THE FUTURE IS DIGITALISATION

"Digital and power electronics supported technologies will prove to be a game changer for the energy management and power sector in India. - Dr. Harald Griem, Executive Vice President and Head - Energy Management Division, Siemens Ltd."

The current level of AT&C losses incurred by the distribution companies (DISCOMs) is a matter of concern. According to Dr. Harald Griem, EVP and Head – Energy Management Division, Siemens Ltd, the DISCOMs need to increase transparency and bring efficiency into their operations. Edited excerpts from his interview with Subhajit Roy:

The average AT&C losses, that should be 15 per cent for all the participating states by 2018-19, presently stands at 25.41 per cent. Do you feel that UDAY scheme has failed in this context?

The UDAY scheme has the right levers in place for improving the performance of DISCOMs by reviving their financial health so that they can start investing in upgradation of distribution infrastructure, increase their billing efficiencies via digital interventions like smart metering, inculcate financial discipline to sustain the improvements and gain access to reduced cost of power.

The AT&C losses as per the UDAY website for 27 states and 5 UTs on Sep 30, 2018 was 21.84 per cent versus the 2015 starting levels of 24.62 per cent. We believe that the UDAY program is beginning to show results at an all India level. However, the results are mixed for different states. Here is where, a deeper look is needed to analyse the difference in performance in various states and take appropriate corrective actions to improve the performance of the laggards while learning from the best practices followed by the leaders.

Apart from policy reforms, what are the other actions to be initiated to reduce AT&C losses?

The DISCOMs need to increase transparency and bring efficiency into their operations. Apart from bridging the gaps in the requisite distribution infrastructure, there is also a need to focus on metering of consumers. The benefits of a smart grid start with smart meters. Smart meters bring in greater efficiency and data transparency to monitor the losses in power grids.

Smart Meters can be a game changer in India by enabling DISCOMs to reduce their AT&C losses. These losses are driven by a combination of inadequate billing, theft and sales below costs to certain consumer segments. Smart meters in combination with Meter Data Management and collector solutions ensure increased reliability, accurate data readings, elimination of losses due to frauds, allow revenue recovery and eliminate the cost of manual readings. Smart metering also improves the connectivity and demand side management, where many customers would like to pay for uninterrupted power supply.

What role is Siemens playing in the area of energy management?

As Siemens Energy Management division, we have been driving a lot of innovative technology transformations over the last decade – for example we are implementing the high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission system connecting Pugalur to Trichur, India’s first direct current link using voltage-sourced converter (VSC) technology which enables economic bulk power transmission and interconnection of asynchronous AC grids with black start capability. Similarly, we just commissioned the world’s largest STATCOM (static synchronous compensator) installation for PGCIL in Rourkela, Odisha to increase the reliability of the AC grid. It regulates the transmission variations according to grid conditions leading to availability of stable power to the consumer network in the state.

The innovation also extends to the distribution space with the smart city order from DMIDC for 33/11kV Power Distribution AIS (Air Insulated Switchgear) s/s, Renewable Energy Management order for Western region from PGCIL and Meter Data Management System (MDMS) by TPDDL.

We have a high degree of local manufacturing in the country and are constantly investing in bringing latest green technologies into India. We are also engaged with various stakeholders including the government, public and private organisations to increase awareness of the latest technologies and global best practices for procurement processes.

What is the market size for energy management industry in India? What is the growth rate be in 2020?

The market size for energy management industry in India for 2018 is approximately Rs 40,000 crore. The growth is different for different segments of the industry. Demand from government driven programs on infrastructure, railways and so on is buoyant.  Green shoots in core industry such as minerals and metals are beginning to show signs of recovery. The distribution segment is experiencing double-digit growth driven by investments in upgradation and modernisation of grids.

On the other hand, the investment in the central transmission sector is reaching the end of its investment cycle. Together with high achievement in the 12th Plan end 2017, we foresee subdued demand from transmission sector for the near term of 2 years, post which the next investment cycle will kick in.

How is the Indian energy management market different than the other developed market?

India is leapfrogging dynamically by driving basic electrification while installing latest technology for power quality and smart grids and coping with the integration of large-scale renewable energy. This leapfrogging is remarkable and unique given that the global electrification transition has seen more of a conventional and evolutionary development.

On one hand, we have seen a lot of technology transformations over the last decade – HVDC, STATCOM, adoption of the latest digitalisation technologies such as MDM (Meter Data Management) solutions. Clearly, innovation and ingenuity are deeply ingrained in the Indian DNA.

Yet, the fact remains that while energy consumption in India has doubled since the turn of the century, access to reliable power from a power grid is still not universal. It is inspiring to see the Government of India committed to the cause of providing 24×7 affordable and environment friendly ‘Power for All’ by 2019 with clear steps for strengthening the sub transmission and distribution infrastructure, including metering at all levels.

Indian government has ambitious targets in terms of capacity addition. How digitalisation can help the country reach its targets?

The government targets 40 per cent power generation from renewables by 2030 and envisages an installed capacity of 175 GW for renewables by 2022. This drives the need for grid integration solutions that allow integration of renewable energy sources with the grid. Since one-way flows are evolving into multi-directional flows of energy and digital information, the resulting complexity requires a new, integrated and secure approach to delivering the right information technology solutions. We are completing the Western Region Renewable Energy Center which will serve exactly this purpose. It also enables the preservation of the grid data for future references by fusing IT capabilities and protecting the grid against cyberattacks.

While advanced and scalable SCADA systems further allows remote monitoring of the grids and data collection, Big Data technologies are used to analyse the massive data generated by the smart grids and support in decision making. This high technology, data supported approach to grid operations and maintenance presents a tectonic shift in thinking in the energy transmission sector in India. Grid operators can now manage the performance of energy transmission assets, lower operation and maintenance cost, and reduce failure.

Could you discuss about Siemens’s preparedness in the field of digitalisation?

Siemens is one of the leading companies in the field of digitalisation. We have a complete end-to-end spectrum of technologies, products, services and solutions, designed for all partners to enable success towards a smarter, interconnected and distributed future grid. We are constantly innovating and building local solutions for local challenges.

MindSphere is our Cloud-based open IoT Operating System that connects the real world with the virtual world and provides a platform as a service to the developers.  We already have close to 1 million assets connected to MindSphere. We have set up the MindSphere Application Centre in India to enable our customers and Siemens domain experts to come together, identify specific customer pain points, run simulations and develop proofs of concepts that will culminate in customised digital solutions.

Digitally enhanced GIS with non-conventional instrument transformers make available real time digital data for IoT applications enabling remote grid and predictive asset management.

Self-healing network solution in distribution network, by ensuring automatic fault localisation, isolation and restoration, allows re-supply of power in less than a minute in the event of an outage. Siemens Cyber Security Solutions protect critical assets on the grid by offering integrated advanced cyber security at the product, system and solution level meet the most stringent security requirements globally.

Our E-Mobility Infrastructure management solution allows charging station management, execution of customer contracts and services and ability to manage the EV re-charges in a smart way based on real time demand on the grid coupled with the price of energy.

How do you see the future of energy management industry beyond 2019?

The future is digitalisation. In the coming years, we find digitalisation technologies increasingly enveloping almost every equipment, network planning, operation and maintenance. All equipment will be digitally connected; utilities will deploy digital twin systems for network planning and upgradation. The wide scale digitalisation will fundamentally alter business models such as transition from CAPEX to availability or use based fee in both operations and maintenance. These changes will usher significant user efficiency and price advantages.

Digital and power electronics supported technologies will prove to be a game changer for the energy management and power sector in India. It will help consumer take center stage. The smarter, more decentralised, and yet more connected power system will help in achieving objectives like security, environmental sustainability, better asset utilisation and open new frontiers for businesses.