Smart so­lu­tion to In­dia’s en­ergy woes, by PK Ranade, Chair­man and Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, Ad­vance Me­ter­ing Tech­nol­ogy Ltd.

Smart grids can play a key role in ad­dress­ing power sup­ply and de­mand chal­lenges, while low­er­ing costs as well as car­bon emis­sions.

Power Watch India - - CONTENTS - By PK Ranade The au­thor is Chair­man and Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, Ad­vance Me­ter­ing Tech­nol­ogy Ltd.

Power short­ages and en­ergy se­cu­rity have been peren­nial chal­lenges for In­dia. Over the decades, the coun­try has been overly de­pen­dent on coal-fired power plants. While this has helped meet some of its en­ergy re­quire­ments, it has added an­other grave di­men­sion: Global warm­ing and cli­mate change, which are ex­ac­er­bated by pre­dom­i­nant use of heav­ily-pol­lut­ing coal-based power plants.

In re­cent years, the emer­gence of clean en­ergy sources such as so­lar and wind power, among oth­ers, has of­fered a ray of hope. Th­ese could not only meet en­ergy re­quire­ments but are clean sources, un­like fos­sil fu­els. The emer­gence of var­i­ous smart tech­nolo­gies has fur­ther aug­mented this prom­ise. With smart grids and smart me­ters, it may be pos­si­ble to not only meet elec­tric­ity re­quire­ments but do so in a man­ner that pro­motes ef­fi­cient util­i­sa­tion of gen­er­a­tion ca­pac­ity and min­i­mal wastage.

Clean yet chal­leng­ing

Clean en­ergy sources have their own set of chal­lenges. For ex­am­ple, in­te­grat­ing so­lar and wind power into con­ven­tional elec­tric­ity grids can present spe­cific dif­fi­cul­ties. Th­ese in­clude in­ter­mit­tent power gen­er­a­tion, stor­age costs and in­ad­e­quacy of proven dis­tri­bu­tion con­trol mech­a­nisms that could man­age a high gen­er­a­tion base.

The emer­gence of smart grids prom­ises to ad­dress th­ese chal­lenges. Smart grids or in­tel-

ligent en­ergy net­works can fa­cil­i­tate en­ergy con­sump­tion op­ti­mi­sa­tion via grid-in­te­grated real-time com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween nu­mer­ous grid el­e­ments of gen­er­a­tion, trans­mis­sion, dis­tri­bu­tion and con­sump­tion. While some as­pects of th­ese sys­tems have been suc­cess­fully im­ple­mented, the com­plete and seam­less roll­out of an in­te­grated sys­tem that seam­lessly man­ages and bal­ances the nu­ances is still a chal­lenge. This is due to the lack of a sin­gle op­er­at­ing stan­dard and def­i­ni­tion on which all the de­vices in the en­ergy value chain op­er­ate.

Tra­di­tion­ally, elec­tric­ity grids have de­pended on con­ven­tional sources of power, such as coal and gas fired plants to pro­vide the base load power and to bal­ance out any fluc­tu­a­tions in the sup­ply of power. In In­dia, coal has been the pre­dom­i­nant fuel for decades. In the tra­di­tional model, util­ity providers usu­ally opt for higher de­mand pro­vi­sions based upon his­tor­i­cal peak-load pat­terns. When de­mand rises above aver­age, power providers gen­er­ally use coal fired plants to meet this de­mand. But, peak­load power pro­vi­sion­ing wastes fuel if aver­age de­mand is lower than the peak. The na­ture of how tra­di­tional power plants op­er­ate dic­tate that elec­tri­cal en­ergy should be con­sumed at the time of gen­er­a­tion. The grid level of en­ergy stor­age is cap­i­tal in­ten­sive and can have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on the unit cost of en­ergy.

Given the par­a­digm shift to­wards re­new­able en­ergy sources, the ris­ing de­mand for power in all ge­ogra­phies and the daily and sea­sonal in­ter­mit­tency of wind and so­lar PV, it be­comes dif­fi­cult to match power sup­ply to peak de­mand at all times. To over­come this mis­match, it is im­por­tant that the de­mand and sup­ply are matched as closely as pos­si­ble by de­ploy­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy i.e. two-way com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween power grids and con­sumers’ premises. Ad­di­tion­ally, in­cen­tives can be given so that con­sumers de­fer/ time-shift (resched­ule) us­age as per the nat­u­ral power sup­ply curve of the day. This in­cen­tive could be through vari­able pric­ing or other means such as de­mand side load load man­age­ment or neg­a­tive load pric­ing. Such steps could boost bet­ter util­i­sa­tion of avail­able ca­pac­ity and en­cour­age the adop­tion of re­new­ables into the grid power mix.

To bring about the above sce­nario, con­stant flow of me­ter­ing in­for­ma­tion from users’ premises to the power grid is cru­cial. This would en­able the spe­cific de­mand to be iden­ti­fied and con­trolled in­for­ma­tion on pric­ing and other rel­e­vant points sent to users’ me­ters to en­cour- age or drive them into adopt­ing de­mand pat­tern that is bet­ter suited to the power sup­ply curve of a re­new­able sources rich grid.

Cost and car­bon ben­e­fits

Real time man­age­ment of de­mand via smart grid tech­nol­ogy holds the po­ten­tial of al­low­ing great sav­ings in en­ergy gen­er­a­tion and trans­mis­sion while at the same time al­low­ing for a greater in­te­gra­tion of re­new­able en­ergy into the power mix. This may be achieved by de­fer­ring some of the peak power de­mand to off-peak hours. Ca­pac­ity and trans­mis­sion costs can also be op­ti­mised with this tool.

It is against this back­drop that pro­duc­ers need to ei­ther up­grade and mod­ernise their grids or have th­ese re­placed with smart grids, in­clud­ing in­stal­la­tion of smart me­ters at con­sumers’ premises. Such changes may en­able sav­ings of up to 30% through less power con­sump­tion and lower en­ergy bills. Other ben­e­fits apart from direct cost sav­ings in­clude re­duc­tion in over­all car­bon emis­sions, in­creas­ing power as­set util­i­sa­tion and in­te­gra­tion of re­new­able en­ergy sources, lower power black­out prob­a­bil­ity and low op­er­a­tional costs due to au­to­ma­tion in me­ter­ing of en­ergy.

Par­tial up­grades may not pro­vide com­pre­hen­sive ben­e­fits that a com­pre­hen­sive smart grid so­lu­tion can of­fer. With In­dia em­bark­ing on the ‘Smart Ci­ties’ pro­gramme, it is a bet­ter strat­egy to de­ploy com­plete smart grids to help fa­cil­i­tate 24x7 power for th­ese ci­ties. Be­sides mone­tary and re­source sav­ings, smart grids en­able bet­ter safety and higher pro­duc­tiv­ity for users. Al­though the high ini­tial in­vest­ments in ac­quir­ing smart grids could be daunt­ing for some states, with nearly 30% sav­ings in en­ergy ex­penses, there is a tan­gi­ble pay­back ben­e­fit that makes such a sys­tem bank­able.

En­ergy se­cu­rity and 24/7 power across In­dia will also al­low the na­tion to meet am­bi­tious GDP tar­gets while ar­rest­ing the na­tional green­house emis­sions. Smart grids are un­doubt­edly the fu­ture for In­dia as it seeks to achieve in­fra­struc­ture and other de­vel­op­men­tal goals in the short­est pos­si­ble time.

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