Digitally Enabled

The key government schemes for strengthening the sub-transmission and distribution network, the Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS) and the Restructured Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Programme (R-APDRP), which was subsumed under the IPDS, have significantly improved the operational efficiency of the network. They have reduced aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses, increased the digital payment of electricity bills and enabled quicker complaint resolution, etc. Further, the installation of smart meters and online monitoring of feeders is being undertaken under the scheme. On the smart grid front, large-scale projects are being implemented following the success of the pilot projects. Besides, seven smart grid projects have been sanctioned under the National Smart Grid Mission. Owing to the large-scale integration of renewable energy sources and the expected of electric vehicles (EVs), the development of smart grid projects has become imperative for grid stability.


Under the R-APDRP, 1,377 out of 1,405 towns have achieved go-live status, as of August 31, 2018. Meanwhile, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) projects have been completed in 27 out of 59 towns and system strengthening projects have been completed in 1,189 towns out of 1,227 towns. Under the scheme, town-wise automated energy audits are being undertaken in 98 per cent of the large towns. For a quick redressal of consumer complaints, “1912” customer care number has been made operational in all 62 discoms and a total of 44 customer care centres have been set up. Meanwhile, there has been a reduction in the pending consumer complaints from 9 per cent in July 2017 to 5 per cent in July 2018. The digital payment of electricity bills is also gaining momentum. As of July 2018, 35 per cent of revenue collection from electricity bills in IT-enabled towns was through digital payments.

On the network operations and maintenance front, online feeder monitoring is being undertaken under the R-APDRP for better network management. Currently, over 31,000 feeders are being monitored online on the National Power Portal (NPP). Meanwhile, IT-enabled towns have recorded a significant reduction in AT&C loss levels. In July 2018, 42 per cent of IT-enabled towns reported less than 15 per cent losses, as against 36 per cent in July 2017.


Under the IPDS, Rs 9.85 billion has been approved for information technology/operational technology (IT/OT) projects across 1,931 towns. While project works have been awarded in seven states, requests for proposal (RfPs) have been floated in another 11 states. Further, Rs 6.4 billion has been sanctioned for implementing enterprise resource planning (ERP) in 29 discoms. The implementation of ERP solutions is in progress in three discoms, while RfPs for the same have been floated in another six discoms. Further, projects aggregating over Rs 3.5 billion have been sanctioned for automatic System Average Interruption Frequency Index/ System Average Interruption Duration Index measurement.

The scheme lays emphasis on the deployment of smart meters and prepaid meters. The demand aggregation of meters has resulted in economies of scale. Around 5 million smart meters are under installation, while the bidding process for the procurement of 10 million smart meters is under way. Besides, bidding is under way for 10 million prepaid meters. A number of measures are being taken to promote digital payment. These include the use of Bharat QR codes in electricity bills and the Bharat Bill Payment System, as well as discount/cashback incentives, workshops for discoms, waiver of merchant discount rate charges, discount/cashback incentives and digital facilities at customer points.

Smart grid projects

Several government schemes and policies aim to provide electricity access to all by March 2019. The country is ushering in the next phase of power sector development, with a growing focus on cleaner fuel, energy intensity reduction and reliable power supply. Clean cooking using electricity is gaining traction as are EVs and renewable energy sources. Smart grid projects will play a key role in smoother adoption of newer energy sources and EV.

India’s smart grid vision aims to transform the power sector into a secure, adaptive, sustainable and digitally enabled ecosystem, which provides reliable and quality energy to all. A total of 12 projects entailing an investment of $37.62 million with 50 per cent funding have been launched. Of these, two projects have been completed, and another two projects are near completion. The remaining projects are likely to be completed by 2018-19. Overall, the pilot smart grid projects envisage the installation of around 170,000 smart meters, of which 120,000 meters have been installed. Following the implementation of some of the pilot smart grid projects, large city-scale smart grid projects are being taken up. Besides, seven projects aggregating Rs 9.16 billon have been sanctioned under the National Smart Grid Mission. Model RfPs and detailed project reports have been prepared for these projects.

The implementation of smart grids requires changes in the policy landscape. The Forum of Regulators (FoR) has formulated model smart grid regulations, which have been adopted by six states. The standards and the roadmap for advance metering infrastructure have been released. Besides this, the development of the India-specific maturity model for smart grids is under process. For a smart grid project to be successful, it has to be financially sustainable and based on a suitable business model, which yields economic returns. Research and development (R&D) forms an integral part of smart grid adoption. To this end, capital grant/subsidies, indigenous technology development, demonstration projects, etc. are needed. Apart from this, consumer engagement is essential for the successful execution of smart grid projects. For increasing the adoption of EVs, charging stations, vehicle-to-grid and vehicle-to-building interconnections, ancillary services, etc. need to be developed.

One of the challenges in the adoption of smart grid projects pertains to the preparedness of the utilities and the industry in implementing the projects. There is a need to develop capacity and capabilities for the large-scale implementation of the projects. Another area of concern is interoperability of devices and equipment across the smart grid projects to ensure smooth integration with legacy systems. This will help avoid lock-in with a technology/vendor. Besides, a suitable communications technology is needed for maintaining a robust and reliable network. Efficient project management and coordination, change management and consumer engagement have a key role to play in the success of a smart grid project. Further, utilities need to go beyond data collection and focus on analytics, big data and internet of things in order to avail of the full benefits of the project. In the emerging market scenario, cybersecurity and cyberattack response measures are critical for preventing the loss of data and damage to infrastructure.

To conclude, the IT and OT projects being developed in the distribution segment under various government schemes will significantly improve the operational performance of the segment in the coming years. However, it is essential to ensure that the data generated from the projects is analysed to derive meaningful insights. Besides, data security and protection from cyberattacks must be given high priority.

(Based on a presentation by Vishal Kapoor, Director, Distribution, Ministry of Power, at a recent Power Line conference)