NSGM Progress: Update on smart grid projects

Update on smart grid projects

India’s journey towards smart grids began in 2010 when the Ministry of Power (MoP) constituted the India Smart Grid Forum (ISGF) and the India Smart Grid Task Force (ISGTF) to provide a policy direction to the smart grid initiatives in the country. Subsequently, in 2012, 12 smart grid pilot projects were sanctioned across states with 50 per cent funding support from the MoP to test various smart grid functionalities. During the implementation of the smart grid pilot projects by state utilities, the need for a comprehensive institutional arrangement capable of providing dedicated manpower, resources and organisational attention was felt. The National Smart Grid Mission (NSGM) was thus established by the central government in 2015. Currently, three smart grid projects are under way under the NSGM, with 30 per cent funding coming from the MoP.

NSGM: Targets and achievements

The NSGM supports the implementation of smart grid projects through assistance in areas like project report formulation, project appraisal and review, viability gap funding, technology selection and training/capacity building. Under the NSGM, a pilot project for advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) implementation covering about 1,000 consumers has been successfully commissioned in Ajmer, Rajasthan.

The NSGM also coordinates with various organisations to develop standards and regulations for smart grid projects. The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has released IS 16444 (Parts 1 and 2) for smart meters and IS 15959 (Parts 2 and 3) companion specification for smart meters. In addition, five states have adopted the Model Smart Grid Regulations released by the Forum of Regulators (FoR). State-level project management units (SLPMUs) have been formed in 16 states. In addition, the functional requirements for AMI have been released by the Central Electricity Authority. Moreover, models of requests for proposals and detailed project reports for assisting utilities, and smart meter roll-out plans have also been prepared.

Steps have also been taken to expand testing facilities for smart meters. Four labs – the Central Power Research Institute (CPRI), Bengaluru; CPRI, Bhopal; the Electrical Research and Development Association, Vadodara; and Yadav Measurements Private Limited, Udaipur – are ready for testing smart meters as per IS 16444 (Part 1). The total capacity of the testing facilities is assessed to be approximately 300 models per year. CPRI, Bengaluru, is ready for testing smart meters as per IS 16444 (Part 2), while the others are expected to follow suit.

Project update

As mentioned earlier, 12 smart pilot projects are under way across states with 50 per cent funding support from the MoP. The pilot projects entail the installation of nearly 170,000 smart meters, of which 120,000 meters have already been installed. Of the total projects, four have been completed/are nearing completion while the rest are likely to be completed by October 2018.

In addition, three smart grid projects (one in Chandigarh and two in Maharashtra) worth Rs 2.58 billion have been sanctioned under the NSGM with 30 per cent funding from the MoP. Further, four projects in Kochi, Rourkela, Ranchi and Chandigarh worth Rs 6.58 billion are under approval. The functionalities being tested in these pilots include AMI, outage management system (OMS), peak load management (PLM), power quality management (PQM) and distributed generation.

Issues and challenges

The ongoing implementation of pilot projects has provided valuable insights regarding the challenges encountered and ways to mitigate them. The lack of adequate technical standards was one such challenge that led to redesigning of the existing meters and development of IS 16444. Also, there were delays in counterpart funding by utilities that hampered the implementation of projects. Further, stringent technical and commercial requirements for bidders led to procurement and contractual issues. Also, it was observed that the utilities continued to focus on equipment deployment and technology demonstration while process redesign, regulatory compliance and change management lagged behind.

In addition, technological issues in the areas of grid architecture and planning, integration of new energy technologies, system operation and interoperability were also encountered. Process re-engineering and capacity building were some of the institutional concerns of utilities. Further, regulatory issues such as approval of investment in smart grid projects, issues in pricing and tariffs, etc. also posed impediments.

Future outlook

To address these issues and ensure efficiency, the seamless integration of emerging technologies is required in the fields of monitoring, automation, control, communication and IT systems with active participation from all stakeholders. There is also a need to develop smart grid readiness. Innovative financing models along with capacity building workshops, and a proper cost-benefit analysis and evaluation of outcomes from pilot projects will pave the way forward. Moreover, utilities must look for international cooperation and collaborations for technology sharing in smart grid projects. These steps accompanied with consumer awareness and regulatory initiatives will help in shaping the future development of smart grid projects.

(Based on a presentation by Atul Bali, Deputy General Manager, NSGM)