Why India needs a Smart grid

  • July 27, 2010
  • Feature
By V. Lakshminarayana, CMC LimitedJuly 27, 2010 - India is on an accelerated growth path because of its government’s reforms to encourage foreign investment and measures taken to improve living conditions of its citizens. However, with its archaic electrical grid, India is losing money for every unit of electricity sold. Since India’s electrical grids are one of the weakest electric grids in the world, the opportunities for improvement are enormous. For India to maintain its economic growth there is an urgent need to build a modern, intelligent grid. It is only with a reliable, financially secure Smart Grid that India can provide a stable environment for investments in electric infrastructure, a prerequisite to fixing the fundamental problems with the grid. Without this, India will not be able to keep pace with the growing electricity needs of its industries, and will fail to create the required environment for growth. Smart grid--a system that can provide uninterrupted electricity to consumers across India, even in remote locations, while eliminating wastage of power units and therefore tripping-is perhaps the magic solution we have been waiting for. Smart Grid is a family of network control systems and asset-management tools, empowered by sensors, communication pathways and information tools. In summary, smart grid is an intelligent, future electricity system that connects all supply, grid and demand elements through an intelligent communication system. The backbone of a successful smart grid operation is a scalable, secured, and standards based open communication infrastructure that links the elements of the grid while participating in the decision making that delivers value to the utility, supply and demand entities connected to it. Smart Grid solutions enable utilities to increase energy productivity and power reliability while empowering customers to better manage their electricity usage and costs through real-time information exchange. This helps customers lower their carbon footprints, without having to compromise on their lifestyle, usage requirements. Smart grid impacts all components of the power system i.e., generation, transmission and distribution. Power generation is likely to move towards more renewable and distributed generation. Other changes in a distribution system include greater automation and switching, allowing for more physical control over which lines are opened or closed. Smart systems also allow better use of variable capacitor banks or static VAR compensators (which improve power quality from inductive loads like motors), automatic reclosers (which overcome temporary outages), etc. While these technologies are also used without a smart grid in place, a smart grid allows far greater control and measurement than available today, allowing greater optimization. On the Transmission front the most striking change would be the use of phasor measurement units (PMUs), which can precisely measure the state of a power grid. Given the improvement in measurement, communications, and analysis techniques (i.e., computing power), we can accurately measure the state of the system. This is important because now small deviations or jumps in operating parameters (such as the phase of the power) can let operators know when something is wrong. This is useful for preventing sudden blackouts. Most of the smart grid focus in a power system is at the distribution or consumption level. Demand is also what drives supply, so managing consumption helps the overall system. It is also the area requiring most effort given the vast distribution of customers and the highly heterogeneous systems in place. One of the important components of smart grids is smart metering. The older generations of smart meters were ones that allowed automated meter reading (AMR). This has now evolved into advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) where the meter not only measures, stores, and communicates loads and other power statistics in (near) real time, but it can also be a point for control (through connect/disconnect capabilities) and signaling to consumers and their devices for load control. The smart grid envisages giving a choice to a customer to decide the timing and amount of power consumption based upon the price of the power at a particular moment of time. Also, it will motivate customer to participate in the operations of the grid, cause energy efficiency, accommodate all generation and storage options and provide various properties for the grid such as self-healing and adaptive islanding enabling electricity markets to flourish. On the other hand, the generation and distribution companies can cut transmission losses, as the 'Smart Grid' will help them deal with the problem of power theft and T&D loses to some extent. Implementing Smart Grid would result in significant benefits to utilities. Typical figures for a 10,00,000 customer utility would be 21 per cent System Average Interruption Duration Index (SAIDI) improvement, customer bill reduction of 6 per cent, technical losses improvement by around 2 per cent in addition to other latent benefits like customer satisfaction, reduction of carbon footprints etc. According to Ministry of Power, India’s transmission and distribution losses are among the highest in the world, averaging 24% of total electricity production, with some states as high as 62%. When other losses such as energy theft are taken into account the total, average losses are as high as 50%. The revenue loss has been put at 1.2% of the national GDP. The Planning Commission report says that losses in transmission and distribution (T&D) in power sector would exceed Rs 45,000 crore for the fiscal ended March 31, 2010. Unless tariffs are raised, losses in 2010-11 may be Rs 68,000 crore. The central government’s ambitious “Power for All” plan calls for the addition of nearly 1.5 TW of additional power generation capacity by year 2012. A part of this additional requirement can actually be met by putting tabs on the waste and improving select areas of the existing system like
  • Planning of the distribution networks
  • Even loading of system components
  • Enforcement of reactive power support and regulation services
  • Improving metering efficiency and bill collection
  • Detection of Power theft
Again smart grid comes to the rescue here by facilitating in dealing with most of the above. To summarize, the move to a smarter grid promises to change the power industry’s entire business model and its relationship with all stakeholders, involving and affecting utilities, regulators, energy Service providers, technology and automation vendors, and all consumers of electric power. Smart grid is the magic solution we have been waiting for. References:
  • http://www.allbusiness.com/energy-utilities/utilities-industry-electricpower/14702669-1.html
  • http://www.indiaclimatesolutions.com/india-steps-future-energy-generation-going-smart-micro
  • http://www.powermin.nic.in/index.htm
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