Smart Route

Increasing IT/OT deployment drives growth in transcos

For transmission companies, IT and OT can significantly help improve operational performance, achieve grid stability, reduce outages and assist in demand forecasting. However, as utilities move to next-generation software and solutions, some accompanying challenges, particularly those related to cybersecurity, must be appropriately addressed. Leading state transmission utilities comment on their use of IT-OT solutions and identify technologies that hold most relevance for them in the future…

What are some of the new IT and OT technologies that have been implemented by your organisation in the past few years? How have these helped improve the company’s overall performance?

B.B. Mehta

Gujarat has the largest transmission network in the country and caters to a peak demand of about   16,000 MW (peak load of 15,886 MW as of May 26, 2017). Further, 6,671 MW of installed renewable capacity, comprising 5,407 MW of wind capacity and 1,234 MW of solar capacity, has been integrated into the system. The long coastline of 1,600 km is impacting the life of transmission assets. Gujarat has already implemented the intra-state availability-based tariff (ABT), accounting for 74 pool members.

Gujarat has adopted many IT- and OT-based technologies and solutions. For grid operations, capturing real-time data from renewable energy sources, scheduling and energy accounting of interfaced ABT meters installed at various locations, operational decision making and grid monitoring are being done in real time with the help of advanced IT technologies.

For analysing grid behaviour in real time, a wide area monitoring system (WAMS) project using 113 phasor measurement unit (PMU) data has been implemented at 25 locations. Analytic software developed by IIT Bombay such as online oscillation stability mode identification, hybrid state estimator and dynamic security assessment are being used for analysing PMU data. The development of web-based energy accounting and scheduling software with automatic meter reading solutions at 300 locations and implementation of 1,370 meters are providing better and fast services to stakeholders. An automatic demand management scheme covering 100, 66 kV substations, with an average MW loading capacity of 646 MW under four distribution companies – Madhya Gujarat Vij Company Limited, Uttar Gujarat Vij Company Limited, Dakshin Gujarat Vij Company Limited and Paschim Gujarat Vij Company Limited – has been implemented by the state load despatch centre (SLDC). The SLDC has implemented a new supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system with advanced features. We have also developed an online web-based wind generation forecasting application for anticipated wind generation on a day-ahead and real-time basis in the system. The e-payment facility is also being implemented to provide better services to external stakeholders.

For real-time transmission system operation, some of the solutions being deployed are substation automation, digital substations and telecommunication systems. Some of the system support solutions that have been deployed are optical fibre ground wire (OPGW), gas-insulated switchgear mapping, and remote terminal units. The new IT and OT technologies have helped us provide good customer services.

P. Patra

Odisha Power Transmission Corporation Limited (OPTCL) is one of the leading transmission utilities in the country. It has achieved a transmission system availability of more than 99.97 per cent consistently over the past four years, leading to the development of an effective and economical system of intra-state and interstate transmission lines for the smooth flow of power from generating stations to load centres. The state transmission utility currently has 134 grid substations including switching stations with a transformation capacity of 16,633 MVA and transmission lines of 400 kV, 220 kV and 132 kV voltage levels, aggregating 13,331 ckt. km. In the past one year, IT and OT technologies like web-based geographic information systems (GIS), advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) and smart grid initiatives in the Rourkela Smart City have been undertaken, apart from the successful implementation of the eShakti (Enterprise Resource Planning [ERP]) project.

Odisha witnessed natural calamities like super cyclones in 1999, 2013 and 2014, which badly affected the energy sector, damaging infrastructure and disrupting services to the people. This triggered the utility into implementing GIS for its complete extra high tension (EHT) network. This covers georeferencing of its 134 grid substations along with their connected generating stations, industries and traction stations. It includes 28,935 EHT towers spread over 8,072 route km. GIS was implemented for disaster mitigation, right-of-way facilitation and transmission line siting. GIS caters to quick gang mobilisation, system planning studies and timely completion of tasks. Further, it has been integrated with the ERP (eShakti) Database and the Revenue (Bhulekh) Data and Crowd Sourcing App (eGel) for image transfer of assets. All these initiatives have  helped OPTCL serve as a ready reference, as the “power atlas of Odisha”. The line details along with geocrossings and live crossings are depicted through satellite images, which come in handy at the time of planning, analysis and maintenance.

OPTCL has successfully installed AMI in around 124 EHT grids of its transmission networks. This has helped in automated reading of meters, periodic polling and storing of data at the end of every digital image processing of 15 minutes from all interfacing points to the central AMI server. Other benefits of AMI include integration with the energy billing solution, centralised availability of historical meter data, the presence of a dependable dashboard on real energy consumption, report of events and alarms, and representation of trends and analysis. In the OT segment, OPTCL has already installed an OPGW network spanning 2,400 km with 220 kV EHT lines and 132 kV lines for SCADA. The OPGW network is being used to run the IT applications of OPTCL, the SLDCs and the Grid Corporation of Odisha.

Sanghamitra Pyne

West Bengal State Electricity Transmission Company Limited (WBSETCL) is the state transmission utility and is also in charge of grid operations for the entire state. Over the years, the company has grown in strength in terms of its extra high voltage network, substations, transformation as well as operations and maintenance (O&M) capacity. For the financial year ended March 31, 2017, WBSETCL’s total income from operations was Rs 12.95 billion and the total net profit after tax was Rs 3.71 billion. West Bengal is one of the best performing states in the electricity sector. These achievements are not a flash in the pan. A lot of IT and OT initiatives incorporated and commissioned by WBSETCL have aided this growth and  ensured grid system availability of 99.9  per cent.

In the past two years, WBSETCL has carried out a major communication backbone project using OPGW as part of the unified load despatch centre project that involved the revamping of the SCADA system. A PMU and WAMS installation project is also under way. The system operations of the SLDC have been strengthened by constructing a new state-of-the art data recovery centre. The company has enhanced its IT systems for financial services, biometric attendance, e-procurement, web portal and corporate email services, as well as for mobility solutions for outage reporting , energy accounting software and the web portal at SLDCs.

What are some of the business areas proposed to be covered through IT-OT integration going forward? Which technologies will have the most relevance?

B.B. Mehta

Some of the business areas that are proposed to be covered through IT-OT integration are:

  • Implementation of the load/demand forecasting mechanism with the help of advanced tools.
  • Establishment of a renewable energy management centre for mapping present and future growth in the sector, and catering to the government’s renewable energy mission.
  • Implementation of Phase 2 of the ADMS.
  • Automating the daily log sheet data entries.
  • Implementing advanced cybersecurity tools for strengthening/enhancing IT security.
  • Email and SMS services to internal/ external stakeholders for every transaction.
  • Implementing cloud solutions for round-the-clock availability of various web-based applications to the stakeholders.
  • Upgradation/Replacement of the existing IT hardware with latest technology and hardware.
  • Revamping the website with interactive and advanced features.
  • Implementation of WAMS Phase II.
  • Deployment of new communications technology to make real-time data available.

P. Patra

The energy sector is currently facing the daunting task of reducing aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses. The Department of Energy, Odisha government, has entrusted OPTCL with the implementation of smart grid initiatives in the Rourkela Smart City, which is under Western Electricity Supply Company of Orissa Limited.

Installation of smart meters, AMI, energy accounting, loss reduction measures, distribution transformer monitoring and outage management systems are the measures that will be undertaken in the first phase. However, the solutions should be scalable and in future, other areas of focus should be  renewable energy integration, electric vehicle charging stations and quality power supply. The detailed project report for the bidding is under process.

As part of the present GIS project, the 3D design and simulation for EHT towers and lines will be implemented for efficient EHT asset management, which, in turn, will minimise AT&C losses. For strengthening cybersecurity, OPTCL has undertaken implementation of the Information Security Management System in line with the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) guidelines.

Sanghamitra Pyne

While WBSETCL uses a number of ICT tools for various business processes, in the ICT infrastructure area, the company is exploring the viability of consolidating and enhancing infrastructure through cloud offerings. The key consideration at the end of the day is to see whether the ICT infrastructure needed for our core business, electricity, can benefit from a solution such as cloud.

At the same time, the need for data to be secure and well protected in the virtual private cloud (as opposed to a public one) is imperative.  The IT Act, 2000, and the National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre mandates that all critical infrastructure including power systems must be secured to avoid any adverse impact on national security. This requires special emphasis on the security of IT and OT systems, especially OT, since power transmission involves a G2G or a G2B environment at critical levels. Significantly, OT is a huge enabler of O&M and grid operations, with increasing digital and technology footprints. In OT and communication projects, WBSETCL works in collaboration with Power Grid Corporation of India Limited, which is the CERT-IN nodal agency for the transmission sector. On the IT side, with respect to our portals or data management, there are measures and audits to check the adherence to the ISO and CERT-IN mandates to prevent cyber issues.

What have been some of the biggest barriers to IT-OT integration in your organisation? How are these being addressed?

B.B. Mehta

Some of the biggest barriers to IT-OT integration in the organisation are:

  • Non-adoption/Acceptance of new technology by end users.
  • Poor communication network from service providers at a particular point.
  • Non-response from the vendor for protocol/application programme interface support for establishing interoperability between different applications.
  • Financial/Budgetary constraints.

Such barriers can be addressed by:

  • Providing raining, user manuals and know-how to the end users.
  • Organising skill development and capacity building programmes at regular intervals.
  • Upgrading infrastructure for strengthening the communications network.
  • Forming joint ventures with different vendors through a non-disclosure agreement.
  • Ensuring advanced planning and approvals for projects.

P. Patra

he power sector is witnessing the introduction of new technologies and digital solutions in all its legacy systems. Technologies such as ERP, digital grid, GIS-based asset management, outage management, substation automation, renewable energy integration and smart grids have ushered in a new era for the Indian energy system, wherein diversified demand-supply scenarios are to be catered to through new cutting-edge technologies.

Change management and development of expertise and infrastructure for integrating emerging technologies with the legacy system is a big challenge for the organisation and by overcoming these, the integration is going to deliver useful, reliable and efficient solutions for all types of business functionalities.

Sanghamitra Pyne

There are a lot of challenges involved since IT/OT in power or IT in any other allied sector also involves the deployment of a large field force, whose primary work involves the physical maintenance and monitoring of critical infrastructure. Technology is another added layer, which, in certain cases, requires reskilling of manpower. This is because if technology is not used in the manner in which it is supposed to be, it will not really yield the benefits it is supposed to. This becomes even more important with the entire ecosystem moving very rapidly. For instance, with the introduction of the goods and services tax, irrespective of the sector, there is a steep learning curve.  Moreover, there is now greater emphasis on digital payments, customer/employee  workflow using digital modes, e-transactions, etc. West Bengal, even prior to demonetisation, was one of the few states where departments and organisations  including WBSETCL, were already using digital modes of payments. For cybersecurity, users are sensitised in the matter and appropriate measures are undertaken in line with specific guidelines from the government and CERT-IN.

With reskilling  and training before any new technology is implemented, employees can keep up with the changes in the entire ecosystem. This will allow users to have a look and feel of the benefits and  strengths of any new IT/OT  system, along with associated ownership.


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