Set up in 2010, the India Smart Grid Forum (ISGF) is a public-private partnership between the Ministry of Power (MoP) and industry stakeholders for accelerating the development of smart grids. The main objective of the forum is to help the power sector deploy smart grid technologies in an efficient, cost-effective, innovative and scalable manner by bringing together all key stakeholders and enabling technologies. While it has played an instrumental role in drafting the soon-to-be-launched National Smart Grid Mission (NSGM), the forum has been actively working on a number of initiatives including capacity building, promotion of enabling technologies and customer reach programmes.
A look at some of the recent initiatives of the smart grid forum…
R&D road map for the power sector: Globally, several smart grid technologies are fast reaching inflection point, offering benefits to utilities and consumers. Post the launch of the NSGM in India, a key initiative that will be taken up by the ISGF would be the formulation of a comprehensive research and development (R&D) road map for the power sector. In the Tenth Plan period, the R&D budget was Rs 36 billion as against the actual amount spent, which was only Rs 230 million. Although the latest numbers for the Eleventh Plan are not available, the actual amount spent on R&D is likely to be small. Thus, considering the fast-paced activities on the smart grid front and the Restructured Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Programme (R-APDRP), which has given a push to technology companies to enter the distribution domain, there is a need for a comprehensive R&D road map for the power sector.
Test bed at the CPRI: Another key initiative of the ISGF would be setting up a state-of-the-art smart grid test bed at the Central Power Research Institute (CPRI) in collaboration with the MoP. The US Trade and Development Agency had provided a grant of $692,000 to CPRI in 2013 for this initiative. The test bed, which will consist of an integrated interoperability laboratory and a smart grid technology demonstration centre, will allow CPRI to research and perform controlled evaluations of integrated smart grid technologies. Currently, bids for appointing a consultant for preparation of the detailed project report for this initiative have been solicited. The selected consultant would be responsible for implementation of the initiative as well.
Smart Grid Development Center: The ISGF has set up the Smart Grid Development Center (SGDC) as its fully owned subsidiary company. The SGDC offers a comprehensive suite of services in the smart grid domain. These include developing capacity building programmes for utilities and industry, organising conferences and exhibitions, undertaking R&D, conducting consumer outreach programmes, providing advisory services to ISGF members, utilities and regulatory commissions, and assisting the state governments and utilities in the preparation of state-and utility-specific smart grid road maps.
Development of microgrids: Another key initiative that the forum is actively involved in is the development of microgrids for improving access to power. This is essentially proposed to be taken up for three consumer categories: villages and rural habitations, industrial parks and commercial hubs, and large institutional buildings with captive generation facilities. For this, the forum plans to undertake demonstration projects.
Electric mobility: India launched the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) in 2012 with a target of 6 million electric vehicles (4 million two-wheelers and 2 million four-wheelers) by 2020. However, the interaction between the Ministry of Heavy Industries, which has launched this mission, and the MoP and distribution utilities has been limited. One of the major components of the NSGM is to work closely with the NEMMP for developing policies and programmes for appropriate vehicle-charging infrastructure at public places, petrol pumps, highways, residential colonies, etc.
Green button format: The ISGF has submitted an approach paper to the ministry for capturing
R-APDRP data in a green button format. Currently, advanced metering infrastructure deployment in the country is being undertaken by various equipment vendors and software suppliers. Green button formats are helpful in standardising the data interfaces and providing these to consumers through utility websites. By providing the energy usage information to consumers in a standardised data format, the energy usage information of consumers across discoms can be made available in a single format, which would, in turn, be useful to utilities and consumers. In 2013, the ISGF in association with IIT Bombay undertook an exercise for analysing energy usage information for consumers of Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited for implementation of green button standards. The ISGF plans to initiate discussions with the Power Finance Corporation, the nodal agency for implementing the R-APDRP, for rolling out this initiative in all utilities that are currently implementing the R-APDRP.
GIS maps: The ISGF has taken the initiative to develop geographic information system (GIS) maps. The forum has been in dialogue with utilities for updating GIS maps (which index all consumers on digital maps) to enable these to be used by infrastructure planners.
All utilities are currently undertaking digital mapping of their entire distribution systems, consumers and assets. The digitised maps can be used by other infrastructure planners and agencies in the same city, especially Tier II ones where such information is not available. Leveraging GIS maps for other infrastructure development projects could also be a major source of income for distribution utilities. However, utilities will need to make an effort to update these maps on a real-time basis whenever new consumers are added or new assets are installed in the distribution system.
A major innovation has been the launch of a first-of-its-kind cloud-based open source web-GIS tool by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Chandigarh Renewal Energy, Science and Technology Promotion Society, and The Energy and Resources Institute for estimating the rooftop solar power potential in Chandigarh. Mapping of around 30,000 buildings in Chandigarh was carried out under this study and subsequently the roof area available for installation of photovoltaic (PV) panels was estimated. With the formal launch of the Web-GIS tool, residents would be able to ascertain the viability, capacity and investment required in a rooftop solar PV plant at their homes. This initiative is proposed to be undertaken in other solar cities as well and with the help of R-APDRP maps, the process can be completed in a short time.
Other initiatives: Other initiatives under way include the setting up of a smart grid knowledge centre. This is proposed to be established in collaboration with Power Grid Corporation of India Limited at Manesar with funding support of Rs 100 million from the MoP. The ISGF is also setting up a Center of Excellence for Cyber Security at the International Institute of Information Technology, Bengaluru, in collaboration with the Data Security Council of India. This is being set up with a grant from the World Bank and is expected to be commissioned by end-March 2014.
The ISGF has been conducting webinars to disseminate information on the new technologies being deployed globally by utilities, including conservation voltage reduction for lowering demand; energy storage systems; and solid state transformers (which are only 1 per cent of the weight of conventional transformers and can take AC and DC power as input).
The ISGF has also launched an IEEEE-Low Voltage DC (LVDC) Forum. With a large number of devices moving to DC, the LVDC India Forum plans to undertake work for the development of standards for low voltage DC-powered systems.
Based on an address by Reji Kumar Pillai, President, ISGF, at a Power Line conference