Forward-Looking

Progress in smart grid technology deployments

Indian utilities have been steadily deploying smart grid technologies over the past decade in order to achieve efficiency improvements and reduce aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses. Of late, these deployments have gained greater significance due to emerging needs including greater renewable energy integration and demand-side management.

Smart grids, comprising smart sensors and meters connected to computers in the control room, enable remote monitoring and control of the electricity flow on a real-time basis. They also provide distribution utilities access to a customer’s energy consumption and smart appliance usage. The deployment of smart grids and generation of power from renewable energy sources are growing on the back of an enabling policy and regulatory framework.

The basic building block for smart grids was the launch of the Restructured Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Programme in 2008-09, which was subsumed into the Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS) in 2014. Under the IPDS, the scope of grid modernisation has been widened to include strengthening of the sub-transmission and distribution networks, and metering at the distribution transformer, feeder and consumer levels.

Besides, the setting up of the India Smart Grid Task Force and the India Smart Grid Forum (in 2011, and the release of the Smart Grid Vision and Roadmap for India in 2013 was a major step towards grid modernisation. In 2013, 14 pilot projects were approved by the government at an estimated cost of Rs 4 billion to test various smart grid technologies like advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), distributed generation, outage management system (OMS), microgrid, peak load management and power quality. Of these, nine have been awarded, one is under award and four have been cancelled.

A host of measures for modernising the grid and increasing the share of renewable energy generation was undertaken in 2015 and 2016. On the grid modernisation front, for facilitating the standardisation of smart meters, the Bureau of Indian Standards has published the Indian Standards for Smart Meters (IS16444) and the Central Electricity Authority has prepared the functional requirement of AMI. Besides, the Forum of Regulators has approved the model Smart Grid Regulations and the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission has released the ancillary services regulations.

The launch of the Smart Cities Mission, envisaging the development of 100 smart cities, and the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation across 500 towns will also give a fillip to grid modernisation. On the renewable energy front, the announcement of the new renewable energy target of 175 GW by 2022, comprising 100 GW of solar power (with 40 GW from 20 million rooftop solar photovoltaic [PV] systems), has been one of the key developments. Furthermore, the government has launched the National Mission on Electric Mobility with a target of 6-7 million electric vehicles. Another significant development in this regard has been the Haryana government’s mandate to install 5 kW rooftop PV or 5 per cent of the connected load (whichever is higher) on all buildings of 500 square yards and above plot sizes.

The government’s intent to modernise the grid was evident in the recently launched Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana, which, among other things, mandates distribution companies to install smart meters for customers with monthly consumption above 200 units by December 2019. Besides, green energy corridors (high voltage transmission interconnections between major pooling stations in renewable energy-rich states in western and southern India) and the establishment of renewable energy monitoring centres with sophisticated tools for weather monitoring and renewable energy generation forecasting, etc. are critical steps towards making the power grid robust.

National Smart Grid Mission

With the launch of the National Smart Grid Mission (NSGM) in March 2015, India became one of the first few countries to adopt a Smart Grid Vision and Roadmap. The major activities envisaged under the NSGM are the development of smart grids in smart cities, the development of microgrids, consumer engagement, training and capacity building, etc. The total approved cost for the NSGM for the Twelfth Plan period is Rs 9.8 billion, including budgetary support of Rs 3.38 billion from the government. Under the NSGM, 30 per cent funding is provided for the development of a smart grid in smart cities and taking up pilots for microgrids.

Some of the key functionalities in smart grid projects are AMI, distributed generation/renewable integration, microgrid, OMS, peak load management, power quality, etc. The key among the functionalities of smart meters is AMI. AMI entails smart meters (single-phase and three-phase whole current smart meters), communication infrastructure (radio frequency/power line communication/cellular or a combination of these), head-end systems, meter data management systems, web application with updated online data of consumers, etc.

So far, three smart grid projects have been approved under the NSGM:

  • Chandigarh Electricity Department: The project covers Subdivision 5 in Chandigarh with 29,433 consumers. It has an approved cost of Rs 285.8 million, with government support of Rs 86 million. The functionalities under the project include AMI, distribution transformer monitoring, substation automation, rooftop solar PV, and information technology infrastructure.
  • Amravati (Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited [MSEDCL]): The project covers Amravati town in Maharashtra with 148,495 consumers. It has an approved cost of Rs 900.5 billion, with government support of Rs 270.2 million. The functionalities under the project include AMI, OMS and DR.
  • Congress Nagar (MSEDCL): The project covers the Congress Nagar division of Nagpur with 125,403 consumers. It has an approved cost of Rs 1,391.5 million, with government support of Rs 417.4 million. The functionalities under the project include AMI, SCADA, OMS and DR.

Conclusion

The central government is devising strong policies, issuing directives and ensuring the availability of funds to promote smart grid projects. However, the progress on the ground has been slow due to delays in the award of projects, high operating costs and lack of consumer awareness, among other things. Now, with new projects being awarded under the NSGM without waiting for the results of the ongoing pilots, the development of smart grid projects is expected to be expedited. n

Based on a presentation by Akshay Ahuja, Senior Smart Grid Specialist and Vivek Goel, Director, CEA, at a recent Power Line conference

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