First, a very Basic question – what is “Smart Grid”?

As per Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) of USA, Smart Grid is defined to include a variety of operational and energy measures — including smart meters, smart appliances, renewable energy resources, and energy efficiency resources.

As per National Smart Grid Mission of India – A smart grid is an electrical grid with automation, communication and IT systems that can monitor power flows from points of generation to points of consumption (sometimes even down to the appliances level) and control the power flow or curtail the load to match generation on real-time basis. It involves two-way communication among the generating units, the control centres of distribution utilities and the consumers. The smart grid enables increased, predictability and control of generation and demand through consumer involvement, thus bringing flexibility in both generation and consumption, enabling the utility to better integrate intermittent renewable generation and reducing costs of peak power. A smart grid is cost-effective, responsive, and engineered for the reliability of operations.

If we break down the definition and dig it deep, we may say, it’s a combination of below:

  1. Real-time electricity data monitoring (for both consumption as well as generation)
  2. Control of the power flow (load curtailment)
  3. Demand forecasting
  4. Outage management
  5. Dynamic pricing
  6. Efficient resource utilisation
  7. Integrated operation of renewable energy sources of electricity generation
  8. Attain operational reliability

 

In order to understand Smart Grid, first, let’s understand a normal electricity grid.

Electricity gets generated at the power plant. It flows through the transmission lines. Finally, the distribution network ensures availability of this electricity to the end users such as home, commercial establishments, industries, government institutions, etc. Meanwhile, it gets sync with thus generated electricity from other sources. Synchronous grid means frequency across the grid is uniform. Any mismatch between generation and consumption will cause an imbalance in the grid, causing changes in grid frequency and voltage level.

Sub-Stations play very vital role in maintaining the grid stability. Sub-stations house mechanisms for stepping up or down the voltage levels, grid protection relays, circuit breakers, and measuring equipment such as CT/PT and energy meters (typically Tri-vector Meters).

Essentially in India, electricity generation, transmission and distribution are managed by different companies avoiding conflict of interest and fair resource utilisation. All of them do conduct business in line with CERC/SERC guidelines, and technical standards established by CEA. There are Load Dispatch Centres (LDCs) to ensure balance in the grid. LDCs issue dispatch schedule, in sync with the plant availability and capacity declared by the generation companies and demand submitted by the electricity distribution companies. In India, we have a nodal agency Power System Operation Corporation Limited (POSOCO) that handles National Load Dispatch Centre (NLDC). NLDC supervises five Regional Load Dispatch Centres (RLDCs), viz. NRLDC, SRLDC, WRLDC, ERLDC and NERLDC. Each of these RLDCs ensures integrated grid operation, analysis of tripping/disturbances, daily scheduling, and energy accounting of draw and dispatch.

In maintaining a healthy grid operation, data is of quintessential value. In absence of grid data:

  • LDC can’t handle the grid operation dynamically
  • GENCO can’t manage efficient power generation and plant maintenance activities
  • TRANSCOM can’t balance injection and drawl, having suitable power quality
  • DISCOMs can’t propose right tariff structure, ensure smooth receivable cycle, dynamic grid pricing and optimum resource utilisation

 

So concerns are:

  • Are we monitoring our Generation, Transmission, Distribution, and Consumption data dynamically?
  • Do the GENCOs, TRANSCOMs & DISCOMs are technically strong enough to embrace latest technologies available?
  • Do we have dynamic load control mechanism?
  • Are all our Sub-Stations fully capable of reading, storing and process all the data effectively?
  • Is our power infrastructure up-to-date?
  • Are we utilising our infrastructure and inventory at the possible most optimum level?

 

GoI tried to address above concerns one-by-one. First Accelerated Power Development and Reform Programme (APDRP) Scheme, to counter on extremely high Aggregated Technical and Commercial (AT&C) losses. Followed by Restructured APDRP (R-APDRP) to ensure healthy implementation of the technology. And now Smart Grid.

 

Now if I summarise Smart Grid in few simple bullet points, it’s:

  • 100% Automated Metering Infrastructure (AMI)
  • Advanced Outage notifications to the users about the same
  • Proper Electricity billing to the consumers
  • Optimal Asset Utilisation and Maintenance

So, don’t we have above? Yes, we have few things. We are in a dire need of few of them, and most of them are governed by the political will.

Still, the subject question is open to being answered!

 

We shall discuss more on APDR and R-APDRP in coming up sessions of this series.

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