Making Headway: Modest progress in smart grid implementation

Modest progress in smart grid implementation

As per industry estimates, the global investment in smart grid infrastructure has increased from $67 billion in 2009 to nearly $200 billion in 2015. Economies such as China, the US, Japan, Korea, the UK and France are undertaking some of the most ambitious smart grid initiatives. In comparison, India is still at a nascent stage of smart grid development though it has witnessed promising developments in this space over the past few years.

The launch of the National Smart Grid Mission (NSGM) in 2015 was the biggest push to India’s smart grid plans. The mission has brought together national-level support to India’s smart grid plans from ministries, institutions and state governments. More than 90 per cent of the outlay under the mission will be directed towards the development of smart grids in smart cities.

In addition, smart grid pilot projects are being implemented across the country with 50 per cent funding support from the Ministry of Power (MoP). When these projects go live, they will help guide technology selection, develop business cases, and make policy and regulatory recommendations for larger projects in the next phase. However, a few of these projects are currently experiencing delays.

The country’s policy and regulatory environment has also been conducive to its smart grid plans. Under the ambitious Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana, the power ministry has announced that all participating states and utilities are required to adopt smart metering for consumers with energy consumption beyond a certain limit. The Central Electricity Authority (CEA) has also drafted a roadmap for the roll-out of smart meters. Meanwhile, the India Smart Grid Forum (ISGF) under the MoP has been actively involved in advising the government on several key issues.

On the regulatory front, the Forum of Regulators (FoR) has prepared the Model Smart Grid Regulations while several state electricity regulatory commissions have formulated their state-specific regulations. Further, the issue of differences in meter specifications of various utilities has largely been resolved with the publishing of smart metering standards by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) in 2016. Apart from the government, utilities, both private and state owned, have been taking various steps to create smart networks.

A look at the key recent developments in the smart grid space…

Launch of the ISGF

In its first major move towards accelerated smart grid development in the Indian power sector, the MoP set up the ISGF in 2010. With over 200 members at present, the ISGF has played a key role in the formulation of the Smart Grid Vision and Roadmap for India, preparation of the framework for the NSGM, and finalisation of the Model Smart Grid Regulations. It also conducts independent research related to various smart grid issues. Its key studies include recommendations on leveraging smart grid assets for building smarter cities at marginal costs, using broadband services in buildings or cities for smart metering, and advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) roll-out in India along with cost-benefit analysis.

NSGM roll-out

The NSGM was set up by the MoP in 2015 for the planning, monitoring and implementation of policies and programmes related to smart grids in India. Activities to be undertaken under the mission include the implementation of smart grid projects, promotion of electric vehicles, development of microgrids, installation of grid-connected solar rooftop systems, training and capacity building, along with enhancing consumer engagement. Currently, four projects are under implementation as part of the mission in Chandigarh, Amravati (Maharashtra) Congress Nagar (Maharashtra), and Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh). The Chandigarh and Amravati projects were approved by the empowered committee of the NSGM in March 2016 and the remaining two projects were approved in October 2016. The total estimated cost for all the projects and NSGM activities for the Twelfth Plan period is Rs 9,800 million including a budgetary support of Rs 3,380 million. Over 90 per cent of the estimated cost and 79 per cent of the budget allocation is being utilised for the development of smart grids in smart cities.

Regulatory developments

Another key development has been the release of the Model Smart Grid Regulations by the FoR in 2015. The regulation covers the formation of smart grid cells, the time-of-use tariff regime, demand response and mandatory rooftop generation for large customers, mechanisms for cost recovery, and monitoring and evaluation of projects. It is an enabling regulation, which can be adopted to formulate their state-specific regulations. Assam and Karnataka have already drafted their smart grid regulations. Earlier, in 2014, the Maharashtra Smart Grid Coordination Committee had prepared a draft Smart Grid Policy and Roadmap.

In August 2016, the CEA released a report on the functional requirements of AMI. It specified the minimum functionalities for AMI systems to be developed in India such as time-of-day metering, prepaid functionality, net metering/billing, alarm/event detection and remote load connection/disconnection.

Smart grid projects

The India Smart Grid Task Force constituted by the MoP in 2010 recommended the setting up of smart grid projects across different states. Following this, 14 smart grid pilot projects were announced in October 2012 with a total investment of Rs 3.73 billion, to be funded in part by the MoP and part by the utility implementing the project. Progress on these projects has been slow so far. None of the projects have been completed, while four have been cancelled. However, two to three projects are expected to become operational this year.

Apart from these projects, four projects are under implementation under the NSGM. Another pilot project is being implemented in Ajmer under the USAID PACE-D TA (US Agency for International Development – Partnership to Advance Clean Energy – Deployment Technical Assistance) programme. The project involves the installation of 1,000 meters and is at an advanced stage of completion. Private utilities including Tata Power and CESC Limited are also in the process of implementing pilot projects.

Further, a smart city pilot project is under implementation on the IIT Kanpur campus. A Smart Grid Knowledge Centre by Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (Powergrid) is also under implementation in Manesar. The project will demonstrate functionalities such as outage management, cybersecurity and home energy management. Meanwhile, the ISGF is working with the Ministry of Shipping and Transport for developing a smart microgrid at one of the largest seaports in India. It is also in talks with the Ministry of Railways for implementing a microgrid demonstration project at a railway station.

Smart meter standards

In August 2015, BIS published the new smart meter standard, IS 16444: AC Static Direct Connected Watthour Smart Meter – Class 1 and 2 Specification, covering single-phase and three-phase energy meters with and without the net metering facility. Another standard, IS 15959: Data Exchange for Electricity Meter Reading, Tariff and Load Control – Companion Specification, was revised and published as IS 15959: Part 2-Smart Meter in March 2016.

The way forward

Smart grid development in India continues to face challenges due to the utilities’ lack of skill and readiness, reluctance of consumers and utilities, issues pertaining to interoperability and integration with existing system and limited funds. These, however, are likely to be overcome with the successful implementation of various pilot projects, and numerous training and capacity building programmes being undertaken for utilities and consumers. Going ahead, pilot projects are likely to be followed by large-scale deployment of smart grid technologies.

Other government initiatives that are driving smart grid development in India include the Electric Mobility Mission, which aims to bring 6-7 million electric vehicles on the roads by 2022, the 100 Smart Cities initiative and the 175 GW renewable energy target. With millions of households expected to be injecting energy into the grid over the next few years, smart grid projects need to be taken up in real seriousness.