India to play leading role in popularising smart grid

“… evolving smart grids of the future is a going to provide huge business and employment opportunities,” remarks Reji Kumar Pillai, President, India Smart Grid Forum
 India Smart Grid Forum (ISGF) is a public private partnership initiative of Ministry of Power (MoP), Government of India for accelerated development of smart grid technologies in the Indian power sector. The forum helps the Indian power sector deploy smart grid technologies in an efficient, cost-effective, innovative and scalable manner by bringing together all key stakeholders and enabling technologies. In an exclusive interview with EPR, Reji Kumar Pillai shares how ISGF is advocating in promoting smart grid technology in India.
The smart grid market worldwide is forecast to witness a CAGR of 26.6 per cent, reaching $125 billion by 2017. Where do you want place India in the growth trajectory?The emergence of India as a strong economic power is receiving widespread recognition in the world. Although we operate the fourth largest power system in the world, one-third of our population have no access to electricity and our per-capita consumption of electricity is one-fourth of the world average. Transmission and distribution losses in India are also quite high — about 26 per cent in distribution and more than 7 per cent in transmission. The Government of India and other stakeholders have realized that by implementing incremental improvements in a business as usual scenario, we will not be able to provide 24/7 electricity to all households in the country. It requires innovative strategies, breakthrough technologies and bold decisions.
In 2013, the government issued “Smart Grid Vision” and “Roadmap for India”. The newly elected government is committed to provide 24/7 electricity to all households in the next 5 years and has recently launched three focused programmes towards this objective with a total capital outlay of $14 billion.
The new government has also announced ambitious programmes to build 100 smart cities on fast track and add 180 GW of renewable energy (100 GW solar, 60 GW wind and 20 GW other RE) generation capacity by 2022. Out of this, 40 GW is proposed to be added at the low-voltage grid from rooftop PV. This is going to change the picture of the grid dramatically. Also, 100 smart cities programme will focus on building smart grids in those 100 cities. The erstwhile R-APDRP being re-packaged as IPDS and extended to 500 more towns where as, even in the DDUGJY, there are components of smart meters and ERP. With all these ground breaking initiatives, India has already emerged as the prime destination for smart grids and smart cities. If all these programmes move ahead even at average pace, these initiatives will change all the market predictions and put India in the forefront of smart grid market.
How is ISGF helping promote the smart grid technology in India?The India Smart Grid Forum (ISGF) is a public-private partnership of the Ministry of Power, Government of India, for accelerated deployments of smart grid technologies. Apart from assisting the Power Ministry in formulation of policies and programmes for smart grid development, we offer advisory services to state utilities, regulators and other ministries. We also impart training, outreach and capacity building programmes to all stakeholders. In addition, we undertake research in new technologies, work with standards bodies, build new business models and work with various stakeholders to undertake technology demonstration projects in furthering the cause of smart grids.
The biggest challenge in the power sector in India is transmission and distribution losses. What measures the ministry should apply to revamp transmission and distribution systems in India?In the traditional electric grid, the ability to monitor power flows and control it in real time is limited to the high-voltage network which is equipped with automation systems. In the low-voltage network, the power system operator has no visibility on who is consuming how much electricity when and where. In a smart grid with smart sensors and smart meters connected to computers in the control room, it is possible to remotely monitor and control the flow of electricity in real time to every customer or even to every smart appliance.The example of Delhi DISCOMS proves that technology intervention can reduce distribution losses. In Delhi, the losses have come down from 50 per cent to below 15 per cent over the past decade. Through APDRP, R-APDRP, RGGVY and several other state level programmes, we could reduce the T&D losses in the in the country by over 10 per cent during the past 10 years. This amounts to 95 billion kWh savings in 2013-14 alone.
The “Smart Grid Vision” and “Roadmap for India” is a comprehensive policy directive from MoP that envisages complete transformation of the grid in the next several years.
In order to ensure smooth large-scale deployments, 14 smart grid pilot projects have been approved for different distribution utilities by the Power Ministry. A “National Smart Grid Mission (NSGM)” is expected to be launched soon that will have the overall responsibility to bring all stakeholders for successful implementation of the policies and programmes envisaged under this roadmap.
Smart energy will also be growing at a CAGR of 28.7 per cent from 2012-2025. What role does smart grid play in a smart energy?The electric grid is on the threshold of a paradigm shift. After 100 years of centralised power generation and creation of massive electric grids that span the globe, the shift is towards de-centralised generation. In the past 5 years, the picture of the grid has changed dramatically in most geographies.
This evolving smart grids of the future is a going to provide huge business and employment opportunities, and India can leverage the demographic advantage to play a leading role in this new world.
Although the need for smart gird is apparent, the decision making process is slow. How is your company planning to overcome this as well as other challenges?Smart grids are a new concept, and companies around the world have just started gaining experience in smart grid technologies. Smart Grids span multiple functionalities and options — each utility could be different based on legacy, priorities, business case and so forth. There cannot be a Systems Requirement Specification (SRS) template like that of R APDRP for smart grids. Need flexibility and dedicated specialised manpower to handle the diverse, complex and evolving needs of technology, standards, policy, regulations, innovation and so forth.
There is urgent need for a debate to arrive at consensus of all stakeholders in formulating innovative business models and procurement procedure than can transcend the limitations L1 bid and draconian contract clauses drafted in the 1950s for civil and mechanical projects which are stumbling blocks for buying new technologies in the 21st century. ISGF is strongly advocating for such a dialogue at all levels.

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