Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala state government abandons Rs 10,475 crore central scheme for Smart Meter Project under pressure from Left Organizations and CPI(M) Central Leadership.
Apart from the sanctioned Rs 8,206 crore for the smart meter scheme, the Centre was also set to allocate Rs 2,269 crore for a scheme aimed at reducing power supply losses, bringing the total to Rs 10,475 crores. The scheme also included a non-repayable amount of Rs 2,000 crore along with a central grant. Unfortunately, political interference and pressure have resulted in Kerala losing this significant project. As a consequence, it is expected that Kerala will soon notify the Union Power Ministry regarding its decision to abandon the project.
Instead of an electro-mechanical meter that records the amount of electricity used, a smart meter is a digital metering device that can be used to recharge and control electricity by sitting at the KSEB office in a manner similar to recharging a mobile phone SIM card. The Revamped Distribution Sector Scheme, a central government initiative, integrates prepaid smart meters and aims to minimize electricity supply losses. The scheme has received a total sanction of 3,03,758 crores for its nationwide implementation. The project is anticipated to be finalized by the end of the financial year 2025-26.
In 2019, the KSEB initiated the smart meter scheme, intending to carry out a trial run in Kesavadasapuram, Thiruvananthapuram. A tender was issued for this purpose, but the project encountered difficulties as the quoted amount by the company was higher than expected. Subsequently, a committee chaired by the Chief Secretary presented the Rs 10,475 crore project to the Union Ministry of Energy. The Center explicitly stated that the selected company responsible for implementing the project must complete it within 27 months and then hand over the meters to KSEB only after successful commissioning and maintenance.
Left organizations and the central CPI(M) leadership have alleged that the power sector is being privatized. As a consequence, the tender process for installing 36 lakh smart meters in the initial phase has been obstructed by these groups. As a result of this, the government could not make the anticipated progress within the designated time frame, resulting in the majority of the advanced funds having to be returned. The state government thus wasted 67 crores due to yielding to the opposition and demands of the left organizations.