Follow Us:
Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Are utilities ready for a smart grid data tsunami

The present electricity sector in India is the fifth largest in the world. In spite of being the fourth largest consumer of electricity after US,China and Russia,India currently suffers from a major shortage of electricity generation capacity.

Published: June 29, 2013 4:39:37 pm

By Ravi Kumar Mandalika

The present electricity sector in India is the fifth largest in the world. In spite of being the fourth largest consumer of electricity after US,China and Russia,India currently suffers from a major shortage of electricity generation capacity. As of today Indian Electric Utilities just gets sparse data,including monthly meter reads,SCADA data or data about their field force and assets. In the future,it is estimated that there would be at least 5000 times more data coming in than what they have historically been able to manage and this is not even including the newer in-home energy management devices or the electric vehicles. So the big question for the Utilities now is if they are ready for the inevitable Smart Grid Data Tsunami? Not just Indian Utilities,but almost every large Utility across the globe is warming up to the Smart Grid/ smart metering vision to exceed customer expectations while optimizing operations and reducing technical and commercial losses. While Smart Grid has emerged as a strategy to enable utilities achieve its vision,most utilities are focusing on Smart grid as being an Infrastructure problem and are on the verge of missing the boat to understand that the very fact that it is the Data that makes the Smart Grid “Smart” and it the very thing that causes most difficulty.

“No more power cuts in India”. If I had said that a few years ago,I would have been pinched and asked to wake up. However,I believe that it is not a distant dream if India continues in its Electricity transformation journey. Most Utilities around the world are in the early stages of a transformation,which the industry believes will continue for the next decade or so. These utilities are evaluating,planning and implementing Smart Grid / Smart Metering technologies with a vision to exceed customer expectations while optimizing operations and reducing technical and commercial losses.

The present electricity sector in India is the fifth largest in the world with an installed capacity of around 214 GW as of early this year. In spite of being the fourth largest consumer of electricity after US,China and Russia,India currently suffers from a major shortage of electricity generation capacity. The woes that are haunting the Indian Electricity sector include:

a) Huge ‘demand – supply’ gap,which,as per official estimates,is calculated to be 12% of total energy

b) Substantial technical and commercial losses of anywhere between 25% to 35% (could be more,as fraction of the population is non-metered)

c) The “human element” –this is not the labour cost reduction but losses that occur due to recording errors and even in some cases,deliberate errors.

So this brings us to an important question,if it is time to define Electricity as a commodity or a premium value added service? The way this question is answered over the next decade will reshape,perhaps radically,the way electricity is produced,transported or even used. That in turn,will influence the way societies will grow and the way we live our day-to-day lives. It is pretty much similar to how civilisations developed and thrived around water bodies,well now it will revolve around electricity… and Utilities are going to play a very important role here. So Utilities are going to be in the limelight for the right reasons finally.

To address woes similar to that of the Indian electricity sector,Utilities across the globe are warming up to the concept of “Smart Grid”,which simply put is in the integration of information and communication technology into the life cycle of Energy ( read electricity,water and gas). While Smart Grid has emerged as a strategy to enable utilities achieve its vision,most utilities are focussing on Smart grid as being an Infrastructure problem and are on the verge of missing the boat to understand that the fact that it is the Data that makes the Smart Grid “Smart”.

It is estimated that Utilities get bombarded with at least 5000 times more data that what they have historically been able to manage and this is not even including the newer in-home energy management devices or the electric vehicles. If we were to dig deeper into where this data is coming from,it will be evident that Utilities while modernizing their operations and information systems while deploying smart metering and other electronic communication technologies,are looking to monitor,analyse and synchronize their networks to improve reliability,availability and efficiency. It is these functions that will result in an enormous volume of data – a ‘data deluge’ – flowing right into the utility at regular intervals which needs to be analysed and acted upon.

As of today,Indian Electric Utilities (such as NDPL,KSEB etc.) just get sparse data,including monthly meter reads used for billing,outage data (typically collected from customers dialling in to say their power is out),SCADA data or data about their field force and assets. In the future this would be further enhanced with data coming in from meters by almost hourly,data from renewable sources,data from your in home components such as air conditioning units,heater units etc.,communication units (which enable communication between devices),and last but not the least environment specific data. This data can be classified into operational (forecasts,power flow data etc.),non-operational (Power quality,environment conditions etc.),asset usage data (Meter interval data etc.),event data (data from tamper detection,fault detection etc.) and meta data (Network connectivity model etc.).

To illustrate this with an example,a Utility which has a million meters in the field can expect:

* More than 2000 Metre exchanges per day due to deployment (Optimistic estimate)

* More than 10,000 missing reads per day (assuming 99 per cent daily read success)

* 20 metre failures per day (assuming 0.5 per cent annual failure rate)

* More than 96,000,000 metre reads per day (assuming 15 minute data intervals)

That is a huge lot of data and this “data deluge” problem has to be solved before Utilities even get to the point of realizing real returns on Smart Grid investments. Hence the big question for the Indian Utilities now is if they are ready for the inevitable Smart Grid Data Tsunami?

This,in my geeky world,is a perfect use case for “Big Data”,which by the way is defined by Gartner as – Data that is high in volume,velocity and variety that demands cost effective and innovative forms of information processing for enhanced insight and decision making… which is the cornerstone for a Smart Grid.

Author is an industry executive (energy & utilities) of IBM Global Business Services. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not represent those of The Indian Express

For all the latest Business News, download Indian Express App

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement