India’s Outlook on Smart Grids

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(Written by  Mr. Reji kumar Pillai, President & CEO, ISGF)

Traditional electric grids have had limited sources of power injection and millions of points of consumption which is fast changing with numerous points of power injection and millions of points of consumption – a paradigm shift.

The Indian power system is the 4th largest in the world with an installed capacity of 235 GW and with the recent synchronization of the southern grid with rest of the regional grids, we perhaps have the largest synchronous grid in the world today. Largely dominated by government owned utilities,the private sector role is about 27% in generation, <1% in transmission and about 5% in distribution. The distribution sector continues to be riddled with very high T&D losses – about 26.5% nationally (>40% in many states!) and nearly 400 million plus people have no access to power. Large parts of the country experiences power cuts for several hours every day and consumers are forced to keep storage (invertors)/ standby generation facilities. Power quality being poor, consumers require voltage stabilizers, UPS, Inverters etc. Our power system doubled in the last decade, yet our percapita consumption of electricity is about one-fourth of world average. The estimated demand by 2032 is about 900 GW, which means the power system should need to almost quadruple the existing capacity in next 18-20 years. To manage a large grid of this size and growing at this pace require smarter systems.

India is pursuing one of world’s largest grid connected renewable energy programs and integration of such intermittent renewable resources also requires smarter systems. The National Electric Mobility Mission with a target of 6 million EVs by 2020 was recently launched by the Ministry of Heavy Industries and successful rollout of EVs will require smarter systems.

Reduction of T&D losses continues to be top priority of both Government and utilities and smart grid technologies will increase visibility and control of power flows in real time heralding a transition to smart cities and a low carbon economy.

While developed nations with reliable electric grids are investing in smart metering, data communications and advanced IT systems and analytics, tools for forecasting, scheduling and dispatching to further their smart grid journey, developing countries like India need to invest in both strengthening the electrical network as well as adding communications, IT and automation systems to build a strong and smart grid.

As Wikipedia puts it, a smart grid intersects the electrical grid with automation, communication and IT systems that can monitor power flows from points of generation to points of consumption (even down to the appliance level) and control the power flow or curtail the load to match generation in real time. A more evolved definition of smart grids according to Council of European Energy Regulators is: “A smart grid is an electricity network that can cost-efficiently integrate the behaviour and actions of all users connected to it – generators, consumers and those that do both – in order to ensure economically efficient, sustainable power systems with low losses and high levels of quality and security of supply and safety”. Increased visibility, predictability, and even control of both generation and demand allow utilities to better manage variability, integrate intermittent renewable generation and also reduce costs of peak power.

The on-going Restructured – Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Program (R-APDRP) is one of the largest IT initiatives by electric utilities anywhere in the world – in one integrated project, all state owned Distribution Utilities in India are building IT Infrastructure, IT Applications and Automation Systems. Smart grids are but the next step in achieving our goals of energy security and the base created by the RAPDRP program is tremendous, and leveraging it is key to a successful nation-wide implementation.

The India Smart Grid Forum in consultation with India Smart Grid Task Force has formulated a comprehensive smart grid vision and roadmap for India which is aligned to the Government’s overarching objectives of “Access, Availability and Affordability of Power for All”.

The Smart Grid Vision and Roadmap for India was approved by Ministry of Power in August 2013 and it was released by the Power Minister on 10th Sept 2013 in a conference of all state power ministers in Delhi.

The Smart Grid Vision for India is to ‘Transform the Indian power sector into a secure, adaptive, sustainable and digitally enabled ecosystem that provides reliable and quality energy for all with active participation of stakeholders’

A National Smart Grid Mission will be launched soon that will have the overall responsibility to bring all stakeholders for successful implementation of the policies and programs envisaged under this Roadmap.

Some key highlights of the roadmap are as follows:

1. Appropriate policies and programs to provide access for electricity for all

  • Uninterrupted life line supply (8 hours/day minimum) by 2015
  • Electrification of 100% households by 2017
  • 24×7 quality supply on demand to all citizens by 2027

2. Availability of an indigenous low cost smart meter by 2014

3. AMI roll out for all customers in a phased manner based on size of connection (and geography and utility business case)

  •  Starting with consumers with load >20 KW by 2017, 3-phase connections by 2022 and all consumers by 2027
  •  Development of innovative and sustainable financing/business models for smart meter roll outs

4. Development of state/utility specific strategic roadmap(s) by 2014 for Smart Grid deployments

  • Required business process reengineering, change management and capacity building programs to be initiated by 2014

5. Policies supporting improved tariffs such as dynamic tariffs, variable tariffs, etc. including mandatory demand response programs

  • Bulk consumers by 2014; extending to all 3-phase (or otherwise defined) consumers by 2017

6. Policies created by 2014 for implementing energy efficiency in public infrastructure and EV charging facilities starting by 2015 and Demand Response ready appliances by 2017

7. Enabling programs and projects in distribution utilities to reduce AT&C losses

  • Below 15% by 2017, below 12% by 2022, and below 10% by 2027

8. Enabling programs and projects in transmission utilities to reduce transmission losses to below 3.5% by 2017 and below 2.5% by 2022

9. Conversion of existing EHV sub stations in all urban areas to Gas Insulated Substations (GIS) in a phased manner through innovative financing models

10. Mandated roof top solar for large establishments with connected load >20kW

11. Microgrids in 1000 villages/industrial parks/commercial hubs by 2017 and 10,000 villages/industrial parks/commercial hubs by 2022 – microgrids could island from main grid during peak hours if needed

12. Finalization of frameworks for cyber security assessment, audit and certification of utilities by 2013

13. Development of 1st set of Indian Smart Grid Standards by 2014

  • Active involvement of Indian experts in international SG development bodies

14. 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

To kick-start large scale deployment of smart grids in the country, Ministry of Power (MoP), Govt of India (GoI) has allotted 14 pilot projects to different distribution companies in various states.

These projects will be part funded by MoP (50% project cost as grant from GoI). Combined cost of these projects are about INR 400 crore. These projects are currently under tendering stage. Most projects involve 20,000 or more customers. These pilots are expected to help technology section guides and business case developments for larger projects in the next phase.

Thus, smart grids are more a process than a product and the roadmap is the guiding document that gives a clear direction to state governments, regulators, utilities and industry. The 14 pilot projects are expected to set the ball rolling in order for India to leapfrog towards a smarter grid. The states utilities and regulators would now have to take up a more proactive role in bringing out state specific smart grid roadmaps and making the vision of power for all a reality! It is also proposed to launch a National Smart Grid Mission (NSGM).

DSG Pointers:

  1. The India’s outlook presented by the author is highly ambitious and difficult to execute in the prevalent Indian conditions of vendor driven nature.
  2. Smart Grid vision and Roadmap could near to reality only when India comes with the possibility of repentance and introspection of R-APDRP project experiences.
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