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Smart Grid in India – Impossible Dream as Badly Managed,Loss Making State Electricity Distribution Waste 30% of Power

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Smart Grid as a Clean Technology Industry is gaining traction in the West and countries like China,South Korea .Smart Grid has become important to increase energy efficiency and integrate intermittent forms of renewable energy like solar and wind power.Smart Grid includes a number of concepts like the Smart Meter Infrastructure,Demand Response,Energy Monitoring etc.Note the Power Grid in most countries is still the century old grid without major changes despite quantum leaps being made in Information Technology.Smart Grid improves the existing Power Grid by integrating newer techniques and processes from the Technology Sector like communication between the Smart Meters at Home and the Utility Control Centre.It improves Power Management and increase Energy Efficiency giving a higher ROI.

India’s Power Grid is one of the most inefficient in the world with State Distribution Entities losing 30% of the power compare¬† to the global average of 10%.These organizations are heavily encumbered with Red Ink,Bad Management and Political Control.While the Transmission Infrastructure is in a better shape in the hands of India’s Monopoly Grid Operator “Power Grid” (listed on the stock exchange),Distribution is a huge Achilles Heel.Without substantial reforms at the Distribution End,Smart Grid remains an impossible dream.Note the badly managed distribution companies at the State Level have also become a major impediment in the implementation of India’s JNNSM Solar Policy.Banks are reluctant to invest in solar projects because of the uncertainty regarding payments by these loss making distribution companies.

Not an easy job

India has made a timely move to adopt smart grid technologies in power transmission and distribution network to facilitate evacuation of electricity from grid and off-grid renewable generation sources. While the transmission sector looks well prepared, there are doubts about the ability of distribution utilities to absorb this new technology because of their poor financial health.That apart, state-owned discoms also lack the required physical infrastructure and tech-savvy personnel, which are critical to absorbing the new technology.

With financial assistance available from the central government under the Restructured- APDRP scheme, state-owned utilities are implementing projects to strengthen their power distribution network. However, they are yet to focus on training their staff to make them ready for implementing the smart grid project.

What is heartening is that India has adopted a structured approach towards implementation of this technology. The India Smart Grid Forum set up by the central government is mandated to look into all aspects of the project.

For example, a key item on the forum’s agenda is to coordinate with international standard-setting agencies like IEEE on formulation of technical standards for smart grid equipment. India’s participation in the exercise would ensure that its specific requirements are taken cognizance of while global standards for smart grid equipment are framed. That would help it absorb technological innovations in the filed.


Abhishek Shah

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