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Pushing Boundaries - “Challenges facing Grid Transformation in 2020”

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This item is part of the Grid Modernization - Special Issue - 06/2020, click here for more

Background:

Energy sector has evolved through structural policy changes and increased private sector participation in generation and transmission. The challenges are complicated further due to uneven and geographical natural resources. Currently, India is dominated by coal power generation while north eastern India potent with hydropower.  Southern and coastal parts find concentration of wind power whereas western and central parts are dominant with solar. The situation in India is entirely different from the developed nations where, the focus is on getting the best of electric infrastructure.  Increasing the availability of electricity is the main concern in India. 

Challenges:

Accordingly, India is faced with the challenge of gearing up to the renewable potential (wind, solar and hydro) and matching the transmission system both existing and the likely demand based on these and to reach the customers.

The key issue therefore is efficient transmission over long distances with minimal losses.  The demand therefore is for multiple transmission corridors of High Voltage Alternating Current (HVAC-400 Kv/765 Kv) where 1200 Kv is under evaluation. This is supplemented with High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC-500/800 Kv).  Utilities enjoy the option of flexible line loading with additional reactive power control devices for power flow and optimal usage of corridors.

Long distance transmission invites careful handling of mismatches in power generation and demand.  Power exchange impact and transmission network faces many operational problems in India.  Smart Grid technologies seem to be the answer to handle such situations.

Wide Area Measurement System (WAMS) in this regard enables grid operators to enhance operational efficiency and grid stability. In addition, Remedial Action Schemes (RAS) and System Integrated Protection Schemes (SIPS) strengthen operational efficiency.

Situation during Pandemic period:

The lockdown period in India from March 25th until June 30th, 2020 sprang up altogether a different challenge as industrial sector – automobile, infrastructure, IT, power -  was closed down and power demand was of a different nature than mentioned above.

Distribution companies engage in power purchase agreements depending upon their demand over a certain period of time which has direct impact on the financial health of Distribution companies.  Immaterial of the demand, the companies need to pay fixed charges to the generating companies.

Understandably, the power demand during lockdown period decreased not only in India but even globally.  It is just not the industrial and commercial consumers (Metros, Railway and airports also added to the demand situation as well) who impacted revenue loss but, even collection efficiency as physical payment of electricity bills was not possible.  Fortunately, summer demand saved them to some extent as the demand otherwise is usually high during this period.

Depending upon the unlock, the Transmission and Distribution companies may need not only financial support but also need to gear up to the ‘Digital Interaction” burdening the increased demand. 

Scenario after lockdown? 

In fact, many corporates did taste working from home which was intermittent earlier during the lockdown period and some declared that this would be the new future.  Many new sectors jumped into this option as there was no sign of lockdown easing very soon – Schools/colleges, etc. There were some busy educating the business sector to reorient their businesses to the digital way – in fact, webinars became another profession and a series of them was available to keep them busy and prepare mentally to the new life style.

Hitherto, there was peak demand during the day when industrial sector was active. However, the changed scenario with many institutions gearing up to the digital version, uninterrupted power supply is the key for sustenance which means, the DISCOM has a greater responsibility and challenge before them.

In order to gear up to this situation, DISCOMS need to revamp their strategy with smart meters and smart grids to be competitive.  Grid dressing becomes very vital so that they can work on the data for a period before streamlining the appropriate solutions and effective.  In order to achieve this, distribution centres could be reduced to smaller units closer to consumer locations in order to gain their confidence and continued reliance on uninterrupted power supply. The entire network of digital transformation would allow DISCOMS to play with enormous data generated (would be similar to human DNA) to orient a better strategy, though initially would be taxing. This would facilitate strong and efficient innovative methods for a fruitful business. Although the proposal looks attractive, it is surely an herculean task for not only the power generators BUT, more importantly for the DISCOMS.

  • The equations of power agreement would invite a revision in view of the changed scenario (flexible depending upon the situation) and DISCOMS cannot afford to continue with losses.  Fixed cost payment need be according to the percentage demand reduction.  Government may have to issue directive to the effect to both Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) and state governments.
  • The cashless payments and even advance payments depending upon the consumption pattern may be encouraged for revenue sustenance.  Similarly, penalty on late payment may be tuned towards consumption pattern over six months – higher or lower. Poorer section with lower consumption may be exempted from such penalties.
  • Soft loans from Power Finance Corporation (PFC) and  Rural Electrification Corporation Ltd (REC) may be made available to DISCOMS
  • DISCOMS may have to strengthen their digital system as the data generated would help them read the trend and fine tune if required.

On Load Tap Changer (OLTC) is an intelligent part of smart transformer.  This is a part in High Voltage (above 600V) and Medium Voltage (240V) substations. However, the need for such a solution is also necessary in MV/LV substations in view of electric vehicle, distributed generation and other technologies catching up fast.  As stated above, these facilities generate a lot of useful data and one can juggle with them for a proper direction and improvement.  

Grid convergence indicator in this regard is configurable not only to data but even parameters that DISCOMS consider appropriate.

What is more challenging during the unlock period is the users voltage forecasting which will play a crucial role in the success of Digital technology.  What we need then is the real time data which is the key to adjust prediction and react against unforeseen events. Real time measurement would require advanced low voltage monitoring, sensors on outputs; weather data and synthesising them would be very useful.

Smart Transformers therefore are an essential element of distribution network for optimal flexibilities and reliability to move forward competitively in the business.

Conclusion:

Transmission and Distribution therefore is all set for a grand outfit unseen hitherto and understandably for a good reason, although forced to do so due to pandemic.  But, the brighter part of it is that this throws up ample opportunity to deal with the business with greater ease and confidence.  It also provides conviction to lead for a better life ahead.

A K Shyam,  373 Canarabank Layout, First main, 1st Cross, Vidyaranyapura Post, Bengaluru – 560 097, Karnataka, India.  akshay1948@gmail.com

A. K. Shyam, PhD's picture

Thank A. K. for the Post!

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Discussions

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jun 22, 2020 4:23 pm GMT

Hitherto, there was peak demand during the day when industrial sector was active.

What was the scale of this peak demand-- how much greater than during a typical day during a previous year?

A. K. Shyam, PhD's picture
A. K. Shyam, PhD on Jun 24, 2020 5:42 am GMT

Thanks Dr. Chester. I wish to inform you that a comparison to the previous year tells us that May 2020 showed almost 26% less  of 183 GW.  The situation is likely improve over the next couple of months, please.

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