A look at the 14 smart grid pilot projects envisioned by the Government, which were small, but sure steps towards upgrading Indian power T&D infrastructure for the better.
Smart grid is an evolving set of technologies, working together to improve the present grid, the applications for which depend on the location and the requirements. By enabling intelligent monitoring, control, communication, and self-healing technologies, it facilitates better power connection; information exchange; reduces environmental impact; and delivers enhanced reliability and security of power supply.
Smart grid is a transition from the present energy system into a new era of reliability, availability and efficiency. It would also allow new large-scale, renewable-energy projects to connect to the grid; integrate new digital technology into local networks; improve efficiency of electricity distribution, and provide better information about electricity use.
These will help in reducing the peak demand and the country´s dependence on fossil fuel energy. The next stage envisaged, according to the Ministry of Power is incorporation of advanced technologies like superconductivity in the transmission network to increase the efficiency of the system.
With a growth rate of around 8 per cent GDP, India´s energy demand is expected to increase three times in the coming 10 years, out of which 2/3rd would be carried by the grid. To enable a similar growth for the coming years, India needs a major revamp of the ageing electricity system right from the transmission to the distribution networks.
Presently, the Indian electricity system faces a number of challenges and needs a major revamp to address all them. It needs investment in several areas: increasing generation capacity, improving grid efficiencies and rural electrification. A smart grid is supposed to be the solution to all these challenges and in fact essential for India´s energy security in the future.
In the XIIth plan, the Government has proposed to invest around $86.4 billion to upgrade the present electricity system, through various programs like Revised Accelerated Power Development and Reform Program (RAPDRP), Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM), Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY). Additionally, the Government of India (GOI) has launched National Smart Grid Mission (NSGM), to plan and monitor implementation of policies and programmes related to smart grid activities in India.
According to a statement by Piyush Goyal, Minister of State (IC) for Power, Coal & New and Renewable Energy in the Rajya Sabha on May 2, 2016, an expenditure of Rs.21.73 crore has been incurred for development of four smart grid pilot projects and one smart city pilot project during 2015-16. Two smart grid projects for Amravati and Chandigarh have been approved under NSGM, at a cost of Rs.118.63 crore with 30 per cent funding from GoI under NSGM. The Budgetary support for NSGM activities for the Financial Year 2016-17 is Rs.30 crore.
Attesting to industry sentiment on this, Murali Krishna Gannamani, MD & CEO, Fluentgrid Ltd said, ´The government´s commitment and vision of the smart grid mission is commendable and there is a workable roadmap in place. While there is a tremendous opportunity in front of us, there is a need to see a lot more traction towards the vision. Commission of larger projects and efforts to build a workforce for implementation is the key to success for this mission.´
According to global smart energy market analysts RnR Market Research, high rate in the deployment of smart grids, which is increasing rapidly worldwide with countries such as China, the US, India, Spain, Germany, and France enforcing ambitious smart grid plans has pegged the expected growth for the smart energy market at 14.91 per cent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in terms of revenue during the period 2016-2020. According to 2016 smart energy market report, a key growth driver is the rise in investments in smart grid technologies. Rise in population and subsequent increase in power consumption have resulted in high demand for power across geographies.
With increased power consumption, generation, and increased contribution of renewable sources of energy, different countries such as the US, China, India, and the UK have been upgrading their grids to incorporate multiple sources of energy to be smarter than their predecessors. It is expected that by 2020, the smart grid segment will account for almost 84 per cent share the market to become the dominant revenue generator. This segment of the market is expected to reach almost $281 billion in terms of revenue by 2020.
The global smart energy market is moderately competitive with the major vendors competing in terms of price, quality, and market presence. GE Energy, Itron, Landis +Gyr, Sensus, Siemens, ABB, and S&T are the companies set to beenfit from this boost in smart energy infrastructure.
The India Story
India has the 4th largest power system in the world, which has doubled in the last 10 years. Additionally, India´s power grid system is also extremely diverse and extensive in terms of its geography. To overcome the various challenges currently present in the power T&D systems, there is a need to bring in a certain agility and intelligence to the Indian power grid system. Towards this, the Government of India launched NSGM to effectively implement goals that they conceived in the smart grid vision and roadmap.
Says Shrirang Karandikar, CEO, India Power Corporation Limited, ´The present power grid uses technology from the 1970s, but are this is beginning to improve through progress in the concept of power generation, problems with power outages and theft, and also due to the demand. We need a modernised grid to fit the needs of the customers and this can be achieved through ´smart grid´.´
Ministry of Power (MoP) also set up the India Smart Grid Task Force (ISGTF) and India Smart Grid Forum (ISGF) to help prepare a roadmap for smart grid rollout. As such, 14 smart grid pilots are been approved for immediate execution, which will be evaluated for techno-commercial benefits, technology evaluation and then scaled out into full projects.
Of these, 10 have been and are in various stages of initiation and implementation while four have been cancelled. While there is a clear commitment and way forward with three more projects in the pipeline, India is an early phase of this transformation. However, in the extent of the challenge that is ahead of the country, lies a great opportunity for the government and other stakeholders to come together in improving the lives of people.
The Route to Success
Explaining some of the hurdles in the way, Karandikar says, ´Some of the challenges in this process will arise from integration of various technologies as we migrate from the current grid with its one way power flows from central generation to dispersed loads, toward a new grid with two way power flows, two way and peer to peer customer interactions, and distributed generation.´
He lists the anticipated challenges as follows:
1.Inter-operability: As smart grid is spanning the globe and many players are into manufacturing and implementation of smart grid worldwide, it is necessary for the system to adopt inter-operable standards.
2.Cyber security: Information and communication infrastructures will play an important role in connecting and optimising the available grid layers. Smart grid architecture should support the capability to resist unwanted physical and cyber intrusions and protect the privacy of customers.
3.Communication Technologies: Various technologies are being deployed for the smart grid data communication network. Issues of concern are cost, success rate of communication, technological issues viz. electro magnetic interference (EMF), signal to noise ratio (SNR), baud rate, parity check, etc.
4.Social Barriers: No program will be successful until and unless the end users participate in the program. There are many concerns of consumers about the smart grid issue. Awareness programs are necessary and clear benefits must be presented to them.
Sharing experience from their own smart grids projects, Gannamani adds, ´One of the primary challenges we have faced in smart grid implementation is standardisation of digital assets. For instance, there was delay in the standardisation of the specifications of smart meters. Different projects have different specifications and once the BIS-16444 standards for smart meters was finalised, meters needed to be customised and changed to suit its requirement.´
Additionally, utilities are not experienced enough to work with smart meters and communication technologies. For instance, there is a lack understanding regarding which communications technologies are applicable in certain geographies. When it comes to smart grid applications, there is a gap in understanding the design parameters and functionality of the applications, thereby also increasing delay in the approval processes, he feels.
Discoms thus have a pertinent need further to integrate the smart grid systems with the R-APDRP, IT and SCADA systems in various stages of implementation in their states. Integrations with these systems have further needed the utilities to substantiate coordination with the various implementation agencies in the states. Towards this end, training and capacity building in the sector has to increase. Post overcoming these challenges, SIs then have to put in substantial time and effort in integrating new technologies and applications into existing infrastructure.