Digital substations can contribute to India’s energy needs: Pitamber Shivnani, President, Power Grids, ABB India
ABB India will deliver a 110 kv digital substation – a one of its kind – to India’s largest information technology park ‘Technopark’ in Kerala. In an exclusive interview with Debapriya Mondal, Pitamber Shivnani, President, Power Grids Division, ABB India talks about digital substations, their utilities, concerns of hacking India’s need for a more robust grid system and how ABB as a company can help. Excerpts:
Tell us more about the digital substation you are delivering to Technopark and how is it going to help?
ABB India will deliver a 110 kilovolt (kV) digital substation to Technopark, the largest Information Technology (IT) park in India, based on built-up area, located in the southern state of Kerala and spanning an area of 930,000 square meters. Due to the nature of the industry, the campus is highly dependent on reliable, round the clock power to serve the 350 companies employing more than 50,000 people. India is today a global hub for digital services and transitioning from conventional to the digital power grid is the need of the hour. Digital substations are more dependable and flexible while reducing life-cycle cost and physical footprint
What is the kind of opportunity of setting up more such digital substations across India?
India is the third largest energy consumer in the world. Digital substations can therefore contribute to India’s energy requirements by rendering multiple efficiencies. The scope for digital substations could be further strengthened with factors like the introduction of more renewable energy into the grids. It can also effectively cater to the power needs for railways, IT parks or industrial campuses. Thereby further enhancing the Make in India initiatives across sectors by contributing to reliable and quality power and providing access to electricity.
Have you set up and R&D facility to develop such substations?
This is part of our existing R&D focus areas along with a range of other next level software led solutions to power the energy revolution.
How is the current power grid infrastructure in the country? What kind of improvement does it require?
The clean energy ambitions of the government coupled with the technology vision will be key drivers to modernize the Indian power grid. India has one of the largest operating synchronous grids in the world. The various government programs from 24×7 reliable power to all with rural electrification, renewable energy focus, the National Smart Grid Mission are all initiatives which are contributing to the modernizing of the Indian grid. The concerted efforts around power quality improvement thereby reducing losses, transmission and distribution automation with focus on efficiency and smart metering are areas which will be in focus. Integration of renewables will require greater digitization of the grid.
How many power grid projects is ABB currently operating or in the process of setting up in India?
ABB has been associated with power grids since its inception. We have been fortunate to be part of landmark projects. A few recent ones would be the world’s first multi terminal UHVDC link to connect power from the hydel plants of the north east to Agra with reverse flow and the recent Raigarh Pugalur UHVDC transmission corridor which will cater to the integration of renewables, balancing the demand-supply patterns of south and central India. For Power Grid Corporation’s Bina substation pilot ABB is the only company to provide 1200 kV, world highest voltage rated transformer and circuit breaker designed and made in India. All these will entail most of the global ABB technologies to be engineered and manufactured in India.
What is ABB’s current investment in the country? How much does ABB plan to invest in the Indian market in the next five years?
ABB has been investing in India for decades. This is a continual process of upgrading or adding factories and production lines or new products, technologies etc. at an average capex of upto $100 million per annum in such various forms. While we are consolidating, we continue to invest in improving our facilities, adding lines for our factories and cost optimizing existing lines.
How is a digital sub-station different from the current ones being used now?
It will leverage digital communications via fiber optic cables that will replace traditional copper connections using analog signals and the digital substation will be IEC 61850 compliant, ensuring an open communication architecture. Digital Substation stands for a break-through innovation in substation technology, based on a seamless integration of state of the art IEC 61850 based control and protection IEDs with all relevant primary components and sensors of a modern substation.
What are the benefits of using a digital sub-station?
A digital substation is an example of our ABB Ability™ that connects our customers to the power of the Industrial Internet of Things and goes further by turning data insights into the direct action that “closes the loop” and generates customer value in the physical world. The digital substation is more compact, flexible, reliable, safer, cost effective over the lifecycle and simpler to maintain and extend.
As a key component towards smarter grids, where utilities continue to integrate increasing amounts of intermittent renewable energy sources, digital substations will also help improve safety thanks to a shorter decision time in case of an emergency.
Are such systems prone to hacking thereby threatening the whole power grid system?
No single solution can keep increasingly interconnected systems secure, so ABB works with customers to create a defense-in-depth approach where multiple security layers detect and deter threats – if, where and when they may arise.
How robust is India’s green corridor? Is it strong enough to evacuate the 125 Gigawatt renewable energy capacity that the government plans to add by 2022?
The green energy corridor project is divided into two parts and for it to realize its full potential it is important that the central projects as well as the inter-state transmission system and the real time monitoring system are duly executed. -The corridor is expected to address certain limitations of renewable energy like intermittency and variation in power quality. Under the project, renewable energy management centers are to be set up to predict renewable power generation and demand. These centers will also be interconnected with load dispatch centers to gather real-time information, as well as monitor and control capacity addition.