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Smart Grid | August 2015

Smartening our Grids

Smart Grid is the way ahead for India, if we want to integrate and consolidate our power sector as per the government´s plans. It provides a way for us to smartly keep track of and maintain our power supply using real time information and the latest technology available, thus improving the overall efficiency of the entire power distribution system.

Smart Grid is an evolving set of various information and communication technologies working together to improve the present grid. Its application depends on the location and requirements. A Smart Grid is thus an electricity network that can intelligently integrate the actions of all users connected to it ´ generators, consumers and those that do both ´in order to efficiently deliver sustainable, economic and secure electricity supplies.

It is therefore, a power system capable of two-way communication between all entities of the network-generation, transmission, distribution and the consumers, aiming to provide real-time monitoring and control, and thus improving the overall efficiency of the entire system.

The Union Ministry of Power (MoP) has flagged off 14 pilots on smart grid that they want to mobilise through tried and tested methods. Of the 14 pilots, one is already awarded in Mysore, and others are on their way.

´The pilots have all the functionalities of the smart grid starting from renewable integration to demand side management, peak load reduction and power quality. So, the present government has started initiatives on smart grids,´ informs Anil Kadam, Associate General Manager, Schneider Electric.

The pilot project inter-alia covers various attributes of smart grid enabling provision for other citizen services city infrastructures in a holistic manner. It enables technology efficiency, policy advocacy, establishment of interoperability standards which can be scalable and replicable at other places.

Smart Grid in India
Smart grids in India is expected to solve a certain set of problems and this implementation varies from country to country, for e.g. in the US it has to solve the problem of blackouts, aging workforce, aging infrastructure; whereas in developing economies like Brazil and India, who have common problems, smart grid is expected to solve the peak hour crunches.

India has a peak deficit of almost 13 per cent, we also have energy deficit as almost 400 million people out of 1.2 billion in India do not have access to electricity, so smart grid is expected to solve problems of power supply, even out the peak, try to get everyone connected with power supply and boost renewable penetration, which is a common factor across the continent and the world.

´Smart grid can push a consumer to be more energy efficient, and help him know how he can do more by using less of the planet´s resources. Thus, in India smart grid has definitely a very good opportunity,´ adds Kadam.

Kadam also believes that smart grid can benefit the common people, ´what is happening today is that power is being supplied to multiple customers, but the quality of power is not very well monitored or controlled. Smart grid will fundamentally bring this in and there could be backing changes, which could be brought into the system.´

Adds Manu Rishi Puri, Principal ´ Resources Group, Accenture Services Pvt. Ltd, ´As part of a smarter grid, the grids will be self-healing, which will enable more reliable power transmission.

This will benefit the common population of India, as with more reliable transmission, the common public will get better power.´

Plus there could be feedback control system which can be brought in, to dynamically improve the quality of power. With energy consumption on the increase some think that the smart grid is of pivotal importance. The more accurate the technology we use to measure and distribute our energy, at every point across the grid, the more money can be returned to consumers and the fewer emissions can be generated by the country as a whole.

Smart Grid Implementation
With a growth rate of around 8 per cent GDP, India´s energy demand is expected to increase 3 times in the coming 10 years, out of which 2/3rd would be carried by the grid. To enable this, India needs a major revamp of the aging electricity system. Presently, the Indian electricity system faces a number of challenges like shortage of power, power theft, poor access to electricity in rural areas, huge losses in the grid, inefficient power consumption and poor reliability.

The present grid system needs a major revamp to address all the challenges mentioned. It needs investment in several areas like 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.

Indian power system is facing high AT&C losses, poor distribution network, wide demand ´ supply gap of energy, poor asset management etc. Smart grid technology will bring solutions to all of the mentioned problems.

With data on the entire network, energy companies will have real-time visualisations of network conditions, solving outages and identifying failures more quickly. This means they can address failing transformers or switches before the situation escalates into wider service disruptions.

However implementation has been slow, explains Kadam, ´India is a country that embraces technology once it is proven. However, this is more tricky for smart grid as there are multiple stakeholders, so it takes time.´

Adds Puri, ´We need to be innovative in providing smart grid solutions. I think it will not sell the way it has been sold till now. Turnaround will be when these solutions solve customer problems or increase revenues of utilities.´

In the 12th plan, the government has proposed to invest around USD 86.4 billion to upgrade the present electricity system. It has been done through various programs like Revised Accelerated Power Development and Reform Program (RAPDRP), Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission, Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY). With such a huge investment, India has an opportunity to leapfrog into the latest smart grid technologies as it has done in other sectors like telecommunications, which will provide huge business prospects in coming years.

Demand for Smart Grid
The demand for smart grid technology today is very much violable, but India is new to this technology and we are taking baby steps to first try and test what works for India.

´In the Indian context, the stakeholders want to try out and mix and match what is needed to go ahead full throttle. I think, and I am more optimistic, that in another two years, you will see big time demand for smart grids,´ shares Kadam. States like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have announced feed-in tariff. These three states have started realising and making provisions for feed-in tariff and enabling rooftop consumers.

Puri however was more cautious, ´I do not see the standalone demand picking up in the near foreseeable future. However, it will definitely become merged with smart cities or renewable projects.´

Smart grid can achieve characteristics like consumer participation, real time monitoring of consumption, control of smart appliances, building automation, real time pricing, distributed generation, incorporation of renewable energy resources into the grid, power system efficiency, power monitoring, asset management and optimal utilizations, distribution automation and protection, power quality, self healing, frequency monitoring and control, load forecasting, anticipation of disturbances, and new products in terms of value added services (VAS) into our present electricity system. A smart grid would also allow new large-scale, renewable-energy projects to connect to the grid.

On the distribution side, the smart grid would integrate new digital technology into local electricity distribution networks that would help manage the demand that appliances and other end-use equipment place on the grid at key times of the day, improve the efficiency of electricity distribution within local networks, and provide better information about electricity use in homes, businesses, and public institutions.

Quick facts

  • India´s energy demand is expected to increase 3 times in the coming 10 years, out of which 2/3rd would be carried by the grid, this needs a major revamp of the aging electricity system
  • Union Ministry of Power (MoP) has flagged off 14 pilots on smart grid identified by ISGTF, of which one pilot project in Mysore is already awarded, remaining are to be tendered
  • The projects will receive fund under the R-APDRP and a matching financial support from the states.
  • Government has proposed to invest around USD 86.4 billion to upgrade the present electricity system in the 12th Five Year Plan

Smart Grid technology in India
Smart Grid refers to a set of IT and Communication Technologies (ICT) deployed into the electricity grid by way of sensors, fault locators, smart meters, applications, analytical and forecasting tools etc., that enable real-time monitoring and control, provide greater visibility and transparency, consequently resulting in cost reduction and efficiency improvement making the grid robust, resilient, and reliable and open for integration with renewable power generation.

. While the transmission network in India is quite efficient and well monitored in real-time, the distribution systems are in a very sorry state. There is a great need for strengthening and modernising distribution networks to ensure that power is made available with reasonably good reliability to all.

Most often we find that we have enough power but this cannot reach all consumers due to network related issues, constraints or faults. Smart Grid technologies and solutions are perceived to be a panacea for all these challenges and a potential for future energy security. The drivers for Smart Grid implementation in the Indian context are supply shortfall management, loss reduction, peak load management, billing management, self-healing networks and renewables energy (RE). The Indian distribution sector greatly stands to benefit from adoption of Smart Grid technologies and solutions by making a judicious choice of the same, while keeping in mind the ground realities of the existing system.

The Potential
Smart Grid deployments in India are at an infancy. The present state of the distribution network is a major limitation for introduction of these technologies. With every third unit generated in India, one is lost due to grid inefficiencies, theft etc., Smart Grid technologies have great potential to reduce this wastage of energy. The major driver for Smart Grids in India is the reduction of AT&C losses. Smart grids can, to begin with, tell exactly where electricity is being lost. The distribution transformer (DT) is the electricity dispensing device similar to an ATM.

It may not be an exaggeration to say that there are no DTs in the country in which input and output energy is measured, monitored, audited and accounted scientifically by matching the electricity dispensed with the same consumed by constituent consumers connected to it and the technical losses attributed to the network. Smart Grid does that, letting utilities take remedial actions to counter the losses. The basic unit level implementation of Smart Grid should begin from the DT down to the consumers. After accounting for standard technical (inevitable) losses in the system of 3-5 per cent, the balance should be controllable with effective Smart Grid implementation.

The Challenges
The Indian Smart Grid program began on a good note with the MoP announcing a fund of over Rs 600 crore as grant/support in 2011, for power distribution utilities that were willing to take up Smart Grid pilot programs. Several utilities came up with responses and about 14 were selected for support by MoP with ISGTF as nodal agency. However most projects did not see light of the day except one, the Mysore Smart Grid project by Chamundeshwari Electricity Supply Co., Karnataka, which is under advanced stages of implementation by Enzen.

The reasons are many, one being overambitious scoping of functionalities, which led to very high project costs. Globally Smart Grid implementation is taken up in a step-by-step manner with say Automated Metering (AMI) to begin with, and thereafter to include others such as demand response, distribution automation, power quality management etc., after stabilisation of initial functionalities.

Utility stakeholders need to have a good understanding the Smart Grid technologies and their adaptation into the mainstream network and business operations. The ground realities of the present network is not very conducive for advanced technologies and requires grid strengthening in many areas.

Further, the basic Smart Grid component´smart meter, that meets with all the statutory Indian requirements, along with advanced Smart Grid functionalities are still a rarity in India, with very limited meter manufacturers taking up the same at present, and even if so, on a very limited scale.

Regulatory acceptance and accord for Time of Use tariff facility extended to the residential customer is also a requirement, as at present, ToU is only applicable for industrial and commercial consumers. Most effective and economical communications technologies that can fit into the Smart Grid program are yet to be ascertained.

Also, the demand response functionality warrants that consumers who participate in voluntary peak load reduction programmes are benefited with incentivisation from the utility, which still requires a regulatory framework nod. All these are at present a deterrent for a large scale implementation of Smart Grids in India.

Going Further
While there are many advanced solutions classified as Smart Grid technologies, a careful and informed approach is necessary for selecting the suitable functionalities that result in maximum benefit. With impetus on solar and wind energy on an all-time high in India, Smart Grid technology becomes inevitable. For one, RE integration through net metering measurements is a first step.

Thereon, advanced Smart Grid technologies can be used to effectively manage the peak loads through intelligent management of the solar and wind energy, maximised during peak periods at consumer level.

This means that the intelligent Smart Grid systems can detect peak periods in the network and ensure that the customer´s loads are met through his own solar source or from the storage battery connected to the source, reducing stress on the network. During lean periods, the device may facilitate more drawal from grid for use and storage. Ambition levels of the stakeholders should be moderated judiciously as their tendency to include larger customer base and all functionalities in the Smart Grid pilot project may not yield expected results.

Growth from the current state of the grid to a modern grid should be done in a gradual and phased manner. We need to learn from other countries who have taken up Smart Grid implementation and faced challenges, and look at their approaches towards overcoming them.

Inputs by Alfred Manohar, Head, Power Automations, Enzen Global Solutions Private Limited.

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