Small Steps: Progress of smart grid pilot projects

Progress of smart grid pilot projects

The future trajectory of smart grid deployment in the country largely depends on the lessons from the 14 pilot projects which are being implemented across the states. These projects were selected by the Ministry of Power (MoP) in October 2012 and involve an aggregate investment of Rs 3.73 billion, half of which will be funded by the ministry and the remaining by the utility.

All these projects will be implementing advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) solutions. Some functionalities that are proposed to be tested as part of these pilot projects are peak load management, load forecasting, asset management, outage management, renewable energy integration, power quality management, microgrids, aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) loss reduction and time-of-use (ToU) pricing.

So far, the progress on these projects has been rather slow with the Puducherry project having made the maximum headway. Recently, Chamundeshwari Electricity Supply Corporation Limited  awarded the contract for its smart grid pilot project implementation to consortium led by Enzen Global Solutions Private Limited. Meanwhile, bids for selecting smart grid implementation agencies (SGIAs) have been invited by several utilities including Uttar Gujarat Vij Company Limited (UGVCL) and Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL).

Smart Utilities presents a brief account of pilot projects being undertaken at Puducherry, Gujarat and Maharashtra…


The pilot project at Puducherry Division 1 is being executed by Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (Powergrid) in partnership with the state electricity department and 60 research organisations. The project covers over 87,000 customers, of which the residential segment accounts for about 80 per cent. The average annual energy consumption of the town is 367 MUs.

As of February 2014, around 1,400 smart meters (provided free by companies like Larsen & Toubro, Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro and Dassault Systems) had been installed in the project area. Overall, 2,500 smart meters will be installed in a phased manner. Besides, five data concentrator units (DCUs), one distribution transformer energy meter and a meter data management system have also been installed. An interim smart grid control centre was established in the Puducherry Electricity Department (PED) in October 2012.

PED has started billing consumers on the basis of online metering data from smart meters and several cases of tampering are being detected. Further, distribution transformer-wise energy accounting/audit is being carried out, which helps in identifying and balancing the load of overloaded transformers.

The concept of street light automation was also tried in the project area. This involved automatic switching on and off of street lights depending on luminance and traffic conditions. The on-off control was calculated according to the sunrise and sunset times. After physical observation, dimming of light intensity was carried out remotely towards late night. The initiative resulted in around 57 per cent power savings as consumption reduced from 100 units to 43 units per day. Currently, PED is testing out a grid-interactive rooftop scheme with technical assistance from Auroville Consulting, which will pave the way for a solar energy policy for Puducherry. According to the results of a case study on net metering in the project area, the average electricity consumption of a household is between 300 kWh and 450 kWh a month, which is equivalent to the monthly solar power output of a 3 kW solar power plant (depending on the season), implying a prosumption index of almost 100 per cent.


UGVCL is implementing smart grid projects at Naroda and Deesa in Gujarat. Naroda is a purely urban pocket with a variety of consumers, whereas Deesa is an agricultural area characterised by high AT&C losses. The pilot projects in these two areas will cover around 20,524 and 18,898 consumers respectively. The total annual energy consumption of the two towns is around 1,700 MUs.

In Naroda, the pilot project would entail installation of smart meters, laying of the communication layer, ToU implementation, launch of a web portal for consumers to respond to demand-side management (DSM) initiatives, monitoring of power theft, and integration of new technologies with existing applications under e-Urja and the Restructured Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Programme.

Meanwhile in Deesa, besides installation of smart meters and laying of the communication network, monitoring of power quality and DTR overusage is also proposed to be undertaken. The cost of implementing pilot projects as per the detailed project report (DPR) works out to around Rs 550.6 billion while the cost approved by the MoP stood at Rs 487.8 billion. The utility has also received in-principle approval from the Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission for implementation of dynamic tariffs and inclusion of project cost in capex.

UGVCL floated a request for proposal (RfP) for selecting the SGIA in September 2013. The utility received six bids for the tender and post technical evaluation, five consortiums were shortlisted for demonstrating their AMI connectivity solutions. The demonstration is likely to be completed in two months following which the price bids of successful bidders will be opened. The utility expects to award the final contract by June 2014.


MSEDCL is implementing a pilot project in Baramati town, which has 25,629 consumers. The cost of the pilot project is estimated at Rs 282 million which has been approved by the MoP. The functionalities proposed to be evaluated as part of the pilot project include smart grid maturity model (SGMM) assessment; AMI for residential, commercial and industrial consumers; integrated supervisory control and data acquisition, distribution management system and outage management system; integrated visualisation and analytics; and demand response (DR).

The SGMM assessment will provide the utility’s current state of smart grid maturity as per eight notified SGMM domains. This information can be used for developing a future smart grid road map by identifying the “as-is” state, business priorities and the gaps for each domain.

AMI will enable remote connection/disconnection of customers, monitoring of power consumption patterns, tamper detection, load curtailment and access to historical data. With the help of AMI and real-time data analytics, MSEDCL will use consumption patterns to suggest energy conservation measures at the consumer level and will ensure better demand forecasting and management.

The specifications of smart meters proposed by the utility are radio frequency mesh communication with ZigBee open protocol having MSEDCL stack at the 2.4 GHz delicensed frequency band, prepaid as well as post-paid facility, remote connect/disconnect features, and remote configuration of the meter. In case of missed readings, the DCUs will be used for reading smart meters on site and transmitting the data to a central system.

The integration of existing systems with the new smart grid systems will involve data acquisition from remote terminal units remote terminal units (RTUs) at substations, feeder RTUs/ ring main units and time synchronisation of these devices as well as continuous real-time data storage and data processing. Further, analytics for load forecasting and load research, ToU modelling, outages, energy accounting and loss modelling are also proposed to be covered under this pilot project.

DR is proposed to be implemented with home automation for 10-15 select industrial, commercial and residential consumers. To implement DR, devices such as interactive display systems, smart plugs and smart meters would be installed at the consumers’ premises.

MSEDCL notified the RfP on October 28, 2013 with the last date for bid submission as November 22, 2013. However, due to a lukewarm response from bidders, the bid submission deadline was extended three times, the final one being March 10, 2014. The utility received four bids which are currently under technical evaluation. The project is expected to be awarded by end-April 2014.

Issues and challenges

Since smart grids are a relatively nascent concept in the Indian power sector, utilities are facing several challenges in the implementation of pilot projects. For instance, UGVCL is facing an escalation of 1-1.5 times in the actual project cost proposed in the DPR due to forex fluctuations and rise in input costs.

Some other common issues being faced by the utilities are limited participation of meter manufacturers as lead bidders, limited expertise of Indian companies in the smart grid space, absence of technology testing, interoperability and last mile connectivity concerns, unavailability of smart meters as per specifications, and problems in integration with existing applications.

The initial experience in Puducherry highlights the need for regulatory changes for DR and DSM, net metering arrangement for integration of renewable energy, and requirement of standards for smart meters and DCUs for interoperability.

Based on presentations by Avinash Haware, Deputy General Manager, MSEDCL; S.A. Patel, Executive Engineer, UGVCL; and Manish Tiwari, Chief Manager, Smart Grid, Powergrid, at a Power Line conference