Making Networks Robust

IT and OT key to efficient power system operations

The power sector is witnessing a rapid influx of information and operational technologies (IT and OT). These technologies are required to facilitate renewable energy integration, ensure reliable power supply under programmes such as 24×7 Power for All and the Smart Cities Mission, meet customer expectations, and manage a large interconnected grid. Thus, the utilities are increasingly adopting technologies that enable real-time monitoring of the network, thus enhancing operational efficiency and reducing network losses.

Generation

The need for efficiency in the power generation segment is driving the deployment of IT and OT. These include advanced automation and control technologies such as performance analysis, diagnostics and optimisation (PADO) and distributed control. PADO provides real-time information on key performance indicators that help evaluate the condition of power plant equipment, as well as information on the heat rate, boiler and turbine performance, etc. Besides, power plant developers are setting up remote monitoring diagnostic centres to monitor fleet-wide operations and maintain the health of plants from a centralised remote facility. The tightening of emission norms by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has further opened up avenues for technology deployment in the generation segment.

Transmission

In the power transmission segment, the key technology for enhancing grid management is wide area management systems (WAMS) based on phasor measurement units (PMUs), which provided real-time measurements of energy flow in the grid. Power Grid Corporation of India Limited is implementing a pan-Indian PMU deployment project under the Unified Real Time Dynamic State Measurement project, wherein PMUs will be installed at the 400 kV and above substations, all generating stations at the 220 kV and above level, high voltage direct current terminals, and key international and interregional connection points. In addition, utilities are adopting substation automation, digital substations optical fibre ground wire, gas-insulated switchgear mapping, and remote terminal unit technologies. These technologies aim to ensure effective capacity utilisation of transmission corridors and efficient energy flow.

Distribution

In the power distribution segment, the government is promoting the deployment of advanced IT and OT under various schemes. The key among these is the Integrated Power Development Scheme, which aims to make the distribution infrastructure in the country IT enabled. The key provisions of the scheme include online monitoring of 11 kV feeders on a National Power Portal and implementation of supervisory control and data acquisition. Further, for IT and OT implementation in the smart grid segment, the government is extending support under the National Smart Grid Mission. Broadly, the mission entails the installation of 800,000 smart meters and advanced metering infrastructure, which are the primary components of smart grids. Besides, 10 smart grid pilot projects are being undertaken by the Ministry of Power to evaluate the scalability of technology. Smart grids offer benefits such as load management, outage handling, remote connect and disconnect, self-diagnosis, peak load management and outage management system. In addition, the utilities are deploying IT and OT to improve consumer experience and satisfaction.

The way forward     

With the growing penetration of IT and OT in the power system, the key challenge is to ensure foolproof cybersecurity. This is a strenuous task given the rapid obsolescence of security technologies, the evolving nature of security risks, and limitations of antivirus software and firewall. Integrating new technologies and applications with the existing infrastructure is another challenge. Further, there is a lack of benchmarks and standards for new technologies in the country. Given the lack of trained manpower, there is also a need to reskill and train employees to keep up with the emerging ecosystem. Besides, undertaking change management and educating end users about the benefits of a technology would lower the resistance towards its adoption.

Some of the critical aspects of IT and OT deployment are managing a huge quantum of data generated through these technologies, and undertaking data analysis to derive meaningful interpretations. Owing to its cost and performance efficiencies, the concept of cloud computing is also fast drawing the attention of Indian utilities. Big data, predictive analytics and internet of things are also being deployed to forecast, optimise and control energy usage.

Net, net, the deployment of IT and OT improves operational efficiency across all the segments in the power sector. However, it is necessary to adopt the most suitable technology solution to address the challenges facing the utility and derive the full benefits. It is also important to ensure coordination between the existing system and a new technology.

Priyanka Kwatra

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