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Interaction | April 2014

A smart take on smart grids

Reji Kumar Pillai , President & Chief Executive Officer, India Smart Grid Forum (ISGF) provides an update on the Smart Grid scenario in India to Janaki Krishnamoorthi, and elaborates on the road ahead for their implementation.

What is the present status of Smart Grid projects in India ?
The Ministry of Power (MoP) has shortlisted 14 Smart Grid pilot projects across the country to be implemented by State-owned distribution utilities. While 50 per cent of the cost of these projects is funded by MoP, the rest is borne by the respective State utility. A Smart Grid Vision and Roadmap document was released in September 2013 by the Power Minister and a National Smart Grid Mission is also to be set up soon.

How much did the government invest in Smart Grids in the 11th Five Year plan and what is the estimated investment in the 12th Plan?
During the 11th Plan, emphasis was on creation of capacity in sub-transmission and distribution system under the R-APDRP and RGGVY (Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana) schemes. These programs created the basic building blocks for Smart Grids. Both schemes are ongoing and are at different stages of completion in different States. Under R-APDRP, against a total sanction of Rs 5347.38 crore, Rs 2443.55 crore has been spent on implementing Part A of the program across 1401 towns; and another Rs. 412.03 crore has been disbursed for implementing SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition). The systems under Part-A and SCADA are the basic building blocks of Smart Grids. In the 12th Plan, besides the 50 per cent grant already approved for the 14 pilot projects, MoP has an allocation of another Rs 1000 crore for Smart Grid projects.

What are the key policy directives of the 2013 Smart Grid Vision and Roadmap?
The Roadmap is the guiding document that envisages specific targets that span over 3 Five-year Plans. Some key policy directives include (a) formulation of effective customer outreach and communication programs (b) development of state/utility specific strategic roadmaps by 2014 for Smart Grid deployments. (c) policies for grid-interconnection of consumer generation facilities (including renewable) where feasible and policies for roof-top solar, net-metering/feed-in tariff as well as peaking power by 2014 (d) policies supporting improved tariffs such as dynamic tariffs, variable tariffs, etc., including demand response programs for bulk consumers by 2014 and extending to all 3-phase consumers by 2017 (e) build upon the results of Smart Grid pilot projects and recommend appropriate changes conducive to Smart Grid development in Acts/Plans/etc. by end of 2015 (f) development of first set of Indian Smart Grid Standards by 2014. (g) tariff mechanisms, new energy products, energy options and programs to encourage participation of customers in the energy markets that make them ´prosumers´ producers and consumers by 2017.

What has been the contribution of ISGF and its working groups constituted to examine different aspects of Smart Grids in India?
The ISGF Working Groups were instrumental in formulating the Smart Grid Vision and Roadmap for India. ISGF in consultation with MoP, launched the India Smart Grid Knowledge Portal in January 2013. Some of the other important contributions include development of Use Cases for Smart Grids as part of the model bid document for appointment of implementation agency for the pilot projects; inputs for including provisions to enable Smart Grids in the proposed Amendments to the Electricity Act 2003, setting up of Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security for Power Systems in September 2013 in association with VJTI, Mumbai, worked with MNRE and BIS to constitute BIS ET 46, the new committee for Large Scale Integration of Renewable Energy Resources and launched a subsidiary ´Smart Grid Development Center´ which offers advisory services to ISGF members and utilities. ISGF also worked closely with BIS in the IEC Project Committee 118 for development of standards for user interface with smart grids. ISGF worked with USTDA for arranging a grant of $692,000 for consultancy services for Smart Grid Test Bed at CPRI, Bangalore.

What measures, including regulatory changes are being planned by the government to put Smart Grid projects on the fast track?
A model regulation is under preparation by a committee constituted by MoP and the first draft was already presented to the Forum of Regulators in December 2013. This is expected to be finalised soon. A National Smart Grid Mission (NSGM) is expected to be launched soon which will drive policy and project formulations on the fast track. The ISGF would play an advisory and recommendatory role while consumer forums would also be an important part of the Mission which would facilitate the entire process of implementing Smart Grids through State-specific roadmaps. The existing programs of the GoI such as the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission, National Electric Mobility Mission, R-APDRP and RGGVY etc., would all be integrated with NSGM. It encourages innovative business models to leverage the assets being created under each of these programs in a complimentary mode and the scope for private sector participation is tremendous.

What are the challenges ahead in the development of Smart Grids in India?
Smart Grids span multiple functionalities and options each utility could be different based on legacy, priorities, business case, etc. There cannot be a Systems Requirement Specification (SRS) Template like that of R-APDRP for Smart Grids. You need flexibility and dedicated specialised manpower to handle the diverse, complex, and evolving needs of technology, standards, policy, regulations, innovation, etc. The NSGM with experts from diverse fields would guide utilities and governments in overcoming the challenges that we would face in the Smart Grid journey.

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