Cities are huge consumers of power, using up to two-thirds of the world’s energy and producing a similar proportion of global carbon emissions. However, digitalisation, smart grids, the electrification of transport, and advancing energy efficient technologies have provided the opportunity to transform cities into becoming smarter, greener and more efficient in the near future.
Smart energy is one of the thrust areas under the Smart Cities Mission (SCM). The guidelines for the SCM require that at least 10 per cent of a city’s energy needs be met by solar power and at least 80 per cent buildings be green and energy efficient. Smart energy supply has always been a part of the overall infrastructural development in the country. To this end, a number of government schemes, that converge with the SCM, are already under implementation. Key among these are the Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS), the National Smart Grid Mission (NSGM), the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy’s (MNRE) solar rooftop initiatives, and the national LED programme.
The IPDS is one of the pivotal government programmes that is currently under implementation and converges with the smart city guidelines by providing assured electricity supply through infrastructure upgrades of sub-transmission and distribution networks, smart metering, etc. The scheme was launched in December 2014 with a sanctioned cost of Rs 320 billion. It targets system strengthening in 3,600 towns with the creation of new power infrastructure and underground cabling. Further, under the Restructured Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Programme (R-APDRP) (which has been subsumed under the IPDS), several building blocks of smart cities such as geographic information system (GIS) maps, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems/ distribution management systems, billing/ customer relationship management systems, and IT networks (including data centres) are being built. The digital assets of the R-APDRP can be extended to other infrastructure domains at a marginal cost. Till December 2019, distribution infrastructure had been upgraded in around 2,300 towns with a positive impact on around 30 million consumers.
Also, digital initiatives are being taken under IT Phase II of the IPDS in another 2,000 towns across 24 states. These towns are covered by 45 discoms with 9,000 feeders. Broadly, IT Phase II entails deploying software modules in smaller towns; providing hardware to access the software applications; rolling out metering, billing and collection software; undertaking energy audits; performing GPS-based GIS survey of assets; and upgrading data and disaster recovery centres.
One of the definitive initiatives being taken for the development of smart grids is the NSGM, which was launched in 2015. The mission created an institutional mechanism for formulating, monitoring and implementing policies and programmes related to smart grid activities in the country.
Currently, there are five smart grid projects being implemented under the NSGM across four states/union territories. These are the Chandigarh Electricity Department’s project in sub-division 5 and Chandigarh city, Jharkhand BijliVitran Nigam Limited’s project in Ranchi (Jharkhand), Odisha Power Transmission Corporation Limited’s projects in Rourkela (Odisha) and Jaipur VidyutVitran Nigam Limited’s projects in six urban towns (Baran, Bharatpur, Bundi, Dholpur, Jhalawar and Karauli) in Rajasthan. Together, these projects will cover 810,430 consumers and entail an investment of Rs 6.8 billion, partially funded by a grant from the central government. Key aspects to be covered in these projects include advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), distribution transformer monitoring units, SCADA and enterprise resource planning.
Earlier, in 2012, 10 smart grid pilot projects and one smart city research and development platform were sanctioned, with nearly 50 per cent funding support from the Ministry of Power (MoP). As of July 2019, all 11 pilots that were announced were declared “go live”, completed or commercially operational. The pilot projects sanctioned by the MoP were taken up across Assam, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka, Punjab, Telangana, Tripura, Puducherry, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, at a total cost of Rs 2.9 billion (including Rs 1.3 billion government funding). All the projects have been partially funded by the MoP, except the project developed by the Uttar Haryana BijliVitran Nigam that was completely funded by the New Energy and Industry Technology Development Organisation. The functionalities covered in these pilots included AMI, outage management, peak load management, power quality management, distributed generation and SCADA. Nearly 156,000 smart meters have been installed under these pilot projects. Moreover, the utilities have achieved a reduction in aggregate technical and commercial losses close to the targeted levels.
Another important technology to consider for smart cities is smart metering. Multifunctional, communicating smart meters that measure energy exported and imported, demand and power quality, and management of load, local generation, customer information and other value-added functions are essential when creating smart grids to coordinate supply and demand.
The central government has recently mandated prepaid smart meters for all customers, which implies the installation of over 250 million smart meters in the next three to four years. The deployment of smart meters has received a significant policy push in recent years under various government schemes such as the UjwalDiscom Assurance Yojana (UDAY) and the Smart Meter National Programme (SMNP). UDAY, launched in 2015, mandates the deployment of smart meters for all consumers with a consumption of more than 200 units per month. Under the scheme, the aim was to install smart meters for all customers with a monthly consumption of more than 500 units by December 31, 2017, and for those with a consumption of 200-500 units per month by December 31, 2019. So far, only about 6 per cent of these targets have been achieved. For consumers with energy usage above 500 kWh per month, the scheme aims at installing 5.7 million smart meters. For those with a monthly consumption of 200-500 kWh, the programme targets the deployment of 18.4 million smart meters.
Meanwhile the SMNP aims to replace 250 million conventional meters with smarter versions. To roll out the smart meter initiative, public sector undertaking Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) is utilising its proven model of bulk procurement, aggregation of demand and monetisation of savings. It is based on the build-own-operate-transfer model wherein EESL receives a nominal internal rate of return, which is reflected in a mutually agreed automated payback structure.
That said, a host of issues and challenges have been hindering the widespread deployment of smart meters. Utilities face challenges in deploying different components of smart metering infrastructure from different vendors. Besides this, often there are limitations of the legacy system, which creates hurdles in smart meter deployment. Also, high investment costs of smart meter installations, along with a lack of expertise among discoms, are hampering smart meter roll-outs.
Rooftop solar forms an essential part of the smart cities development programme, with a mandatory 10 per cent of power to be procured from this source. This is primarily aimed at addressing various issues that exist in the power sector, such as voltage instability and intermittent power supply. Rooftop solar can be used to solve the problem of voltage instability arising from solar power being fed into the grid. Moreover, given the issues regarding payments from utilities, rooftop solar could prove to be a way out. Inverters used for rooftop solar power generation can feed reactive power into the grid. However, standardised communication among devices will have to be enabled, making them smarter for smooth grid integration. This would further enable the use of smart technologies for peak power management, thereby flattening sudden spurts in the demand curve.
Net, net, technologies such as smart metering, rooftop solar, etc. are expected to pave the way to create smart cities which are safer, better and able to proactively manage energy consumption and usage.
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