POWER T&D OUTLOOK

The power T&D market in India is undergoing a significant change that has redefined the industry outlook. By Subhajit Roy, Group Editor

The power sector in India is going through rapid transformation with an aggressive push to increase energy generation. The country plans to add 131.31 GW of power generation capacity during 2019 to 2022. Recently, in a written reply to Rajya Sabha, Power Minister RK Singh informs, based on the present preparedness of projects, the power generation capacity addition during 2019 to 2022 is likely to be 1,31,316 MW. It is to be noted that as on 31st May 2019, India’s total installed power generation capacity was 3,56,817.6 MW. The increased power generation capacity will seek upgradation of transmission and distribution (T&D) infrastructure.

Sharing his outlook on power T&D market in India, Harish Agarwal, CEO of Supreme & Co. Pvt. Ltd., said, “T&D market will change significantly in nature. After successful implementation of Saubhagya, the market will now comprise of corridors for renewal integration, automation, reconductoring and smart or prepaid metering. These will also be a large market for innovative product line – narrow base towers, monopoles, insulated crossarms, HTLS conductors and ERS etc.” Mr Agarwal is also the President of IEEMA and VP of CIGRE India. He informs, “We shall also see opportunities in distributed generation, energy storage, electric mobility or even possibly in E-highways. Innovation in technology and business model may be very disruptive. Industry upstream and downstream have to build robustness and resilience in their business process and products.”

However, CP Vyas, President – Electrification Business, ABB India observes: “We are likely to witness moderate traction in the power distribution sector in the medium term. The growth drivers will be increasing urbanisation, smart cities, utility services, and power requirements for expanding infrastructure. Another great catalyst of growth is the technology awareness and acceptance in this sector, which is creating a demand for advanced and sustainable technologies, be it in greenfield or replacement equipment and solutions.”

He adds, “Digital technology in switchgears and relays, which optimise safety, reliability of distribution networks, modular, prefabricated structures like power distribution centres to render greater efficiency and reduce carbon footprint in management of infrastructure and outage optimisation.”

Major Challenges

According to Mr Agarwal, the major challenges the T&D sector is facing today is in the distribution system. He said, “The distribution system suffers from the problem of low voltage, power theft and high energy losses. The problem of the losses and voltage drop in distribution feeders dependent on each other and varies with the pattern of loading on the feeders.”

Mr Agarwal adds, “In the existing system, large capacity transformers are provided at one point and the connections to each load is extended through long LT lines. This long length of LT lines is causing low voltage condition to the majority of the consumers, power theft by hooking the lines, unauthorised connections and high technical losses.”

In Mr Agarwal’s opinion, to reduce distribution losses, to improve quality of supply and also to prevent theft of electrical energy, high voltage distribution systems (HVDS) are implemented. In HVDS scheme, long length LT lines are converted into 11 kV lines and thereby, installing the appropriate capacity distribution transformer as near as to the end and the supply is provided to the consumer.

To tackle the challenges in the power distribution sector, the government has put in place multiple initiatives. “Aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses would be a key challenge, however with schemes like UDAY, it has been brought down to below 1 per cent. The UDAY scheme has also played a role to a limited extent in helping address the issue of financial health of DISCOMs,” opines Mr Vyas. “Indian cities still have a lot overhead network and unsafe distribution, but with the government’s focus on reducing distribution losses and infusing greater technology in the sector, cities are undertaking initiatives especially places of heritage, old quarters and of tourist interest like hill stations to do underground cabling, install ring main units and compact substations, which not only improve the efficiency and safety but also leave the infrastructure less vulnerable to weather elements at a time of climate change.”

He adds: “Timely execution of smart city projects will provide a significant catalyst to improvements in smart power distribution. Also, new trends like distributed generation of power including microgrids and the addition of renewable energy are some of the other factors, which also have a bearing on developing a seamless distribution network.”

Innovative technologies contributing to sectoral growth

Distribution network remains at the core of power supply ecosystem. Many companies are developing and innovating best-in-class global technologies ‘Made in India’ to partner the building of a safer, sustainable and more reliable power distribution network in the country. A few examples would be equipment, which reduce footprint and space requirements. India has some of the world’s most populous cities, each having close to 30,000 people per square kilometres. With such high population density, free space is clearly limited. “Prefabricated, modular solution of power distribution centers (PDCs), safeguard the distribution of power and bring footprint savings of up to 30 per cent,” opines Mr Vyas. “The prefabricated modular nature of the PDC is an engineering innovation that optimises space, reduces construction time and resources, and enhances public safety.”

Monitoring and diagnostics solutions provide a higher life expectancy and high energy savings of equipment and solutions for the customers. According to Mr Vyas, the focus on environment friendly solutions also entail an alternative to SF6 in medium voltage distribution equipment. SF6-free GIS solutions are innovatively designed to save on footprint and protect the environment. Smart solutions entail production in smart factories bringing all new digital experiences to customers. Solutions like auto recloser is one such innovation, which contributes to reliable power for consumers by maintaining uptime during majority of the fault cases. Thus, Mr Vyas observes, various automation solutions are continuously bridging the gaps between consumer and distribution infrastructure.

There are also smaller distributed generation models of microgrids MGS 100, which are being incorporated as a localised power generation and distribution model to provide greater and equitable access to energy.

According to government data, of the 26.30 million households targeted under the Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana or Saubhagya got electricity connections, 99.93 per cent, or 26.28 million households, have got electricity connections as on 21st May 2019. Now, the new government at centre targets to provide reliable, sustainable and affordable 24X7 electricity to all. However, in order to achieve 24×7 power for all, a robust Indian power transmission system is essential. In this context, attempts have been made to review the relevant aspects related to optimal economic planning of transmission lines. Supreme & Co. Pvt. Ltd. has developed Emergency Restoration System (ERS) that is used in case of any line reconductoring or re-routing. There are enormous benefits of ERS since such lightweight and can be erected in any kind of soil. Unlike the old restoration techniques, the line is restored and charged within few hours by using our ERS and thus prevent a huge financial loss of the utilities. Thus, it can be concluded that Supreme’s emergency restoration technique is a unique solution to cope up with the emergencies caused by the natural calamities as well as for line uprating, claims Mr Agarwal.

Conclusion

The power T&D market in India is undergoing a sea change as the country is committed to provide reliable, sustainable and affordable 24X7 electricity to all. Also, as the focus on renewable energy resources is ever increasing, the T&D sector is in pursuit of better efficiencies and more suitability.

Of late, in a major decision to facilitate the solar and wind energy projects, the power ministry has approved the formation of a three-member Dispute Resolution Committee to consider the unforeseen disputes between solar or wind power developers and SECI or NTPC, beyond contractual agreement.

“The issue was considered and it was felt that there is need to erect a transparent, unbiased Dispute Resolution Mechanism, consisting of an independent, transparent and unbiased Dispute Resolution Committee (DRC), for resolving the unforeseen disputes that may arise in implementation of contractual agreements and also for dealing with issues which are beyond the scope of Contractual Agreements between solar power developers or wind power developers and SECI or NTPC,” an official statement issued by MNRE had said earlier. This move is expected to bring in efficiencies in resolving the sectoral disputes pertaining mostly to time request extensions along with various other common issues being faced. Therefore, it is expected to play a crucial role in easing solar and wind power project implementations, thereby driving renewable energy sector’s growth. Further, the growth in renewable sector will push the demand for reliable, stable transmission systems to deal with the intermittent nature of renewable energy sources. Also, the advent of net metering and policy thrust on electric vehicles are all set to change the dynamics on electricity transmission.

India’s power distribution segment continues to struggle by issues like inadequate tariff hikes, high T&D and AT&C losses, inadequate and untimely subsidy disbursements. In 2015, the Narendra Modi-led government had launched the Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY) to turn around the financial health of struggling state DISCOMs. Though the scheme has shown some remarkable results in few states, it is yet to make significant impact across the country. As a result, at the end of FY19, losses of the DISCOMs have shown over 40 per cent growth and reached to the tune of Rs 21,658 crore.

On this note, in an aim to manage the challenges being faced by state-owned DISCOMs, the two state-run power giants — NTPC and PowerGrid Corporation of India Limited (PGCIL) — have signed an agreement to set up a joint venture National Electricity Distribution Company Limited (NEDCL). “The objective is to undertake the business for distribution of electricity in various states and union territories of India and other related activities,” PGCIL said in a statement. NEDCL, the 50:50 joint venture DISCOM, is being touted as the ‘gamechanger’ and is expected to address issues like power theft and other roadblocks.