Smart Grid Pilots: Progress update and key challenges

Progress update and key challenges

The India Smart Grid Task Force constituted by the Ministry of Power (MoP) recommended implementing smart grid projects in the distribution segment across different states. In October 2012, the MoP selected 14 smart grid pilot projects to be implemented across various states. The projects are estimated to entail an aggregate investment of Rs 3.73 billion. Of this amount, 50 per cent will be funded by the MoP while the remaining cost will be borne by the state utilities.

All the selected projects will deploy advanced metering infrastructure (AMI). Various functionalities including peak load management, load forecasting, asset management, outage management, renewable energy integration, power quality management (PQM), microgrids, aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) loss reduction, time-of-use metering, and dynamic and real-time pricing are proposed to be tested under these pilot projects. Their successful execution will provide clarity on the feasibility of the technologies deployed as well as allow policymakers to create an enabling framework on smart grid implementation. Smart Utilities presents an update on the progress of these pilot projects…

Puducherry smart grid pilot

The pilot project at Puducherry Division 1 is being executed by Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (Powergrid) in partnership with the Puducherry Electricity Department and over 60 collaborators. The project covers over 87,000 customers, of which the residential segment accounts for about 80 per cent. At present, a funding mechanism for the project is being discussed between Powergrid and the Puducherry government.

A smart grid control centre (SGCC) has been commissioned while the integration of different smart grid systems and technologies has been completed. Under AMI, over 1,650 smart meters and 33 digital control units have been installed in nine distribution transformers (DTs). Meters of different communication technologies (RF 2.4 GHz, RF 865 MHz, PLC, BPLC and GPRS) have been successfully integrated at the control centre.

For the outage management system, eight DT monitoring systems  were installed to monitor the health of the DTs on parameters such as oil temperature and oil level. In addition, about 21 fault passage indicators were installed, which send alerts to the SGCC as well as to mobile phones of the maintenance crew. For PQM, automatic power factor correction panels and active filters were installed. Steps are also being taken to integrate renewable energy into the grid. As of November 2014, smart meters with net metering were installed for three consumers with solar rooftop projects, in a first-of-its-kind initiative in Puducherry. A solar-powered charging station for electric vehicles is also in place.

In addition, a smart street lighting system covering 126 lamps has been implemented. The system allows automatic on-off and intensity control of street lights depending on luminance and traffic conditions. The deployment of smart meters has led to several benefits for the Electricity Department including about 57 per cent savings in energy consumption and 14 per cent increase in metering efficiency. Billing efficiency has also increased proportionally.

Other projects

Several state discoms are currently in the process of selecting a smart grid implementation agency through a bidding process. The Chamundeshwari Electricity Supply Corporation has awarded the implementation contract for its pilot project at V.V. Mohalla, Mysore, to a consortium led by Enzen Global Solutions Private Limited. The first instalment of funds from the MoP is likely to be released soon. The network survey of all 11 kV feeders has been completed and work on the low tension (LT) network survey has started. The project is likely to be completed by December 2015. The pilot project being undertaken by Uttar Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam Limited in Panipat city is being funded by a grant from the Japan-based New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO). The feasibility study has been completed. The contract for project implementation has been awarded to a consortium of Japanese companies led by Fuji Electric and work on the project began in December 2014.

Uttar Gujarat Vij Company Limited (UGVCL) is implementing smart grid projects at Naroda and Deesa in Gujarat, covering 20,524 and 18,898 consumers respectively. While Naroda is a purely urban area with different consumer categories, Deesa is an agricultural city characterised by high AT&C losses. The total annual energy consumption of the two towns is around 1,700 MUs.

UGVCL floated the request for proposal (RfP) for selecting the smart grid implementing agency in September 2013, following which technical evaluation of bids was conducted. The price bids were opened on December 10, 2014. The bid quoted by the L1 bidder was higher than the project’s sanctioned cost. The matter is currently being discussed by various stakeholders.

A similar issue was observed in Maharashtra, wherein the lowest bid price was much higher than the sanctioned project cost. Negotiations with the bidder are currently under way. Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited is implementing the pilot project in Baramati town, which has 25,629 consumers. The estimated cost of the project is Rs 282 million and has been approved by the MoP.

In Kerala, too, a similar issue had arisen. The Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) Limited received two bids in March 2014 but the quoted prices were much higher than the sanctioned cost. KSEB has now restructured the pilot area and a revised detailed project report (DPR) has been submitted to the MoP. Other states/union territories where bids for the selection of the implementation agency have been received include Assam, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Tripura and West Bengal. Most of these states have received two to five bids each. The common participants include Larsen & Toubro (L&T), Kalkitech, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Spanco, Wipro and Alstom.  Meanwhile, Telangana Southern Power Distribution Company Limited invited fresh bids in November 2014, whereas Rajasthan’s state-owned discom Jaipur Vidyut Vitaran Nigam Limited has not made much progress so far as the RfP for selection has not been issued as yet.

The way forward

More pilot projects are planned to be taken up in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu as utilities from these states failed to submit proposals in the first round. Going forward, the experience of ongoing pilot projects will be critical to formulate policies for successful large-scale smart grid roll-outs.