Views of Rajasthan Energy Department’s Sanjay Malhotra: “We aim to provide reliable, cost-effective power”

“We aim to provide reliable, cost-effective power”

Over the years, the need for a stable and reliable grid has been emphasised time and again. With the current impetus to capacity addition and inclusion of renewable energy in the network, grid modernisation has become a focus point for the power sector. One state that is making significant headway in modernising its grid network is Rajasthan. Power Line, in association with Schneider Electric India, recently organised a workshop, “Grid Modernisation in Rajasthan”, that brought together senior government officials, public and private utility heads and other key stakeholders in Rajasthan’s power sector. In this section, we present key highlights from the workshop. In the opening address, Sanjay Malhotra, principal secretary, Energy Department, Government of Rajasthan, and chairman and managing director, Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Prasaran Nigam (RVPN), spoke about the current state of the grid and state’s initiatives in grid modernisation. Excerpts…

While transmission companies have already been taking initiatives to improve the efficiency and stability of the grid, now distribution companies too are steering their way forward in this direction. Discoms have undertaken numerous measures to enhance grid management and thereby ensure uninterrupted, quality power to their consumers. In this regard, the objectives of both the transmission and distribution companies seem to be aligned. The two entities have been employing technology and better techniques to supply reliable, 24×7 cost-effective power to consumers.  IT has been a major enabler in achieving these objectives. Various other digital measures have gained popularity in the market as well. One such concept is artificial intelligence (AI). AI has gained traction, with several organisations employing it to enhance system efficiency and minimise errors. However, despite its obvious benefits, it has received some criticism on the grounds that it tends to make humans inherently dependent on computers and computation. It is here that we must realise that such technologies can only aid the current process and not drive it altogether. IT cannot act as a substitute to skilled manpower. Utilities can buy the best machines, employ the latest technologies and modernise their grids, but the end delivery has to be carried out by the core team.

To this end, RVPN has taken a few steps. To begin with, we are working on the operations and management side. We are trying to develop a system that would provide us information and data on various grid parameters. For this, we have received financial sanctions of Rs 6 billion-Rs 7 billion, which would be utilised to build a communication backbone up to the 132 kV level. Once this is in place, we plan to move forward to the 33 kV level. This would ensure that the transmission companies have a reliable communication system. The plan is to build an optical fibre layer that would facilitate communication. Orders for this have already been placed. Once all the equipment has been integrated with the communication backbone, data will be managed through various command control centres. Data on several parameters such as frequency control and power factor will be monitored on not only a routine basis but also a per-second basis to control grid operations and ensure its smooth functioning. Another project for which orders have already been placed relates to energy accounting, open access approvals and deviation settlement. The utility has not yet been able to implement measures for deviation settlement and is thus lagging behind on this front. However, the efforts are now at the final stage and the system will be put in place soon. Under this, RVPN will receive data for every 15-minute block and the parameters would be tested accordingly.

In the IT space, discoms have stepped up their efforts and awarded many tenders, most of which are at the final stage. CESC, for instance, is working on an ambitious smart metering plan in Kota. Thus, discoms are increasingly coming to the fore and contributing their bit to grid modernisation.

As efforts in this space continue to multiply, there is a need to overcome one major challenge – of reducing aggregate technical and commercial losses in order to maintain the financial health of the discoms. This would help deliver better results for not only the utility but also for the consumers in terms of reduced tariffs.

There is no difference in what the government aims to deliver and what consumers demand. Our primary objective is to provide reliable and cost-effective power to consumers while making the discoms profitable. Concerted efforts in this direction are likely to deliver positive results.