India Energy Vision 2015: The future lies in smart grids

Vivek K Mishra, Manager, Energy & Utilities

Vivek K Mishra, Manager, Energy & Utilities

Investments in the strategically important India Smart Grid to pick up pace
Increasing efficiencies in energy generation and its transmission and distribution (T&D) has been a major challenge for the India’s power sector which reports nearly 30 percent losses in T&D, primarily due to theft and other leakages. The problem is compounded by the increasing demand for electric power in a growing economy with over 10 percent shortage during the day and 12 percent during peak hours. Even incremental changes in transmission and distribution patterns will lead significant increase in availability of precious power.

India’s transmission grid is in urgent need of expansion and improvement. According to industry sources, utilities worldwide will spend US$ 378 Billion in Smart Grid technologies by 2030 and India, the third largest smart grid investment market, is set to install 130 million Smart Meters by 2021. At present, the market in India is nascent with only few smart meters roll outs so far. But this situation is expected to change and gather pace from 2012 onwards. Apart from smart meters, the investment will be geared towards grid automation, communication infrastructure, IT systems and hardware; home area network, and system integration. India Smart Grid spending is likely to touch about Rs. 9,500 crore by 2015 from the current level of Rs. 5,500 crore. However, investors in India are deterred by the sector’s financial weakness, public ownership of utilities and bureaucratic delays.

In spite of reservations and limitations, some smart grid initiatives are taking root:
India Smart Grid Forum and Smart Meter Task Force: In India, the Ministry of Power (MoP) is the central government agency that is working most closely on electricity development, and has set up the India Smart Grid Forum, a public-private partnership uniting utilities, industry, and academia with the prime objective of accelerating development of Smart Grid technologies in the Indian Power Sector. The government has also created an inter-departmental task force called the Smart Grid Task Force (SGTF) with some key functions and responsibilities – to ensure awareness coordination and integration of diverse activities related to smart grid technologies, best practices and services for research and development of a robust smart grid ecosystem in the country; to collaborate on developing an interoperability framework and review and validate recommendations from the India Smart Grid Forum, and to coordinate and integrate other relevant inter-governmental activities.

At the recently held inaugural session of GridWeek Asia 2012 organized by IEEMA (Indian Electrical & Electronics Manufacturers’ Association) and Clasma Events and co-located at ELECRAMA 2012, Sam Pitroda, Advisor to the Prime Minister, Government of India and Chairman, Indian Smart Grid Task Force, said that the government is planning to set up a ‘Smart Meter Task Force’ that will look into modernizing the primitive, manual ways of calculating power usage in India.

As per Government of India estimates, the country needs 130 million meters by 2021. Towards this end, the Smart Meter Task Force will be entrusted the task of introducing Low Cost Meters priced between Rs. 1,000-1,500 each. These would be 2-chip meters that can be connected through GSM technology – basically a dumb meter that is smart enough. These Low Cost Meters will feed critical data into the Smart Grids and thereby provide an economical, large scale solution for India’s primitive power sector, as per Mr. Pitroda.

Government of India to finalize Rs. 500 crore smart grid pilot projects: The Ministry of Power is likely to finalize about eight smart grid technologies-related projects on pilot basis worth nearly Rs 500 crore in 2012. Around 14 state utilities have been asked to submit their plans for pilot projects related to smart grid technologies by January 2012. Once the proposals are received, the Ministry will select seven or eight projects on a pilot basis. Each project is expected to cost about Rs 50 to 60 crore. Around 50% of the total cost of a pilot project would be borne by the Ministry while the remaining would come from the utilities.

IBM explores India’s smart grid readiness: IBM has collaborated with the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) in India to create the country’s first smart grid project. Together they will create a cost benefit analysis for smart grid activities as part of the National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency (NMEEE). IBM plans to apply its deep services expertise to help determine smart grid readiness in India. The company will lay out a strategic assessment framework with an Indian perspective that looks at the adoption of new smart grid technologies, and identifies alignments in policy and regulatory frameworks to make each solution possible. The objective of the project is to help BEE determine global smart grid potential and also create toolkits for regulators and utilities for assessing benefits of smart grid investment decisions.

IEEE helps with India smart grid standards: The IEEE Standards Association is helping India address smart grid interoperability concerns and anticipates introducing interoperability standards later this year, which are expected to pave the way for a faster smart grid implementation.

Reform of the distribution sector: The Restructured-Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Program (R-APDRP) was launched by Ministry of Power (MoP) in July 2008 as a central sector scheme for the 11th Five Year Plan. The program is often characterized as a proto-smart grid plan. The scheme comprises of two parts – Part A of the scheme being dedicated to establishment of ICT enabled system for achieving reliable and verifiable baseline data system in all towns with population greater than 30,000 as per 2001 census (10,000 for Special Category Status). Installation of SCADA / DMS for towns with population greater than 4 lakh and annual input energy greater than 350 MU is also envisaged under the plan. The Ministry of Power has earmarked Rs. 10,000 crore for R-APDRP Part A.

Part B of the scheme deals with regular Sub-transmission and Distribution system strengthening and upgradation projects. The focus for Part B is on AT&C loss reduction on a sustainable basis.

Power Grid Corporation of India (PGCIL) is implementing two pilot projects to deploy smart grid technologies in the Northern and Western India grids. The project in the Northern Region grid involves the installation of synchro phasor based Wide Area Measurement Services (WAMS) technology at four locations across the grid in order to monitor and control the power system effectively. In addition, phasor data concentrators (PDCs) are being installed at the Northern Region Load Dispatch Center under this project. The other pilot project in the Western Region involves installation of WAMS technology at around 25-30 locations.

NDPL, a joint venture between Tata Power and the Delhi Government, is taking a lead role in smart grid initiatives in India. NDPL has integrated two General Electric smart grid technologies to deliver greater power reliability and quality. It has developed innovative methods of reducing energy loss and pioneered sub-station automation in India. In addition, NDPL and the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) recently announced the signing of a pact wherein USTDA will extend a financial grant of US$ 686,447 to NDPL towards implementation of smart grid technology in its distribution network.