What are the Smart Grid Implementation Challenges in India?
The Power Industry calls for a complete switch into the next generation through automation. Despite monetary issues, power utilities need to begin with basic automation systems eventually upgrading to the advanced systems. By analyzing the growing power demand and market competence, this is the only way-forward for the domestic power industry. The implementation of Smart Grid is not going to be an easy task as the Indian power sector poses a number of issues such as minimizing T&D losses, power theft, inadequate grid infrastructure, low metering efficiency and lack of awareness.
Power theft: Power theft has been one of the major issues in India. A few ways to help prevent the power theft are the use of overhead lines that are insulated and the LT overhead wires used for distribution of power could be replaced with insulated cables in order to minimize the theft of energy through hooking. The conventional energy meters could be replaced with digital tamper proof meters and the use of prepaid card is yet another solution to eradicate theft of energy.
Inadequate Grid Infrastructure: For India to continue along its path of aggressive economic growth, it needs to build a modern, intelligent grid. It is only with a reliable, financially secure Smart Grid that India can provide a stable environment for investments in electric infrastructure - a prerequisite to fixing the fundamental problems with the grid.
Low metering efficiency: The commercial losses are mainly due to low metering efficiency, theft & pilferage. This may be eliminated by improving metering efficiency, proper energy accounting & auditing and improved billing & collection efficiency. Fixing of accountability of the personnel / feeder managers may help considerably in reduction of AT&C loss.
Lack of awareness: The understanding of consumers on how power is delivered to their homes is very minimal. Before implementing Smart Grid concepts, they should be educated about the Smart Grids, the benefits of Smart Grid and Smart Grid’s contribution to low carbon economy. Consumers should be made aware about their energy consumption pattern at home, office etc. Utilities need to focus on the overall capabilities of Smart Grids rather than mere implementation of smart meters. Policy makers and regulators must be very clear about the future prospects of Smart Grids.
Smart Grid being an expensive affair, in your view, how should India tackle the financing challenge?
The major challenge for implementing smart Grid in India is availability of funds. Huge investments are required in order to setup a link between the customers and the Smart Grid. The cost of setting up more plants can be deferred drastically. At that point of time, more emphasis will be on overall development of T&D efficiency based on demand response, load control and many other Smart Grid technologies. With timely and detailed information provided by Smart Grids, customers would be encouraged to avoid over use, adopt energy-efficient building standards and invest continually in energy efficient appliances. To tackle the Smart Grid future, we need to have compelling Smart Grid consumer products, collaborative vendor partnerships and a willing investment community. The policy makers and regulators have to implement a robust incentive model frame work to attract more and more private investments keeping the rate of return, based on the output generated. Policy makers and regulators can mitigate this by seeking economies of scale and implementing advanced digital technologies.
What role does IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) have for smart grid development in India?
India is ranked as the third largest market for smart grid investments. Smart grid is a strategic area of focus for IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA). Through India Smart Grid Task Force, an initiative of Ministry of Power, India, IEEE-SA have been able to create an initial momentum in this area. The India Smart Grid Task Force is an inter ministerial group and serves as a government focal point for activities related to Smart Grid.
To drive the smart grid development in India, IEEE-SA is dedicated to working with industry professionals, academia and government officials. A Standards Interest Group (SIG) for India has been formed as the first step and it provides a platform for the Indian technical community to participate in global standards development. As one of the world's leading standards development organizations, IEEE-SA acts as a catalyst to bring standards developed in India on a global scale. In addition to standards development, IEEE-SA is focusing on creating awareness and educating about smart grid through various workshops and panel discussions across the country. Efforts are being made in India to create a collaborative environment which will work towards setting global standards wherein deployment of interoperable technologies using the Smart Grid will become a reality faster.
What are the key achievements, actions and initiatives of IEEE-SA in India?
IEEE-SA is actively growing its engagement in India to educate, and promoting Smart Grid Standards interests in the country. With the formation of Standards Interest Group (SIG) for India, IEEE-SA has successfully engaged India and its professional technical community in global standards development including those for the Smart Grid. Outreach programs like Smart Grid workshops deliberating the role of standards and challenges in the Indian context are also being conducted across cities. IEEE-SA have conducted outreach programs to directly interact with Indian companies in order to focus on the field of power, communications and information technology, to solicit their interest to participate in IEEE standards projects.
Smart Grid Cyber security being a major challenge- what impact, according to you, will Standards have on the Smart Grid Cyber Security?
With the transition to digital electricity infrastructure comes the challenge of communication security and data management; as digital networks are more prone to malicious attacks from software hackers, security becomes the key issue to be addressed. Smart Grid success depends on the successful handling of two major IT issues, i.e security & integration and data handling. With an increase in computers and communication networks the threat of cyber-attack has also increased invariably. Utilities can use and implement cyber security standards to reduce the venerability to the consumers and provide a higher reliability that their valuable information is being protected. Implementing cyber security measure through the use of standards will help reduce software and implementation cost.
As it is observed, there has been certain degree of backlash and apprehension to Smart Grid implementation in developed countries, particularly in the USA. How do you think a country like India with its vast diversity and political complexities should address these issues?
IEEE-SA is closely working with groups in India, such as the engineering community including vendors, utilities, academics to participate in the standards development and work towards implementing smart grid successfully in India. Also having the technical participant from India provide requirement to ensure standards development groups to understand and identify any possible gaps and address some of India technical issue. Also because of the challenges that India has, a more robust grid will be welcomed.
An interaction with Srikanth Chandrasekaran, Regional Program Manager, IEEE Standards Associations