Power Sector Automation Today & Tomorrow

Discover how automation is impacting the growth of the power sector. By Subhajit Roy

Automation has become an integral part in power sector thanks to the growing concern about enhancing plant performance through dependable and predictable operations. Power plant automation solutions help in automating turbine control, boiler control, boiler protection, the balance of the plant, and integration of third-party systems with the help of predictive maintenance and connectivity through the Internet.

Digitalisation is growing rapidly across the world and devices are becoming increasingly intelligent. In power sector, standardised protocols for substation or Internet of Things (IoT) is bringing uniformity across the devices and equipment. The interoperability and data readability are the key solutions with the advent of IoT. Also, with the emergence of Cloudbased automation solutions, power companies are benefitted with reduction in costs, functionality enhancement, and greater flexibility.

Ajey Phatak, Head Marketing, Beckhoff Automation Pvt Ltd comments: “IoT is the technology concept for all the end-user applications owing to its superior advantages in connectivity. Monitoring energy consumption pattern, monitoring connected load, electrical power quality status and taking corrective actions lead to cost control and this coupled with manufacturing data can help calculate the OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness).”

According to Technavio analysts, the global automation control market in the power generation sector is expected to grow at a CAGR of above 6 per cent during 2018-2022. The growing concern to enhance plant performance through dependable and predictable operations is a major factor driving the market’s growth.

A senior analyst at Technavio for research on automation claims that the adoption of Cloud-based SCADA solutions is expected to reduce end-users’ costs up to 25 per cent when compared with traditional SCADA solutions in the power industry.

Talking about the key market trends impacting the growth of the power sector automation in India, Dr. Harald Griem, Executive Vice President and Head – Energy Management Division, Siemens Ltd. Said, “The per capita consumption of electrical energy in India is estimated to grow at 6 per cent per annum. In order to support this demand in a sustainable manner, it is required that India multiplies its transmission reliability and last mile power delivery capacities. Here, the Government of India is committed to the cause of providing 24/7 affordable and environment friendly ‘Power for All’ by 2019. Its schemes involve specific actions to enhance electricity access to all households and steps for strengthening and modernising the sub transmission and distribution infrastructure, including metering at all levels. Ideas such as digital prepaid meters are innovative and have the potential to boost the quality of living and kickstart overall economic activities.”

Along with the consumer, the Indian government is also reviving the distribution companies. Its move to take up DISCOM debts is a step in the right direction, opines Dr. Griem. He said, “In order to address the demand side issues, the government envisages digital interventions like upgrading to smart meters, consumer indexing and GIS Mapping and reducing AT&C losses.”

India also 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 multidirectional flows of energy and digital information, the resulting complexity requires a new, integrated and secure approach to delivering the right information technology solutions,” observes Dr. Griem.

The Opportunities

The future is digitalisation. India is leapfrogging dynamically by driving basic electrification while installing latest technology for power quality and smart grids, and simultaneously coping with the integration of large-scale renewable energy. The large distances and grid complexity are increasingly making automation and digitalisation down to the distribution grids attractive levers for the operators.

In the coming years, it is expected that every electrical equipment to be digitally connected, allowing a switch from failure-based maintenance to reliabilitycentered asset management through condition monitoring and analytics. Dr. Griem says, “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 fees in both operations and maintenance. These changes will usher significant user efficiency and price advantages.”

He adds, “There will be a need to provide localised solutions to emerging challenges like renewable energy integration, EV charging infrastructure management, network stability, power reliability and load and demand management. Additionally, digital sensing and automated analytics-based solutions will enable the move towards a more efficient, reliable, resilient and responsive grid.”

Mr Phatak said, “Implementing IoT itself will create huge opportunities for all levels of operations. Electronics, IT, electrical, power electronics, O&M services will have greater opportunities until a time self-sufficiency is sustainable at user levels. IT solution providers will also have opportunities.”

The Challenges to Market Growth

Though there are plenty of opportunities lies in the power sector automation, there are challenges to market growth. Highlighting the challenges to market growth, Dr. Griem said, “While our transmission sector is quite on par with global benchmarks, automation technologies has still not penetrated distribution sector compared to the West. The financial health of discoms needs substantial improvement so that they can start investing in digitalisation technologies which will lead to further efficiency improvements and also address demand side challenges.”

While the investors in renewable energy generation need a must-run assurance, which is currently not enforceable in many states, a well thought through generation or storage plan to back-up the intermittent solar and wind energy will provide stability of return on capital and drive further investments into this sector, avers Dr. Griem.

The procurement specification of major equipment of government schemes such as IPDS still has room for greater stringency. The public procurement is still largely based on initial CAPEX cost and not life cycle based. “Moving to a Total Cost of Ownership based approach with a focus on efficiency and reliability is needed,” he added.

On the other hand, Mr Phatak observes, “Implementing standards of connectivity by equipment manufacturers must accelerate. BIS authorities should create environment for mandatory compliances and this can be a big challenge.”

Latest initiatives in power sector automation

Siemens offers complete end-to-end spectrum solutions

Siemens has 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,” states Dr. Griem.

Siemens’s digitally enhanced GIS with nonconventional 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.

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

Seamlessly integrated into the cloud: the Beckhoff measurement chain

Beckhoff offers an integrated system architecture for measurement applications:

 Sensor connection to I/O modules in IP 20 and IP 67 protection ratings.
 IEC protocol compliances.
 EtherCAT as the established high-performance
fieldbus system.
 TwinCAT automation software for on-premises use integrated engineering, PLC, motion control, safety, visualisation, communication and measurement technology.
 Cloud connectivity integrated into the control system.
 MQTT/ AMQP / OPC UA and IoT protocol compliances.

By Subhajit Roy