Maintaining proper power quality for customers is a key challenge for utilities today. While massive-scale power outages like the blackout of 2012 that crippled the country for two days are no longer frequent, power quality problems and rolling power cuts are still commonplace in several parts of the country.
According to government estimates based on data collected from 30 discoms for February 2017, the average duration of outages (a measure of power quality) stood at 7.27 hours per month. In fact, over 50 per cent of these discoms witnessed power cuts exceeding the national average duration. The discoms in Uttar Pradesh (Dakshinanchal and Paschimanchal discoms), Uttarakhand, Bihar (North Bihar discom) and Haryana (North Haryana discom) clocked the highest duration of power cuts, ranging from 31 hours to 144 hours.
These outages have a huge impact on end-consumers, especially industrial buyers, in terms of loss of potential revenues and equipment performance. According to the World Bank’s enterprise survey, India loses 3.7 per cent of its total sales value due to power outages. Further, there are high costs associated with investments in backup power facilities, maintenance the and replacement of depreciating equipment, among other things. Not just end-consumers, outages are also costly for discoms as they experience a loss of energy sales and incur operations and maintenance expenses to restore outages.
A key step towards ensuring adequate and reliable power supply is the development of a supporting infrastructure. A number of technological solutions that can help utilities respond to this need are available in the market. For instance, digital substations, gas-insulated solutions and automation tools for substations offer the promise of improved service reliability. While these require a large capital investment outlay, programmes such as the IPDS, which offer financial assistance to utilities, are helping them achieve a balance between reliable services and reasonable costs.
In this issue, we look at the next-generation solutions being deployed by utilities to improve substation performance in the Infocus section, and also examine the quality of power supply concerns in the Special Section.