Comment on the significance of the work being done by ISGF. What are the products and solutions that STMicroelectronics is showcasing at the India Smart Grid Week? Any new launches?
Supplying energy efficiently is key to powering the country’s industries and growth but the power infrastructure in India faces challenges in capacity. To meet the ever-increasing energy needs and to control power theft and transmission losses, India has launched ambitious missions to establish smart grids and build smart cities. Establishing the India Smart Grid Task Force and Smart Grid Forum will help by centralizing activities and improving implementation of decisions taken by the government bodies. What is still missing on the smart grid front in India is the policy and regulatory framework standardization.
STMicroelectronics’ (ST) advances in narrow-band power-line communication (PLC) technologies have been adopted as automatic meter reading (AMR) and automatic meter infrastructures (AMI) solutions at the heart of the smart grid concept. Our large and expanding offer ranges from our first-generation analog Frequency Shift Keying (FSK) transceivers with an integrated power-line driver to a second-generation, dual-core, multi-protocol, STarGRID® system-on-chip platform with an integrated power-line driver, analog front-end and Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption that supports B-FSK, B-PSK, Q-PSK, 8-PSK and OFDM (Orthogonal frequency division multiplexing) modulations.
At ISGW, ST showcased its technological offerings in powerline communications, metering, and connectivity devices. Our vision is to help India’s metering industry with our vast experience by developing a roadmap of new products that are perfectly suited to the India market. We displayed our flagship STCOMET chip, a complete smart-meter system-on-chip, which allows any smart-meter manufacturer to develop a meter around this chip, which includes the metrology, memory, and communication interfaces. Thus, a powerline communication smart meter can be built around this chip.
The chip can also be used as core IC for a module to be inserted in an existing standard meter. The powerline communication of this chip supports all the international standards such as G3, PRIME, Meters and More, and IEEE1901.2.
Tell us about your engagement with the metering standards in India.
STMicroelectronics is proactively participating in the BIS standardization committee and contributing to the development of India’s smart-meter specifications. We have also shared our knowledge and experience with the Indian utilities and manufacturers and the government is also working in this domain to encourage and build smart meters. So, together with all the stakeholders, we are trying to support and help develop the entire ecosystem.
What is the job of the STCOMET chip?
STCOMET is a future-proof, fully-programmable, dual-core chip, which supports communication bandwidth up to 500 kHz, with an integrated analog front end (AFE), power-line driver, an embedded modem and programmable MCU. The STCOMET also includes a fully-integrated smart meter SoC that embeds high-performance metrology functions.
Our STCOMET powerline communication platform comes with an extensive toolbox that includes evaluation boards, evaluation software and certified protocol stacks, providing designers with a comprehensive development environment that enables easy integration into new and existing designs and shorter time to market. ST can offer subsystems for these applications as well as complete solutions for powerline communication and sensing.
STCOMET integrates a powerline communication (PLC) modem, a high-performance application core and metrology functions. The STCOMET SoC has become one of the first two ICs to complete the new G3-PLC™ certification program announced by the G3-PLC Alliance in September 2014. It has also recently passed interoperability tests for PRIME® 1.4, the latest version of the PRIME Alliance PLC standard used by over four million smart meters in service today. It is already certified to PRIME 1.3.6, and supports S-FSK IEC61 334-5-1, METERS AND MORE®, and IEEE 1901.2 PLC standards.
Keeping in view that smart metering across India is a big mission, do you think you will be able to restrict the prices to that level and yet keep it profitable for the company?
We provide our SoCs and other ICs to the meter manufacturers at very competitive market prices. Having said that, pricing for the meters that utilize our chips are set by regulators or government bodies.
Do you think the standards and the right strategies are in place for implementation of smart grid infrastructure in India?
According to India Smart Grid Forum (ISGF), a typical city of 5 to 10 lakh population would require about Rs 300 to 500 crore for modernizing the electricity grid, depending on the condition of the equipment. This would entail investments to the tune of $7.5 billion (around Rs 50,000 crore) from the current levels of Rs 100 crore for building smartgrids in 100 smart cities. This could happen in the next four to five years.
The government is expecting that all 100 smart cities and 500 smart towns would be running on smart grids in the next 5-10 years. This initiative would involve underground cables at strategic locations in the city, automating substations and distribution network, smart metering, rooftop solar integration, etc.
What are the application areas for your range of semiconductors?
ST has major programs in place to support the smart-grid concept where semiconductor technology will play a critical role. Our products find application in (a) smart metering, (b) building automation, (c) PHEVs (plug-in hybrid electric vehicles) and (d) renewable energy sources.