Setting a new milestone, the first-ever state-owned smart prepaid metering factory is all set to start its production. Dubbed as ‘Bangladesh Smart Electrical Company Limited’, this manufacturing plant is a joint venture between state-owned Power Distribution Company of Bangladesh West Zone Power Distribution Company Limited (WZPDCL) and Hexing Electrical Company Limited. Hexing, a multinational conglomerate headquartered in Hangzhou has been operating in Bangladesh for nearly twelve years with a track record of implementing smart prepaid metres in several government projects.
Located in a rented space in Khulna, this mammoth production plant will be producing around 5 lakhs prepaid metres of which 4.86 lakhs will be single-phase metres and the rest will be three-phase metres. Once going into full production, this plant will be able to support 56% of the clientele of West Zone Power Distribution Company. The erection, installation and commissioning of the production equipment are almost done and the plant is expected to go live within the next month, according to sources involved in with the project. Approximately, 200 technical and non-technical staff will be working in the factory to ensure single shift production once the factory goes operational.
Engr. Md. Shafique Uddin, Managing Director of Bangladesh Smart Electrical Company said, “We are hopeful that we will be able to meet the expectation of the consumers of Bangladesh. Our mission is to ensure a quality product at an affordable price. We shall be working with other distribution utilities of Bangladesh to try and make sure every consumer gets the best service at their doorstep.”
The local production of the smart prepaid metre will save foreign currency, will create scopes of employment and increase the chance of exporting the smart metres once local demand has been met. Sources working in Power Division informed that, the current price of a prepaid metre in the market is around Tk. 4,500/- and the locally produced metre will be around Tk. 3,780/- saving around Tk. 720/- taka in foreign currency.
The need for checking the feasibility of prepayment of electricity bill was first started in 1995, when the Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) together with the German Development Bank KfW decided to investigate the concept of prepayment, as an option to reduce system loss and to reverse the financial drain on utility. In May 2000, BPDB selected Fichtner, a Stuttgart-based consulting firm, to help define the scope of the prepayment metering system, select a supplier of the metres and a private operator, create a new tariff structure, carry out a one-year test phase and deliver training and capacity building. After the year-long test phase in Chittagong in 2007, the project was handed over to BPDC in October 2008.
Parallelly, another prepaid metering project feasibility took place in 2004. DESCO signed an agreement with The Institute of Information and Communication Technology (IICT), a cash-strapped research institute of BUET to consult the prepaid metering project. The initial testing ground for the project was in Uttara, Dhaka.
As per the agreement of the project, IICT designed and developed a prepaid metering device for end users. To commercialise the project, DESCO set up a prepaid metres Production Unit with the technical assistance of IICT, BUET at Mirpur. In the first phase, 5,000 single-phase metres were supplied by BUET from their production house. In the second phase, another single phase 5,000 metre and 1,000 three-phase metres were produced in DESCO’s own production house. Up to August 2011, about 10,261 numbers of prepaid metres have been installed in Uttara residential area.