Uninterrupted power supply is a key element for the development of a smart city. To ensure this, the Smart Cities Mission (SCM) focuses on reliable power quality, economic efficiency and climate protection. To this end, utilities have been studying the existing network and planning for the modernisation of the distribution infrastructure. However, several other measures such as the replacement of conventional substations with quick-to-install, maintenance-free, reliable and compact substations/e-houses; the replacement of overhead networks with underground cables; the use of intelligent switching devices, smart consumer metering and billing, and intelligent electrical storage systems are also required. In light of this, the government has taken several initiatives such as the National Smart Grid Mission (NSGM), the Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY) and the Integrated Power Development Scheme (IPDS).
The NSGM, launched in 2015, has given a big push to India’s smart grid plans. Activities to be undertaken under the mission include the implementation of smart grid projects, promotion of electric vehicles, development of microgrids, the installation of grid-connected solar rooftop systems, training and capacity building, along with enhancing consumer engagement. Some agencies such as the Chandigarh Electricity Department (Chandigarh), Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Corporation Limited in Amravati and Congress Nagar (Maharashtra), and the Kanpur Electricity Supply Company (Uttar Pradesh) are already implementing projects under the mission. Distributed energy resources such as microgrids, pool pumps, batteries and solar power play a key role in the transition towards smarter grids. These integrated grids together with smart meters help utilities in reducing aggregate technical and commercial losses, detecting energy theft and pilferage on a real-time basis and undertaking peak load and demand-side management.
Recently, Naya Raipur city in Chhattisgarh has been envisaged to be developed as a modern, green, sustainable and smart city. The city has been planned to be equipped with latest technology ranging from network-controlled LED street lighting to smart grid systems such as supervisory control and data acquisition, underground cabling works and an integrated command and control centre. For utility management, advanced data management system (ADMS) will be deployed which will serve as a unified distribution management system, outage management system and energy management system, among others. ADMS will facilitate advanced monitoring and analysis, as well as control and planning, thereby enabling the utility to efficiently provide reliable and safe power.
Smart metering has been proposed under UDAY to improve the financial health of power distribution companies. Under this, smart meters are to be provided to consumers consuming more than 500 units by December 2017 and to those consuming more than 200 units by 2019. Capable of a two-way exchange of information, smart meters help in increasing metering efficiency, billing accuracy, revenue management and customer satisfaction. Some utilities are already implementing smart metering pilot projects and, in November 2017, Energy Efficiency Services Limited awarded a contract to Larsen & Toubro for deploying 5 million single-phase smart meters in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.
One of the biggest challenges associated with smart meters is their high cost, which is normally borne by the consumer. Going forward, there is a need to reduce the consumer’s financial burden to some extent and for this, conventional single-phase meters can be considered or payment can be made in instalments as meter rent instead of an upfront payment. Another challenge in smart metering is the limited number of manufacturers of smart meters against their high requirement. There are, moreover, only a small number of certified testing laboratories for smart meters. Further, there is a pressing need for advances in mobile, geographic information system (GIS) and other information technologies such as cloud computing and data analytics which could have a transformative effect on utilities. Steps have to be taken to create public awareness and ensure greater participation. Finally, the government needs to formulate regulations for decentralised power and provide incentives for producing renewable energy in order to implement smart energy initiatives.