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The Power Ministry of India had recently announced that discussions are in the final stages for the setting up of 8 smart grid projects in the country. These pilot projects are estimated to be worth about Rs. 500 crores. With seminars and conferences related to smart grids around the corner, the announcement is as relevant as ever and clearly shows that there is significant interest in the country for smarter grids. In addition to this, IEEE reinforced its commitment to support the Indian smart grid market by helping develop standards that are better tuned to the local realities.

The timing on the move couldn’t be better – India has seen significant capacity additions not just in the field of renewables but in the total capacity as whole. Various UMPP projects are scheduled to come online in the near future to meet the insatiable power apetite for an evergrowing economy. While the capacity addition sounds good on paper, the power evacuation infrastructure, for lack of better words is grossly inadequate and smart grids could be the answer to this albatross which constantly hangs around the Indian energy sector’s neck.

Addressing Pressing Concerns

Better Efficiency

I have always been a proponent of improving efficiency as a means to “capacity addition” – as the saying goes, a penny saved is a penny earned. Energy efficiency, in my opinion is the most suitable way to achieve not only emission reductions target, but also meet the energy demand in the short term. Smart grid acts as a catalyst to promote energy efficiency in all parts of the chain – generation, distribution and consumption.

On the generation side, it helps in better integrate the various generation sources thereby optimizing their generation pattern. On the distribution side, it would greatly reduce the AT&C  losses which are as high as 30% in parts of the country not to mention reduction in pilferage losses. Finally on the consumption end, the energy demand is optimized through a process which is termed demand side management (this helps shift demand of the consumers to times of the day when the overall electricity demand in the grid is low).

A Response to Rising Fossil Fuel Prices

There is no doubt, fossil fuel prices (read: coal prices) are rising. Coal is one of the major contributors to power generation in the country. Meeting our rising energy requirement can then be met using not through every increasing coal imports, but through optimization of coal use. This would then also help improve our energy security by reducing our dependance on fossil fuel imports.

Better Integration of Renewables

Renewable energy sources are notorious for their intermittent nature. Wind, amongst the various renewable energy technologies is the most unpredictable and (un)fortunately the one with the highest market share in renewables. Smart grids would play a significant role in helping smooth out this randomness in power generation. This would, in essence reduce the need for spinning reserves (which are fossil fuel based) which would otherwise be required to compensate for this randomness and aid in grid balancing.

In a nutshell, smart grids would result in huge savings both monetarily and in terms of carbon emissions. This is a win-win situation and it would be wise to pursue the avenue with zeal.

See also: an interesting emerging cleantech segment – Building Energy Analytics