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POV : IoT technology can help utilities in boosting T&D efficiency

By Mr. Prakash Chandraker, 04 Jan 2017, Delhi
Industry : Power

In an attempt to keep Infraline Energys’ readers abreast with the key issues and challenges engulfing the sector, Infraline Energy tries to bring forth the opinion of key personnel whose decisions and opinion play a vital role in shaping the sector. Please find below excerpts from the interview that Infraline Energy conducted: With India having one of the lowest per capita electricity consumption, losses during transmission and distribution of power is criminal. The country needs to save each and every bit of power for it to achieve the goal of 24x7 power supply. In this regard, Prakash Chandraker, Managing Director & Vice President, Schneider Electric Infrastructure Limited, feels that Internet of Things (IoT) can be a game changer for the country in stemming its high T&D losses.

Rakesh Sarin,Managing Director,Wartsila India

Rakesh: The biggest challenge is that the universal service obligation is not followed in this country. There was a commitment from the government of India that there would be power for all by 2012, but that promise is nowhere being fulfilled. Today the industry is suffering because of this; companies are forced to install captive power plants to ensure regular power supply. If we have that sorted out and the utilities are asked to provide reliable power then it will solve many of our problems. Electricity is the biggest multiplier and one unit lost means a loss of `32 to `122, which means we need to make our system much more robust.

Mr. Prakash Chandraker,Managing Director & Vice President,Schneider Electric Infrastructure Limited

Even as India battles demand and supply mismatches in power, transmission and distribution (T&D) losses continue to be the highest globally. While some estimates put T&D losses at around 20%, others peg this as high as 27%. Either figure is too high, particularly when the Centre has ambitious power production targets and plans to ensure power for all by 2019. Most losses are either due to inadequate infrastructure and technical inefficiency that triggers higher losses or result from theft. The latter occurs when power is pilfered directly from power lines or by bribing officials during meter readings, while others tamper meters to minimize billing. Lessons from the EU Whatever the cause, it is possible to curb such power losses via Smart Grids and the use of IoT (Internet of Things) technology. That such solutions are workable can be gauged from the European Union, where yearly T&D losses only average 6%, yet represent an annual wastage of 7 billion Euros. EU power distributors are therefore mandated by new regulations to enhance efficiency across networks, while integrating alternate energy generation and electric vehicles into their grids. If IoT technology and Smart Grids can offer solutions to address 6% T&D losses in the EU, the impact can well be imagined if these are deployed to combat India’s 20%-plus T&D losses. Indeed, with smart technology, it’s possible to plan, measure and boost T&D efficiency. This can be done by installing equipment and software that monitors and communicates across the distribution path. It is then important to use the right strategies via the IoT and associated smart technologies to achieve the goal of minimal power losses. Consider active strategies to control energy losses. Active energy efficiency denotes reduction in energy consumption via measurement, monitoring and controlled usage. Dynamic network reconfiguration and voltage optimization are prime examples. By deploying these strategies, power utilities can solve some of their problems. Examples of three issues and their relevant strategies will help better understand how this can be done. In issue one, technical losses in MV (medium voltage) networks account for around 3% of distributed energy, denoting a major loss. In strategy one, by the use of algorithms, an Advanced Distribution Management System optimizes network configuration, relieves overburdened network segments and helps minimize losses and load unbalance in high and medium voltage substation transformers and feeders. Besides, this helps power utilities reach an optimal voltage profile and enhance voltage quality. In issue two, distributed energy resources – distributed generators (renewable or backup), controllable loads used for demand response and energy storage (electrical or thermal) – can produce rising and falling voltage simultaneously in different parts of the grid. Additionally, mandatory monitoring of this voltage in older substations can be costly and complex. In strategy two, power utilities can tweak the voltage control infrastructure. To procure accurate, real-time voltage data, cost effective, self-powered, communicating IoT voltage sensors at the MV/LV substation level or along lines can be installed by the utilities. ‘Virtual’ sensors can also be used to estimate MV output based on easily accessible data. Also, power utilities can install actuators with smart transformers along MV lines to hike or lower the voltage. Issue three relates to estimates that indicate 90% of non-technical losses take place in LV (low voltage) networks. Assessing improvements would mean identifying and monitoring the losses. Given the high number of points, however, this is expensive. In strategy three, the utilities can use Smart meters, which could work as additional sensors in tracking network energy performance data. Comparing the pattern of measured energy on an LV feeder to the patterns of energies delivered by smart meters pinpoints the exact location of losses as well as helps in faster detection and location of the LV network outages for improved reliability. Smart Grid Roadmap Nonetheless, using IoT and connected technology strategies won’t be easy without understanding how to do so, step by step. Essentially, there are four major steps to distribution network efficiency. The first point to remember is that utilities cannot rely upon outdated technology in the Smart Grid era. With the IoT and allied technologies already a global reality, utilities can upgrade their present infrastructure to overcome numerous modern distribution network challenges. It is important that power utilities in India undertake the above measures to drive higher operational efficiencies. While these steps may inflate short-term capital costs, the long-term advantages – such as lower operating expenses, reduced energy wastage as well as a more integrated and flexible network – are well worth the early investments.

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