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Power Point | June 2016

Transforming Technology Transforming Infrastructure

India has taken its first steps towards establishing a documented plan for ushering in smart grids through the Smart Grid Vision and Roadmap. It was formulated by the India Smart Grid Forum (ISGF) and issued by the Ministry of Power in August 2013, which envisaged nation-wide rollout of smart grids by the year 2027. Multiple developments across the energy and infrastructure landscape have unfolded over the last three years, which have accelerated reforms in the Indian power sector. As a result, there is a need to reinforce a faster, deeper and broader rollout of smart grids in India.

Much of India´s need for electricity generation, transmission and distribution has been derived traditionally from grids that burn fossil fuels like coal to produce electricity. While these massive electric grid infrastructures were considered adequate in the 20th century, by the beginning of the 21st century, they were showing their limitations. The traditional grid has a few points of power generation but millions of points of power consumption. It also suffers from huge transmission losses as the power stations are located away from populated areas where the consumption takes place.

Renewable energy is increasingly looked upon as an alternative to fossil fuels, which it can also complement as well as enable distributed generation. This can result in a reduction in network losses in the high voltage transmission segment and Aggregate Technical & Commercial (AT&C) losses in the distribution segment. Presently, the power grid which manages the flow of electrons is designed with the mega structures in mind. The energy is supplied as soon as it is generated without taking into account any variation in demand that may occur.

To serve and fulfill energy needs, there should be a grid, automated as per the requirement, and not only when it is ready to supply. It needs to be sufficiently efficient that it doesn´t lose a substantial amount in transmission, and it should also be versatile, to incorporate both renewable as well as non-renewable energy resources.

In fact, Smart Grids have proven their capability in transmitting energy from multiple sources, while reducing losses and managing peak demand. Across the globe, they increasingly complement traditional grids or serve as a full upgrade.

To have an effective and sustainable system, it should be intrinsically viable, with minimal or zero dependence on an external life support system, including any grants or subsidies. In India, the business model for smart grids is expected to emerge from the following value levers:

  • The most immediate value lever for any intervention in the distribution business is the network loss reduction, as it has the potential to fetch faster and assured payback.
  • Even for distribution companies (Discoms) with low overall losses, there tends to exist pockets with high losses, which get exposed when energy audits are cascaded downwards from the Discom level to the feeder level and on to the transformer level-the more granular the audit, the more incisive the findings. But to arrive at such a granular energy audit and in near-real time, smart metering of all network points and a substantial customer-base is a pre-requisite; beyond this, automated analytics can be readily applied to extract energy accounting reports.
  • Other pre-requisites include accurate customer indexing to transformers and feeders, and GIS-enabled network management. These interventions were initiated in R-APDRP and have been reinforced and further expanded in IPDS, UDAY and other Government of India-funded projects.

Other drivers for adoption of smart grids in India include:

Making Lifeline Power accessible:

  • Load limiters for rationing power supply, leading to a differentiated offering for the bottom of the pyramid

TOU Tariff for Demand Side Management

  • Dynamic pricing

Rooftop Solar

  • Shift from fossil fuels to green energy

  • Net metering (a kind of smart meter), contributing to Discom´s RPO fulfillment

  • Customers´ cost savings in the long run

Electric Vehicle Rollout

  • EV charging infrastructure and its remote management
  • Vehicle to Grid (V2G) services

Value-added Services for Smart Cities
  • Discoms can provide anchor infrastructure for smart cities, sharing:
  • Data backbone with governance stakeholders
  • Physical and organisational infrastructure with other service providers (water, gas, sewage, transport, security, municipal taxes etc.)
  • New business models to make these investments self-financing
  • Value-added Services for Smart Home / Smart Premises for large customers
  • Customers willing to pay for additional services will get the option to avail special ICT-enabled facilities

However, to achieve the above objectives, while the intent is already there, there´s a role for government, policy-makers and regulators to further work on the following themes:

Metering, data and communication technology standards need to be established and adopted across the country

A policy framework is to be finalised by the Central Government´s respective ministries, and the resulting regulations need to be rolled out by corresponding regulatory authorities, on the following emerging subject areas:

  • Energy storage
  • Rural micro-grids
  • Anti-theft provisions of the Indian Electricity Act 2003
  • Demand side management, such as energy efficiency, time of use tariff, and demand response
  • The Central Government could replicate the ´LED´ model for the design, manufacturing, sourcing and supply of Smart Meters for gigantic economies of scale. This would entail standardising the specifications of ´smart´ meters on the one hand, and establishing a procurement process which would accelerate the bulk purchase in a smooth, efficient and transparent manner
  • There is a need for an enabling infrastructure to develop smart solutions, to improve Indian energy generation and distribution, and address any concerns, which include massive transmission and distribution losses and power thefts. Power utilities, policy makers and other stakeholders are convinced that leveraging the evolving smart grid technologies will resolve some deficiencies that still exist in the sector. It will be useful to have a common language and framework for defining key elements of smart grid transformation and help utilities and the government develop a programmatic approach in the implementation of successful smart grid solutions.

    Shalabh Srivastava, Principal, Resources, Accenture in India

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