Interview with Reji Kumar Pillai: “Smart grid pilots will serve as focal points for further implementations”

“Smart grid pilots will serve as focal points for further implementations”

The future trajectory of smart grid deployment depends largely on the 14 pilot projects that are being implemented across states. Although the projects are progressing slowly at present, with most utilities in the process of awarding project contracts, implementation is likely to pick up pace in the near future. Several other smart grid projects are also under way elsewhere in the country. Going forward, the country’s smart grid development is expected to receive a fillip with the launch of the National Smart Grid Mission (NSGM). Reji Kumar Pillai, president, India Smart Grid Forum (ISGF), spoke to Smart Utilities about key developments in the smart grid space. Excerpts…

What is the status of the smart grid pilot projects awarded in 2012?

In 2011, the Ministry of Power (MoP) invited expressions of interest from all state-owned discoms for implementing smart grid pilot projects. Fourteen discoms submitted proposals in March 2012, which were evaluated by an expert committee. All 14 projects were approved in July 2012. These projects are partly funded by the MoP (50 per cent of the project cost received as grant from the government). The combined cost of these projects is about $80 million. Most projects involve 20,000 or more customers. Unfortunately, there were certain procedural issues as the 50 per cent grant scheme required cabinet approval, which delayed the entire process. The approval came in July 2013, and thereafter the discoms were asked to move fast on the request for proposal (RfP) and award of projects. The updated status of these projects can be viewed on the Smart Grid Knowledge Portal.

While the pilot project in Karnataka has been awarded and work has commenced, utilities in Kerala and Maharashtra have evaluated the bids and are likely to be awarded projects by June 2014. Gujarat opened the bids and shortlisted five consortiums for proof of concept (PoC) for demonstrating their advanced metering infrastructure connectivity solutions, with 300 meters each. This PoC is to be completed by June 2014 and the price bids of successful bidders will be opened. RfPs have been issued by Assam, Tripura, Telangana and Himachal Pradesh. Six other states are expected to issue RfPs soon.

Smart grids span multiple functionalities and options – each utility could be different, based on legacy, priorities, business case, etc. There cannot be a systems requirement specification template like that of the Restructured Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Programme (R-APDRP) for smart grid projects. These projects need flexibility and dedicated, specialised manpower to handle the diverse, complex and evolving needs of technology, standards, policy, regulations, innovation, etc. These pilot projects are expected to help develop technology selection guides and business cases for larger projects in the next phase.

What are the other smart grid projects and initiatives planned or under implementation?

Apart from the 14 pilots, several other smart grid projects are being undertaken in different states.

  • The US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) released RfPs for the appointment of a consultant for a smart grid test bed at the Central Power Research Institute (CPRI), Bengaluru – USTDA has provided a grant of $692,000 to CPRI to support the preparation of a detailed planning and procurement document for the implementation of the smart grid test bed. The test bed will consist of an integrated interoperability laboratory and a Smart Grid Technology Demonstration Center. The smart grid technologies selected for research and demonstration are substation automation, load management, smart meters (communications and data standards like the green button), cybersecurity network sensing, energy management, renewables integration and applications for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.
  • Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (BESCOM) is implementing a smart grid pilot project in Indiranagar, Bengaluru. It has three components – advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), peak load management and solar rooftop photovoltaic (PV) systems. Around 5,000 rooftop solar PV systems are to be integrated with the distribution system along with net metering. BESCOM has formed a four-member expert committee, chaired by Pankaj Kumar Pandey, managing director of BESCOM, to oversee the project.
  • The Odisha government has announced a smart grid power network (disaster resilient power strengthening system) for the cyclone-prone Ganjam district in Odisha. About 60 per cent of the project cost is being funded by the Asian Development Bank. The project envisages the implementation of power supply systems that can withstand very high wind speeds of about 350 kmph. Power would be supplied through underground and overground cables and gas-insulated substations with complete automation and control. The tender was floated on February 28, 2014 and March 3, 2014. The project is likely to be awarded by end-June 2014.
  • A smart grid pilot project, covering over 5,800 consumers, is being implemented through state government funding at Chhatrapur, Odisha. The detailed project report prepared by PRDC Private Limited, Bengaluru, is currently being reviewed by the Odisha Smart Grid Steering Committee.
  • A smart grid road map for CESC is being prepared by Tetra Tech and ESTA International, Inc. under a grant from USTDA. The consultants, working closely with CESC experts, have performed a detailed review of the CESC system and made recommendations for further reliability and power quality improvements, supervisory control and data acquisition enhancements, communications infrastructure for AMI and data acquisition, smart metering, enterprise application integration and a pilot project.
  • Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited (TPDDL) has successfully implemented the country’s first large-scale automated demand-response (ADR) and AMI projects, which have connected 165 commercial and industrial customers. Six ADR events took place in May-June 2014 and achieved a highest demand-response curtailment of 7 MVA.


What is the role of the R-APDRP in smart grid development?

The base having been created, the ministry is looking at a post-go-live strategy to maintain the assets created under the R-APDRP and  to use them as building blocks for implementing smart grids. The ISGF has prepared a white paper in this regard. The MoP has already advised all states to prepare their own state- or utility-

specific road maps.

The state regulatory commission in Maharashtra has taken the lead and prepared a draft policy and road map with the help of the Maharashtra Smart Grid Coordination Committee. The first draft is under review. The Odisha government has constituted a Smart Grid Steering Committee, chaired by the energy secretary, to formulate the road map and policies. Other states are expected to start making efforts soon. A model of smart grid regulations, prepared by an MoP-appointed committee, was presented to the Forum of Regulators (FoR) in December 2013. Based on the comments received, a final version has been prepared, which will be presented in the next FoR meeting. Launching a National Smart Grid Mission with representation from all stakeholders has been proposed to fast-track implementation of the major milestones envisaged in the road map.

What has been the progress in the development and adoption of low-cost smart meters by distribution utilities?

The Central Electricity Authority issued single-phase smart meter specifications at the behest of the MoP late last year. However, the specifications for smart meter pilot projects issued by various states vary greatly. This has happened due to the absence of smart meter standards.

Currently, two committees of the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) (ETD-13 and LITD-10) are working on standards for smart meters and AMI respectively. The ISGF has recommended bringing smart metering under the purview of one department within the BIS and highlighted the need to speed up the issue of standards. DLMS and IPv6 will be the mainstay on the technology side.

How are technology providers positioned to cater to the unique smart grid requirements of utilities?

Technology providers across the world are on a learning curve regarding smart grids. All countries are still experimenting with various smart technologies, and while several have met with huge success, the majority of the players are still at the pilot stage. The case studies developed from these pilot projects offer valuable insights into the barriers and drivers for implementing smart technologies and present a good business case for leapfrogging to smarter grids.

In India, both utilities and technology providers are gradually learning and these pilots will serve as focal points for learnings, adaptations and further implementations.

What is the update on the proposed National Smart Grid Mission?

A draft framework for the National Smart Grid Mission has been prepared and is awaiting approval from the MoP. We expect it to be approved soon.