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EM news bureau ,  Tuesday, April 19, 2016, 12:11 Hrs  [IST]

Pic-of-Mr.-Rathin-Basu.png—Rathin Basu, Managing Director, Alstom T&D India Ltd

Alstom Grid recently became part of the GE Group globally. In this exclusive exchange, we have Rathin Basu sharing his views on how this major development can help Alstom and GE together create a diverse portfolio of products and solutions for the Indian energy sector. Basu also points out the various challenges that the Indian power grid faces. He feels that the most important technical challenge is the integration of power generation from renewable energy sources.

What are the new offerings from the business, now that you are a GE Group company?

Globally, Alstom Grid is now GE Grid Solutions and is an important part of GE’s Energy Connections business. With the acquisition of Alstom Grid, we have the most diverse energy portfolio in the industry. We now have a complete range of turnkey products and solutions from high and extra-high voltages to low and medium voltage for our customers. We also have strong references in the industry like steel, aluminium, cement, processing, automation, marine, etc. Particularly in the renewable side, we have products that include solar inverters and wind turbine converters. The enhanced portfolio can now completely address the electrical balance of plant for renewable projects, which is a significant add-on.

How do you visualize the combined picture, especially with respect to the entire power T&D value chain?

In 765kV infrastructure, we have a huge presence in India’s T&D grid. Around 70 per cent of the electricity in the country flows with our technology through the national and regional load dispatch centres (RLDC), etc. Similarly in the substation automation field, we have done a lot of work. With the enhanced portfolio, we now have specialized products in the low and medium voltage that can address a much wider market. This will ensure that we offer the best solution and technology to customers. We are also a strong solutions company giving the best customized design, engineering, project management and site installation.

We also look forward to leverage the “Digital Industrial” concept of GE. We have an operating system called “Predix.”  What we are doing is that we are educating our customers so that they can modernize and improve productivity of their plants by using our predictive analytical software, which will allow them to get an advance alert for a potential wearing down of their machines or equipment. This will help customers take preventive action even before the scheduled servicing.

What is your view on India’s growing power T&D losses?

India has Rs.80,000-Rs.90,000 crore of T&D losses. Our overall losses are 27 per cent. India should aim to reduce its T&D losses to the range of 15 per cent. There are only 8 to 10 states which have high T&D losses. The challenge is how to convert these 8-10 discoms, which are perpetually losing money, into efficient and profitable ones. UDAY (Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana) is a good initiative from the Central government. Execution at the state level, therefore, will be the key factor to determine its success.

How do you rate India’s success in privatisation of distribution circles either through the licensee model or the distribution franchise model?

Privatisation of distribution has been largely successful but is not the only way to make discoms profitable. It is not easy to do privatization in discoms. Hence we need to ensure that the states take the lead to make them so. They will bring 24x7 quality power and help states become more industrial and drive their economic growth.

What is your general reading of India’s national grid network?

 The total installed power capacity in India today is 290 GW. But the usage is only 50 per cent of the installed capacity. One of the reasons for this is that the electricity flow between different regions of India is not fluid. The interregional power transfer capacity is 25,000 mw which is extremely low. It can be addressed through bulk power transfer between regions.

Connectivity to the southern grid was done only in December 2013. Before that connectivity was only through HVDC connections. Even today, the theoretical connection is around 4,000 mw but the need is 15,000 mw. It will be another 2-3 years before south and rest of India is well-connected. The current national target is to achieve 68,000 mw of interregional capacity by 2017. The plan for 2022 is to take this further to 1,28,000 mw. By that time, we expect the aggregate national power generation capacity to be around 400 GW.

Until 2022, to make the bulk power transmission from one region to the other will be dependent on the 765kV AC backbone. Furthermore, the 1,200kV line cannot be applied commercially because it is a huge “highway” and you cannot have such a corridor without proper power flow.

What problems do you see, from a technical standpoint, in feeding power from renewable energy sources like solar and wind, given that it is intermittent in nature?

This is a huge challenge! The amount of renewable energy that we are planning to put into the grid today requires massive investment in managing power flow and the stability of the grid. Renewable power is also geographical. There are only certain 5-7 states where you have more renewables than the rest. Others are demand centres. What you do is that you collect power from each local substation to a nearby/regional pooling substation. Typically voltages associated with renewable energy power plants are lower—in the 66/132kV range. So, at the pooling station, voltage is stepped up to either 220kV or the 400V level, depending on the concentration of renewable power, and a corridor is created. The state and national planners need to accelerate the development of renewable grid corridors. In the T&D network, first at the state level and then at the Central level, you need huge investment to handle renewable power.

How GE solutions will help in seamless integration of renewables to the national grid?

GE is helping utilities address the ever-increasing complexities with its versatile and robust solutions like HVDC, SVC, STATCOMS etc. GE’s EBoP solutions are scalable to support a large range of projects from heavy duty turbine generation to renewable wind and solar applications. Offering solutions for wind and solar renewable generation applications, the system is comprised of relays, meters, communication hardware, HMI to SCADA integration, and a prepackaged control building connected to the switchyard. The implemented solution reduces testing, commissioning and maintenance for customers.

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