Author – Aseem Shrivastava
Electricity is one of the essential needs of the modern society today because of our heavy dependence on it. Our lives are made comfortable by various appliances at home which all run on electricity. Offices and industrial machines also use electricity. In fact there is no sector that is still untouched by Benjamin Franklin and Edison’s inventions. Generation of electricity however is the single largest source of greenhouse emissions, which is making a significant contribution in climate change. Also, the current electrical technologies were built more than 100 years ago and we are now stretching its natural capacity limit. Little progress to innovate in this field has been made even though a complete overhaul is long due. To move forward, we need a smart grid – a new distribution system that utilizes IT, the groundswell of digital and computer revolution. This will make electrical technology more efficient, safe, clean and also one that is able to automatically manage the increasing complexity of its use in 21st century.
What is a Smart Grid?
A smart grid is an evolved system from conventional grids, which manages electricity in a sustainable, reliable and economic manner.
- It is built on advanced infrastructure and enables the integration of all components and equipment involved.
- It includes a variety of operational and energy saving features such as smart meters, renewable energy resources and energy efficiency resources.
- It includes electronic power conditioning and controlled production and distribution of electricity.
Benefits of Smart Grid
Increased use and shift towards renewable energy sources is inevitable in the coming decades. The biggest difference between smart grid and conventional grids is that smart grid is bi-directional, thereby allowing for distributed generations with greater efficiency.
The excess power generated at the load, such as from roof top photovoltaic cells, wind turbines or pumped hydroelectric power is fed back to smart grids. The improved flexibility along with next-generation technology permits greater penetration of the highly variable nature of the renewable energy sources such that even without the addition of energy storage their application and commercial viability increases. This helps them to give a stable output at all times.
A smart grid makes our electric power system more resilient and better prepared to address emergencies such as thunderstorms, earthquakes, terrorist attacks, large solar flares etc. Smart grid allows for automatic rerouting when equipment fails or outages occur thanks to its self-diagnostic and self-healing technology. This technology detects and isolates the outages before they turn large-scale.
The smart grid is also smart – for example it ensures that electricity resumes quickly and strategically after an emergency; routing electricity to hospitals and emergency services first.
There is increased consumer control when one uses this technology.
- One no longer has to wait for his monthly statement in the bill to know how much electricity he used. With smart meters and other mechanisms installed as a part of smart grid system, one can have a clear view of how much electricity he uses and its cost can be viewed on the mobile phone app or the website.
- It supports real-time dynamic pricing which allows one to save money by using less power during times of the day when electricity is most expensive (more demand).
- By using this technology one can save more power by selling surplus energy to the grid by generating power on his own though the use of photovoltaic panels or mini windmills on his terrace or lawn, enabling peak demand curtailment and helping in a better uniform spread of electricity.
Smart Grids in India
The ‘National Smart Grid Mission’ was approved by the Ministry of Power on 27 March 2015. Currently, it has allocated 14 smart grid pilot projects that will be implemented by state-owned distribution utilities in India. They are in the initial phase in their pilot project management timeline, finalizing budgets and contractors. Civil work has started in few places and the government updates the progress monthly on its website.
As of May 2016, Maharashtra (Baramati), Chhattisgarh (Siltara and DDU Nagar of Raipur), Kerala (selected distribution section offices over many geographical areas) and Rajasthan (Jaipur) projects were cancelled and might be resumed in future from the scratch.
The latest smart grid pilot at Chandapura, Karnataka was approved on 30 May 2016.
Under the ‘Smart City Mission’, all electricity supply in smart cities will be through smart grids. This technology would be a step forward to solve the energy strain that our country is facing and preparing for the renewable energy and efficient distribution systems.