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  • [Startup Bharat] How Jaipur-based Gram Power Uses Smart Grid Technology to Help Utilities Reduce Losses

[Startup Bharat] How Jaipur-based Gram Power Uses Smart Grid Technology to Help Utilities Reduce Losses

By on July 7, 2021 0


Power loss is a major concern for the power industry in India. According to the Economic Survey for 2020-2021, transmission and distribution (T&D) losses in India’s power sector are higher than in other countries, which means that electricity is produced but not reaching the consumers.

Based in Jaipur Gram Power seeks to solve this problem by digitize electricity distribution infrastructure in India. Founded in 2012 by Yashraj Khaitan with his teammate at the University of California at the time Jacob Dickinson, the startup is building a smart electricity metering system to manage electricity consumption and prevent power losses. Jacob, however, left the company in 2016 and now works at SpaceX.

Yashraj tells Your story that the company initially started providing electricity using its smart solar micro-grids for areas that were not connected to national electricity grids. In 2016, Gram Power pivoted its business to focus solely on managing the distribution of electricity.

“Our first product was smart solar micro-grids. These were stand-alone power plants that provide energy to communities that are not connected to the national grid. Our main innovation in this system was the management of electricity distribution. We had developed a comprehensive electricity distribution management platform that basically included smart prepaid meters and technology to manage that grid remotely, ”he said.

Gram Power is part of the fourth cohort of Google accelerator for startups India.

Early Journey and the Pivot

Yashraj explains that Gram Power started its journey with the launch of smart solar micro-grids and claims to have deployed around 30 smart micro-grids in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

Yashraj Khaitan, Founder and CEO, Gram Power (Image credit: LinkedIn)

However, he says they realized the challenges of expanding the business because India lacked clear policies on how a micro-grid solution could coexist with the national grid.

“One of the country’s private utilities approached us after reviewing our work on microgrids. They told us that if we could subtract all electricity production and integrate the intelligent prepaid energy management system into the national grid and see if they could help utility companies save on lost electricity, ”he says.

After that, the startup pivoted in 2016 to focus on managing power distribution and digitizing infrastructure.

“We have developed an integrated platform for smart meters – from metering equipment to communication technology, including the entire software platform to manage and operate these large-scale meters. We provide all of these services under one roof to utility companies, ”Yashraj adds.

Smart electricity metering system

Yashraj explains that a smart meter is a normal meter with the ability to remotely turn the power on and off and also take readings automatically.

According to him, the startup the main target customers are the national electricity boards which suffer enormous losses. He explains that while the electricity generation and transmission infrastructure is good in India, the major problem is in the distribution of electricity, which is the last mile infrastructure.

He explains that utilities are losing electricity heavily in the distribution segment through multiple channels. “For example, bill reading is currently done manually and there is actually a person who visits the home and office units and takes the reading. If the reading is incorrect, the utility suffers losses because the wrong invoice is generated. This is one of the main areas of loss, ”he adds.

Apart from that, factors like electricity theft also add to the burden. “Our goal is to help utilities reduce their losses,” he said.

Illustration: YS Design

Yashraj explains that the higher losses suffered by the utility company indirectly lead to a higher price of electricity per unit. Thus, by helping utilities save losses, the price for the end customer also decreases.

“What makes the metering system really smart is the software platform, which connects and uses all this data. For example, the whole billing process is automated and it is prepaid cloud billing. This allows users to track their consumption, bill and budget if needed. The system will alert the user in case they are about to exceed the set budget, allowing them to control their electricity expenses. Apart from this, utilities can also identify the location and amount of electricity theft using the system. It also allows businesses to monitor and manage electricity demands, ”he adds.

Business and more

The co-founder reveals that Gram Power is working in 25 cities across the country. He also manages the distribution of electricity for many startups such as OYO Life and Stanza Living, among others.

Speaking of the business model, Yashraj explains that the startup operates on a count-as-a-service model. “Utilities do not invest CAPEX in meters but pay us one subscription per meter per month for contractual periods of between 7.5 and 10 years, during which we supply, operate and manage these metering systems for the national electricity boards, ”he adds.

Image Credit: Gram Power

The A-series theater company has raised $ 2.6 million to date of Blum Capital and Vestergaard. It is now in the process of closing its B Series round table. Other notable players such as Techno Meters, HPL India, Itron India Pvt Ltd among others are also operating in the energy meter segment.

According to the India Energy Outlook 2021 report, India is the third largest energy consumer in the world, through increased income and improved living standards.

The report reveals that before the pandemic, India’s energy demand was expected to increase by almost 50% between 2019 and 2030, but now growth over this period is closer to 35% in the declared policies scenario and 25%. % in the delayed recovery scenario.

Speaking about his future plans, the founder reveals that the startup is looking to launch products for the private sector. For example, a smart meter for end customers to provide device level analytics to users. In the next five years, the startup is seeks to expand its market share and has deployed around 10 million meters.