the State government observed that the TOTEX model covered the price of the meter, head-end systems, meter data management, communication system, cloud storage charges, charges for software tests and cyber security, and operation and maintenance charges for 93 months. The Centre had designed the scheme in such a manner that a part of the costs was recouped from consumers in 93 monthly installments.

‘’Trade unions in the State had objected to this model which hands over the maintenance and operation to an (outside) agency for a chosen period,’‘ a statement from Mr. Vijayan’s office said.

The Chief Minister also urged the KSEB to avoid loadshedding to tide over the present crisis in power supply. The KSEB is at present facing a peak-hour shortage of roughly 300 MW in view of the reduced supply from Central generating stations. Mr. Vijayan directed the KSEB to draw up plans to arrange alternative supply as internal hydro generation alone will not cater to the demand in full.

Friday’s meeting also tasked Chief Secretary V. Venu with holding talks with department secretaries for settling the power bill arrears of the departments. As per the latest arrear statement of the KSEB, State public sector units (PSU) owe the KSEB ₹1,768.80 crore, State government departments ₹141.43 crore, and local bodies ₹6.74 crore. As per the arrear statement put out by the KSEB on June 30, power bill arrears have mounted to a whopping ₹3,585.69 crore.

Additional Chief Secretary (Power) K.R. Jyothilal, KSEB Chairman and Managing Director Rajan Khobragade, and Principal Secretary (Finance) Rabindra Kumar Agarwal attended the meeting.

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