Getting smarter with smart grid

Smart grid is the key solution to country’s decade-long energy issues, and the time has come for India to upgrade
Though it is the third major transmission and distribution network in the world, India still faces a number of challenges, be it power theft, supply shortfalls, or low metering efficiency. In order to tackle these issues, India needs a technology upgrade, and may be smart grid is the key solution to these problems.
Smart grids have been successfully installed in countries like USA, Australia and Canada. In India, smart grid may offer an opportunity to jump into a vastly improved electricity atmosphere. Smart grid technology will not only give efficient energy security but also solve serious energy issues in the country.
Being SmartIndia is a developing country; therefore, chances for building smart grids in India are immense. Cities all over the country are gearing to adopt smart grid technology but also facing hurdles in its installation. One of the hurdles in its installation is smart grid policy and regulations. The central government is most actively involved in generation and transmission domains as well as policies.
Any technological advancement cannot take place in isolation. It requires a conducive regulatory climate that seamlessly integrates existing policies and creates scope for new ones in a sustainable and secure manner. Smart grid is no exception.
Policy and regulations are considered as a barrierThe regulatory framework plays a key role in introduction and widespread implementation of the smart grid technologies in any country, and this is also applicable in India. In most countries, policies and rules are encouraging implementation of smart grid. The government should emphasise on favourable regulations so that these policies do not pose as an obstacle in implementation of smart grid technology.
According to Praveer Sinha, CEO and ED, Tata Power Delhi Distribution Ltd., “It is a fact that the development of a dynamic regulatory environment is a pre-requisite to stimulate the market towards smart grids in India. Providing clear signals to different stakeholders such as utilities, investors and technology providers of the direction of the market and thus providing some certainty and confidence for the necessary investments. As such, policy and regulations are not to be considered as a barrier in implementation of smart grids. Regulators and government have very much acknowledged the need for developing reliable, resilient grid which can meet the growing power demand and the fact that there is no hindrance as far as technology is concerned.”
He further added, “In fact, today’s policy and regulations in most countries are favourable toward implementation of foundational smart grid technologies like supervisory control and data acquisition system (SCADA), distribution automation (DA) and communication technologies etc. as these technologies give immediate benefits to improve reliability of power supply in an electricity distribution company. However, policies and regulations need to support implementation of technologies like smart metering, demand side management, distributed energy resources etc. which involve unique complexities and considerable change management to reap short- and long-term benefits of smart grid technologies.”
Reji Kumar Pillai, President, India Smart Grid Forum said, “In order to leapfrog to a modernised grid that can ‘transform the Indian power sector into a secure, adaptive, sustainable and digitally enabled ecosystem that provides reliable and quality energy for all with active participation of stakeholders’, it is important that not only DisComs, but also the regulators and consumers are also on board and see the big picture. This needs a strong policy backing.”
The Smart Grid Vision and Roadmap for India, released in Sep 2013 by the Ministry of Power (MoP), is the main policy directive that has set on motion the pace for smart grid developments in India. A model regulation is under preparation by a committee constituted by MoP and the first draft was already presented to the Forum of Regulators (FOR) in December 2013. This is expected to be finalised soon.
Policies critical in optimising smart grid deploymentPolicies and regulations need to be developed in a way that deployment of smart grid becomes unproblematic. Mr Sinha believes policies and regulations are critical for smart grid deployment. “Smart grid technologies like advance metering infrastructure (AMI), demand side management (DSM), business analytics, convergence of information technology and operational technology etc. will definitely improve productivity and efficiency and help in loss reduction and better revenue management. Also, it will be necessary to have policies and regulations in place to motivate customer to participate in demand management with the introduction of net metering, dynamic pricing for the time of the day metering etc. We will also need regulatory support to maintain grid discipline for distributed energy resource (DER) where generation is built up at the endpoint, i.e. customer bi-directional flow of power.”
Giving in his perspective Mr Pillai said, “Every new technology adoption goes through a cycle of early adopters, early followers, late majority and the laggards. Electricity being a concurrent list subject, the MoP along with CEA and CERC and other central level organisations can only play an enabling role and handhold the state utilities. It is the state governments, regulators and discoms that have to take main responsibility.”     He further added, “The smart grid vision and roadmap for India has envisaged several aggressive targets for deployment in a phased manner. However, it is upto the states to come up with state-specific smart grid roadmaps. Herein, lies the bottleneck – each state in India has a different political and regulatory climate which heavily influences how electricity sector is governed. Thus, smart grid deployments across the country would be chequered and would witness different pace of progress.”
Influence on companiesGovernment creates policies and regulations and from time to time modifies these policies and regulations, forcing companies to change the way they operate. These policies also cause companies to suffer sometimes. Experts feel, policy makers will have to focus on facilitating development of standards as well as gauging the technical feasibility of large capital projects in the near term.
“Policy makers will have to ensure appropriate supply and demand resources across a much wider range of assets …,” explained Mr Sinha.
He also added, “Broadly smart grid applications can be grouped into three categories: advanced metering, grid applications and customer applications. They will increasingly need to evaluate social benefits as part of regulatory cases and be open to supporting more innovative pricing and programs to influence customer behaviour. Development of the smart grid and its potential value needs to be captured. Utility needs to give more access to regulator for monitoring performance and customers for their energy consumption information.”
Mr Pillai believes policy and regulatory issues are minor roadblocks, “A good policy environment always encourages investments. Testimony to this fact is progressive states such as Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka etc. Smart grid deployments will majorly be industry driven and policy and regulatory issues are but a minor roadblock that can be smoothened out as understanding of smart grids and its benefits grows.”
Political and economic frameworkWhile progressing toward smart grids, forming new political or economic frameworks may help. In order to encourage incentives for investment, the existing policy and regulatory frameworks may need to change. The new framework must meet the requirements of the consumers and strategise a business plan so that societal goals are achieved.
Mr Sinha stated, “There should be a feasibility study to draw roadmap for implementation of smart grid technologies and how to integrate with business process. It will form political and economic framework for the government, regulator and utility to build long-term business plan with capital investment strategy and disseminate the benefits to society.”
“Forming a political and economic framework will help, it is proposed to launch a National Smart Grid Mission (NSGM) which will have representation of all stakeholders and Ministry of Power is working towards the blue print of the NSGM,” Mr Pillai observed.
The responses from the Regulators from some of the forward looking states have already given in-principle approval for the smart grid pilot projects. Central and state governments are jointly developing policies with academia and non-governmental research and development organisations. These policies need transparent, simple regulatory framework that can drive smart grid development in India.
Smart grid deployments will majorly be industry driven and policy and regulatory issues are but a minor roadblock that can be smoothened out as understanding of smart grids and its benefits grows.- Reji Kumar Pillai, President, India Smart Grid Forum
It is a fact that the development of a dynamic regulatory environment is a pre-requisite to stimulate the market towards smart grids in India- Praveer Sinha, CEO and ED, Tata Power Delhi Distribution Ltd

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