Getting Future Ready: Smart grid pilots pave the way for large-scale deployment

Smart grid pilots pave the way for large-scale deployment

The distribution segment assumes critical importance in meeting the country’s growing energy demand. Being the sole interface between the consumer and the energy sector, constant efforts are being made by distribution utilities to plug infrastructural gaps through the deployment of smart grid technologies.

A key initiative in this regard is the implementation of smart grid pilot projects at 14 locations across the country. These project sites have been selected based on factors such as high per capita power consumption, high scope for loss reduction, and the area’s existing distribution network. The main objective of undertaking these pilot projects is to evaluate the network’s readiness for large-scale deployment of smart grid technologies, and to assess the benefits resulting from the implementation, in order to increase acceptance among stakeholders. These projects also look to provide a fillip to the indigenous manufacturing capability of smart grid technologies in the country in order to make smart grid deployment and maintenance economically viable in the long run.

A snapshot of key smart grid pilot projects being implemented in the country…


The smart grid pilot project in Puducherry is being implemented through the collective efforts of the Puducherry Electricity Department, Power Grid Corporation of India Limited and the Renewable Energy Agency Puducherry, along with more than 60 other collaborators. The pilot project covers the entire area of 23.17 square km of the town of Puducherry. There are approximately 87,000 consumers in the area with an annual energy consumption of over 360 MUs. The distribution infrastructure comprises more than 300 distribution transformers. The aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses of the region currently stand at 22.6 per cent.

Significant progress has already been made in smart grid deployment in Puducherry. Functionalities such as advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), virtual demand-response (DR) systems at both the consumer and utility levels, outage management systems (OMS) including a fault passage indicator and a distribution transformer monitoring unit, and net metering by renewable integration are already operational. This has allowed the billing of consumers on the basis of online metering data compiled through smart meters, distribution transformer-wise energy auditing, improvement in voltage profile and reduction in AT&C losses, leading to better quality of power supply. Other functionalities such as monthly and daily energy audits, demand response through smart homes and power quality management have also been introduced. Further, a scheme of automatic “On-Off” and intensity control of street lights depending on luminance and traffic conditions has also been implemented. This has resulted in the lowering of power consumption by around 57 per cent, from 100 units to 43 units per day. The pilot has been successful in demonstrating the fact that both consumers and utilities benefit from smart grid technologies.

The pilot project has also been instrumental in identifying regulatory gaps that ought to be effectively filled in order to reap the benefits of smart grid implementation. Such changes are of paramount importance in addressing consumer rights when functionalities such as DR, demand- side management (DSM) and net metering are adopted. Further, concerns have been highlighted with regard to installing smart meters. The necessity of efforts to standardise smart grid functionalities so that interoperability with other devices can be achieved has become clear.

Naroda and Deesa, Gujarat

Uttar Gujarat Vij Company Limited (UGVCL) is taking up the pilot project in two districts – Naroda and Deesa.  While Naroda is a purely urban pocket with a variety of consumers, Deesa is primarily an agricultural district with historically high AT&C losses, which stood at 27.42 per cent in 2012-13. Deesa is a much larger area of operation for UGVCL with 17,821 distribution transformers, while Naroda district has 1,105 distribution transformers. However, Deesa had a higher transformer failure rate at 11.98 per cent in 2012-13, while Naroda’s transformer failure rate stood at 4.9 per cent during the same period.

The Rs 487.8 million pilot project will cover nearly 375 substations across both districts. The Ministry of Power (MoP) will provide 50 per cent of the project funding under Part C of the Restructured Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Programme (R-APDRP).

The scope of the project covers AT&C loss reduction, peak load management, AMI for industrial, commercial and residential consumers, optimisation of unscheduled interchange charges, reduction in meter reading costs, outage management, load forecasting, DSM and DR, asset management systems, and power quality management. In Naroda district, the project will involve the installation of smart meters, setting up of a communication layer and creation of a web portal for consumers to respond to DR, DSM and time-of-use pricing initiatives. Apart from this, the project entails integrating the system with e-Urja, the R-APDRP and supervisory control and data acquisition. Similarly, the pilot project in Deesa district will cover installing smart meters, laying a communication layer, and monitoring power quality and DTR overusage.

The detailed project report (DPR) for the pilot was submitted to the MoP in January 2012 and UGVCL was shortlisted in September 2012. The dynamic tariff for the pilot was approved in principle by the Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission in February 2013 and the request for proposal was floated in September 2013. The tender was opened in January 2014. Five consortiums were shortlisted for proof of concept (PoC) in March 2014 for demonstrating their AMI connectivity solutions with 300 meters each. On the basis of the PoC evaluation and bid price, the project contract will be awarded in September 2014.

However, the key challenges faced by UGVCL at the tendering stage relate to interoperability issues, limited expertise of Indian companies, and the absence of mechanisms to test imported technologies in India. The integration of the smart grid pilot with the e-Urja programme, the R-APDRP and SCADA/DMS also came with its own share of challenges. Moreover, as a utility, UGVCL’s ageing network slowed down progress.

Baramati, Maharashtra

Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL) has selected Baramati town for implementing the smart grid pilot project at an approved DPR cost of Rs 282.1 million. Around 50 per cent of the total cost, amounting to Rs 141.1 million, will be met through central government sources while the remaining 50 per cent is expected to be arranged by MSEDCL. The pilot project has received in-principle approval from the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission. MSEDCL received four bids in response to the tender floated on March 18, 2014, for selecting the implementation agency. At present, the bids are being evaluated and the project is expected to be awarded in the coming months.

Baramati has an area of around 50 square km and over 28,300 electricity consumers, including 809 industrial consumers. MSEDCL has identified 15 consumers for whom putting a DR system in place is both feasible and beneficial. The area has a total of four substations.

The project envisages the deployment of AMI for residential, commercial and industrial consumers, integrated SCADA and outage management systems, along with integrated visualisation, analytics and DR. Implementation of DR for 10-15 select consumers would need devices such as interactive display systems and smart plugs to be installed at the consumer premises in addition to smart meters. Further, under the contract, the implementation authority is required to undertake a Smart Grid Maturity Model assessment. This would help identify gaps in terms of technology in the currently installed distribution infrastructure of the region, in addition to setting targets and identifying priority areas.

The smart grid pilot project would enable measurable improvements in operational activities by bridging past gaps arising on account of inadequate data collection and analysis. Once deployed, the smart grid technologies would facilitate the calculation of reliability indices such as system average interruption frequency index and system average interruption duration index;  undertaking analysis of response to system disturbances; optimisation of asset utilisation and achieving operational efficiency of the electric power system, and reduction in AT&C losses.


Smart grid pilot projects are instrumental in assessing current gaps in the distribution infrastructure and showcasing the benefits of smart grid implementation. These would go a long way in formulating a concrete and comprehensive plan aimed at making the network smarter and ensuring readiness for incorporating the latest technologies into the smart grid sphere in the future. These pilots assume greater significance in the current context for addressing distribution grid-related problems such as high AT&C losses, low consumer satisfaction and frequent blackouts. N