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Cover Story | April 2018

Digital substations will reduce AT&C losses

<span style="font-weight: bold;">Thomas Zimmerman, CEO, Digital Grid, Energy Management Division, Siemens AG <br /> <br /> What is Siemens' energy management division's present level of engagement with India?</span><br /> India for us is a very important market because of being the fastest growing globally. In our global automation portfolio, we have one of our factories in Goa where we not only design and develop products for India, but also for the global market. It is also a major research and development (R&amp;D) set-up for development of our automation hardware. We also have software R&amp;D centre for Internet of Things (IoT) platforms for energy products in Noida and software centres in Mumbai and Bangalore for quick control.<br /> <br /> Since you mentioned about software development and competence centres, you must certainly be working on creating localised solutions for the Indian market.<br /> Yes, we work on customised solution for the Indian market. For example, we have a couple of relays and other products out of Goa developed for the market here. Following their success in the Indian market, we also export them to other countries. We have software and end-to-end solutions like overhaul line and monitoring, which were developed here for the global market. We have also developed self-heating optimising grids in the area of distribution to shorten outages. <br /> <br /> <span style="font-weight: bold;">Indian grids have their own legacy issues in terms of energy management. What solutions have you provided for the same?</span><br /> Indian has witnessed a lot of modernisation of transmission equipment in the past couple of years. We have brought in the latest innovative quick control technology for control centres in eight cities. We are also doing renewable integration control centres in order to modernise the existing transmission grid. This helps in deriving more traffic through an existing transmission line.<br /> <br /> <span style="font-weight: bold;">What solutions would you like to give to the Indian government to make them more modern and efficient?</span><br /> We have quick control centres to help steer a grid in a more dynamic manner. We are also running our first pilot in digital substations of process technology, non-converter transformers and other things in order to modernise a grid be more agile and dynamic for the future.<br /> <br /> <span style="font-weight: bold;">Will such modernisation and disruptive technology to improve transmission lines, help in reducing the AT&amp;C losses?</span><br /> This technology will certainly help to reduce those losses. But losses are also contributed by distribution. Therefore, there needs to be a shift towards distribution, smart cities and smart metering to further reduce losses. Smart meters can play major role in reduction of losses. Three months ago, we got an order from Tata Power Delhi Distribution (TPDDL), wherein they are going to replace 500,000 legacy meters to smart meters. Although TPDDL is already at a very low- loss position, with the induction of smart meters it can further bring them down and improve customer service.<br /> <br /> The most important point in the entire smart metering is their adoption by consumer, who on account of their pricing, may not go for them unless compelled.<br /> The Energy Efficiency Services (EESL) has already implemented the project for five million smart meters for the states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. The results of that tender show clearly that prices are coming down. Customers must realise that smart meters not only help them to understand their load profile but also enable them to manage power consumption. And we have already seen this happen elsewhere. The moment consumers see value for themselves, the acceptance level for smart meters goes up.<br /> <br /> <span style="font-weight: bold;">There is also this challenge of integrating the grids of renewable energy with conventional grids. As far as India is concerned, there has been some resistance by discoms on that front. As the fastest growing energy market globally, what lessons can we take from Europe?</span><br /> In Germany, we already have 30 per cent renewable energy in the grid,with the goal to increase it to 60 per cent by 2040. Also,I have learnt that India has the goal to achieve 175 GW of operational renewable energy capacity by 2022. Therefore, the learning from Germany is that you would need more intelligence in the distribution grid and you will need to steer through that intelligence in order to keep it stable. Smart meters can also help here as they can also be utilised as sensors to keep the grid stable. We also have other solutions. For example, in Italy we are thinking of introducing low-voltage automation. This is especially useful for countries that have a generation of renewable energy. Similar solutions will be very helpful for India&nbsp; too.<br /> <br /> <span style="font-weight: bold;">Do you think this is also a valid prescription to avoid 'the utility death spiral', which a lot of energy experts have been talking about of late?</span><br /> If I also look at utilities in Europe, there is a huge transformation in their role and business model. On top of that, countries like Germany have this challenge where they have to phase out nuclear power, which was otherwise ensured good profitability. I have had some experience in telecommunications 20 years ago and see something similar happening in the utility industry. With new players and new business models coming in,discoms and municipalities will have to discover new business models going forward.<br /> <br /> <span style="font-weight: bold;">When you mentioned about 175 GW of renewable by 2020, that would also require a robust storage infrastructure to keep the grid stable.</span><br /> Indeed, we think storage is a very important part of electricity grid. Especially if you go with solar, it requires decentralised storage. In Germany, everyone who has rooftop PV is now going for storage as well. This also opens up new opportunities to the consumer who also becomes a prosumer. The next level, though it may take a while, will be in electric cars. Electric cars are not only a new demand on the grid but also an opportunity as they have batteries that can be used as storage in a smart city grid.<br /> <br /> <span style="font-weight: bold;">But how will all this be integrated?</span><br /> That is exactly why we call it a smart grid because there are more and more smart devices. Electric car, storage and inverter from PV are all devices that have to be managed. Therefore, in this decentralised and decarbonised renewable world, we need more intelligence to bundle them together.<br /> <br /> We are looking at it as a very big opportunity for us particularly in India. Earlier discoms were a one-sided affair. Power used to be generated and then transmitted over thousands and hundreds of kilometres away before it got distributed. Now distribution companies have become distribution agencies. They are getting in In-feeds from all over. The challenge is to integrate these in-feeds and that is where our automation and digitalisation solutions can help in a big way.<br /> <br /> <span style="font-weight: bold;">This is especially required in smart cities.</span><br /> Yes! In fact, I want to put it at one level higher as the internet of energy because we would really like to see the grid become a market place. You feed in,you take out and no longer distribute energy but you just need to collect and market energy. The energy collected by electric cars, rooftop PV, big solar farms, etc., needs to be available on a market place. <br /> <br /> <span style="font-weight: bold;">How will you ensure that the data remains relevant?</span><br /> Today, especially on the transmission side, we already have a lot of data but we do not really use all of it. For example, only 3 per cent of the data that we collect in our automation products goes to the control level and is visible if something happens; 97 per cent of the data stays on at the distribution level. That is why we are now offering customers our latest IoT technology, platform, and cloud-based operating system for not only energy management but also to collect data. If all data is together on a platform like in an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, you can optimise the distributed consumption in buildings and industry. <br /> <br /> <span style="font-weight: bold;">In this age of excessive disruptions where even you aren't a mere manufacturing entity but also a digital company that competes with the likes of Google, what do you see as the new normal in energy management?</span><br /> At Siemens, our biggest strength lay in electrification and automation but in this new world we have to also built up on digital. We started on this strategy a few years ago. We call it our focus on electrification, automation and digitalisation technologies because we feel combining automation, hardware and software makes a significant difference. In the end, it is not only about technology as this new normal is driven more by smart data. Smart data means you have to put intelligence in data. <br /> <br /> <span style="font-weight: bold;">In your opinion, what would be the right energy mix for India?</span><br /> There is not one answer to this question as that would largely depends on your overall goals and your pace to achieve them. However, I see that there is an upside in the share of renewable energy globally. I believe that in India too you are very much moving in that direction.<br /><br /> <span style="font-weight: bold;">- Rahul kamat & Manish Pant</span></p>
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