Electrical Monitor

Smart Grid will need smarter action

Em News BureauWednesday, December 12, 2012, 11:59 Hrs  [IST]

It is heartening to note that India has taken initial steps towards ushering in the Smart Grid culture. Smart Grid, which lacks a unique definition, is considered as an evolving process aiming at progressively higher levels of efficiency in the power distribution sector. As industry experts put it, the definition of Smart Grid is also evolutionary. What is "smart" today will become "conventional" tomorrow, and therefore a Smart Grid is only a process of making the power grid "smarter".

Simply put, a Smart Grid is a sophisticated setup that provides two-way control between the power distribution utility and the power consumer. Among other things, a Smart Grid gives control on peak load management and also on demand-side management. It basically brings very high efficiency in the power distribution setup and is therefore the best way to mitigate technical and commercial losses.

Consider this. Through a Smart Grid, a power utility will know exactly, and in real time, the amount of electricity that is being consumed by each consumer. The utility will also be able to monitor the health of various components in the power distribution grid (typically transformers) in real time. The power utility will essentially have complete knowledge of how the grid is behaving on a day-to-day basis, and this is the key to detecting and promptly acting upon any grid disturbance.

A consumer, on the other hand, will know on a real-time basis his power consumption pattern. He will be in full control to schedule his power consumption so as to avail lower tariffs during off-peak times of the day. A Smart Grid therefore can flatten the peak demand curve through efficient demand-side management.

The Union power ministry has launched a Smart Grid programme that promises to offer financial assistance to those states that proactively initiate measures to set up Smart Grid infrastructure. Organisations like IEEE-SA are working towards creating newer standards for benchmarking the quality of Smart Grids in India. While all this is encouraging, it must be admitted that India has woken up rather late. It will take enormous effort, and more importantly unprecedented political will, for India to come to the level of even emerging countries. China, Brazil, South Africa, Russia have taken impressive strides in their Smart Grid journey. The blackouts in north India in late July this year only show that the Indian grid is vulnerable. Power consumption is rising by the year and the grid is only getting more complex and stressed. Privatisation of power distribution that is the most result-oriented launch pad for Smart Grid endeavours is still moving at an annoyingly slow pace.

India needs to act swiftly, and even audaciously, lest the Smart Grid joins the growing fleet of triumphantly-announced but lethargically-implemented initiatives in the messy power sector.