The Smart Cities Mission (SCM) focuses on building energy efficient urban spaces in order to mitigate the strain on existing infrastructure. Of the overall investment of Rs 2,050 billion envisaged under the mission, Rs 254 billion pertains to smart energy projects, constituting about 12 per cent of the total investment figure. The overall aim of smart energy is to dovetail the existing infrastructure and integrate the supply chain with the help of technologies such as automation of systems, smart grids, adoption of electric vehicles, internet of things (IoT), and integration of information technology and operational technology (IT-OT) systems. As per SCM guidelines, 80 per cent of the buildings must be energy efficient with “green buildings in a smart city” architecture and solar energy must account for 10 per cent of a smart city’s energy needs.
Energy consumption by buildings accounts for about 40 per cent of a city’s energy consumption. Energy conservation systems in a building can save about 30-40 per cent of conventional energy. This could be done by building energy efficient green buildings, with solar passive design. Solar rooftops are a quick way to increase renewable energy coverage. They do not require land pooling or separate transmission facilities and have short gestation periods. Some notable solar projects include solar panels in Cochin Smart Mission Limited, installation of solar rooftop panels at Pimpri Chinchwad Smart City and the floating solar project in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh.
Smarter grids shaping the SCM
Smart grids and smart energy infrastructure are the driving force behind the SCM, allowing for better usage of data analytics for power failure management to enhance grid reliability and overall accessibility to consumers. A smart grid is an electricity grid with communication, automation and IT systems, which enable real-time monitoring and provide power flow control. In areas where grid penetration is limited and grid connectivity is complicated, smart microgrids are highly beneficial as they act as a reliable power source. Over 10 smart grid projects have been completed across states such as Assam, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka, Punjab, Telangana, Tripura, Puducherry, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, at a total cost of Rs 2.9 billion.
Smart technology solutions such as integration of renewable energy sources into the grid, adoption of substation automation systems, secondary distribution automation systems such as remote monitoring units for feeders, management of microgrids and distributed energy resource management systems are being adopted on a larger scale. Smart technology necessitates a change in the traditional mindset of power providers in order to meet the requirements of emerging smart cities.
Issues and challenges
Utilities have benefited immensely from the participatory grid system as it has ensured seamless operations. Despite several benefits of smart IT-based solutions, data security is a key concern for utilities as there is an increasing threat to data security with the implementation of IT and smart grid systems. Utilities need to take steps to segregate IT and OT through separate firewalls to secure critical OT applications. Besides, data encryption should be carried out to protect hard disks in order to secure enterprise data. Another key challenge faced by distribution companies in the implementation of smart grid initiatives is identifying skilled employees with domain expertise. A further challenge lies in obtaining a precise cost-benefit analysis of a smart grid project. Detailed project reports are often flawed and mix up benefits for consumers and utilities. For obtaining the regulator’s approval, a utility is required to prepare a detailed roll-out plan and state costs that would not be incorporated in the annual revenue requirement. A cost-benefit analysis is critical to determine the size and scale of the roll-out as well.
Smart energy and smart grids will continue to be the backbone infrastructure of smart city project plans. So far, over 40 projects worth Rs 2.18 billion have been completed in the smart energy segment including solar projects. The increasing focus on the adoption of smart energy solutions relating to deployment of smart meters and management, IT-OT systems and smart grids has resulted in enhanced efficiency and sustainability in meeting the country’s rising power demand. However, with the implementation of technologies such as IoT and digitalisation, data security is of great concern as personal data is transferred to the cloud and gets shared among multiple users. Therefore, users need to take effective measures such as cryptographic methods to eliminate cyberattacks.
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