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Smart Grid in India - Purpose, Promise & Possibility, Shri Sunil Wadhwa, Managing Director, NDPL

The Grid of today offers limited answer to the power challenges of the 21st century, viz., quality and reliability of power, cyber attacks, safety and security, capability to integrate with alternate energy sources (distributed renewable generation, plug in hybrid vehicles, etc.), Demand Response (DR) and so on. Hence, there is a need to move towards a grid which offers us flexibility and an ease of operations to address the above mentioned challenges.

The world today is already familiar with the emerging concept and definition of Smart Grid, which attempts to define, under various definitions, every technical asset and process available in the distribution and transmission universe. For instance, SMART GRID could be defined as a set of technology implementation that uses advanced sensing, metering, communication, control, computation and reporting technologies to facilitate generation and distribution of electricity more effectively, economically and securely to achieve desired balancing of supply and demand. In much simpler terms, we could look at Smart Grid as an integration of information and communication technology into the electricity transmission and distribution network which shall enable, through two-way digital communication technology, more efficient management of consumers' consumption behaviour with respect to electricity position, along with a more efficient use of grid to identify and correct supply-demand imbalances, integrate renewable sources of power and detect faults rapidly in a self healing process. Transition to a smart grid will allow utilities to better manage their network, limit electricity loss, prevent outages and provide information and tools (smart meters) to customers to optimise their own energy use. Further, with gradual movement to smart appliances, utilities as well as consumers will become better equipped to manage their demand in a real-time manner. This promise, if fulfilled, will adequately serve the purpose for which the Smart Grid is set for.

Given the present level of maturity of technology, it can be safely said that the Indian power sector has the opportunity to leapfrog to the next level considering the anticipated growth in the power sector. For the systemic growth of Smart grid in the country, India Smart Grid Forum and India Smart Grid Task Force have been set up under the aegis of the Ministry of Power, Government of India. While the India Smart Grid Task Force is an inter ministerial group, which will serve as government's focal point for the activities related to Smart Grid , the India Smart Grid Forum is a non-profit, voluntary consortium of public and private stakeholders entrusted with the objective of accelerating Smart Grid development in India.

However, one must bear in mind that the implementation of Smart Grid is not a simple exercise of replicating technology from one country to another and the country specific context, requirements and drivers need to be understood before undertaking the implementation of Smart Grid in India. The Power Sector in India is fraught with a lot of issues such as, power deficit scenario, inadequate transmission infrastructure and distribution utilities plagued with huge Aggregate Technical and Commercial Losses and weak financial viability due to, amongst various reasons, non-cost reflective tariffs. Indian utilities need to address challenges of high AT&C losses, payment default by consumers, encroachments on electrical network creating unsafe situations, theft of electricity and electrical equipments, distribution transformer failure and rising power purchase costs. Hence, the Smart Grid solution for Indian utilities needs to dovetail solutions to meet these challenges, which should be prioritised based on the saving potential. One would expect solutions such as, capability of remote disconnection on non-payment by consumers, automatic alarms when network is being encroached or when people engage in theft, which shall enable utilities to stop pilferage and avoid unsafe situations or accidents. Further, optimal asset utilisation can be planned with online data of the overloading of transformers and network, which can help reduce or prevent failures. This should also then provide an opportunity to give better value-added services to consumers.

The engagement of all stakeholders will be a vital first step to the successful adoption of the idea of the Smart Grid. Society needs to be convinced that smart grid is an effective tool to create a low carbon economy and that it will promote an even deployment of renewable energy sources. It will also allow efficient demand side management which, in turn, will reduce the need for further addition of fossil-based generation and hence, appropriate investments need to be made for Smart Grid. Smart Grids shall cover every element of the value chain from the utility through electricity markets to consumer applications. Customers are the single most important stakeholder in the success of smart grids and they need to be better informed of the advantages of a smart grid like improved reliability, efficient consumption management, which can, in turn, lead to lower electricity bills. The success of smart grid deployment depends quite a lot on the regulatory landscape of the utility / country. The best and most efficient smart grid products will not reap the benefits without the regulatory framework needed to make these attractive to the customer. One such regulatory intervention would be Time of Use Tariffs, which can play a pivotal role in driving consumer behaviour towards understanding and effectively using the benefits that Smart technology has to offer. Consumers can become aware of their consumption and can control the same during peak hours. Further with gradual shift to smart appliances it will empower the customers/utilities to remotely disconnect energy guzzlers during peak times. This would further help utilities in controlling the peak demand and lower power purchase costs and the customer in lowering his energy bill.

There needs to be an appropriate policy and some regulatory interventions to drive the smart grid adoption such as, incentives for utilities to pursue energy efficiency, demand response and conservation initiatives. US, for example, have provided a smart grid stimulus of USD 4 billion for promoting the cause of Smart Grids. There is also a need to assess the capability of Indian utilities to adopt a Smart Grid technology. Many of the State utilities in India lack the basic hardware and software resources needed to deploy a Smart Grid. Further, a huge capability and capacity constraint is envisaged as most of these utilities have a workforce with limited IT skills. Hence, moving to a Smart Grid would mean a paradigm shift in the operations of these utilities and thus, it needs to be planned in a sustainable manner. The good news however, is that the government of India's flagship initiative "Restructured Accelerated Power Development Reforms Programme" is playing a pivotal role in this case. Projects under the scheme are being taken up in Three Parts: Part covers projects for establishment of baseline data and IT applications for energy accounting / auditing & consumer services, Part - B covers System improvement, strengthening and augmentation, etc. and Part C will address the capability and capacity building needs of utilities. A total outlay of INR 50,000 crore has been planned under the R-APDRP initiative and this shall help in creating the foundation step for utilities to accelerate the deployment of a Smart Grid. Introduction of competent players through privatisation/ distribution franchisee route shall further the cause of adoption of Smart Grid.

Smart Grids are undoubtedly the 'Energy Internet' of the future and with various developments planned in the Indian Power Sector; it becomes inevitable to develop a sustainable roadmap based on a robust business case for Indian utilities. This would help them to adapt to the Smart Grid, which clearly would result in consumer benefits. The roadmap needs to be supported with suitable regulatory and policy interventions and buy in of various stakeholders involved in the process. Also, there exists a need to support the cause through appropriate fiscal stimulus as has been done in developed countries like, the US and is currently being done to promote renewable energy in India. While India is currently planning huge investments across the power value chain to add further generation capacities, improve transmission infrastructure, improve financial viability of discoms; it becomes imperative to plan simultaneously the investments towards Smarter Grids and make sure that we are able to use most of the energy we produce as they shall hold the key to a sustainable future.

Smart Grid initiative at NDPL

North Delhi Power Limited is a 51:49 Joint Venture of the Tata Power Company Limited (Tata Power) and the Government of Delhi distributing power to a populace of 5 million spread over 510 sq km. NDPL has to its credit an unprecedented Aggregate Technical and Commercial Loss Reduction of 74 per cent from opening level of 53.1 per cent in July 2002 to a level below 15 per cent in 2010. Since inception, NDPL has embarked upon an ambitious plan to implement high-tech automated system for its entire distribution network. Systems such as Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition System (SCADA), Automated Meter Reading (AMR), Geographical Information Systems (GIS), Distribution Management System (DMS), Distribution Automation (DA), Outage Management System (OMS) are the cornerstone of the company's distribution automation project. NDPL has also joined hands with some of the leading utilities of the world and IBM to become a member of Global Utility Intelligent Network Coalition (GUINC). This coalition includes utilities across the globe, all working together to accelerate the development of common standards, technology solutions and processes for intelligent networks resulting in consumer benefits. NDPL has initiated its Smart Grid journey and is in process of creating a "Smart Feeder Pilot" in its area of operations, which shall help in formulation of the appropriate business case.