Smart electricity for smart cities.
By : Editorial Team - (Spicos)

The objective of a smart city is to use digital communication and technology to optimise the usage of resources such as energy, water, and roads and infrastructure and improve governance, transportation, health care and waste management.

Continuous power supply is a major element in the smart city development. 

For a continuous supply of power in the smart city it is very essential to have strong and smart transmission and distribution (T&D) systems but today’s T&D systems seems to be inadequate to meet the increasing power demand.  

A smart city is equipped with smart grids which facilitate this collection and transferring of electricity related data throughout the city, free from all hassles and wouldn’t even require manual labour.

A smart city is more or less an urban vision that includes many modern needs such as integration of multiple platforms of products and services with communication technologies and Internet of Things to manage the township in general. The prerequisite to all of this is power as all of this equipment can function only when power supply is efficient.

While smart power on one hand includes usage of renewable energy to produce electricity, smart management of that power is equally essential. 

To achieve smart power infrastructure level changes are needed to be done to be able to remotely control as well as monitor the power consumption. This is where the discussion moves toward Internet of Things solutions. Smart home is the first step towards the infrastructure changes. Then data that is generated from each home has to be used effectively and intelligently for predictive control of power which can help save the excessive and wasteful power consumption on a city level as well as giving huge monetary saving.

Smart cities are aimed at providing a better standard of living via improved and automated mechanisms by embedding latest technologies which entail incessant supply of power. The core of smart cities is based on the availability of reliable, affordable and consistent supply of electricity which mandates augmented generation coupled with the development of a robust transmission and distribution infrastructure, a critical success factor in achieving smart power.

While India is making a steady headway on the transmission front and the sector has witnessed commendable growth over the last few years with substantial capacity additions, evacuation of power is still a concern in India.

The existing T&D network is inadequate to meet the increasing demand and load patterns. In addition, T&D losses are plaguing the sector since a long time. 

In India, T&D losses account for as high as 23 per cent of the total electricity generated as compared to countries like Singapore, Malaysia and other developed countries wherein the losses are as low as ranging from 5-8 per cent. 

With existing power distribution network, there is a lot of power that is not being used, which can be used by those regions which have a shortage of power supply. On the other hand, there may be a system failure in another power distribution network, when the actual power consumption is consistently around the total capacity provided to that region, and sometimes even crosses the maximum capacity.

Existing power distribution network used either an electromechanical meter (with a rotating disk to record the electricity consumption) or an electronic meter (with digital figures) at our houses, offices or any other property to measure our electricity usage. Typically, at the end of the month (or months) a representative of the utility comes to the property, observes the reading in the meter and subsequently we get the bill for the units of electricity we have used in that period of time.

Every problem has its solution. In order to have smart T&D network it is necessary to solve issues relevant to it. On this note, experts have suggested on how these issue will be addressed.

 

Smart grids present an elegant solution to this problem. Since the whole process of power transmission and data collection is automated, when a smart grid observes that there is a skewness in the electricity consumption of the two regions, it automatically re-distributes the power according to the usage of the regions, thereby removing any imbalance in the electricity distribution and consumption and saving a lot of energy, by minimising the scope of wastage.

Interconnection planning and analysis activities create greater certainty with respect to future generation, including identifying transmission requirements under a broad range of alternative electricity futures (e.g., intensive application of demand-side technologies) and developing long-term interconnection-wide transmission expansion plans.

Smart grids have the demand response capacity to strike a balance between power consumption and supply. Besides this, smart grids can integrate new energy sources like solar and wind with traditional sources. This will enable the citizens of smart cities to eventually integrate their solar or wind systems with the grid and start feeding unused power into the grid.

Smart meters facilitate real-time pricing, automated recording of the electricity consumption and a complete abolition of errors due to manual readings and reduce labour cost and enable instant fault detection.

The government is taking efforts and doing a lot of investments as well. A lot of progress is unfolding as dedicated efforts are being undertaken by the Indian government for improving the transmission network in India. PGCIL which mainly owns and operates inter-state lines has already made huge investments for the development of inter-state networks and is managing these lines efficiently. 

On the other hand, the development of intra-state lines is under progress with huge CAPEX planned by many of the SEBs. The sector is also witnessing enhanced private participation. Further, in order to strengthen and upgrade the transmission network numerous schemes have been devised like Integrated Power Distribution Scheme for rural and semi-urban areas and Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana for feeder separation for agricultural populace. A series of conducive policies and measures are rolled out as well as efforts are on towards achieving the mission of ‘One Nation, One Grid, One Price’.

Significant improvements are also transpiring on project execution front resulting into lowering of the execution timelines for T&D projects from the traditional 36 months to 12-18 months, which is a remarkable achievement. Some our recent projects have a stipulated condition of project completion in a time span of 12 months.

On the ground level some issues still prevail, like the pace of execution of some T&D projects has been impacted due to various factors such as ROW issues, end users (like power plants) not being ready etc, which leads to delay in project completion schedules. This creates an additional burden on the contractors by way of time and cost overruns, mobilisation issues etc. There has to be a mechanism in place which will resolve these ground level issues. The Indian government is conscious of this fact and there have been changes in the approval processes for environmental clearances whereby the first stage approvals have been eased. Also compensation levels have been enhanced for land cost which has provided some relief to the land acquisition issue. However, more thrust is required in this area. Some suggestions would be awarding projects by way of plug and play mode where all the approvals are secured before the project is awarded, adopting alternate and improved technologies like Gas Insulated Lines etc.

In conclusion, though the sector has gained significant momentum, for fast tracking the pace of its development, it is imperative that more steps are taken for speedy resolution of the issues.

To address these issues we need to start first from the last mile coverage in rural India. Creating and providing clean and sustainable energy is the need of the hour. Once we produce clean energy wastage needs to be reduced considerably with the help of automation. That is where things get into smart power control and regulation. Also, it is very important to be able to measure and monitor the power distribution network parameters to be able to take prognostic decisions before or while something’s goes wrong. This data needs to be stored for mining for future predictive behaviour and planning.

The smart way to address these challenges is to make use smart switchgears. Using energy-efficient appliances and electrical accessories will pave a way towards conserving power. Switchgear can be used to control heavy appliances effectively ensuring their security of operations. Smart switchgear and control gear is the next leg to the current switchgear industry where switchgear functions would be more intuitive as well.

KEC International Ltd is $ 1.4 billion Infrastructure EPC company and major in power transmission space. The company has been powering significant infrastructure development across India and has played a vital role in the development of critical evacuation infrastructure including HVDC transmission line projects of up to 1,200 kV. 

Its strong project management capabilities, robust engineering and design credentials, exceptional manufacturing expertise and outstanding testing prowess reap in benefits like accelerated project deliveries leading to expediting the socio-economic progress and development of the region in concern.

Industry players are in queue for working in smart city projects. Some have already started working on it.