Automating the System: Update on smart grid projects

A smart grid is an electric grid equi­p­ped with automation, communication and in­for­mation technology systems that can monitor power flow from the points of generation to the poi­nts of consumption, and control it or curtail the load to match generation in real time. Smart grids have assumed significance in light of the Government of In­dia’s commitment to ensure 24×7 quality, reliable and affordable power for all. Go­ing forward, electric vehicle (EV) pene­tra­tion, renewable energy integration and energy storage are expected to be sc­a­led up. Hence, the adoption of new and em­erging smart grid technologies is in­evitable. Ecosystem development and knowledge dissemination by the National Smart Grid Mission (NSGM) has already facilitated the adoption of such technologies. Sustained intervention will also re­main essential for the successful im­ple­mentation of the Revamped Dis­tribution Sector Scheme (RDSS).

Smart grid projects update

NSGM envisages the transformation of last-mile connectivity ecosystems throu­gh measures such as advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), microgrids, distributed generation, outage management, power quality improvement, peak load management and EV charging infrastructure. The mission encourages self-sustenance for di­scoms with respect to smart grid interventions, through the adoption of innovative financing models. Notably, nine smart grid projects with a total cost of over Rs 12.12 billion were sanctioned under the NSGM in seven states – Chan­di­­garh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Uttar Pra­­desh, Kerala, Odisha and Jhar­khand. Of these, seven ha­ve been can­celled due to constraints related to counterpart fun­ding, very high bid prices, in­or­dinate de­la­­ys, and privatisation of po­wer de­part­me­nts in Odisha and Chandigarh.

Currently, two smart grid projects are being im­plemented under the NSGM, to cater to 179,433 consumers at a cost of Rs 1.16 billion. These projects are being im­plemented at Subdivision 5 of the Chan­digarh Electricity Division (CED), and the six urban towns of Baran, Bha­ra­tpur, Bu­n­di, Dholpur, Jhalawar and Ka­ra­uli under Jaipur Vid­yut Vitran Nigam Li­mited (JVVNL). The key functionalities to be im­plemented by these projects are AMI, distribution transformer monitoring uni­ts, and supervisory control and data ac­quisition (SCADA) systems. As of January 2023, a total of 156,512 smart me­ters have been ins­talled under these projects, in­cluding 24,214 at CED’s Sub­di­vision 5 and 132,298 under JVVNL.

The NSGM has developed a smart grid rea­diness self-assessment tool to assess the readiness of utilities for adopting sm­art grid technologies, and assist them in their smart grid roadmaps. It has also de­veloped a cost-benefit analysis tool for utility modernisation projects to assess the benefits of smart meters/gri­ds. Fur­thermore, there is a focus on the development of pilot/de­mo­nstration projects in areas such as demand res­po­n­se, reliability improvement, microgrids and data analytics.

Smart grid pilot projects

Eleven smart grid pilot projects sanctioned by the Ministry of Power in 2013 ha­ve been completed across Assam, Gu­ja­rat, Himachal Pradesh, Harya­na, Kar­na­taka, Punjab, Telangana, Tripura, Pu­du­cherry, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, at a total cost of Rs 2.47 billion. Overall, around 156,000 smart meters have been installed under the pilot smart grid projects. These projects have demonstrated AMI, net metering, outage management system (OMS) and rooftop solar integration, am­o­ng others. Smart grid pilots ha­ve showcased the successful integration of the legacy metering, bi­ll­ing and collection systems with AMI/smart me­tering. On the communication technology front, all types of communication technologies – radio, power line communication and GPRS – have be­en tested successfully for smart grid projects. Further, the Smart Grid Knowledge Centre at Ma­nesar has developed a resource centre with AMI, OMS, microgrid/distributed generation and home energy management system fu­nctionalities, which also imparts training through capacity building activities for utility professionals.

Smart grid technologies

By utilising renewable energy sources more of­ten and reducing the usage of fossil fuels, smart grids help protect the en­vironment, reduce carbon emissions and assist utilities by enhancing distributed generation and demand response. Addi­tionally, they can cope with ageing infrastructure, enhance asset utilisation and improve dependability.

Smart meters, which are powered by AMI, en­able two-way communication be­t­­ween the utility and customers, as well as the collection and transfer of in­for­mation about energy use almost in real time. AMIs have a variety of featu­res, in­c­luding load management, outage ha­n­dling, re­mote meter reading, remote co­n­­nection and dis­connection, self-dia­gnosis, automatic and ti­mely invoicing, and a prepayment option. Com­mu­ni­ca­­tion technologies also play a crucial role. A specialised network controlled by utilities, such as SCADA systems, can now be used for communication. By optimising network operations, a SCADA system en­hances system safety, increases pro­cess efficiency and enables energy sa­vings. Additionally, it helps utilities su­pply po­w­er to their customers consiste­ntly and sa­fely. A well-planned and ma­naged SCADA system also helps re­duce costs and increase customer satisfaction and retention.

New and emerging technologies

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can significantly transform the operations and performance of po­wer distribution utilities. Depending on the requirements of utilities, they can be applied across the value chain. Insig­hts gained from the use of AI and ML may in turn be used to forecast network failures, schedule early interventions and prevent disruptions. AI and ML applications can also be used for demand forecasting and time-of-day predictive analysis. To tackle frequent consumer queries and interactions, several discoms nowadays use mobile applications and chatbots on their websites.

The efficiency of distribution networks can be increased considerably by implementing internet of things (IoT)-based solutions. IoT devices en­able seamless data interaction by using sensors and actuators to gather data in real time and store it in the cloud. Such a system can de­tect flaws immediately and take suitable action, thereby minimising human intervention. Another technology that is gaining traction among distribution utilities is the advanced distribution management system (ADMS). ADMS automates outage res­t­o­ration and improves distribution grid performa­nce, and it supports the complete chain of distribution, management and optimisation. In addition to fault identification, isolation and restoration, peak demand management, volt/volt ampere reactive optimisation, conservation through voltage reduction, and support for microgrids and electric cars are all features of ADMS. IEC 61850-compliant relays and sensors for distribution automation also need to be developed for future smart grids.

The management and control of a highly complex transmission system will also require the implementation of advanced smart grid and digital technologies. There will be a need for grea­ter automation to enable real-time control for lo­ad management and power despat­ch. So­me of the key smart grid initiatives and digital technologies being implemented in the transmission segment are digital sub­stati­ons, wide area monitoring system (WAMS) and remote monitoring of substations.


As the adoption of smart grid technologies continues in the power sector, utilities need to foc­us on cybersecurity as well. After the pandemic, with the migration of communications, operations and data to the cloud and the rise of remo­te operations, cybersecurity risks have inc­reas­ed manyfold. Enhancing the cy­b­er resilience of power systems is thus be­coming a key priority for all stakeholders.

Taking cognisance of cyberthreats that can hamper the power system’s functioning, the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) released cybersecurity guidelines for the power sector in October 2021. The guidelines are meant to propose a cyber assurance framework; strengthen the regulatory framework; and put in place mechanisms for early warning and response to security threats, vulnerability management, and secure re­mote operations and services. As per the guide­lines, a product will have to be tested for malware/hardware trojans before deployment for use in the power supply system network. The guidelines mandate ICT-based procurement of trusted products from identified, trusted sour­ces. Further, products imported from “prior re­fe­­r­ence” countries would need to undergo type testing. These guidelines lay emphasis on esta­blis­hing cyber hygiene, training all information technology and operational technology personnel on cybersecurity, and establishing designated cybersecurity training institutes and cyber testing labs in the country. The CEA is also working on cybersecurity regulations.


The success of these smart grid projects has formed the basis for large-scale roll-out of smart metering under the RDSS. Some of the focus areas for smoother implementation of sm­art grid projects are active state-level PMUs/ sm­art grid cells, technology-agnostic and interoperable systems, regulatory support and sandboxing experimentation. In addition to this, consumer awareness and ca­pa­city building remain crucial for the success of smart grid projects in the co­un­try. Continuous training and capacity building in smart grids through dedicated training programmes for discoms/state utilities are equally important. With the uptake of smart grid projects, cybersecurity is expected to take centre stage going forward. n

Nikita Gupta