Conventionally, information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) have occupied separate domains in the utility industry. However, with technological advancements in both IT and OT systems and changing business needs, IT-OT convergence has become a requirement. Moreover, integration of systems like supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), distribution management system (DMS), outage management system (OMS) and asset management with IT solutions like metering, billing, customer services, and business analytics has become a necessity for a utility.
While the Restructured Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Programme is the most important IT initiative undertaken by state-owned discoms, private discoms have also been implementing IT technologies driven by the need to reduce their technical and commercial losses.
Established in 2002, BSES, through its two distribution companies, BSES Yamuna Power Limited (BYPL) and BSES Rajdhani Power Limited (BRPL), caters to about two-thirds of Delhi’s power requirement in the eastern, southern, western and central parts. BYPL distributes power to over 200 square km area with a population density of 6,989 per square km. It has around 1.4 million customers across central and east Delhi. BRPL distributes power across an area of over 750 square km with a population density of 2,665 per square km. It has over 2.1 million customers across south and west Delhi. The utility has been taking a number of initiatives to align IT with its business objectives and stakeholders’ expectations. It has identified the key areas for IT and OT adoption as follows:
Managing outages in the shortest possible time is the key to meeting the service expectations of customers. BSES has developed and implemented a geographic information system (GIS)-based OMS to enhance customer accessibility for outage registration, keep customers informed about outages, improve real-time outage resolution and monitor mechanism on GIS, generate meaningful reports for analysis, reduce fault isolation and restoration time, ensure efficient closing of outages in the system with proper remarks, etc.
AMR and AMI
BSES’s automated meter reading (AMR) project was conceptualised to minimise human interference while downloading/uploading meter data and reduce billing as well as accounting errors. Through the AMR system, the entire meter data along with its history can be downloaded and analysed. It has led to savings in operational costs and helped the utility identify as well as minimise power theft. Earlier, meter reading was done through a meter reading instrument (MRI) or manually by physically going to the consumer premises and connecting the MRI to the serial port of the meter. Since most of the meters were installed on consumer premises, the reader had to often wait for a gate pass/permission to go inside for reading the meter. This was not only a tedious and time-consuming task but also required a lot of manpower.
At present, BSES has implemented AMR for about 15,000 consumers having a load of 10 kW and above. The system helps to reduce billing as well as accounting errors with the help of general packet radio service (GPRS)-based virtual private networks.
An advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) system enables two-way communication between smart energy meters and the head-end system to enable remote reading, monitoring and control of meters installed at the consumer’s end, feeders, and distribution transformers (DTs). AMI includes various components and functions like meter data acquisition systems, smart meters, communication mediums, load monitoring, demand response, load control, tamper detection, alarm handling, real-time energy audit, and time-of-day tariffs.
BSES also plans to implement a pilot project for about 5,000 consumers, which will ensure reliable meter reading without any manual intervention and web-based access to meter data will be available to consumers as well as the utility. The consumer will have the choice to opt for post-paid and prepaid metering solutions. The utility has planned to opt for power line carrier communication/radio frequency (RF) along with GPRS/long-range radio for the project. This is expected to lead to efficient demand-side management during peak hours, thereby reducing power purchase costs.
All extra high voltage grid substations (66/33 kV) at BSES have been made SCADA-compatible and 100 per cent of the grids are unmanned with remote operations. The system is completely integrated with the GIS, OMS and consumer management system of the utility.
Smart substation management system
BSES has deployed smart substation management systems at about 200 DTs to monitor transformer parameters, and ensure intrusion management and meter data management. The system is completely integrated with the GIS, OMS and consumer management system.
Smart grid initiatives
BSES has also taken smart grid initiatives for tracking, monitoring and optimising asset performance. The initiatives are aimed at remote monitoring of the condition of DTs and planned maintenance of grid equipment, remote customer monitoring and managing demand with respect to supply availability (with smart meters and sensors), and field workforce management. The increasing penetration of renewables in the grid has also created many challenges and hence the utility has initiated the integration of solar rooftops and other renewable energy sources with the grid in order to balance demand and supply.
Focus on data analytics
The growing importance of data-driven decision-making and managing huge amounts of data has driven the need for data analytics. Utilities are generating large volumes of data through IT and OT systems, but are not able to interpret it meaningfully by correlating it for business decisions. However, BSES has taken up analytics as a key focus area and initiated a business analytics project.
Some of the new initiatives that the company is undertaking include creating an RF canopy for smart grids and smart meters, implementing business analytics and demand response solutions, and renovating data centres. If the RF canopy materialises, BSES can create its own database. In the new system, the grid will be based on optic fibre and all the DTs and consumer meters will be based on RF. The data collected will be sent to the meter data acquisition system (MDAS) and not to Oracle, and the automatic power factor correction (APFC) unit will be transformed into a smart APFC where the power factor can be changed. After the complete deployment of smart meters and data collection through tail-end meters, BSES will be able to control the input, implement demand response, identify faults in the circuit and transfer information regarding the same to consumers through OMS and GIS.
The IT and OT journey of BSES has been quite long and has led to many key learnings. One of these is understanding the business requirements and aligning technology to meet these requirements, and not the other way around. Another key learning for the utility has been that technology adoption is a long process and needs to be taken up with due diligence. It is always a good idea to go for pilot projects to evaluate their adoptability and scalability. It is also important to understand and adapt to evolving industry standards like device language message specifications to avoid integrating complications later. The company also sees data security as a big concern and gives due weightage to it while evaluating technology and its implementation.
Based on inputs from a presentation by Anish Kalucha, Chief Information Officer and Head, IT, BYPL