Interview with T. Sriranga Rao Garu: “Smart microgrids will play a growing role in meeting local demand”

“Smart microgrids will play a growing role in meeting local demand”

One of the key focus areas of the Telangana State Electricity Regulatory Commission (TSERC) is promoting the development of smart grid projects in the state with the uptake of new and emerging technologies such as advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), demand response and microgrids. In a recent interview with Power Line, T. Sriranga Rao Garu, chairman, TSERC, shared his views on TSERC’s recent achievements and its key focus areas. Excerpts…

What are TSERC’s key recent achievements?

Telangana has set a levellised tariff of Rs 3.13 per kWh for solar projects under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha Utthan Mahabhiyan (KUSUM). It has also finalised demand-side management regulations and amended rooftop solar net metering regulations. TSERC has asked discoms to pay for banked energy from a 2 MW solar project. Further, it has extended the concessional power tariff by reducing the power charges to Rs 3.95 per unit. The new tariff will help the Hyderabad Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board save Rs 225 million per month and Rs 27 billion per annum. The commission has also passed orders for the determination of variable cost for the period from 2020-21 to 2023-24 for the existing biomass-, bagasse- and industrial waste-based power projects, and generic tariff for electricity generated from refuse-derived fuel-based power projects that will achieve commercial operation during 2020-21 to 2023-24. An interim order on billing and other issues was also issued during the lockdown period. Besides, suo moto orders were issued on the implementation of the state government’s directions under Section 108 of the Electricity Act, 2003, regarding relief measures to industries.

What are the promising smart grid technologies being considered by utilities?

“Today in the lab, tomorrow in the power field”, smart grids play an important role in addressing increasingly untenable economic, environmental and social trends in the supply and use of energy. Over the next 10 years, smart microgrids will play a growing role in meeting local demand, enhancing reliability and ensuring local control. There is a state-of-the-art smart grid pilot project in IDA Jeedimetla, wherein the southern discom has implemented all four functionalities with real-time distribution management systems. The project has won the Best Smart Grid Award 2020 under the Smart Cities category from the housing ministry. Some of the new technologies being considered are smart prepaid meters, communication infrastructure, data acquisition systems, data management systems, back office integration, home area networks, direct load controls, smart appliances, automated switches, equipment monitoring, real-time distribution management systems, automated capacitors, line monitors, data analytics, small-scale local generation (such as rooftop solar panels) to reduce transmission distances, high efficiency systems that reduce transmission losses, and smart switches that reduce outages by automatically identifying and isolating faults and interruptions.

What steps are being taken by the regulator for supporting these deployments?

The commission has recently visited the award-winning IDA Jeedimetla smart grid project commissioned by Southern Power Distribution Company of Telangana Limited (TSSPDCL) in association with ECIL and winAMR. TSSPDCL has implemented world-class communication architecture, a real-time distribution management system, automation components, smart prepaid meters, peak load and outage management functionality, power quality functionality, power quality measurement and other features such as a distribution transformer management unit and a vehicle tracking system.  Through electronic and print media, the commission is creating awareness among consumers regarding the benefits of adopting smart meters and smart grids, and encouraging them to use energy efficient and smart appliances. It has also provided an indicative list of smart grid projects and has allowed for the creation of an R&D team to study smart grid projects as part of the aggregate revenue requirement with a limit equivalent to Re 0.01 per unit of sales of the distribution licensee.

What are the concerns with regard to smart grid deployments?

The speed and success of deployments will depend on clear and balanced regulatory policies that promote safe, cost-effective and reliable deployment of smart meters and smart grid technologies. The key to a smarter grid is an educated workforce, development and application of standards, and sharing of global best practices.

What are the new areas that the regulator is working on?

The demand for electricity will increase with population growth, EV demand and growing renewable integration. The sector is witnessing fuel transformation and there is a need for a more resilient, safe, reliable and efficient grids with advanced technologies. A clear and balanced regulatory policy is also needed.