Digitalisation and tech upgradation are imperative for energy management and development of the power sector in India.
Innovation and ingenuity are deeply ingrained in the Indian DNA. This $2.5 trillion economy is reaping the benefits of widespread modernisation, adoptin of cutting-edge technologies, and global best practices. This upward socio-economic mobility of the Indian population is contributing to global economic growth. In the words of the World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim, India is one of the few bright spots on the world economic map today.
What matters now is to keep the momentum going on the road to inclusive prosperity. To fuel this march, it is imperative that India focuses on its infrastructure. For that to happen, the need for a prerequisite called ‘uninterrupted power supply’ cannot be overemphasised. India is currently the seventh largest market in the world in terms of transmission and distribution and has the highest growth rate of 7% per annum. In order to support this demand in a sustainable manner, it is required that India multiplies its transmission reliability and last-mile power delivery capacities.
From developing insight into consumer behaviour, customising solutions for end users, to plugging gaps and spillage in the transmission systems by purging malpractices, the future of energy management lies in the integration of digital technology with the existing infrastructure, and strategic usage of data across applications.
What is possible through the fusion of digital with the existing power infrastructure is exemplified by the Northern Region transmission grid, overseen by Northern Regional Load Despatch Centre (NRLDC). It is one of the biggest transmission grids in the world, powering nine states across northern India. More than 360 million people are dependent on it for continuous power supply. It is a complete overhaul of the power infrastructure, where the old system was replaced with innovative hardware and software solutions built around an integrated platform. The system now features a network of Load Dispatch Centres and backup control centres.
NRLDC is now able to handle complex operations more effectively and in real time, strengthening one of the biggest transmission systems in India which encompasses nine states – New Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Uttar Pradesh and Kolkata. The system offers multisite functionality for the main and backup control centres, providing a seamless changeover of the entire operation from main to backup control centre, so as to avoid data loss, alarms, changeovers and blackouts. The implementation of this project has resulted in a surge of economic activity and improved living conditions with higher literacy and better access to jobs. With secure remote web login feature through internet, one can check the load shedding, forecast details and online reports.
It is inspiring to see that the government of India is committed to the cause of providing 24×7 affordable and environment friendly ‘Power for All’ by 2019. Its schemes involve specific actions to enhance electricity access to all households and steps for strengthening the sub-transmission and distribution infrastructure, including metering, at all levels. Ideas such as prepaid and smart meters are inventive and have the potential to boost the quality of living and kickstart overall economic activities.
Along with the consumer, the government is also reviving the distribution companies. Its move to take up DISCOM debts is a step in the right direction. In order to address the demand-side issues, it envisages digital interventions like upgrading to smart meters, consumer indexing and GIS Mapping and reducing AT&C losses.
Powering the effort on the transmission level is a host of cutting-edge technologies that have made possible the continuous supply of power over large distances. For instance, the High Voltage Direct Current Transmission Systems offers an excellent opportunity to support and improve the power supply from sustainable, efficient, and reliable future grids. They not only offer economic bulk power transmission and interconnection of asynchronous AC grids, but also allow renewable energy generators like windfarms to access the grid.
Similarly, the Flexible AC Transmission Systems (FACTS) increase the reliability of AC grids. It improves power quality and transmission efficiency from generation through transmission down to the consumers. It enables better network utilisation, increased availability and reliability as well as improved network stability.
The need of the hour also are grid integration solutions that allow integration of renewable energy sources with the grid and ensure bi-directional power and communication flows. It also enables the preservation of the grid data for future references by fusing IT capabilities and protecting the grid against cyber-attacks. While advanced and scalable SCADA systems further allows remote monitoring of the grids and data collection, Big Data is used to analyse the massive data generated by the smart grids.
This high technology, data supported approach to grid operations and maintenance presents a tectonic shift in thinking in the energy transmission sector in India. Grid operators can now manage the performance of energy transmission assets, lower operation and maintenance cost, and reduce failure. Digital and power electronics supported technologies will prove to be a game changer for the energy management and power sector in India. It will help the consumer take centre stage. The smarter, more decentralised, and yet more connected power system will help in achieving objectives like security, environmental sustainability, better asset utilisation and open new frontiers for businesses.
Yet, the fact remains that while energy consumption in India has doubled since the turn of the century, one in five Indians still lacks access to power from a power grid. Is predicted that over the next 25 years, the country will contribute more than any other in the rise of global energy demands. The International Energy Agency predicts that by 2040, India will have to cater to about 600 million new electricity consumers.Clearly, while a lot is happening, we have miles to go!
Harald Griem is executive vice-president and head of energy management, Siemens India