Varied interests in the energy and power sector viz., CDM, carbon rating, Monitoring & Evaluation, Energy Management, Rural Development; Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy related matters; Demand Side Management (DSM), Energy Audits, Distributed Power Generation (Biomass, Wind,Solar and Small Hydro), Participatory Management.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


India: Journey from weakest grids to smart grids

Smart grids are essential to ensure a much easier and transparent way of power consumption.In an interview with CIOL, William Ash - strategic program manager, IEEE Standards Association, talks about the growth, investment, implementation, challenges and major policies that can optimize utility of smart grids.

What is the business case for smart grids?

India is home to one of the weakest electric grids in the world and is not designed for high-capacity, long distance power transfer. But with the implementation of smart grid technologies, it will address some of the significant challenges like stopping power thefts, achieving higher quality and reliability of power with lesser blackouts, efficiency, creating a fresh pool of skills and knowledge.

Perhaps smart grid technology can help reduce electricity transmission and distribution losses by 5-10 per cent annually. But there is much more involved in adopting smart grid, like there is a serious problem of theft of electric power, which needs to be addressed. Regulatory controls are needed. An intelligent grid is identified among the most important solutions to meet increasing demand for power and to ensure better energy efficiency. A smart grid will also enable the exploitation of huge potential it has in generation of renewable sources of energy.

Aren't smart grids expensive? How much does a smart meter cost?

Smart grid does come with a cost. But if we consider the opportunity/issues that will be addressed with the implementation of smart grid technology costs are relative compared to the benefit. A major benefit is to supply energy to the 20 per cent of the India population that currently does not have energy or the ability to reduce theft and increase efficiency. The smart metering technology cost varies depending on the technology and various levels of controlling and monitoring.

What are the major policies that can optimize utilization of smart grids?

The Government of India has identified distribution reforms as a key area to bring efficiency and commercial viability into the power sector. It has introduced multiple policies in the smart grid area including establishment of the Smart Grid Task Force, APDRP, R-APDRP initiative for distribution reform, DRUM India - Distribution Reform Upgrade, Management in four pilot sites (North Delhi, Bangalore, Gujarat, Maharashtra), BESCOM project in Bangalore towards Integration of renewable/distributed energy resources into grid, KEPCO a $10 Billion Smart Grid project in Kerala and others.

The Government of India has also announced a dozen of pilot projects for the country. In short, favorable government policies/investments and their implementation along with customizing successful US and western solutions to the Indian context can definitely help in optimizing development of smart grids in India.

What is the significance of standards in smart grids and how standards can help connect collaborative environment to the smart grid?

As the implementation of Smart Grid transforms India's energy scenario, the role of industry standards and system architectures has become more critical. System architectures and standards can provide a foundation that brings together the electrical and communication infrastructure, and forge a path to evolve technology to meet constantly changing needs. Together, they can provide a framework for development, a roadmap for progress, and a catalyst for continued industry investment. 

In a system as vast and diverse as Smart Grid, technical standards must be integrated across a variety of technology areas, including communications, IT, service delivery and power. Standards development is the engine that drives creation and deployment of Smart Grid, and conformance, interoperability, and performance which are vital to the success of India's energy. 

A common smart grid framework or architecture and technical standards are recognized as essential to realizing the potential benefits of the smart grid. IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) is at the forefront of the global smart grid initiative.

IEEE-SA is leveraging its strong technical foundation to develop Smart Grid standards, share best practices, publish developments and provide related educational offerings to advance technology and facilitate successful smart grid deployments throughout the world. IEEE-SA is collaborating with government and industry bodies, corporations and utilities as well as academia and we are keen to partner with multiple stakeholders as well as engage India's technical community to play an active role in development of global standards for Indian Smart Grid.

Listed below are some examples of smart grid standards that IEEE-SA is working on:

IEEE C37.118TM: PMU performance specifications and communications

IEEE 1547TM Series: Interconnections between utility and DR and storage

IEEE 1686TM -2007 - Substation IED functions and features

IEEE 1588TM - Time management and clock synchronization

IEEE P1703TM - End Device Tables communication over any network

IEEE 1901TM - Broadband communication over Powerline MAC and PHY protocols

IEEE 802 Family - Standards developed by LAN/MAN Standards Committee

IEEE 2030TM - Guide for Smart Grid Interoperability of Energy, IT, and Electric Power Systems and End Use applications

IEEE 1159.3TM - Applications using power quality data

IEEE C37.111TM -1999 - Applications using transient data from power system monitoring

IEEE C37.232TM - Naming time sequence data files for substation equipment

IEEE C37.2TM -2008 - Protective circuit device modeling numbering scheme

IEEE 1379TM -2000 Substation Automation - IEDs and RTU

How much is the Indian investment or India's involvement in terms of Smart grid surge?

India, in the last few years, experienced an impressive rate of economic growth. However, with its electrical grid, India loses money for every unit of electricity sold because it has one of the weakest electric grids in the world. 

For India to continue its path of aggressive economic growth, it needs to build a modern, intelligent grid. It is only with a reliable, financially secure Smart Grid that India can provide a stable environment for investments in electric infrastructure, a prerequisite to fixing the fundamental problems with the grid. 

Without this, India will not be able to keep pace with the growing electricity needs of its cornerstone industries, such as high tech and telecommunications sectors.

The surge in enthusiasm for Smart Grid in the country is good and in fact a positive, forward looking sign, but if it is not implemented with discipline and cooperation, it will struggle to even reach mediocrity. Industry standards are among the most important foundational elements and form the basis of a "plug-and-play" architecture. Smart Grid needs standards and practices that integrate intelligent equipment across not just a network, but across multiple diverse industries.

As India is still a developing economy, what lessons can it learn from emerging economies leapfrogging to smart grid systems?

India is among the largest and most promising markets in the world. A leader in the community of technology-developing countries, India boasts of world's second largest engineering and technology professionals' pool. Engaging India and its technical professional community is a must. 

IEEE-SA is actively growing its engagement in India to educate, promote and help evangelize IEEE standards interests in this important country.

While India's growing technological prowess is acknowledged widely, there are many technical professionals who are not aware of the importance of standards in technology development and innovation, nor actively participate in the standards process.

As India becomes the R&D/IT/design hub for multiple industries and verticals it is vital that IEEE engages the Indian technical community in standards development. IEEE looks forward to building the initial momentum in the smart grid technical arena. This is surely a boon not just for the country but for its large and growing community of technical professionals.

In countries like US, Europe and Australia, utilities are constantly implementing smart technologies into their grids. Among the developing economies, China is planning to increase the renewable energy proportion to 10 per cent of the total energy use by 2010, and 15 per cent by 2020. We also could see signs of active smart grid initiatives in Brazil, Africa and Middle East.

What are the major challenges faced in implementation or improvisation of smart grids?

Smart Grid is not going to be an easy task since the Indian power sector poses a number of barriers. Few key challenges are losses in transmission and distribution, power theft, inadequate grid infrastructure and low metering efficiency among others.

Transmission and distribution losses:Voltage and Var Optimization can reduce losses in electricity transmission and distribution, using real-time information, online system modeling, optimization software, and discrete device controls. The power industry has reached a stagnation point, and needs a complete switch to the next generation, that is automation. Moreover, as the technology is considered premium, its implementation in the Indian industry has been a bit slower than expected. In spite of the monetary issues, power utilities need to begin with basic automation systems, eventually upgrading to advanced systems. Seeing the growing power demand and market competence, this is the only way forward for the domestic power industry.

Power theft:Power theft has been a big issue in India. Overhead lines should be insulated and the LT overhead wires used for distribution of power should be replaced with insulated cables so that theft of energy by hooking can be minimized. The conventional energy meters should be replaced with digital temper-proof meters and prepaid card is also another solution to eradicate theft of energy.

Inadequate grid infrastructure: To continue along its path of aggressive economic growth, India needs to build a modern, intelligent grid. It is only with a reliable, financially secure Smart Grid that India can provide a stable environment for investments in electric infrastructure, a prerequisite to fixing the fundamental problems with the grid. Without this, India will fail to create an environment for growth of its high tech and telecommunications sectors.

Low metering efficiency:The commercial losses are mainly due to low metering efficiency, theft and pilferages. This may be eliminated by improving metering efficiency, proper energy accounting and auditing and improved billing and collection efficiency. Fixing of accountability of the personnel/ feeder managers may help considerably in reduction of AT&C loss.

Most of the companies are developing smart grid solutions, but are failing to adopt standards which quickly find them heading down to dead-end paths, in such a situation how will IEEE fill in the gap?

Smart Grid is a strategic area of focus for IEEE-SA globally and IEEE-SA has more than 100 standards and standards in development relevant to Smart Grid. India is ranked the third largest market for Smart Grid investments after US and China. There is initial momentum in this area with the formation of the Smart Grid Task Force. 

But India lacks a collaborative environment that works towards setting global standards so that Smart Grid can use interoperable technologies and become a reality faster and it is this gap that IEEE-SA aims to address as among the world's leading and most credible standards setting body. It is critical that India invests in collaboration and the creation of standards in this initial stage. 

A fragmented approach will result in loss of economy of scale and delay in the emergence of the Smart Grid industry. With this, IEEE-SA is dedicated to working with industry professionals and government officials and academia to work toward realization of the Smart Grid and as technology and markets continue to evolve. India will continue to be a focus area for the IEEE-SA as it engages with other nations.

IEEE-SA is actively growing its engagement in India to educate, promote and help evangelize standards interests in India. 

IEEE-SA has initiated steps towards engaging India and its professional technical community with initiatives such as formation of a Standards Interest Group (SIG) for India that will provide a platform for the Indian technical community in global standards development including those for Smart Grid; Outreach programs like Smart Grid workshops deliberating the technical and economic challenges and the role of standards in the Indian context.

Given the broad spectrum of technologies that will make up the Smart Grid, a wide variety of industry players such as manufacturers and power/utility companies see the opportunity to participate.

But to prepare for what could be a monumental market opportunity, they need a collaborative environment. IEEE-SA provides such an environment. In addition to standards development, education and creating awareness is also important for us in India. IEEE-SA is focused on increasing its engagement in fast growing markets like India, more so in the past two years. We have started raising awareness of our comprehensive standard development capabilities in India.

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Gopinath S
Chief Executive
nRG Consulting Services, Bangalore
+91 99161 29728


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