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Renew | March 2016

Smart grids help curb demand-supply gap

Bratin Roy | VP - Industry Services, TÜV SÜD South Asia

What are the opportunities for smart grid players in the India?
Environment-friendly, efficient and extremely flexible - smart grids are poised to be the future of energy supply in India. Instead of purchasing power from a handful of centralised suppliers, consumers can also feed electricity into the public grid - e.g., from solar power systems or co-generation units. Both these small power generation units owned by power consumers and large-scale plants increase the share of volatile energy sources. This is where the smart grid helps to curb the significant gap in supply and demand especially during peak time operation.

How the implementation of smart grid is likely to enhance the quality of power?
One of the key benefits that facilities can get form smart grid is the improved efficiency and reliability of the grid. As the grid becomes more intelligent and smart, it will automatically self assess its reliability during changing circumstances and will adopt itself accordingly. This enhanced and improved functionality will result into greater reliability and certainty for consumer which includes both commercial as well as the mass consumers of India, subsequently it will also result in an improved power quality and fewer power cut and shortage especially during peak time.

How would smart grids help in stabilising renewable energy fluctuations?
One of the prime essences of a smart grid is to seamlessly interconnect different fuel cells, renewable sources, micro turbines and other distributed-generation system at all levels. This includes advancement in dealing with principle challenges of bi-directional power flow on distribution systems, along with support of innovations related to energy storage. All of these innovations will enhance in stabilising renewable energy fluctuations even in different weather conditions.

Is the technology employed while using smart grids with RE vastly different?
A smart grid provides power utilities with digital intelligence to the power system network. Smart grid is often called as ´energy internet´. The technology employed while using smart grids with renewable energy are not different than usual technology. It comes with smart metering techniques, digital sensors, and intelligent control systems with analytical tools which enable the two-way flow of energy from power to plug to be automated, monitored and controlled.

Could smart grid technology be applied to micro-grids?
Traditionally, integration of small-scale or micro grid renewable energy sources into a regular grid causes glitches. These include voltage fluctuations and harmonic distortions, which require synchronisation of the sources with the grid. Smart grid, on the other hand, optimises these problems by preventing outages and allowing consumers to manage energy usage. This technology enables various options to add energy to the grid at transmission and distribution levels through distributed generation and storage. Hence, smart grid technology can be most suitably applied here. In other words, smart grids makes better use of renewable energy resources.

Do we see enough encouragement for utilisation of smart grid technology in India?
India is aggressively venturing into renewable energy resources like wind and solar. With such unpredictable energy sources feeding the grid, it is necessary to have a grid that is highly adaptive (both in terms of supply and demand). A good electric supply is one of the key infrastructure requirements to support overall development; hence, the opportunities for building smart grids in India are immense. To encourage this initiative, Government has formalised The National Smart Grid Mission (NSGM) which is an institutional mechanism for planning, monitoring and implementing policies and programmes related to smart grids in India. The NSGM has a three-tier structure. The highest level is the Governing Council, headed by the Minister of Power. The second level is the Empowered Committee, composed of joint secretary level officers of concerned Ministries and departments as members, and is headed by the Power Secretary. The lowest tier comprises a technical committee headed by the chairperson of the Central Electricity Authority. The Technical Committee, composed of Director level officers of concerned Ministries and departments, and representatives from industries and academia, will support the Empowered Committee on technical aspects, standards development, technology selection guidelines and other technical matters. The NSGM Project Management Unit (NPMU) carries out the day-to-day operations of the NSGM. The NPMU is the implementing agency for operationalising the Smart Grid activities in the country under the guidance of Governing Council and Empowered Committee. State-level missions are chaired by the Power Secretary of the State. The NSGM provides training and capacity building to State Level Project Monitoring Units (SLPMUs) for smart grid activities.

Smart grid as a concept in India is under development, how will it witness a turnaround?
The development of a smart grid is a complex process and there are many standardisations and guidelines to observe. The integration of interchangeable network components from a variety of different providers worldwide presents a major challenge to producers and consumers.

Although developed standards and best practices for smart grid deployment exist, there is insufficient awareness of these standards, especially in small and medium-sized companies. So for turn around, it´s important to have an awareness building within different stakeholders and also to integrate various micro solutions.

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