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Home » Cover Story » RE integration and smart grids

RE integration and smart grids

June 26, 2024 6:46 pm

RE integration and smart grids
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Implementing smart grids from generation to consumer appliances is crucial for a sustainable energy future. This transition is urgent to reduce environmental impact, optimise operations, enhance reliability, cut costs, and improve efficiency.

New strategies for grid management incorporating smart technologies are required. Technological developments lessen the negative effects of gird on the environment, improve market operations, boost dependability, cut expenses, and boost general efficiency. We must employ smart networks at every stage, from consumer appliances to electricity generation, to shift to sustainable energy.

As renewable energy becomes more important, cities face challenges integrating it into their power grids. Smart grid technologies solve these challenges by improving energy management and ensuring a stable electricity supply.

Challenges of integrating into urban grids

Integrating renewable energy into urban grids presents several challenges, particularly with the unpredictable nature of renewable sources like solar and wind. The dense population in metropolitan areas like Delhi, with a peak demand of almost 8000 MW, creates a significant stress on network distribution and transformer substations. A strategic approach is needed to manage these challenges, considering demand-side measures to create an optimal demand curve that renewable and other sources can meet.

Pramod Kumar Singh, Senior Director of Research and Programmes, AEEE, shares an example where he mentions how residential air conditioning is expected to constitute 65–70 per cent of demand by 2030. Smart grid technologies can help mitigate these challenges by using advanced forecasting methods to predict renewable energy generation and demand better, managing demand more effectively, and utilising energy storage systems to store and release excess renewable energy when needed.

Smart grids use advanced control systems to manage and stabilise the grid, ensuring a reliable power supply even with the variability of renewable energy. Encouraging distributed renewable energy sources, such as rooftop solar panels, can reduce the load on central grids and improve energy resilience. By adopting these smart grid technologies and strategies, urban areas can better integrate renewable energy, enhancing energy resilience and sustainability.

Ensure grid stability

The systems need to be strengthened with cybersecurity measures to ensure strong control at the central or regional level. Still, the main challenge in renewable energy penetration is when it exceeds 20 per cent.

Harshitha Kumar, Chief Operating Officer of Radiance Renewables, shares a personal experience. Ten years ago, while working on the Andaman grid project, they added a 5 MW solar power plant, but the grid did not have a consistent way to monitor and control it. This caused power generation to drop suddenly when clouds moved, and the diesel generators could not compensate for the lost power.

In larger grids, increasing renewable penetration beyond 20–30 percent in India can cause similar issues. Solutions include energy storage, demand-side flexibility, and power generation flexibility. Policies should support interest rate transmission and power trading, and efforts should be made to strengthen system inertia.

To tackle the issues that happened in the Andaman project, Baldev Raj Narang, CEO of Clariant Power System Limited, says, “20 MW of solar power and 16 MW of storage can be added, ensuring power dips caused by cloud movement are balanced further; this allows for the integration of more renewable energy into the grid.”

Baldev concludes that urban solar installations face unique challenges like grid stability, power quality, and harmonic export. There are no effective regulations to control these issues, and state utilities must implement measures to prevent harmonics from being exported back into the grid.

Reactive power support is another major issue, with utility-scale plants having tariff structures mandating 33 percent support to ensure grid stability. Smaller installations, like industrial plants or rooftop units, also face tariffs to maintain support, and to address this issue, integrating microgrids and green hydrogen into smart grids can enhance energy resilience and sustainability.

Conversion of microgrids

Microgrids provide localised power generation and storage, reducing strain on the main grid. Green hydrogen can balance supply and demand fluctuations, especially when integrated with smart grid technologies. This convergence can create a more resilient and sustainable energy system, addressing challenges in both urban and remote areas.

In India, there needs to be more IT-OT convergence in the smart grid context, with critical infrastructure traditionally kept isolated to prevent cyberattacks. However, cybersecurity practices and advanced tools are being implemented, with cloud service providers proposing to host SCADA and DMS systems securely on their platforms.

Reshaping urban energy infrastructure

Optical ground fibre is used to communicate between transmission systems and distribution substations, but these networks are still kept isolated. Technological convergence is possible but requires significant effort, including background work, regulatory changes, and mindset shifts.

Milind Solanki, Vice President, EY, affirms, “By integrating IT systems with operational technology, urban grids can become smarter and more responsive, enabling better energy management and reliability. This integration can also help scale smart grid solutions across diverse urban contexts by providing a unified platform for monitoring and controlling energy systems and enhancing resilience and adaptability.” 

Research on sustainable energy systems has highlighted the limitations of traditional transmission systems, including high energy losses, high maintenance costs, and environmental degradation. This necessitates a shift towards more efficient and sustainable alternatives. Various government schemes, like the Revamped Distribution Sector Scheme, have proved helpful in promoting sustainability.  

RDSS

The Indian government has launched the Revamped Distribution Sector Scheme (RDSS) to reduce aggregate technical and commercial losses to pan-India levels. It consists of components like financial support for prepaid smart and system metering and training and capacity building for enabling and supporting activities.

Harshita concludes that the scheme aims to reduce aggregate technical and commercial losses in India by 15 per cent, focusing on quality, reliability, and affordability for end consumers.

The Revamped Distribution Sector Scheme (RDSS) comprises smart metering and grids. Smart metering is required for utilities to qualify for budgetary support from the Government of India or the Ministry of Power. However, implementation could be faster due to deadlocks, particularly payment security mechanisms. Once fully implemented, the focus will shift to demand response, utilising smart metre data from 96 blocks daily to enhance customer satisfaction, supply quality, and analytics. The scheme has identified around a thousand cities for implementing initiatives such as SCADA, distribution management systems, and outage management systems to reduce technical and non-technical losses in the current system.

Pramod added that the RDSS has installed around 150 million smart meters nationwide, with another 100 million planned. The main goal is to improve accounting and reduce losses, and smart meters are a key benefit. They can reduce theft, improve billing accuracy, and ensure timely billing.

Prepaid metering can enhance accounting efficiency, and smart metres are essential for demand flexibility programmes, such as time-of-day (ToD) tariffs, which can be set in advance or made dynamic in real-time. The success of ToD tariffs and demand response programmes will be the ultimate test of this initiative, as the next version of RDSS will likely include these measures.

Smart grid technologies are crucial for integrating renewable energy into urban grids, reducing environmental impacts, improving market operations, and enhancing efficiency. However, challenges arise due to unpredictable renewable sources, advanced forecasting methods, demand-side measures, and energy storage systems can help mitigate these issues. 

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Quotes

Pramod Kumar Singh, Senior Director of Research and Programmes, AEEE 

“Advanced cables enable efficient transmission and distribution while ensuring grid stability.”

Milind Solanki, Vice President, EY 

“Integrating IT-OT technology can make urban grids smarter, enhancing energy management and reliability.”

Baldev Raj Narang, CEO, Clariant Power System Limited.

“Incorporating microgrids and green hydrogen into this framework can enhance energy resilience and sustainability.”

Harshitha Kumar, Chief Operating Officer, Radiance Renewables.

“The Smart Grid necessitates utilities seriously considering an advanced distribution management system to implement and optimise new technology in the field effectively.”

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