Are smart grids the answer to India’s power crisis?

Utilizing the Internet of Things, information and communication technologies, and cloud computing would lead to greater power grid automation and more efficient management of energy.

Muqbil Ahmar Nov 15th 2016

Power is critical to the growth and development of India. Uninterrupted electricity supply is essential to sustain the high trajectory growth of the country and every industry depends on it. Besides, millions of people in India have no access to electricity, with more than 40 percent households going without power. This translates roughly into 400 million people having no access to power. Initiatives such as Digital India and Smart City depend on consistent power supply. The very concept of a smart city is based on adequate energy supply.

Utilizing the Internet of Things, information and communication technologies, and cloud computing would lead to greater power grid automation and more efficient management of energy. It would lead to better services and products for the common consumer as well as better optimization of the entire power supply chain as the available natural resources are already depleting fast.

Power wastage in India

According to industry experts, the biggest contributing factor to India’s energy crisis is not insufficient generation but colossal wastage that takes place during transmission and usage. They say that if transmission losses, which stand at 40-48 percent as opposed to the world standard of 8 percent, are controlled then the power shortage could be managed. According to another estimate, the World Resources Institute pegs losses due to electricity transmission and distribution (T&D) in India at around 27 percent—the highest in the world. This translates into the loss of millions of tons of coal and billions of cubic meters of natural colossal—fossil fuels that were used to generate power and the huge pollution that resulted from the production.

In our quest for a cleaner environment, such colossal pollution will have to be eliminated. This can only happen if the immense power losses are minimized.

Smart reduction of power losses

Smart Grids are enabled with integrated controls, automation and new technologies such as connected sensors to help efficient power transmission, faster restoration of electricity after outages, reduced operation and management expenses and integration of energy systems based on renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar energy. Thus, they help in saving and managing energy while reducing dependency on fossil fuels.

Digital substations are the future

Along with Smart Grids, digital substations would enable smarter power systems, by bringing about the complete digital transformation of the power sector in India. With renewable energy sector growing rapidly, power generation would be distributed over multiple locations; thus, effectively replacing the conventional model of one-way electricity flow by multidirectional flow, leading to more intelligent energy management. A digital substation would necessitate high-tech monitoring, and communication and control systems throughout the power generation chain, transmission, distribution, storage and consumption, leading to a smarter and more automated power system. 

A typical digital substation includes digital communications via fiber optic cables, replacing the customary copper connections utilizing analogue signals. It would enable greater flexibility, availability and safety in the power sector. At the same time, it would reduce costs, risk and impact on the environment. Intelligent Electronic Devices (IEDs) along with integrated communication technology are provided in a digital substation. An IED is a microprocessor-based control and protection device that is used for power equipment, including transformers, circuit breakers, and capacitor banks. The overall increased input of data in a digital substation would pave the way for more sophisticated diagnostics, protection, monitoring, as well as optimization of assets.

The way forward

Fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas are depleting fast and developing countries will have to find alternative sources to energy to meet their requirements. This is particularly true for countries that are short on natural resources. They must leverage modern technology for a sustainable and green future.

The author is a technology evangelist and blogger.

Disclaimer: This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the contributing authors and not of IDG Media and its editor(s).