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Feature | January 2017

Digitalisation should unleash huge value for utilities

Sethuraman Ganesan, Technology Head, Power Grids division, ABB India Ltd.

What are the benefits, esp for PSUs?
Digitalisation of the power sector should unleash huge value for the utilities, releasing locked up investments to be put to better use, which in turn should help public sector utilities to become less dependent on governmental subsidies. Digitalisation would involve investments to be made to improve operational technologies, including strengthening the existing control, communication and automation systems and integrating them with enterprise level IT, which can help them to transparently monitor and optimise the investments, improve the quality of services including improving downtime, and of course digitally settling all financial matters.

What impact has the R-APDRP had on IT in power?
The IT portion of R-APDRP covers consumer indexing, asset mapping, GIS mapping, AMR, SCADA/DMS etc. This part is essential to eventually reduce the losses in the system, in addition to strengthening the distribution system. As per CEA´s annual report (2014-15), more than Rs 5,000 crore has been approved, majority of which has been disbursed. A few states have already shown good improvements in AT&C losses.

What are the challenges?
The challenges vary depending on which areas of power sector that one looks at. In distribution, the latest policies address the financial well-being of distribution utilities. On the transmission network, the sheer size of the network could be a challenge from both financial as well as from infrastructure perspective. Energy portfolio management will seriously impact generation aspects of power sector. Integration of more renewable energy into grid could pose major technical challenges.

These arise out of variations from solar and wind energy. Investment policies in energy storage, SCADA and energy management systems should help overcome most of these challenges.

What global practices in IT adoption can India benefit from?
Global practices we need to adopt in the Indian power sector are asset optimisation and management, workforce and operations management, and energy portfolio management.

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