For quite some time now, people in Meghalaya have been coming across news related to smart meters, and the need to install them. There has been much hue and cry with regard to the need for installation of these smart meters. Before we delve deeper, let us first break down what a smart meter is. A smart meter is a type of electronic device that records information related to electricity such as electric energy consumption, voltage levels, current, and power factor. For many years, our houses have been using analog meters that need utility workers from the electricity board or corporation to take the readings each month to measure how much electricity or power a house is utilising.
Smart meters, however, are designed in such a way that, unlike traditional analog meters, they can almost and instantly send out your power usage readings to the utility through wireless transmission to communicate with the utility, transmitting real-time customer power and energy usage information without the need of utility workers visiting households to take the meter readings. But, just as any other item, smart meters have their own downsides, incorrect billing being one, that certain customers on social media have lamented receiving complaining of inaccurate readings; people living in rural areas may struggle to get get a good connection as signals are not strong enough while another major disadvantage is that smart meters will put many people out of work because manual readers will not be required.
One can go through many power utility websites, blogs, news items on the effectiveness and advantages of smart meters and the way they can turn around and make our lives easier. There are also many places in India, such as Bihar, Puducherry, New Delhi, etc., that have smart meters installed in the homes of customers. However, a question now arises – do we, in Meghalaya, really need smart meters? Or are there other important aspects that deserve more attention than the need for smart metering? Looking back, there was a lot of uproar from different sections, including the public and organisations alike, who had protested against the installation of smart meters. Apart from smart meters, they had also protested against the inability of the Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited (MeECL) to function efficiently as well as the load-shedding that continued for hours. Surprisingly though, at present, there is no fuss about any of this especially from the public. Recently, there were news reports in certain media outlets on the increase in the price of smart meters.
The same smart meters whose cost was once known to be Rs 3750 is now seeing a price hike, with each said to be costing around Rs 5000 or less, but not less than the previous price, as per the statement by the Minister in charge of Power, Prestone Tynsong. If this is truly the case, then it should definitely prompt the public to speak up against the need to install such meters, especially if they are meant to be procured (bought) at such a high price which is unacceptable since the price of smart meters in other cities are not as high as Rs 5000. It should also prompt action from the different organisations who should demand a proper statement on why the price of the smart meters has been hiked and why should the public buy them at such a high price. The MeECL has been known to be plagued by various issues that have paralysed their way of functioning, with many skeletons also being discovered from their cupboards. At present, we are also suffering from the nightmare of load-shedding, timings of which are never fixed as the lights go out just about any time.
I think it would be more convenient for the MeECL and the power department, including the minister in charge, to find out ways and means to look into the different pressing issues of the MeECL, particularly load-shedding which poses to be a hindrance to many daily activities since we all rely on electricity for almost everything we do. Instead of focusing on the need to have smart meters installed and pushing the public into purchasing and installing them, it would be wise to shift focus to fixing the more important issues crippling the corporation.