A Perspective on Enterprise GIS in India

By Alekhya Datta and Parimita Mohanty

The integration of Enterprise GIS with different aspects of a smart grid can improve the efficiency of a utility’s electrical system, enable intelligent demand side management and enhance energy security through sustainable business intelligence. Wider application of GIS will be particularly useful in India, where consumption monitoring, detection of tampering and reduction of commercial and technical line losses are high priorities.

For utilities, an Enterprise Geographic Information System (GIS) can provide a comprehensive inventory of the electrical distribution network components and their spatial locations. Utilities around the world are finding GIS to be a useful tool in collecting data, managing smart meter and sensor installation, analyzing customer behavior and incorporating renewable energy. When viewed in the context of geography, data is quickly understood and easily shared; furthermore GIS technology can be integrated into any enterprise information system framework.

Application of Enterprise GIS will be particularly useful to Indian utilities, both to address immediate urgent problems in grid management and to prepare for even greater challenges ahead. With 215 GW of installed capacity with utilities, India’s power sector is the fourth largest in the world, but per-capita consumption of electricity is only about one-fourth of the world average. As per-capita consumption rises and the economy grows, aggregate electricity demand is expected to grow by 8-10 percent annually and could be as high as 900 GW by 2032.

Meanwhile, India also is pursuing an aggressive renewable generation program; the current five year plan calls for the share of renewables (excluding hydro) to increase to 20 percent by the end of the decade, from 12 percent today. A power system of this size growing at such pace, with an increased share of renewable energy, requires smarter systems to manage it efficiently and ensure its stability and reliability.

To that end, India’s Ministry of Power, with the support from the India Smart Grid Task Force and India Smart Grid Forum, is creating an India Smart Grid Knowledge Portal (ISGKP), which is a common platform for sharing knowledge and disseminating information among all stakeholders. As elsewhere, Indian smart grid technology development is geared to greater reliability or security, integration of distributed generation and increased complexity of power systems. But the main driving factors in the country’s smart grid thinking seem to be consumption monitoring, detection of tampering, reduction of Aggregate Technical and Commercial (AT&C) losses, load curtailment, prepayment options, demand forecasting, time-of-day tariffs and outage management.

Very recently, the Ministry of Power has short-listed fourteen smart grid pilot projects that are to be executed in the power distribution sector, with the objective of demonstrating the relevance of smart grid technologies. They will be implemented in consultation with ten working groups operating under the aegis of the India Smart Grid Forum, a group formed with encouragement of the government of India in September 2010, along with a Smart Grid Task Force. The Energy and Resources Institute, with which we are associated, working as a member of Group 9 (renewables and microgrids), has developed a first-of-kind Smart Mini-Grid system in which utilization of solar, wind and biomass energy is optimized for efficiency, flexibility, reliability and power quality.

To develop an efficient smart grid system, utility agencies need to have real-time analytic engines that are be able to analyze the network, determine the current state and condition of the system, predict what may happen and develop an action plan. Therefore the most critical facet of any such system is the underlying electric and communications network. An Enterprise GIS integrates hardware, software and data to capture, manage, analyze and display all forms of geographically referenced information and provides the tools, applications, workflows and integration ability to support the smart grid.

Enterprise GIS will help utilities understand the physical and spatial relationships among all network components, both electrical and communications. It also helps utilities understand the relationship of networks with surroundings and as such is an essential tool for restoration, storm tracking and security monitoring. GIS can be used to determine optimal locations for grid components automate workforce management and provide a spatial context in which to evaluate analytics and metrics.

To do all that, however, utilities must have processes and procedures in place to ensure that GIS data are accurate and timely. It is one thing to have a few errors on a planning or asset management map. While not desirable, it is even somewhat tolerable to have some inaccuracies in the GIS data that feeds outage management systems. However, it is not tolerable to have incorrect data in a system that automatically controls the electric distribution system. Errors could result in increased outages or worse accidents. Utilities must carefully examine their data updating processes and quality assurance procedures.

A very large problem for Indian utilities is the lack of good customer addressing (what we call “consumer indexing”). Even though virtually every premise has a physical address, it is a struggle to keep data updated. Some utilities don’t have stringent processes to make sure new customer data are linked directly to the GIS. If GIS does not have an exact correlation of the customer premises and the electric system, any hope of automation and self-healing will of course be lost.

In regions where customer addresses don’t exist, utilities will need to create some kind of coding system that uniquely links a customer to a point in space and to the electric distribution system. It is critical that utilities have foolproof quality-control measures ensuring that as new customers are added to the system, the consumers show up as connections to the electrical network too.

When considering installation or enhancement of a GIS system, utilities will see the biggest benefits in the elimination of inconvenience, inaccuracies and inefficiencies connected with:

  • the proliferation of maps and data of differing vintages, content, accuracy and forms of representation;
  • duplicative, even counterproductive, employee effort in creation, organization, maintenance, management and utilization of maps and asset data in isolated silos;
  • redundant or even conflicting tasks and workflow resulting from isolated silos of inconsistent or, incomplete maps and asset data;
  • delayed, ineffective decision making resulting from incomplete, obscure or even conflicting views of what is going on in the utility.

Since the idea behind the smart grid is to add more monitoring and control to the electrical system, Enterprise GIS is fundamental to its success. Since almost everybody understands a map, so, with the help of GIS, the fault location on the map can easily be identified. Enterprise GIS based will also enable utilities to envisage cost-benefit analysis of their investments including economic, service and environmental benefits. The move to a smarter grid based on enterprise GIS promises to change the power industry’s entire business model and its relationship with all stakeholders, involving and affecting utilities, regulators, energy service providers, technology and automation vendors and all consumers of electric power. It is really imperative to have a robust model of all electrical assets including their present condition and relationship to each other, to customers and to the communication systems that will drive the smart grid. That is why it is so desirable to introduce the smart grid with a GIS comprehensive network model. Thus, GIS can be a wonderful tool to help deploy the smart grid in a more effective and integrated way.




Alekhya Datta is a research associate at TERI – The Energy and Resources Institute (formerly, TATA Energy Research Institute), which has branches in New Delhi and Chennai. He received a B. Tech degree in electrical engineering from West Bengal University of Technology, Kolkata, in 2008 and the Post-Graduate Master’s in geo-informatics from Symbiosis International University, Pune, in 2010. In February 2010, he joined the Solar Energy Centre, a unit of the Indian government’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy as a project fellow. In November 2010 he went to work at WTI Advanced Technology Limited, a subsidiary of TATA Consultancy Services Limited, as an assistant systems engineer in the GIS domain. He joined TERI in March 2012.



Parimita Mohanty is a doctoral research scholar at IIT, Delhi, a fellow at TERI – The Energy and Resources Institute, and an adjunct lecturer at TERI University. She holds an M. Tech degree in energy science and Technology from Jadavpur University in Kolkata. With more than 13 years of experience in designing, simulating and developing distributed-generation-based smart mini-grids, she also has worked on many aspects of photovoltaics system design. She has assessed alternative batteries suitable for mini-grids and has carried out studies on energy efficiency and conservation measures in the telecom sector.