This article has been written by Sanskar Tiwari pursuing Diploma in Technology Law, Fintech Regulations and Technology Contracts and edited by Shashwat Kaushik.
This article has been published by Sneha Mahawar.
Table of Contents
In the present, the amenities accessible to the common man as a utility were not even a luxury to the nobility a hundred years ago; they were, in fact, past imagination. There has been a rapid advancement of human civilization in terms of technology, which has inundated humanity with umpteen comforts and conveniences. But the cost generated by producing these comforts and conveniences is now getting too high to pay for humanity. The consequence is that natural resources like petroleum, coal, thorium, etc. are drying up quickly, carbon emissions are hitting new heights every year and consumption of energy is increasing at a very rapid pace. Hence, it is very essential and pertinent to look into energy consumption. A lot of energy is wasted just because it is not properly managed or optimised. Hence, energy management becomes a very essential and basic approach to saving energy and optimising energy usage.
The Internet of Things (hereinafter referred to as ‘IoT’) plays a very vital role in energy management in the modern era. IoT automates the process of energy management, which is often referred to as ‘smart energy management’. IoT based smart energy management systems are in high demand today. The article discusses the relevance of IoT based smart energy management and later delves into the question of how IoT can even help counter electricity thefts in India, which also amounts to smart energy management.
IoT and smart energy management
First, let us understand what exactly is meant by IoT and smart energy management.
What is an IoT
IoT refers to a group or network of objects/devices that are connected to each other, may be via wifi, bluetooth, physical wires, or cellular networks, and that are often embedded with sensors, softwares or other technologies that collect data from the surroundings. The collected data is capable of being shared with other objects or devices in the network and is generally shared with the cloud storage platform or central server, which then analyses the data and puts it to beneficial use in a wide range of industries. The devices in the network can collect and exchange data with each other and with other systems. In other words, it can be said that IoT enables objects/devices to interact with each other.
The most classic example of an IoT is a smartwatch, which is embedded with sensors that can measure blood pressure, SPO2 levels, heartbeat, calories burned, etc., and it shares the data with a smartphone to which it is generally connected via Bluetooth.
Smart energy management
Smart energy management (referred to as ‘SEM’ hereinafter) focuses on controlling, monitor and optimising three aspects of energy, i.e., its generation, production and consumption, via the use of IoT (modern technology, software, etc.). Smart energy management is not possible without IoT. Hence, IoT is a non-negotiable part of the SEM. The fundamental goal of the SEM is to conserve energy, consequently minimising costs and reducing the negative impact on the environment. SEM is needed at both the household level and at the industrial or commercial level.
Smart energy management is generally done by installing a SEM system that is embedded with IoT.
- The SEM system first collects data regarding anomalies, power wastage, power consumption/production, environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, motion, etc. via various sensors and metres, which are part of the SEM system.
- Then the collected data is transmitted to a cloud based storage platform or to a central control unit.
- Then this data is processed and analysed using machine learning techniques and software algorithms.
- Based on the analysis of the data collected, energy usage is regulated and optimised, thus avoiding waste.
- SEM systems can also operate and control energy storage functions and switch between different sources, such as solar energy, batteries, regular power supplies, etc.
Some SEM systems are basic, like smart air conditioners or smart bulbs, which efficiently save energy, while others are complex, such as multi-building automation utility systems.
Let’s take a practical look at the SEM system
A building is attached to a SEM system with various sensors.
- Air conditioners generally operate within a fixed range of temperature, which leads to repetitive on and off cycles of the compressor. As the air conditioner attains required temperature as per the ambient temperature of the building and also takes into consideration the outside climate via atmospheric climate sensors, the compressor is accordingly switched off and on accordingly to save energy.
- Lights are switched off immediately as there is no motion detected in a room via inbuilt motion detectors.
- When the water storage tank is almost filled with water up to the brink, which is sensed by a sensor monitoring the water level in the tank, which further forwards the information to the central controlling unit, which switches off the water supply via the water pump.
Similarly, SEM systems may be used in industries for optimisation of the energy usage involved in large and complex machines.
Why resorting to IoT based smart energy management is better
Earlier, there was no provision for electricity itself. Later, electricity was discovered and put to use for the benefit of humanity. In the initial years of the usage of electricity, the only electrical appliances used were fans, bulbs, and tubelights. But with constant innovation in technology, more appliances were invented and now a modern household is unthinkable without appliances like refrigerators, microwaves, induction ovens, toasters, air conditioners and heaters, hair dryers, electrical irons, geysers and so on. This implies that earlier, the management of electricity with limited appliances was simple and could be managed simply by human effort (by switching on and off the appliances as per the needs of the people) but now the same has become so complex that it is not convenient or too cumbersome a task to rely on human effort for energy management. Modern skyscrapers and industries are mushrooming and their energy management is almost impossible with human effort. Hence, IoT-based SEM systems come to the rescue.
Traditionally, in India, as responsible human beings, people were expected to have the duty (dharma) of conservation of resources, which included efficient use of them as well. But this duty is now not binding and unenforceable in nature; therefore, energy is bound to be wasted because some people are responsible but some are not. Let’s take a real-life example of my observation at the school I studied. There were people (students) who acted very responsibly and switched off lights and fans when there was no one in the classroom. At the same time, there were people who were not sensitive enough to even know this, and some people even possessed the attitude that my parents are spending a good amount of money on the school; therefore, I am rather going to ensure I am able to get the value back, and even if for that matter, I may ensure that all lights and fans are on when no one is in the classroom. So, IoT-based SEM systems can help to rule out the human factor, which is either for or against (depending upon the biases that a person may have) and the conservation of energy takes place without any bias (uniformly), hence rendering the process efficient and automated.
Relevance of IoT based smart energy management in India
The use of SEM systems is not as rampant in India as it is in western countries. Still, there are many households throughout the country that don’t have access to a 24 hour electricity supply. But in metro cities like New Delhi, Bangalore, Gurgaon, and Mumbai, it is gradually coming into trend in newly built flats, villas and bungalows. And at the commercial/industrial level, companies in India are actively resorting to SEM systems. Newly constructed skyscrapers are fitted with SEM systems. Given the growing energy consumption in India, it is pertinent to adopt IoT based SEM.
Does reduced incidences of electricity thefts also amount to SEM
As mentioned above, SEM aims to curb energy waste, optimise it and minimise costs. Electricity theft mainly leads to the following repercussions
● Indiscriminate/reckless use of energy, as people are not concerned with electricity bills.
● Loss of revenue to the supplying company or the government, as the case may be.
So, if electricity theft is curbed, then it would curb the indiscriminate use of energy; hence, energy shall be saved and the energy so saved may be put to efficient usage. Secondly, it shall lead to minimising the costs that are borne by the supplying companies or the government due to electricity thefts. So, clearly, it can be established that reducing/curbing incidences of electricity theft also amounts to SEM. It is immaterial whether SEM is at the level of a home, a building or a factory or at a higher level, such as SEM in relation to a city or a country.
Can IoT solve the rampant problem of electricity theft in India
The IoT can solve the problem of electricity theft. Electricity theft may be committed in many ways, such as by tampering with the metre, thereby stalling the readings, tapping into the electrical cables, or using the electricity (allocated for household usage) for commercial usage. Let’s see how IoT can help tackle electricity theft:
- Smart metering: They can’t be tampered with easily. They provide real time energy consumption data. They can detect aberrant consumption patterns, which may indicate theft and alerts may be sent to the utility providers. Hence, the Indian Government is promoting and installing smart metres in households under various schemes like Smart Metre National Programme, Revamped Distribution Sector Scheme, etc.
- Tamper detection: IoT powered sensors may be installed at the distribution equipment or channels, which can immediately detect unauthorised access or tampering. These sensors can send immediate alerts for a rapid response.
- Geospatial analysis: Amalgamating geospatial information with IoT can help pinpoint and focus on the areas prone to electricity theft. This can facilitate the enforcement of preventive measures.
- Data analytics: IoT enabled smart metres can collect vast amounts of data, which may be analysed via machine learning and advanced data analytics algorithms so as to identify anomalies and patterns associated with theft.
In the modern era, with ever rising consumption of energy, it has become imperative to look into our own actions regarding the manner of usage of energy, like ‘Whether the usage is efficient or not?’, ‘Whether there is wastage or not?’. Here, IoT based SEM becomes relevant to attenuate such a premise. IoT based SEM has copious benefits, such as minimising carbon emissions and costs, reducing energy waste, optimising the energy saved, etc. Iot based SEM is very efficient and reliable as compared to human effort because of physical impossibility and human bias. IoT can also help reduce incidents of theft, which also amounts to SEM in a more comprehensive sense, as discussed above. Development and growth are inevitable but it is a choice that we have as a generation about whether to make that growth or development sustainable or not. And IoT based SEM is a very pertinent step towards the goal of sustainable growth and development.
Apart from solely relying on SEM via IoT, it is high time for humanity to become responsible and, as far as practicable, try to act in a way that is not detrimental to the environment, other creatures or other human beings. This is what is enshrined under Article 51A(g) of the Constitution of India and has been stressed on many occasions by the United Nations.
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