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Smart thinking to smart action

Smart thinking to smart action

There is plenty of stuff going on out there, and in theory India is not far behind, writes A Shivkamal. But can the nation realise the potential?

When India witnessed one of its worst power failures in over a decade in July-August, a startling fact that emerged is that most of the overdrawing states have refused to instal Under Frequency Relays (UFRs), whose automatic demand management schemes would have prevented such a massive failure. Similarly, the states were found to have overdrawn power when the grid frequency was below 49.5 Hz and 48.8 Hz, in contravention of the orders of the regulatory authority and load dispatch centres. Overdraw has been much higher in the past as well, and continued abuse of grid discipline over the years have made the grid vulnerable resulting in the collapse.

India has five electricity grids and all of them are inter-connected except the Southern Grid. These grids are being run by the state-owned Power Grid Corporation, which operates more than 95,000 circuit km of transmission lines. According to a report prepared by Frost & Sullivan, a research company, as automatic relays shut down the most overloaded transmission lines and vulnerable power generators, electricity surged around the rest of the network taking increasingly unpredictable pathways, unbalancing more and more parts of the system, and forcing further emergency shutdowns, until the grid and power generation collapsed across the entire region.

The grid failure brings into focus several concerns. “This grid failure can be linked to a host of issues in the entire power infrastructure, which include inability to add sufficient power generation capacity as per require­ment/plans, coupled with ageing transmission and distri­bution (T&D) infrastructure, and huge T&D losses. Additionally, the deteriorating financial condition of the State Electricity Boards (SEBs), extensive sub­sidies, and low tariffs are other issues further aggravating this aby­s­mal state of affairs,” points out Amol Kotwal, Deputy Director, Energy & Power Systems Practice, Frost & Sullivan–South Asia, Middle East and North Africa.

According to him, India's power infrastructure requires a major overhaul, which involves some major reforms and policy implementation across the entire value chain. “From an action standpoint, this would involve a combination of increased generation capacity, efficient T&D infrastructure, and better grid control. Besides these, reducing theft and wasteful usage of elec­tricity, revised power tariffs, and better billing systems would lead to customers paying accurately for exact power consumption thus curbing wastage,” added Kotwal.

So what is exactly the status of India's aging power grids? Schneider Electric, the global specialist in energy management, is of the opinion that the power sector in India is going through extremely challenging times. “The recent grid failures are pointers to the fact that such a situation cannot be allowed to continue. While the nation faces an ongoing crisis between the demand for electricity and our ability to produce it, the first step towards a smarter solution would be the use of information technology to monitor distribution and consumption to identify areas of loss. Smart Grid technologies offer the promise of possible solutions to the issue,” observed Sandeep Pathak, AGM – Smartgrid & Network Automation, Schneider Electric.

Smart is two-way

“Smart Grid” generally refers to a class of technology companies and governments are using to bring utility electricity delivery systems into the 21st century on the basis of computer-based remote control and automation. These systems are made possible by two-way commu­nication technology and computer processing that has been used for decades in other industries. This technology is used on electricity networks, from the power plants and wind farms all the way to the consumers of electricity in homes and businesses. Smart Grids offer many benefits to utilities and consumers – mostly seen in big improve­ments in energy efficiency on the electricity grid and in the energy users' homes and offices.

The recent Enquiry Committee report on “Grid Disturbance” clearly emphasises the need for grid discipline. Due to long gestation period of new power projects, rapidly increasing electricity demand is not commensurate with the slow growth in power generation, thereby creating demand supply imbalance.

The “grid” includes the networks that carry electricity from the plants where it is generated to consumers. Wires, substations, transformers, switches and relay towers are all part of the grids. Much in the way that a “smart” phone these days means a phone with a computer in it, smart grid means “computerising” the electric utility grid. It includes adding two-way digital commu­nication technology to devices associated with the grid. Each device on the network can be given sensors to gather data (power meters, voltage sensors, fault dete­ctors, etc), plus two-way digital communication between the device in the field and the utility's network opera­tions centre.

A key feature of the smart grid is automation technology that lets the utility adjust and control each individual device or millions of devices from a central location.

The number of applications that can be used on the smart grid once the data communications technology is deployed is growing as fast as inventive companies can create and produce them. Benefits include enhanced cyber-security, handling sources of electricity like wind and solar power and even integrating electric vehicles onto the grid. The companies making smart grid technology or offering such services include technology giants, established communication firms and even brand new technology firms.

Schneider Electric is at the forefront of creating such solutions. To effectively manage rapidly increasing electrical needs, distribution utilities need to do something drastic such as effective deployment of Demand Side Management (DSM), Peak Load Management (PLM) and Power Quality Management (PQM) to better manage the distribution network well within allocated schedule and there by contributing to more stable and robust grid. Advanced Distribution Management System (ADMS) in tandem with Outage Management System and Advanced Metering Infrastructure provide greater monitoring and control capability to utility and help them to adhere to Grid Discipline, Pathak says.

Smart is sustainable

To be sustainable, India must be able to produce the amount of energy the consumers need without the weighty costs of environmental destruction that the current grid allows. It combines power generation, transmission and distribution with information gathering and feedback.

Towards standardisation

According to technology major IBM, one of the main hurdles that India needs to manage is the lack of adequate collaboration within the ecosystem. Colle­ctively, the stakeholders need to work towards evolving industry standards, policies and reforms, helping the utility companies transform energy, environmental and sustainability issues into opportunities that positively impact the world.

With the smart grid being the centre of economic growth, climate change, energy independence and a more reliable energy supply, energy transformation is very critical, because it can have ripple effect and bring life to a standstill. “Fortunately, our energy production and delivery systems can be made much smarter. We can now instrument everything from appliances and the meter in the home to the turbines in the power plants that can be monitored and controlled in real time. In fact, the intelligent utility system will actually look a lot more like the Internet than like a traditional grid. Our electrical grids can be a symbol of progress again — if we imbue the entire system with intelligence. The decisions made today about the world's electricity networks will impact our lives for decades to come,” remarks Dhamodaran Ramakrishnan, Director, Smarter Planet Solutions, IBM India/South Asia.

In 2007 IBM formed the Global Intelligent Utility Network (IUN) Coalition to support smart grid transformations by sharing best practices and lessons learned among utilities. The Global Intelligent Utility Network Coalition is a group of 12 leading utilities to collaborate in the market to enable rapid creation of new solutions, adoption of open, industry-based stan­dards, and the shaping of government policies and regu­lation, all aimed at driving the adoption of the “Intelligent Utility Network”, or simply IUN.

Together, the current Global IUN Coalition member base, which includes New Delhi Power Limited (NDPL), serves more than 110 million customers, are not only working to implement Smart Grid in their own markets, but are also actively promoting its development and use across the world. For example, the Coalition has contri­buted towards development of the Smart Grid Maturity Model, the industry's first comprehensive roadmap for smart grids.

Government initiative

Realising the importance of Smart Grids, the government has set up the India Smart Grid Task Force, which is headed by Sam Pitroda, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Public Information Infrastructure & Inno­vation. The India Smart Grid Task Force (ISGTF) is an inter-ministerial group and will serve as the government's focal point for activities related to Smart Grids.
The main functions of ISGTF pertaining to Smart Grid are to ensure awareness, coordination and inte­gration of diverse activities related to Smart Grid Tech­nologies; undertake practices and services for research and development of Smart Grids; and review and vali­date recommendations from India Smart Grid Forum etc.

Also, the ISGTF as formed five Working groups to take up different tasks related to Smart Grids. They include WG1 – Trials/Pilot on new technologies; WG2 – Loss reduction and theft, data gathering and analysis; WG3 – Power to rural areas and reliability and quality of power to urban areas; WG4 – Dist Generation and renewable and WG5 – Physical cyber security, Standards and Spectrum.

“India is committed to taking advantage of our capabilities in Information and Communication Techno­logy (ICT) to the power sector to improve access, pro­ductivity, efficiency and quality. We believe that through the integration of ICT with power through new techno­logies we can significantly improve distribution, storage and consumption. However, Indian challenges are unique and hence our vision of the Smart Grid will be oriented to Indian needs, with a focus on affordability,” says Pitroda.
One of the main tasks of the ISGTF is to set up the 'Smart Meter Task Force' to calculate the meter usage system. “It is amazing to see how India, which is a super power in Information Technology, lags terribly in the power sector. It is really annoying to see our primitive ways of providing power – be it evacuation, grids, meters or even the way we manually calculate power consu­mption till date. All that we need is a 2-chip meter that can be connected through GSM technology. These low-cost meters will feed critical data into the smart grids that are considered to be the panacea for our primitive power sector,” points out Pitroda.

According to Zpryme Research & Consulting, in 2015 India's smart grid market will be $1.9 billion. Further, Zpryme predicts the country's basic electrical infrastructure needs will grow beyond that, totalling $5.9 billion in the same year.

Large, multinational blue chips are already placing long-term bets on the eventual build out of the Indian electric grid. However, there is a fairly open market for additional companies of varying size and nationalities. The Ministry of Power (MoP) has allocated $44.3 million for smart grid pilot projects across the country. One of the higher profile partnerships brings together USAID, MoP, the Central Power Research Institute (CPRI) and Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (BESCOM) for a pilot project in Electronic City to cover around 17,500 domestic and business users.

The Smart Grid Task Force is currently coordinating eight pilot projects across the country's national electricity grid. For the next 18 months these projects will provide an indication of what the overall framework for a detailed national plan will be.
Zpryme forecasts that the Indian government will spend $26.2 billion in electricity infrastructure between 2011 and 2015. When it comes to Smart Grid technology, Zpryme estimates the market value in 2011 at $1.1 billion and CAGR of 16.3 per cent between 2010 and 2015. Indeed, there is a dire need to adopt the Smart Grids and the technologies accompanying them on a priority basis in order to ensure that grid failures do not recur in the coming days.

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Schneider Electric's solutions in electrical grid automation and control towards generation, transmission and distribution of electricity include “PACiS 4.8” Substation Automation System (SAS), “ADMS” Advanced Distribution Management System (DMS), “Arc FM” Geographical Information System (GIS), “Responder” Outage Management System (OMS), “Titanium” Automatic Metering Infrastructure (AMI), “Conductor” Meter Data Manage­ment (MDM), “Wind Logic” Wind Generation Forecasting Solution, “MiCOM/SEPAM/VAMP” protection IED and complete portfolio of Feeder Automation (RTU/FRTU/FPI/RMU/Auto-Reclosure/Sectionaliser etc). Inte­lligent Fast Load Shedding (IFLS) Solution ensures availability of power supply to all critical applications during power shortage and unscheduled outages.

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