ESMI role in building a discourse on electricity supply quality

In this post we discuss how the insights from analysis of data of Electricity Supply Monitoring Initiative (ESMI) in India has helped in building a discourse of electricity supply quality. ESMI is an effort by Prayas (Energy Group) since 2015, to provide evidence based feedback about the quality of supply to all stakeholders in the electricity sector. Under ESMI, specially designed IoT enabled voltage monitors are deployed at several consumer locations across India to develop a reliable database on supply interruptions and voltage levels. The minute-wise voltage data collected through ESMI is available in the public domain on watchyourpower.org and the Harvard Dataverse.

“Contrary to government's claims, small towns, rural areas still suffer from power outages”

“During March 2016, 61 per cent of locations experienced outages for more than 15 hours, 41 per cent for more than 30 interruptions each more than 15 min.”

The Economic times

“Power' tussle: Centre cites NGO data to counter Akhilesh”

“As per the data provided in August 2016, UP had more than 2 times the number of power cuts and 7 times the hours of power cuts as compared to (rest of) India: the center said.”

News 18

“Connecting People To The Grid In India Isn't Enough”

forbes.com

The above-mentioned excerpts are just a few examples of over a dozen media pieces which have cited or used ESMI data. In this blog post we will share details and a few stories of the impact ESMI has created in the space of supply quality monitoring, not only in India but other countries as well.

Over the last 5 years ESMI has proven that an automated, low cost, easy to install system can certainly provide granular supply quality data. The granular nature and easy availability of data generated by ESMI has created a space for evidence -based analysis and research on supply quality monitoring. In the past, information on supply quality parameters was limited by anecdotal, survey based or part feeder/DT metering data. This data is limited by perception, time of reporting, and transparency in the process of data collection. On the other hand, ESMI has the capability of relaying minute by minute voltage data directly from consumer locations without any manual intervention.

Spreading the word

After the launch of the initiative in March 2015 the news of supply quality data made available through a public domain was carried by 4 national newspapers and 3 regional newspapers. This prompted many people to look at the supply quality data generated by ESMI. Within a year from the launch ESMI had already recorded over one million location hours and had over 500 unique visitors to the website each month. Several of these visitors approached us voluntarily to allow ESMI to monitor supply quality at their locations. We could cater to a few individual location requests and also accept support for broad based (5-10) ESMI device installations at some other locations like in Gairsain in Uttarakhand, Udupi in Karnataka, Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh etc.

Caught attention of sector actors

Post the launch of ESMI, the concept and data were presented to various stakeholders including Forum of Regulators, which is an apex body of regulators. ESMI was appreciated by most regulators and support for ESMI installations was offered by Joint Electricity Regulatory Commission (JERC), and Assam Electricity Regulatory Commission (AERC). The two commissions extended support to Prayas to install ESMI devices in Chandigarh, Goa, and Guwahati respectively. The supply quality data generated by ESMI was used by the respective commissions to question utilities for the quality of supply provided by them. The concept of ESMI was also presented to the Ministry of Power (MoP) and it received similar support. With support from the Ministry and Rural Electrification Corporation (REC), Prayas successfully installed over 40 devices in the state of Uttar Pradesh. We continue to support the ministry and REC with supply quality data from several locations across Uttar Pradesh.

On the other hand, consumer representative groups from Maharashtra and Rajasthan have also used ESMI data to support petitions on violations in supply code by utilities to the respective regulatory commissions. The team at Prayas has also used ESMI data to support multiple submissions made to agencies such as Central Electricity Authority, Uttar Pradesh Electricity Regulatory Commission and Rajasthan Electricity Regulatory Commission.

ESMI on international platforms

Internationally also, the concept of ESMI has received much appreciation from several multilateral organizations and institutions. The World Bank in its World Development Report 2016 mentions ESMI as “The results provide a potentially powerful, crowdsourced flow of information that can help consumers understand the causes and impacts of power shortages, and can help policy makers and utility companies prioritize power system investments”. ESMI was also presented at the Sustainable Energy For All (SE4ALL) forum, in New York which is attended by senior leaders from government, business, finance, civil society and International institutes from across the world. ESMI has also been presented and referred to as a successful effort on open data at the International Open Data Conference 2016, Spain. The ESMI India initiative was covered extensively as a case study on open data projects implemented across the world by a consortium of partners led by the New York University. It has also been documented as a case study in a book titled ‘Open data in developing economies’, published by African Minds.

ESMI Pilot in 5 countries

Prayas has also collaborated with the World Resources Institute (WRI) to pilot the ESMI in 4 countries. Indonesia with the help of Institute for essential services reform (IESR), Tajikistan with help of Consumer Union (CU), Kenya with EED Advisory and Tanzania with Energy Change Lab (ECL). The data from these pilots were used by respective organizations from the countries to build evidence on issues related to supply quality. This effort also prompted several other countries to look for opportunities that can allow for supply quality monitoring at the consumer end. Prayas also supported the fifth ESMI pilot in Nepal implemented by a researcher for analysing the impact of grid based electrification on energy access,energy poverty and steps to improve energy planning.

Several other research communities

The ESMI initiative and the data from the initiative has also been referred to, and finds mention in multiple blog posts published by WRI, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), India Smart Grids Forum (ISGF), Open Governance (.RU), reports from Brookings Institute, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE),WRI and newspaper articles in several dailies where they have mentioned the benefit of using an ESMI like approach to gathering data regarding quality of electricity supply.

ESMI data is also being used by researchers and academicians to ground truth electricity supply information received from satellite data, analyse consumer responses to power quality and assess market potential of batteries in India. The researchers include Professors and students from George Washington University, Columbia University, University of Chicago, University of Michigan, IIT Bombay, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and analysts from Godrej and Boyce, Ather Energy, and Bloomberg Publication. ESMI has helped these researchers and academicians by making available supply quality data through an independent monitoring process.

These use cases show that ESMI has not only provided an easy to access data source on supply quality data in India and other countries but also helped in creating an evidence based discourse on concerns around supply quality. This discourse has over the years created ripples in the existing process of supply quality monitoring by enabling regulators to demand for better quality data from utilities or even creating the need to have a consumer centric approach to supply quality monitoring. We hope that investments made in the past to improve the electricity network and recent investments in smart meters will help in getting better supply quality data at different levels.

 

Contributors: Shweta Kulkarni, Abhiram Sahasrabudhe, Aditya Chunekar, Shantanu Dixit

Please contact Shweta Kulkarni (shweta@prayaspune.org) for questions or comments.

Suggested Citation: Prayas (Energy Group), ‘ESMI role in building a discourse on electricity supply quality’, part of blog-series on insights from monitoring quality of electricity supply at consumer locations in India under the ESMI, August 2021.

Please click here to read the other posts in this series.