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Smart Electricity challenge: meeting energy demands & grid resilience

June 26, 2023 1:09 pm

Smart Electricity challenge: meeting energy demands & grid resilience
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Experts in the power sector and energy analysts investigate how smart cities use digitalisation to improve energy distribution, use, and administration. Cities may gather real-time data on energy use, grid performance, and infrastructure efficiency by implementing sophisticated sensors, smart metres, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

In today’s rapidly growing population, India faces significant challenges in meeting the increasing energy demands while ensuring sustainable and efficient urbanisation. However, the convergence of digital technologies and electrification is paving the way for transformative changes.

Furthermore, digitalisation integrates renewable energy into smart grids for a more reliable electricity flow. However, implementing advanced analytics and machine learning further optimise energy generation maximising resource efficiency. The following discussion analyses how smart electricity and the entire concept enables greater grid flexibility and resilience, especially at such a stage where we are continuously experiencing high energy demand and supply

Meeting rising energy demands with power grid integration and advanced technologies

Our average annual consumption per capita ranges from 30 to 50 units. Telangana has approximately 2,600 units, while UP has nearly 100,800 rupees per unit annually per capita. If UP reaches Telangana’s level, its current demand of 28,000–29,000 MW would skyrocket to almost 80,000–85,000 MW. The increase in demand and generation will be substantial.

Mr. Rajiv Goel, President of Vivani Consulting Pvt. Ltd., highlights the need for a unified national power grid system. It would allow seamless power transfer between cities and regions, optimising resilience. Enhancing distribution network efficiency is crucial, especially if transmission-level issues persist. Power flows through paths of least resistance, leading to situations where a robust distribution network becomes vital. The occurrence of the 765 kV line connecting Gwalior and Jaipur exemplifies the challenges faced at sub-stations in Rajasthan. Adopting advanced technologies like GIS, SCADA, DMS, and OMS is essential to address these issues, as human intervention alone cannot suffice.

Mr. Amit Sharma, Director of Technical Consulting at E.Y.LLP India, emphasises the significance of “smart” in addressing the persistent challenge of bridging the gap between demand and supply. Intelligent operation, monitoring, and data collection can be achieved by leveraging smart devices, enabling better analysis. This issue remains ongoing for India and many developing nations, exacerbated by rapid population growth. To meet rising energy demands sustainably and efficiently, a thorough understanding of the underlying problem and implementing appropriate solutions are crucial. The emergence of smart and IoT devices brings us closer to finding these solutions.

Smart power revolutionising energy pricing strategies Renewable energy (RE) is proving to be more cost-effective than coal power. Rates for RE have settled at around three rupees per unit. However, the challenge lies in integrating RE with hydropower and coal power to meet the increasing demand. Currently, the rates for pumped storage projects (PSP) and hydropower are approximately ₹5.5, while coal power hovers around the same range. The issue extends beyond power purchase costs; additional costs, including losses and expenses incurred by DISCOMs (distribution companies), add up to around ₹3.5. As a result, the average billing rate (ABR) reaches about ₹8.5. This burdens the industry’s productivity and leads to higher tariffs for domestic consumers as more open access is granted.

Here, Mr. Rajiv stresses that these escalating rates are not aligned with consumer interests. “To reduce costs, investments must be made judiciously by addressing losses and improving efficiency. Transmission and distribution (T&D) losses should be kept below 5 per cent, ideally around 2.5 per cent. In comparison, commercial losses should be allowed to reach a minimum of 7 per cent in urban areas and across all state DISCOMs. Moreover, the current policy of expense pass-on, as outlined in Section 62, should be reconsidered”, he explains. Instead, a nominal cost per unit should be implemented, such as ₹1 for supply at 3311 kV and ₹1 for 25 paise at the low-tension level. This service level approach could help sustain tariffs for the next 4-6 years, making them more manageable for consumers and DISCOMs.

Advanced algorithms revolutionise smart grids.

Three key factors need to be considered to achieve optimal energy utilisation and efficiency across power grids and related operations. While tools, sensors, and IoT devices are readily available, their proper implementation is crucial. This necessitates higher collaboration among the government, industry, and academia to drive digitalisation, sustainability, and scalability of smart city solutions and other diverse areas.

Mr. Amit emphasises that achieving sustainability, efficiency, and resilience in energy infrastructure through digitalisation is the ultimate solution to long-standing problems that sectors such as energy, power, and smart cities face. The Ministry of Power has launched an ambitious RDSS (Revamped Distribution Sector Scheme) with a substantial allocation of around three lakh crores for the power sector. The focus extends beyond field infrastructure improvement to enhance DISCOM operations, ensuring the availability and sustainability of smart metering, smart grid, smart grading, and SCADA systems. These solutions will significantly benefit from the RDSS scheme, helping to bridge the demand-supply gap, reduce AT&C losses, and improve billing and collection efficiency. However, it is crucial to understand and effectively navigate the collaboration process between the government and industry stakeholders.

Mr. Satish Talmale, COO of IndiGrid, emphasises the essentiality of advanced communication technologies for achieving the vision of a unified national power grid. To realise the goal of “One Nation, One Grid,” intelligent SCADA, PMU, Weather Forecasting, and Predictive tools must be deployed at the substation and LDC levels. Leveraging IoT and sensors at the substation level enables comprehensive equipment information gathering and analysis and ensures their optimal performance, health, and asset replacement planning. Technology is vital in managing the interconnectedness of power system verticals (generation, transmission, and distribution) and ensures grid stability and resiliency.

Smart meters empower discoms by promoting dynamic pricing and shifting energy consumption.

The launch of the RDSS scheme by the Ministry of Power focused on smart metering and fostering smart consumers. This means that consumers are empowered to consider peak load pricing and use the power supply judiciously. Mr. Amit emphasises the significant role played by smart metering at the distribution transformer (DT) and feeder levels in bridging the demandsupply gap, improving consumer tariffs, and reducing the financial burden on DISCOMs. These tariffs can have a notable impact by factoring in power purchases and leveraging data from smart metres, such as consumer consumption patterns.

Mr Rajiv explains that while smart metres have been deployed in many states, it is premature to claim that we have achieved the status of a “Smart Metre State.” Smart metres entail extensive data analysis for various purposes, including power purchases, network monitoring, and network planning. Pricing dynamics can undergo significant changes. However, by altering the current system of determining power and retail tariffs for consumers, true flexibility can be achieved.

Mr. Satish expressed that DISCOM supplies are at a higher cost than captive renewable in either Solar or wind generation. This price arbitrage may be gained by installing a Solar system per station requirements and net metering arrangement. With policy intervention by Central and State governments, most states have implemented net metering systems that a utility may harness.

So, this twin advantage will help Utility to control their auxiliary power requirement better and reduce their electricity bill. Also, DISCOM will be relieved to a certain extent of their supply constraints and divert this power to rural consumers more effectively and productively.

Therefore, the Ministry of Power needs to guide state resident regulatory commissions through the tariff policy as a first step. The regulations must support flexibility at the state level, with policies provided by the central government and regulations formulated or modified by state commissions ultimately being notified by the state government. This entire process can take more than 12 to 18 months.

Smart meters are one of the key drivers in attaining excellence in smart electricity.

When the concept of smart cities was introduced, policymakers and guideline makers focused on replicating these advancements across various industries and sectors. All stakeholders were involved in this vision. Since the launch of smart cities in 2016, significant progress has been made in the industry. Although there is still a long way to go, we have the expertise to deliver these engagements and achieve incremental improvements through technology-driven digitalisation.

According to Amit, the power sector and smart metering industry have been absorbing these advancements to the best of their ability. “One challenge we face is the diverse nature of the existing systems. However, the positive impacts are becoming evident. Smart metering has had a significant impact on reducing AT&C losses and improving consumer experiences, as India achieved 97 percent electricity outreach compared to a decade ago. Digitalisation has enhanced lives and brought benefits to various aspects of smart metering”.

With the vast amount of data being captured by DISCOMs, transmission companies, and generation companies, it is crucial to recognise the true value of this data. By implementing analytics and appropriate tools, we can leverage this data to its fullest potential and enhance the lives of all stakeholders. This aligns with India’s vision of becoming a $5 trillion economy as long as we take the right actions and make necessary course corrections whenever and wherever required.

Smart electricity and advanced technologies enable greater grid flexibility and resilience – Mr. Rajiv Goel, President, Vivani Consulting Pvt. Ltd.

Smart meters empower DISCOMs by promoting dynamic pricing and shifting energy consumption – Mr. Amit Sharma, Director, Technical Consulting at E.Y.LLP India.

Advanced communication technologies are not a choice but necessary for achieving a unified national power grid. – Mr. Satish Talmale, Chief Operating Officer, IndiGrid.

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