Author – Nishant Tomar
As the world steps into the digital era, there needs a holistic transformation of the utility sector. This was the theme at the recently concluded 5th edition of the India Smart Utility Week 2019 organized by the India Smart Grid Forum. The event was organized as an international conference & exhibition and covered key components of the smart cities including smart grids, smart water, and smart city gas distribution. The event brought together India’s leading policymakers, regulators, investors, experts on electricity, gas and water supply boards to discuss trends, share best practices and showcase next-generation technologies in the smart city utilities domain.
This year, India Smart Grid Forum expanded the theme and outreach of the event by including the Water and Gas Distribution Utilities along with Electrical Utilities. Numerous conferences and technical sessions happened at the India Smart Utility Week 2019, so we would briefly discussing about a few innovative smart power technologies in India that stood out.
Smart Grid Solutions
Smart grid is a new power distribution system that utilizes smart communication between different components of an electrical grid through automation and computing. Smart grid offers numerous advantages such as reliability, flexibility and efficiency of the energy system such as Reduction in T&D losses, better power outage management, peak load management and bringing renewable energy to the mainstream power grid.
In India, five smart grid pilot projects have been successfully completed with encouraging results in Mysore, Shimla, Panipat, Gujarat and Tripura. Around 100,000 consumers have been covered in these five projects through the installation of smart meters, data collection units, advanced metering infrastructure and other advanced power technologies. Self-healing smart grids are capable of real-time data gathering through smart sensors and monitoring systems such as SCADA, which will help in identifying and quickly resolving any losses due to power outages and peak-load management.
Microgrids are gaining widespread popularity due to their increased reliability and flexibility. A power microgrid is a localized grouping of electric sources that are connected to a centralized power grid, but are capable of disconnecting and operating autonomously. This helps consumers to gain control of power, regulate energy costs, reduce emissions and increase the use of renewables as per their requirement. Further, the ability to work both on and off the grid in case of power outages, extreme weather or for economic reasons increases the reliability of the system.
Renewables are no longer considered as alternative energy sources, but have become part of the mainstream power grid. Renewable energy forecasting can now be done through Renewable Energy Management Centers (REMC). A typical REMC contains a SCADA system for gathering data, a forecasting tool and a scheduling tool, that helps in managing the generation pattern, usage and requirement of RE. Microgrids play an important role in making renewables mainstream and in providing power to the most remote rural areas.
Some microgrid projects in India currently in operation are in the Andaman Islands where the India Coast Guard operates a microgrid. Greenpeace Foundation has deployed a solar microgrid in Dharnai village in the state of Bihar. Many villages in Karnataka have deployed solar-storage DC microgrids. Gram Oorja Microgrid has an installed power of 45.7kW serving 230 households across 10 villages in rural Maharashtra.
Smart Power Technologies In India
Apart from these well-established power innovations, there were some other new smart power technologies in India highlighted at the India Smart Utility Week. Digital technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence using machine learning, blockchain technologies, cloud computing-based technologies are bound to transform the Indian power sector soon.
IoT technologies are causing a new awakening in the form of a new industrial revolution (Industry 4.0). The Internet of Things in its simplest form enables three things: asset digitalization, data collection from assets, and gain control of assets. The most important use of IoT in smart grid has been smart metering and advanced metering infrastructure (AMI). AMI is an integrated system of smart meters, communication network, and data management systems, which enables two-way communication between utilities and consumers. Another important use of IoT is in smart street lighting systems, a promising technology that helps in reducing the energy consumption and the cost of operation.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) enabled by big data technologies, predictive analysis and machine learning can help power utilities to gather a large amount of data and then train the system to predict and respond to power outages. The most important usage of AI based on analytics is in Assets Management Systems which monitors the health of power infrastructure and can create predictive maintenance schedules.
Cloud-based technologies such as Virtual Power Plants integrate several small-scale and large power producers and consumers via a power exchange to provide a reliable overall power supply making the system flexible and reliable.
Energy Storage Systems
Energy storage systems play an important role in balancing the complex power grid system to make it more flexible and reliable. They store surplus energy at the time of excess generation and then feed it back during peak loads. They further help in integration of RE technologies which mostly have variable power output by regulating their energy supply. India’s first grid-scale battery-based energy storage system was launched in February 2019 in New Delhi. This 10 MW storage system is operated by Tata Power-DDL, which will pave way for more such grid-scale energy storage technologies of 15-20GW capacity estimated by 2022.
Cybersecurity is the most important aspect of designing digital power infrastructure since there is a major threat of cyber hacker attacks that can paralyze the entire system and lead to a significant amount of losses. The most common approach is to identify critical infrastructure and its threats, and then eliminate them by using the protocols and checks. However, this approach is vulnerable to threats as it is only a preventive exercise.
Blockchain-based multi-layer security can be achieved through energy management systems that can mitigate the risk. This has to be supported by an efficient incident management system. So, a smart grid cybersecurity strategy needs to be designed to manage the detection, response and recovery processes and repulse any threats.