Share Share this | Facebook Twitter YouTube LinkedIn Flipboard

IEEE: The expertise to make smart grid a reality



India’s Smart Grid policy is an emerging part of its nationwide energy policy. The policy is being jointly developed by a collaborative grouping of central and state governmental bodies and subject matter experts from industry, academia and non-governmental research and development organizations.

Origins of India’s Smart Grid efforts are multi-factorial in nature but primarily concern three main issues which are the subject of current or planned government backed initiatives: 1) increased load needs as one of the world’s fastest growing economies, which today cannot be met by present supply and hence results in frequent “brownouts”; 2) the drive to electrify a large segment of its rural population, which have yet to receive electrical services and finally 3) the need to optimize electrical usage by being able to manage loads and mitigate operating inefficiencies (the losses in the system, both financial and technical, are amongst the highest in the world).

In a country of 1.2 billion people (2010) India has one quality that sets it apart from the rest of the industrialized countries of the world and that is that one of the largest shares of total electrical loads comes from agricultural use, primarily those associated with water pumpsets usage. The absolute pumpsets load may not be unusual but in the context of low per capital total loads, it is high. One driver is that two-thirds of the population is associated with agriculture for their livelihood.

Governmental Energy Organizations and Laws

Energy is considered a concurrent subject in the Indian constitution — both state and central. As a matter of operational services the central government is most actively involved in generation and transmission domains whereas the states control distribution services.  This in itself is an important issue in India today as the state of distribution finances are not significant enough to provide for the increased demands which are being requested of them. State governments are looking to the central government to provide funding and resources which will allow for upgrades, expansion and re-engineering at an unprecedented rate. One of the main projects associated with this effort is the rural electrification and modernization project known as (RGGVY).

The portion of the central government that is most directly associated with the development of energy policy and Smart Grid efforts in India is the Ministry of Power (MoP). Other sub-agencies and nodal agencies of the MoP that are involved include the Central Power Research Institute (CPRI), the Central Electric Authority (CEA), the Power Finance Corporation (PFC), not to mention the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) outside of the Ministry of Power. Central government involvement in the Smart Grid has recently expanded beyond the confines of the MoP into an inter-departmental task force known as the Smart Grid Task Force (SGTF). This group includes the aforementioned MOP organizations, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT), and the Department of Science and Technology (DST). In addition to this governmental body, the Ministry of Power has set up the India Smart Grid Forum as a public-private partnership, bringing in utilities, industry, academia, etc. as well.

The chronology and lineage of legislative efforts, programs and associated schemes which have led up to the development of a Indian Smart Grid originate with a fundamental shift towards private involvement in energy production and transmission and the unbundling of the power sector from total government control in the 1990s.

This shift was outlined in a 2002 report, viz., the IT Task Force Report for Power Sector and further in a 2008 report by CSTEP & Infosys entitled Technology: Enabling the Transformation of Power Distribution. These reports outline the government’s desire to formulate a scheme to encourage greater use of ICT to enable India’s electric grid by make three fundamental improvements to the existing grid:

  1. Advanced metering to reduce AT&C (Aggregate Technical and Commercial) losses that are at an unacceptably high-level presently;
  2. Automation to measure and control the flow of power to/from consumers on a near real-time basis and improve the system reliability;
  3. Moving to a smart grid to intelligently manage loads, congestion and shortfall.

Other important changes in energy laws including the Electricity Act of 2003 and the important National Electricity Policy of 2005 have set forth a formative set of national energy objectives including:

  • Access to Electricity - Available for all households in next five years
  • Availability of Power - Demand to be fully met by 2012. Energy and peaking shortages to be overcome and adequate spinning reserve to be available.
  • Supply of Reliable and Quality Power of specified standards in an efficient manner and at reasonable rates.
  • Per capita availability of electricity to be increased to over 1000 units by 2012.
  • Minimum lifeline consumption of 1 unit/household/day as a merit good by year 2012.
  • Financial Turnaround and Commercial Viability of Electricity Sector.
  • Protection of consumers’ interests

The next most important Smart Grid related national energy policy decision occurred in 2008 with the implementation of the Re-Structured Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Program (R-APDRP). This program is designed to take 3-5 years to implement and has several parts. The first part is concerned with the information and communications technology (ICT) enablement of power systems and investments of power infrastructure in an effort to first measure and then mitigate losses associated with operating inefficiencies and energy theft. The primary goal of the program is a reduction in losses, with subsequent portions focusing on physical re-engineering of the grid as indicated by the ICT driven data. Other goals of R-APDRP include:

  • Renovation and modernization (R&M) of power plants
  • Strengthening and improvement of sub-transmission and distribution networks
  • Development of adequate spinning reserves
  • Development of power systems automated controls

Hybrid Governmental/Industrial Organizations

Besides governmental participants, there are numerous other hybrid-governmental and non-governmental organizations who are vital contributors to the development of India’s Smart Grid vision, and who are also associated with the SGTF and the Forum. Most notable of these private non-profit science and technology organizations is the Center for Study of Science, Technology and Policy. (CSTEP) To complement the Smart Grid Task Force, public-private efforts are being fostered by the Ministry of Power to help develop India’s Smart Grid vision on an advisory, informational and non-binding basis. Most notable of these groups is the Smart Grid Forum which works in direct coordination with the Smart Grid Task Force.

The combined work effort of the Smart Grid Task Force and the Smart Grid Forum is divided into 7 functioning workgroups:WG1-Advanced Transmission,WG2- Advanced Distribution, WG3- Communications, WG4- Metering, WG5- Consumption and Load Control, WG6- Policy and Regulation, and finally WG7- Architecture and Design.

India’s Smart Grid vision as expressed by the India Smart Grid Forum includes five fundamental objectives:

  • End of Load Sharing- peak load shifting through a combination of direct control and differential pricing (demand response/dynamic (DSM))
  • Reliable Power- Robust systems with Self-healing capabilities through monitoring
  • Cheaper Power- Dramatic improvement in AT&C losses, real time monitoring load sources
  • Shifting the Peak away from Costly Power- Better utilization of Assets
  • More Sustainable Power- Integration of green and renewable resources at a massive scale, enough to increase energy independence

IEEE is also working to help with Smart Grids in India through not only its global expertise, but also focused educational and informational efforts such as its recent International Workshop and Tutorial on Smart Grids and Renewables held in May 2010.

Smart Grid related projects currently planned or underway in India include (non-exhaustive list):

Final Note:

Rahul Tongia We would like to thank Rahul Tongia for his help in the production of this content. Dr. Rahul Tongia is Principal Research Scientist at the Center for Study of Science, Technology, and Policy (CSTEP), a Bangalore-based not-for-profit research center. His areas of research are broad and interdisciplinary, spanning technology and policy, with domain expertise in energy/power and IT/telecom. He has been a faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University for a dozen years with appointments in the Dept. of Engineering & Public Policy and the School of Computer Science (presently on leave).

In addition to extensive work in the ICT domain, his energy work has spanned seminal studies on India’s nuclear power program, importing natural gas, power pricing, and political economy.  His current area of focus is on Smart Grids, harnessing ICT to improve the power grid. He was on the Technology Advisory Board for Southern California Edison's (a leading US utility) project on advanced (“smart”) metering. At CSTEP, he has worked on a major report on IT for the Power Sector for the Min. of Power (2008), and has been advising state power utilities, the state government, and the Ministry of Power on IT roadmaps and smart grid deployments. CSTEP was selected as Knowledge Partner and Advisor for the India Smart Grid Forum, established by the Ministry of Power, and Dr. Tongia also advises the India Smart Grid Task Force. Dr. Tongia also sits on the Board of Governors of the Social Implications of Technology Society (SSIT) of the IEEE.