In future, the distribution system may have advanced metering, robust communication capabilities, extensive automation and integration of distributed generation and storage options, says Parimita Mohanty.The Indian power sector has shown impressive growth in the last few years. The total installed power generation capacity has grown from 1.36 MW in 1947 to 202 GW by May 2012 (Source: CEA) and at present the gross electricity generation is 855 billion units. Despite such growth, spiralling power demand, huge transmission and distribution losses are the main challenges that have been faced by India. Again, in addition to the power demand of the existing beneficiaries, around 400 million people in India lack access to electricity. In such a scenario, with the depleting energy resources, enhancing energy security and energy access, particularly in emerging economies is a major challenge for India.Smart grid has been evolved as one of the solutions to tackle these challenges. The basic concept of smart grid is to add monitoring, control and communication capabilities into the existing electricity delivery system in order to improve the reliability, security and efficiency of the overall system. Advanced sensing, communication and control technologies in smart grids not only facilitate generation and transmission of power but also distribution and utilisation of electricity in a more intelligent and effective manner. Smart grid is a significant technology-enabler, allowing consumers to participate in energy usage decisions while optimising grid operations, fostering grid security and opening new markets for alternate energy production. While there is ample scope for smart grid implementation in India, there is a need to examine and assess the strengths and challenges that exist in its large-scale implementation so that action points and a feasible, pragmatic roadmap can be developed.Smart grid initiatives in IndiaSome initiatives taken in recent years are:• Restructured Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Programme (R-APDRP) scheme of MoP: It is ensuring that some key elements of smart grid infrastructure (such as supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), geographic information system (GIS), consumer indexing and distribution transformer (DT) metering) are to be placed in most power distribution companies. Some of these initiatives have already been taken by certain utilities in India particularly in the context of advanced metering.• India Smart Grid Task Force (ISGTF): It is an inter-ministerial group and serves as the government’s focal point for activities related to ‘smart grid’. The main role of ISGTF is to ensure awareness, co-ordination and integration of diverse activities related to smart grid technologies, practices and services for smart grid research and development; co-ordinate and integrate other relevant inter-governmental activities; collaborate on interoperability framework; review and validate the recommendations from India Smart Grid Forum, etc. Five working groups have been formulated to take up different tasks related to smart grids.• India Smart Grid Forum: It is a non-profit voluntary consortium of public and private stakeholders with the prime objective of accelerating development of smart grid technologies in the Indian power sector. • Other initiatives: PowerGrid Corporation of India (PGCIL) has initiated an ambitious ‘smart grid-smart city’ project with an objective to showcase different smart grid technologies and its advantages by various smart city projects at various locations.Similarly, the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) along with IBM is carrying out a cost-benefit analysis on various smart grid initiatives as part of India’s national mission for enhanced energy efficiency. The focus of the analysis will be to determine India’s readiness in deploying smart grid technologies. It will also develop a framework for adopting new smart grid technologies and identify regulatory frameworks. Other than this, various private industries and institutions have started their own initiatives in smart grids. TERI has implemented a one-of-its-kind smart mini-grid/micro-grid project at one of its campuses to showcase how interconnection of different renewable energy resources with intelligent resource load management improves efficiency, reliability and flexibility of the entire micro-grid system.OpportunitiesA. Optimise grid operation and use: In order to manage India’s ever–increasing demands for energy and security of its supply, the existing transmission and distribution networks require improved integration and coordination. Integrated two-way communication technologies, sensing and measurement technology, advanced control technology, improved interfaces and decision support tools, etc, have the potential to enhance grid operation and use. Many of these are already in use by various utilities but have not been fully integrated. These include substation automation, advance meter reading, demand response, distribution automation, supervisory control and data acquisition, energy management systems, wireless technologies, power-line carrier and fibre optics, wide area monitoring system, time of use and real-time pricing tools, visualisation techniques, GIS, etc. This will allow for real-time information and data exchange to optimise system reliability, asset utilisation and security. Thus, it not only helps in increasing the reliability and flexibility of the whole power system but it also reduces the operation and maintenance cost thereby substantially increasing the life of power system equipment. Hence these applications of smart grids in distribution sector can help reduce distribution losses and increase end-use energy efficiency, thereby contributing to the demand side management (DSM) efforts of utilities.B. Empower consumers to actively participate in grid operation: Advanced communication capabilities equip customers to exploit real-time electricity pricing, incentive-based load reduction signals or emergency load reduction signals and motivate consumers to actively participate in grid operation. A smart grid incorporates consumer equipment and behaviour in grid design, operation and communication-enabling consumers to better control smart appliances and intelligent equipment to manage the energy and reduce energy and reduce energy cost. Such facilities trigger demand side management at the consumer end and also allow peak load optimisation.C. Accommodate different generation and storage options: Smart grid integrates different distributed generation technologies such as solar, wind, biomass, fuel cells, etc) and storage options at local and regional levels. Integration of small scale localised or on-site power generation allows residential, commercial and industrial customers to independently generate their own power and sell the excess power to the grid. This improves the reliability and power quality and offers more customer choice. A few grid interactive renewable energy-based projects have already been installed in India and Rabi Rashmi Abasan in Kolkata became the first project in India where residents have the option of giving power generated on their rooftop solar photovoltaic panels back to the conventional power grid. Both smart grid and micro-grids have large potential not only in large commercial and industrial complexes but they can also be established in hospitals, shopping malls or complexes, apartments, residential complexes, educational institutions, etc, to ensure maximum flexibility, reliability and safety with enhanced efficiency of the overall system. In the Indian context, application of smart grids and micro-grids can be well-integrated with existing programmes like the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission and rural electrification programmes.D. Peak load optimisation and optimisation of assets: A smart grid optimises assets through enterprise resource planning (ERP), resource mapping, inventory management and process streamlining. It minimises operation and maintenance costs and reduces grid congestion and bottlenecks which can ultimately produce consumer-saving. Peak load optimisation will also reduce the amount of spinning reserve that electric utilities have to keep on stand-by due to peak levelling.Key challenges in IndiaAlthough smart grid has several advantages, implementing it in an integrated and holistic manner is a challenging task, particularly when it is to be implemented with the existing transmission and distribution network. Some key challenges for its implementation in India involve:• Strengthening the existing grid network while ensuring that there is sufficient transmission capacity to interconnect energy resources, especially intermittent renewable energy resources. Without the additional intelligence provided by the sensors and software designed to react instantaneously to imbalance caused by intermittent sources such distributed generation can degrade system quality.• Developing decentralised architecture and communication infrastructure to allow potentially millions of parties to operate and trade in the single market and enable small-scale electricity supply systems to operate harmoniously with the total system. • Creating a pool of talent to operate and manage smart grids: Although smart grid is perceived to be the future architecture of the power grid, its main challenge is to find the appropriate human resources to understand, design and develop the smart grid system and subsequently operate and manage the system. There is a huge gap of shortage of around 5 lakh engineers in the next five years in the power sector in India which is not only to be filled but also has to be well-equipped to manage the future power grids. The need of the hour in the context of smart grid is found to be the training and capacity-building at different levels, starting from lineman/technician, engineers, managers, regulators and policy-makers, accountant/account officials etc. There is a need for sustainable, holistic, integrated, multi-disciplinary, pragmatic training programmes on smart grid/micro-grid for different target groups such as utilities, policy-makers and regulators, project developers, etc.• Capturing user behaviour and convenience to get their willingness to participate in installation of smart appliances, smart meters and smart controllers in the user’s premises will be a challenging task, particularly when they have never been part of the power distribution decision-making so far.• Lack of cost-effective, efficient, reliable smart solutions suitable to local conditions and situations. • Lack of common (open) data reading protocol. In an attempt to introduce interoperability and standardisation of energy meter parameters in India, a committee was formulated under the chairmanship of Director General, CPRI, to standardise parameters. Under the ambit of standardisation of parameters, energy accounting and audit meters, interface meters and consumer meters are considered. However these recommendations should be strictly followed.• Lack of regulatory framework and institutional mechanisms for implementation of smart grids.Another drawback of the Indian grid is that it is not financially very secure. The power sector even today is largely dominated by state utilities. This has limited the ability of the utilities to raise from global sources, the capital needed for infrastructure expansion and enhancement. Until and unless cost-effective Indianised technological solutions are available, mass deployment of such smart grid systems would be difficult and it can only be limited to a few pilot projects.The way forwardIncreasing energy demands, depletion of natural resources and the need for a sustainable environment along with changing lifestyles requiring greater automation will make smart grid an inevitable option for the future. In future, the distribution system may have advanced metering, robust communication capabilities, extensive automation and integration of distributed generation and storage options. These facilities can self-heal, provide high quality and reliable power, be resistant to cyber security, offer greater services and choices to customers etc. However, the current challenges are that the smart grid needs to be developed on the existing distribution infrastructure which is significantly different than the envisioned smart grid and end-users who have never been a part of the distribution and tariff decision-making so far are going to be actively involved. In this situation, the only viable way to realise an extensive smart grid is to develop a vision for the ultimate design of smart grid. Although several very good and optimistic initiatives on smart grids have been taken in India, in order to realise that vision, short-term decisions should be made to gradually transform the existing distribution system and inactive consumers into an envisioned smart grid. A plan of action is needed to allow the many facets of technical, regulatory, environmental and socio-cultural issues to be addressed in an optimised manner.
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