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Chinese firms eye smart meters market as govt wants to bring down prices

Shreya Jai/New Delhi 11 Jul 18 | 07:00 AM

Inhemeter has bid along with Jay Auto and Hexing tied up with Pal Mohan

The government’s insistence on bringing down the price of smart meters in the country and call for fast roll out has led to the entry of Chinese companies, much to the ire of domestic makers. At the same time, the power minister has urged the agencies to set the benchmark price of a smart meter at Rs 1,400 a unit — which is half of prevalent market rate. In the second tender held in June, the L1 and L2 (top two bidders) turned out to be Inhemeter and Hexing Electrical Company meters, both Chinese companies. 

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The companies have bid through a joint venture with an Indian company. Inhemeter has bid along with Jay Auto and Hexing tied up with Pal Mohan. 

Industry executives said none of the Indian companies have prior experience in meter manufacturing.

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The lowest bid received is Rs 2,200 per meter for supply of five million meters. In the first tender of five million meters held in November 2017, the lowest price was Rs 2507 per meter. Saurav Kumar, managing director, Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), did not respond to the sent on his number seeking confirmation on the rates.

Domestic meter makers have expressed displeasure over the entry of Chinese companies in the smart meter tender. The industry feels it might see a repetition of what happened in the solar industry, wherein domestic industry had alleged dumping of Chinese solar panels at low prices. Meanwhile, in a recent meeting held with all the stakeholders, RK Singh, minister of state for power and new & renewable energy, reportedly said the price of smart meters is too high and it should be brought down to Rs 1,400, said a senior official who attended the meeting. In the first smart meter tender, public sector utility Indian Telephone Industries (ITI) emerged winner by quoting Rs 2,507 per meter.

The minister has asked the concerned departments – EESL, which issues the smart meter tender, Central Electricity Authority (CEA) – the technical arm of the power ministry and state power departments to hold a reverse bidding against the benchmark price, said sources.

Industry executives said further decrease in prices would lead to a decline in quality and more imports from China. “This is against the earlier stand of the government to promote local meter manufacturing," said an executive. In the same meeting, the minister also urged indigenous meter makers to scale up their production. The industry, however, is sceptical that reverse bidding would hit their costs.

Sources said ITI, thereafter, sub tendered the contract to four private companies. Indian electrical industry in their representation to the power ministry had said that none of the sub-contractors have necessary specifications or standard certificate from the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).

Tracking the smart meter

Second tender of 5 mn smart meters: 

Two Chinese companies emerge lowest bidders

Price discovered: Rs 2,200 per meter

Price in first tender: Rs 2,507 per meter

Power ministry looking to benchmark price of meter at: 

Rs 1,400 per meter

Prevalent market price of smart meter: Rs 3,000-3,500 per meter (lowest range)

Government’s target: 100 per cent smart meters in urban areas by 2019

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