India has taken a big leap in energy efficiency, with significant improvement in both supply-side and demand-side management in the past five years; the challenge now is to increase storage capacity and reduce T&D losses, says Renjini Liza Varghese.
India's power demand is ever increasing and this is expected to continue, as electrification in the country is moving at a fast pace with the 'Power for All' policy and and the Saubhagya scheme. According to the union ministry of power, by 2030, energy demand in the country will to touch 1,250 million TOE (tonne of oil equivalent), while the International Energy Agency (IEA) sees it at 1,500 million TOE.
It is five years since the country approved a roadmap for smart grids. What has changed in this time? The country can boast a better supply-demand management system, a stable and reliable grid with renewable sources integrated into it, and above all a national grid.
For a country like India, where electricity consumption is growing by the year, it is critical to both add capacity and maximise the use of electricity generated. One of the major challenges India faces is transmission and distribution losses. It is a continuing fight to bring down the aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses to the mandated level of 15 per cent.
India through its energy efficiency efforts has introduced ways to reduce consumption - be it be the STAR rated appliances or the use of LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs. Through this effort, it also tries to meet the climate change targets. In October 2015 India announced its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), or to put it simply, climate goals. The country has pledged to reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33-35 per cent by 2030 from 2005 levels as part of its commitments to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change adopted by 195 countries in Paris in 2015. And it also promises to increase the contribution of the renewable energy component in the country's energy basket to 40 per cent.
For a cost-sensitive country like India, it is a fact that the implementation of any project takes its own time. Smart grid is no different. However, enhancing policies and regulatory frameworks is helping the country reach its target of a renewed and a vibrant grid.
India has an ambitious target of adding 175 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy by 2022. However, the government is hopeful of adding 200 GW before this deadline. Currently, the country's installed renewable energy capacity stands at 63 GW. By the end of 2018, the government through Saubhagya - a Rs 163.20 billion project - aims at last-mile electricity connectivity for 40 million households. To meet this requirement, the capacity addition has to go up, or the country needs ways that save that energy lost in transmission to make it available for distribution.
The electricity grid is one of the complex engineering architectures in the modern world. And in a changing world, it is imperative to take the digital route to reap maximum benefit. The existing analogue system will eventually migrate into the digital platform. The digital platform or what is commonly referred as the smart grid will enable both the operator and the consumer to manage the consumption better.
India has taken a big leap in energy efficiency, especially in the last five years. Supply-side management and demand-side management saw significant improvement. Since the major blackout in the northern regions of the country in 2012, there are very few major grid failures reported.
The grid in the recent past has changed from a single injection point and multiple users to multiple injection points and numerous users after the introduction of renewables into the grid. It is now estimated that the per capita consumption of electricity in India will climb threefold from the current levels of 1,200 units per person over the next ten years. Though India crossed over 1,000 units per person in the last year, it is still far behind the global per capita consumption levels of 5,000 units.
According to Minister of New and Renewable Energy RK Singh, the potential for energy saving in India is immense. As per a report by the World Bank titled 'Utility scale DSM opportunities and business models in India', the size of the energy efficiency market is Rs 1.6 trillion, having risen four times in six years from Rs 440 billion in 2010.
The minister's point on energy efficiency is reiterated by the industry. One of the leading suppliers of energy efficiency products in the market has pointed out that the demand for such products is ever increasing as the awareness level of the consumers goes up.
Prakash Chandraker, MD and Vice President - Energy Business, Schneider Electric India, said, "We have introduced products with higher efficiency in the market. Especially the switch gears and transformers offer energy saving of 30-4 per cent in comparison to the older models."
From bringing in efficiency in the electricity segment, now the target is to make new buildings with low emissions. Installation of solar panels on buildings is aimed at bringing in carbon neutrality. This is commendable as currently over 60,000 MW of renewable energy is fed into the national grid.
Data capturing and data analytics would take the grid to the next level. In the era of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence, though it appears to be easier, it comes with its own challenges on the ground. Any programme or initiative will be incomplete without a strong base of policy and regulatory framework.
Policies that laid the foundations
The government has formulated the Energy Conservation Act, 2001 that provides the legal framework, institutional arrangement and a regulatory mechanism that helps drive the energy efficiency programmes in the country. The Act has five significant provisions that are classified as designated consumers, standard and labelling of appliances, energy conservation building codes, creation of institutional set up (BEE) and establishment of an energy conservation fund.
The Energy Conservation Act came into existence in 2002 and was amended in 2010. The main amendments are:
a) Energy savings certificate
The government issues energy savings certificate to consumers whose energy consumption is less than the prescribed norms. It also allows the consumer whose energy consumption is more to purchase the certificate to comply with the prescribed norms.
b) National programme for LED lighting
This is part of the energy efficiency programme, under which the existing bulbs and CFL lamps in households and in street lights will be replaced by long-lasting, more energy-efficient LED lamps. These LED lights provide both energy and cost savings in the medium term because of their long life and efficiency. The scheme is being implemented in phased manner. It is estimated that the domestic consumer would be able to recover the price of the LED bulb within a year.
The target is to replace a total of 13.4 million street lights with LED lighting, of which 5 million replacements are done as of now.
c) Standards and labelling programme
This programme enables the consumer to be informed about the energy savings of the products available in the market like air conditioners, tube lights, frost free refrigerators, distribution transformers, induction motors, direct cool refrigerator, geysers, ceiling fans, colour TVs, agricultural pump sets, LPG stoves and washing machines. These products come with a STAR rating ranging from 1 to 5 in increasing order of energy efficiency. The world over, household consumption accounts for 40 per cent of electricity offtake, and in India it is a little over 35 per cent. Minister RK Singh has pointed out that so far star rated appliances have helped in energy savings of up to 50 per cent in the country. He added that there is room for further improvement of 35 per cent.
A smart grid acts as a tool to manage peak load, helps in reducing losses and also improves the quality of the supplied power. It also gives a transparent interface to consumers, which enables them to monitor their own consumption pattern.
Whether you call it the smart grid adaptation or the migration to digital platform, the utilities have been successful in implementing the demand response (DR) scheme. And smart metering is also catching up. Taking the example of Manipur, the state took the route of pre-paid meters to recover substantial outstanding amounts. How it works is similar to the way mobile phone recharging works. If you as a consumer have outstanding dues and you recharge the meter for say Rs 500, you are able to use electricity worth Rs 400 while Rs 100 gets against to the outstanding recovery.
Smart meters, in addition to all its benefits, also help the utilities to recover outstanding amounts in a more significant way. Manipur is not the only state that implemented prepaid meters. Maharashtra has introduced 200 prepaid meters in rural parts of the state on an experiment basis.
The primary feature of smart meters is enabling two-way communication between the consumer and the utilities. This gains relevance as the India puts more renewable energy of less than 1 MW into the grid. But it looks like India is rather far from two-way metering as the grid is not dynamic enough to adapt to low inputs yet.
Energy efficiency does not only mean replacing of bulbs and CFL lamps with LED lights; it also means reducing consumption. A combination of automation of services, installing sensors, a regulated voltage for lighting systems, setting up solar or wind power units for captive consumption and thermal storage systems are some of the means that companies have adopted in the last decade.
Experts are of the opinion thermal storage gives the best visible results. This system is considered a boon to the utilities, and by saying that, the benefits to the consumer are also not to be played down. The technology helps the consumer to shift the load from daytime when the demand is higher to night time when the demand is lower.
The thermal storage unit comprises of a large tank that is filled with glycol liquid and nodules. The tank is put for charging during the night, when charged ice forms over the nodules. During daytime, air passed through the tank is circulated through the air conditioning ducts. Electricity is practically not drawn from the grid to run ACs during the day.
The principle of heat transfer is what is being used here. In this cassette heat transfer happens twice. The chiller is used during the charging cycle and is bypassed during discharge, thus shifting the consumption to a time when the tariff is lower.
For the utilities, as the load is shifted to an off-peak period, it reduces costly power-buying to meet demand. And for the consumer, it saves on the bills. It is a new way of managing the load. Some companies have installed thermal storage - to cite a few examples, the National Stock Exchange (NSE) has been using the system for half a decade now.
Basically, one uses the existing chiller system and ducts; the additional installation is the storage tanks. The tanks come in large sizes. It is advisable to introduce the thermal storage system at the time of designing the building. Retrofit is also possible as it was done in the case of NSE.
According to data from the stock exchange, it saves around 13000 KVA demand per year. The system helped the exchange to considerably bring down its consumption during the daytime when the tariff is high. Air conditioning and lighting together constitute 40 per cent of the total consumption.
NSE Thermal Storage Data
2013-14 10,829 KVA
2014-14 11,457 KVA
2015-16 13,559 KVA
2016-17 12,363.99 KVA
2017-18 13,340.49 KVA
Considering the fact that India is the largest greenhouse gasses emitter after US and China and one of the most vulnerable countries for climate change, it needs to get its act together. Though the country has a well-defined roadmap for smart grids and digital platforms, it lacks in implementation. Lack of funds adds to the problem.
A combination of smart grids, improving energy efficiency through different ways, and more renewable energy would give India the right mix. In other words, faster technology adaptation and energy efficiency enhancement is the way forward for the country.
By the end of 2018, the government through Saubhagya - a Rs 163.20 billion project - aims at last-mile electricity connectivity for 40 million households.
The government has formulated the Energy Conservation Act, 2001 that provides the legal framework, institutional arrangement and a regulatory mechanism that helps the energy efficiency programmes.
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