Industry Analysis

Digitally influenced Indian transformers

There is a shift being driven by the creation of smart cities; digital transformation of transformers and by utilities opting for smart grids. The industry experts discussto give you an idea of the rapid change taking place, and also the area of concern amidst this gaining popularity of transformers.

The quality of transformers plays a vital role in the level of transmission and distribution (T&D) losses. Over the last 5 decades or so, with the active participation of international brands, transformers made in India are now of global standards.

Indian transformers are now global transformers
In terms of technological advancements, Indian players in the transformer market have manufactured an array of innovative power and distribution transformers, and transformers for traction, furnace, and converter duty. Minesh Dave, President-T&D, Tata Power says, “There is a constant pursuit towards improving the quality of transformers supplied to the power sector; lighter in weight, smaller in size, less flammable (heat resistant), reduced fluids, and increased capacity and safety.” In fact, indigenous sources constitute 85 per cent of the transformers in the Indian power sector.

The industry is also investing in R&D. The Indian Electrical Equipment Industry Mission Plan 2012-2022 launched in 2013 hopes to build a $100 billion business that will include all electrical equipment. Transformer form an important part of this sector that is identified for future growth.

Growth in the renewable sector is also giving a fillip to the transformer industry especially for inverter duty transformers and power transformers, for power evacuation and transmission. This sector has seen many new technologies to deliver quality and reliable power to the grid.

Dr Katsutoshi Toda, Executive Chairman, TTDI says, “In 2013, Toshiba entered into the T&D manufacturing business in India and established Toshiba Transmission and Distribution Systems (India) Pvt Ltd (TTDI) in Telangana. In line with the “Make in India” commitment, Toshiba enhanced the production capacity for transformers by 50 per cent by setting up a new manufacturing line for ultra high voltage transformers up to 1200 kV and improving manufacturing and operational efficiency of distribution transformers.

Sanjib Mitra, Country Head & Sr VP – Transformer Division, Electrotherm India is of the opinion that there are a lot of technology flow from Japan and other developed countries for modern manufacturing technique and scale of economy. Fine magnetic materials are also nowadays available to support manufacturing of low loss transformers. Mitra adds,” India Government has already mandated the use of BIS licensed transformers which helps in reduction of distribution loss to a great extent.”

Manufacturing processes has become further quality-oriented in terms of stage inspections and multi-stage measurements to ensure better accuracy in the final product. There is a lot of development in insulation material all across industries. The transformer being a high gradient power transfer product, use of high quality insulations has helped the industry to produce more compact and higher life products.

Challenges of the existing power distribution network
The power sector is facing a lot of problems in three of its basic areas of functioning: generation, transmission, and distribution. The quantity and quality of power that is being produced has its own set of problems. On top of that, there are technical glitches in power transmission; with the losses during transmission being the main challenge for the distribution segment that results in high T&D losses, including pilferage and also uneconomic tariff for some consumers.

The challenges related to power infrastructure in India is generally from its distribution, with high T&D losses being addressed through digitisation; offering tremendous opportunities for improving the quality and efficiency of power distribution.

Anil Kadam, GM, Business Development, Solution Architect, Schneider Electric says, “To overcome this, Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure solution drives process optimisation by leveraging IoT and cloud capabilities combined with automation, software and analytics, leading to optimal efficiency for power DISCOMs. This makes the energy value chain more smart and address reliability and resilience of ageing infrastructure, as well as the flexibility to accommodate a growing presence of Distributed Energy Resources (DER) connected to the grid.”

T&D network is the pillar of electricity flow in any country, thus, there is an ample need of aggressive reviews of loss mitigation technique all across national and state grid connections. Sanjib Mitra of Electrotherm India says, “PGCIL along with other central bodies such as Central Power Research Institute are already working towards less complexity and less dependency of power network across state borders.” However, distribution networks are still to be strengthened and low loss transformers are the only solutions there.

The existing distribution networks are still using old transformers and thus, incurring heavy loss. Usage of more and more level 2 transformers can reduce the distribution network losses by 20 to 30 per cent.

Internet of Energy
The biggest question is how to minimise T&D losses? This is where new technologies are helping. Dave of Tata Power says.” We are already seeing that power sector (including end users) moving away from large grid-based power to more distributed systems such as micro and smart grids. Here, managing T&D losses is relatively easier. We have technologies today that can remotely manage power distribution network.”

The emergence of the IoT (also called the Internet of Energy in the power sector) as an enhancing technology is playing a vital role in improving the power distribution infrastructure in the country. This new scenario is also shifting controls in favor of end users, who can now use easily available technology to have better control over their energy bills.Dave adds,” In essence, there are challenges in the distribution part of the power sector that are mostly legacy challenges. But things are changing in fundamental ways in which power is generated, distributed and consumed.

Finance, technical, lack of energy?
The financial health of power DISCOMs is a major worry for the whole country, which has incurred a staggering loss of Rs 82,000 crore in last 5 years. Dr. Toda of Toshiba estimates that the losses of DISCOMs have been rising over the years and will keep on increasing unless some stringent and disciplined policies are implemented.

Another major challenge of the distribution network is the high aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses, which is around 28 per cent. “Improper consumer database is the biggest obstacle for the discoms for proper billing and collection of revenues. There is a need for implementation of comprehensive IT interface system that can provide exact baseline data about their assets, consumers and finances,”says Dr. Toda. Lack of proper information hinders decisions in estimating losses, arresting theft or making investments.

All the DISCOMs, today, need better and energy efficient technology. Better infra, equipment, automation, consumer interfaces and services will lead to huge reduction in losses. Their focus will be on building a distribution network that is smart grid compatible and connects the proposed smart grid to the end consumer through smart metering and related technological interventions, concludes Dr. Toda.

Indian players in the transformer market have manufactured an array of innovative power and distribution transformer.
Minesh Dave, President-T&D, Tata Power

There is a need for implementation of comprehensive IT interface system that can provide exact consumer baseline data.
Dr Katsutoshi Toda, Executive Chairman, TTDI

High T&D losses are being addressed through digitisation.
Anil Kadam, GM, Business Development, Solution Architect, Schneider Electric

India Government has already mandated the use of BIS licensed transformers which helps in reduction of distribution loss to a great extent.
Sanjib Mitra, Country Head & Sr VP – Transformer Division, Electrotherm India

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