Smart Grid for self-reliant India

Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan or the Self-reliant India campaign is the vision of a new India envisaged by the Hon'ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. On 12 May 2020, in an initiative to make India a self-sustaining economy, as part of the plan, the emphasis was laid on the Economy, Infrastructure, System, Vibrant Demography, and Demand.

However, if this initiative were to be fruitful we need an efficient, reliable, and continuous power supply. Unlike most developed countries the power supply in our country is highly inconsistent affecting the overall output from the manufacturing industry. Though the dwindling coal supply can be one of the major reason for power shortage in the current scenario; we should not ignore power theft, a silent yet a major contributor for the persisting power shortage. A recent survey shows that as much as 20% of the power produced in India is lost due to theft. At the helm of the disaster is our age-old power infrastructure which leads to inefficient distribution and transmission.

Lack of modernization in the existing power infrastructure is leading to a huge loss in power either due to theft or wastage. The traditional electromechanical meter is largely dependent on manual data collection. An electrical personnel visits the consumers' residence monthly, records the usage and bills them accordingly. This conventional technology has no relation to advanced monitoring and control; hence no checks are in place to detect loss or theft.

The Indian government is now focusing largely on advanced energy management and increased use of renewable energy resources - a timely solution adapted to handle the current power crisis through the advanced energy management system. The Ministry of Power has initiated ISGF (Indian Smart Grid Forum) to deploy Smart Grids to optimize the cost and efficiency of power supply to all stakeholders.

The Smart Grids are designed to enhance the efficiency of power usage using smart meters. The smart meters adopt a bidirectional flow of information from consumer to utility company and vice-versa. The power consumption pattern of a consumer is recorded and analyzed by the smart meters. It also shares information from utilities to the consumer such as cost and peak demand using Advanced Metering Infrastructure, Advanced Communication System including home area networks (HAN), neighborhood area networks (NAN) and wide area networks (WAN).

Smart meters are assumed to change the face of Indian power infrastructure. The colonial period power infrastructure will pave the way to a much more advanced interface between the consumer and the utility company. The induction of smart meters is expected to cut down the energy consumption and maintain a uniform power distribution throughout the country by equipping the end customer with the information required to monitor usage in real-time. This would enable them to stop wastage and save power. On the other hand, the precision of real-time data acquired and the analysis of the consumer power consumption pattern helps the utilities to detect power outages, identify power theft, and meter tampering, enhance timely and better maintenance and eventually allow real time pricing.

The current transformation in the power sector aimed by the government through the implementation of power grids will help the domestic manufacturing industries thrive. The upside of this project is that the implementation of power grids requires no major infrastructural changes, small add-ons to the existing power infrastructure will complete the process.

The piloting of smart grid projects are already initiated in our country. The necessity of this transformation cannot be ignored given the uncertainties the pandemic has brought with it. The importance for a country to be self-sufficient and less dependent on others for its essentials is some key points the government is trying to address through its Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan campaign, and the implementation of power grids will sure help accelerate the process.