For greater acceptability of smart systems in India, there is a need to tailor smart grid solutions to Indian conditions, define expected benefits of such solutions, and evolve a framework to measure actual benefits post implementation. Participative approach can help resolve issues especially in large-scale units, write Umesh Agrawal and Hitesh Chaniyara.The failure of northern and eastern regional power grids on two consecutive days on 30 and 31 July has rattled the nation. This grid collapse affected more than a tenth of the population of the world across 21 states of India. Non-availability of electricity between 12 and 48 hours resulted in a huge loss to the economy. Direct loss alone is estimated at Rs 30,000 crore. It trapped coal miners, stranded train passengers, caused huge traffic jams in cities, affected telecommunication and several other essential services. The blackout, the worst in human history, also caused India embarrassment on the international stage.Stakeholders of power distribution are autopsying this incident to identify the likely causes of failure, likely among which are excess drawal by beneficiaries stemming from insufficient demand management, overloading of specific lines due to suboptimal power flow management, and slow response by system operators due to infrastructure and manpower constraints. The stakeholders are now working on action points to avoid such incidents in future, such as creating generation and network capacities with adequate margins, leveraging advanced technologies, enhancing performance of system operators and enforcing grid discipline.Based on international experiences, it is believed that the adoption of better technologies, specifically smart systems, is one of the answers to such grid failures. Globally, smart systems are gaining momentum, given their host of advantages in grid management like improved grid security, real-time demand-supply balancing, better use of network capacity, effective demand side management and reduced electricity cost.What is smart grid?Smart grid means differently to various stakeholders, but in a nutshell: Smart grid is the seamless integration of available modern technologies (IT, telecommunication and electrical) and processes into transmission and distribution networks and smart meters for the consumers to accomplish objective of economic and reliable production, transportation and consumption of electricity.Here, IT technologies include advanced servers, computers, routers, storage devices, integrators; telecommunication technologies include high-speed digital communication devices, wideband communication network; and electrical technologies include modern relays and protection devices, wide area monitoring system, remote terminal units, energy meters and so on. Further, consumer will have a smart meter with two-way communication, local display and load management capability.For deriving desired benefits of any technological solution, it must be supported by appropriate processes which are to be followed by concerned stakeholders. Here, processes means well-defined written procedures covering roles and responsibilities of stakeholders along with timelines for various activities like operation and maintenance of smart systems, augmentation and upgrading of smart equipments, hardware and software level integrations, information exchange, information analysis, decision making, information safety, data archiving, etc.Smart systems to the rescueCurrently, Indian power sector is facing several challenges related to grid operation like demand-supply mismatch, growing size and complexity of the grid, strained T&D network capacities, bottlenecks in last mile telecommunication connectivity, unavailability of adequate and quality information, dependence on manual operations, integration of distributed renewable energy generators and absence of consumers’ participation in grid management.All of these problems are to a great extent affect grid operations. We believe watchful implementation of smart systems tailored to Indian conditions will contribute to addressing the above challenges. Let’s take each of these challenges and discuss how smart systems can help address them:Demand-supply mismatch: Over the last three years, energy and peak shortages in India have hovered between 8 and 12 per cent. Further, average peak demand is roughly twice the average off-peak demand. Smart systems can help reduce peak and energy shortages through improvement in power availability from generators and reduction in power demand through effective load management (eg, shifting of load from peak time to off-peak time). Smart grid would allow more “intelligent” load control, either through direct control or through economic pricing incentives communicated to consumers in a dynamic manner. Application of grid-interactive energy storage devices will help in transferring surplus energy available during off-peak periods to peak periods.Growing size and complexity of the grid: Indian power system, which is growing at a rate of 7-8 per cent annually, is today the fifth largest system in the world catering to 1.21 billion people spread across 3.3 million sq km. It handled around 900 billion units of energy and 130 GW of peak demand in FY2012. Further, power demand and fuel/water/renewable resources (generating capacities) are unevenly spread across the country. It is a system operators’ nightmare to operate such a nationwide complex grid in power deficit scenario. The complexities in grid management are likely to increase further in future due to an ever-widening gap between demand and supply, multiple market players, increasing focus on commercial aspects and cross-border line linkages. Smart systems can significantly help system operators by providing integrated view of the system health, eliminating unnecessary human interventions at various levels and facilitate faster decision making.Strained T&D network capacities: Barring intra-regional transmission capacity and transmission and distribution (T&D) networks of a few states, T&D network in India is relatively under-developed and suffering from overloading, frequent trippings and voltage fluctuations. We have witnessed instances where available power could not be supplied to needy consumers due to limited network capacity. Another recent example is congestion over inter-regional links between southern region and rest of India which is preventing power transfer across regions. Many utilities have been facing perpetual under-utilisation of numerous lines in their network. In such a circumstance, smart grid devices can sense the active and reactive power flow across lines and help optimise the transfer capability of lines through real-time control of Volt-VAR and phase angles.Non-availability of adequate and quality information: Over the last 20 years, fragmented development of power system, lack of long-term vision and piecemeal approach to development of information systems have resulted in to a situation where there are too many overlapping systems which are not talking to each other (eg, use of proprietary protocols) and many of them have now became obsolete. Further, limited use of computers among utility staff and legacy of manual record keeping has hampered capability of stakeholders in real-time decision making and post-facto analysis.Smart systems can help capture, archive and analyse diverse information in a short span of time and provide filtered information for decision making and event diagnosis. Smart grid may not be able to control Aggregate Technical and Commercial (AT&C) losses directly, yet it can provide enough information, both to the utility and the consumer, to easily identify leakage points.Dependence on manual operations: Even today, several actions in grid operation are manual in nature which suffers from inherent time delay and possibility of human errors. Existing SCADA systems are primarily used for data acquisition whereas supervisory control is almost missing. Regional Load Despatch Centre (RLDC) depends on State Load Despatch Centres (SLDCs) for manual load curtailment or changing output of state generators. In such a scenario, pre-programmed smart control devices and faster telecommunication channels can eliminate manual interventions in controlling remote equipment (eg, generators, circuit breakers, reactive compensation devices) and support in automated response to grid contingencies such as declining frequency and dipping voltages.Integration of distributed renewable energy generators: India is planning to enhance share of renewable energy in overall energy mix from 5 to 15 per cent over next 10 years which would need massive augmentation of generation capacities to harness every possible source of renewable energy across nation. Renewable energy based generation is intermittent in nature, relatively smaller in capacity but spread across geographies poses challenge of its smooth integration with the grid. Smart grid devices can help predict power generation from such sources with fair degree of accuracy, control its active and reactive power exchanges and ironing out fluctuations in its output (eg, using energy storage devices).Absence of consumers’ participation in grid management: Today, unlike in some of the developed countries, consumers in India do not play active role in helping the grid by way of controlling its consumption (demand response). Although some of the states have introduced time of use tariff for certain categories of consumers, this mechanism has not yet became popular and effective. Smart meter with two-way communication device installed at consumer premise can help consumer in monitoring and optimising its electricity bill and at the same time assists grid operator in managing demand-supply balance.Key issues to be addressedWhile smart grid, as claimed by International community, promises a host of advantages in efficiently managing power system, it is pertinent to analyse the ground realities and preparedness of Indian stakeholders (specifically power utilities) before replicating such solutions in local conditions. As we know, the Government of India has taken initiatives to develop a roadmap for smart grid. We have seen implementation of a few smart grid pilot projects in recent years. Many suppliers and contractors have geared-up to supply their technologies and services. Smart grid is much talked subject in several recent seminars and conferences.But the key question is, are we prepared to understand smart grid solutions, tailor them for Indian conditions, define expected benefits of such solutions and measure actual benefits post implementation? The answer seems to be negative.The following key issues need to be analysed in greater details and addressed for wider acceptance and successful implementation of smart grid in India:• Lack of policy and technical framework: At present, there is no national policy or technical standards to conceptualise, design and implement the smart grid in India. • Priority of utilities: Typically, most utilities accord higher priority to network projects (eg, line, sub-station) than IT projects such as smart grids. Limited utility staff remains busy in routine tasks like ensuring power supply, breakdown repairing, billing, collection, handling consumer complaints, preparation of reports and so on.• Ambiguity in business: In case of most smart grid projects, it may be difficult to quantify the tangible benefits with logical rationale and hence it is not easy to justify such investment through traditional parameters like IRR and payback period. For example, how to quantify – in monetary terms – improvement in grid security owing to smart systems? In such scenario, who will fund such large capital expenditure?• Technological challenges: Diverse and fragmented legacy technologies – IT, telecommunication and electrical – available with utilities prevents them from thinking of new technology like smart grid which is not yet proven locally. If new smart systems are implemented then what to do with some of these legacy systems? Is it possible to integrate legacy systems with new systems without adding complexities?• Resistance to change: Average age of employees in many utilities is more than 50 years. Most employees of utilities are trained only in analogue technologies and many of them even do not operate computers. The common tendency of is to resist or avoid use of advanced technologies and digital devices.• Security concerns: Past experiences shows that such systems require robust data security (preventing data theft), cyber security (preventing attacks by hackers & viruses) and physical security (preventing theft of or physical damage to smart devices).• Lack of consumer willingness: Are common consumers really aware and interested in monitoring and controlling energy consumption on a daily basis? Is he aware of how his consumption pattern drives his electricity bill? So, building awareness and consensus among consumers and general public is essential if they are expected to be active participants in smart grid operations.Smart grid solutions will, no doubt, change the way power system is to be managed in future and will significantly contribute in reliable, secure and economic operation of Indian grid in coming years. India also has a vision to build unified self-healing smart grid. However, this needs long-term planning, say, for 25 years.To begin with, India needs to develop comprehensive policy and technical framework, evaluate and tailor the smart systems to suit local conditions and evolve mechanism for defining and measuring benefits from such solutions. A master roadmap (covering national, state and stakeholder level road maps) along with suitable implementation model should be evolved through participatory approach which can tackle challenges anticipated in large-scale roll-outs. Active participation and commitment of key stakeholders, specifically end consumers, will be the most critical success factor in realising expected benefits of smart systems in India.Agrawal (left) is Associate Director and Chaniyara is Senior Manager Power & Utilities, PwC India.