August 2015

Smart Grids Need Fast-Tracking

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Smart grid technologies are the need of the hour as these are vital to manage our country’s growing electricity demands, writes Arshpreet Kalsi, Research Analyst with Headway Solar

Smart GridsThe application of 21st century information technology and innovations in computing have become vital for managing a growing and diversifying grid network. Smart grid technologies are the need of the hour as these are vital to manage our country’s growing electricity demands. The main driver for the adoption of smart grid technologies in India is energy access, reduction in T&D losses, which at 23.65 per cent is one of the highest in the world, and the expanding use of distributed energy systems.

Gaining Momentum

India is aggressively pursuing the adoption of renewable energy. Grid-connected distributed renewable energy projects have the potential to propel the adoption of renewable energy resources amongst the consumers. One of the most recent incentives introduced by over 20 state governments to promote grid-connected solar projects is Net Metering.

Net metering is a billing mechanism that allows a grid-connected PV solar system to utilise electricity generated by the system in-house, and export the excess power into the grid. Excess electricity generated in a single billing period may be rolled over to the next billing cycle of the consumer and be utilised to offset electricity from the grid. Since distributed solar levelised cost of energy (LCoE) for industrial solar installations is `Rs. 7.5/kWh, solar energy is already cheaper than grid-supplied power for commercial and industrial (C&I) consumers in most of the states.

Economical Power

The combination of net metering and utilisation of smart technologies like smart meters can help a customer economically manage their energy needs as well as promote grid stability. Smart grid attributes like advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), demand response and power quality management systems can prove valuable in the success and proper implementation of programmes like net metering.

Smart meters, which can monitor and record a consumer’s hourly consumption, may further aid the net metering cause of lowering electricity bills. Smart meters with such features will enable the utilities to set pricing based on time-of- day usage, rewarding customers who shift the electricity use to off-peak hours.

Also, by monitoring daily data, customers can better understand their daily load profiles and manage their demands, shifting their loads to non-peak hours. This will not only reduce their electricity bills but also ease demand on the grid.

One of the challenges faced by renewable energy sources is their intermittent nature and unpredictability. For example, the amount of electricity generated by a solar PV system during a hot summer afternoon is higher than the electricity generated by the same system on a cloudy day or a winter afternoon. However, by focusing on key smart technologies, this intermittency can be overcome.

A major concern for utilities is the quality of electricity being injected into the grid by a distributed generator. With greater integration of distributed generation at the tail-end of the grid, the concerns are valid about the safety and stability of the grid. Smart grid features, like power quality management system, address these events and facilitate efficient and reliable operation of the power system. Lesser grid failures will also improve customer satisfaction.

Reliable Grids Needed

Even though smart technologies like smart meters can revolutionise the way we utilise electricity from the grid, certain issues persist. Cost of smart meters is high and affordability becomes an issue. Also, privacy and security of consumer’s data needs to be addressed. Provisions and rules for privacy and security should be in place. Development of a reliable, secure and resilient grid will enable utilisation of renewable energy resources, easing the use of fossil fuels, like coal, for energy generation.

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