Leading Big Changes

As chairman and managing director (CMD) of the Power System Operation Corpo­ration (POSOCO), K.V.S. Baba is playing an instrumental role in efficiently managing the country’s electric grid while tackling the manifold challenges in grid operations…

Having spent more than three deca­des in the power sector, K.V.S. Baba knows the industry’s challenges and opportunities. During the course of his journey, he has witnessed the growth of the sector, its major achievements and challenges from up close.

In terms of big changes, Baba notes that the Electricity Act, 2003 was among the biggest and brought about a paradigm shift in the sector. “The regulatory fra­me­works facilitated the evolution of an organised market for electricity in India and paved the way for the introduction of reserve regulation ancillary services, security constrained economic despatch and automatic generation control in the Indian power system,” he says.

Another key achievement for the sector has been the interconnection of the re­g­io­nal grids to form a synchronous national grid. Further, various amendments to the Indian Electricity Grid Code, transmission planning criteria and transmission charges sharing regulations over the past 25 years have brought about positive and far-reaching changes in transmission planning and grid operation to enhance grid security and reliability.

Alongside the evolution of the grid, challenges in grid operations have also in­c­reased manyfold, Baba believes. “These challenges are being addressed by im­proving stakeholder coordination, system visualisation, data analytics, system simulation studies, system automation, flexibility, resilience, deployment of op­ti­misation techniques and operator tra­i­ning,” he says.

Baba also lists some of the measures that could benefit grid operations. These are strict compliance with technical standards by all grid users, improvement in demand/renewable energy forecasting, resource adequacy, maintenance of flexible reserves, strengthening of wideband communications, implementation of the SAMAST (scheduling, accounting, me­tering and settlement of transactions in electricity) and CABIL (capacity buil­ding of Indian load despatch centr­es) frameworks, strengthening of the intra-state transmission and distribution network, and empowering of the state load despatch centres.

“POSOCO will continue its focus on system security, reliability and resilience through resource adequacy,
network modelling and simulation studies, forecasting, assessment and deployment of reserves and
optimisation.”

Over the years, Baba has gained experience in power system planning, system operation, corporate planning and execution/project management of distribution projects. Some of his areas of interest are system reliability, open access, regulatory affairs and integration of renewable energy. He has been actively associated with GIZ Germany, National Rene­wable Energy Laboratories and Lawrence Berkeley National Laborato­ries, USA, in the study of integration of 175 GW of renewables into the Indian grid by 2022 as well as associated issues. He has also been instrumental in the successful im­plementation of reserve regulation ancillary services. He has co-authored several papers on the electricity sector.

An electrical and electronics engineer from JNTU College of Engineering, Kaki­nada, Andhra Pradesh, Baba started his career at NTPC Limited. He later mo­ved to Power Grid Corporation of India Limi­ted, where he worked for over 21 years, rising through the ranks to beco­me general manager.

He joined POSOCO in 2013 and was ap­p­ointed CMD in 2017. Prior to his current role, he served as the CEO of POSOCO. He is currently working on reserves, flexibility and optimisation. Baba has been representing POSOCO at the GO15 (formerly, Very Large Power Grid Ope­ra­tors of the World). He is also the chairman of the Indian National Study Com­mittee of CIGRE SC C2.

“The deepening of the markets through the introduction of new products and the increase in the number
of players will affect the scale and complexity of grid operations.”

Since Baba has been associated with POSOCO in leading roles for over 10 years, he has led through most of the achievements of the organisation. The in­troduction of frequency control thro­ugh reserves and ancillary services has been one of the key achievements to­war­ds operational security and reliability. There has been an emphasis on flexibility in op­e­rations in terms of generation, tra­ns­mission, distribution and markets.

“The introduction of closer to real-time electricity markets has supported utilities’ portfolio management with less leaning on the grid. Integrated web-based energy scheduling pan-India and gate closure have enabled fast data transfer and visibility for operations on a 15-minute time-block basis,” says Baba.

Technology has transformed the organisation significantly in recent years. Synchro phasor technology deployment and application have given deep in­sights into post-despatch analysis, en­suring grid resilience. Data, controls and automation have enabled big data analytics and visualisation for better system operations. Control rooms have a state-of-the-art supervisory control and data acquisition/energy management system. Dedicated control centres for rene­wables, that is, renewable energy management centres (REMCs), ha­ve also been established pan-India.

On POSOCO’s focus areas in the coming years, Baba says, “POSOCO would continue its focus on system security, reliability and resilience through resource ad­e­quacy, network modelling and simulation studies, forecasting, assessment and deployment of reserves and optimisati­on. We will work towards enhancing tra­nsparency, and stakeholder coordination and collaboration with academia. Our internal policies will focus on talent ma­nagement, empowering our knowle­dge workers and keeping them motivated to meet growing stakeholder expectations.” Apart from this, energy and capacity procurement with physical and financial market structures in various time horizons would be needed to ensure resou­rce adequacy. Inertia monitoring and assessment would be essential with the increasing penetration of renewables. The integration of new actors such as electric ve­hicles (EV), storage, green hydrogen and distribution service operators would be key focus areas. According to Baba, digital in­frastructure, cybersecurity and ways of work scalable with interoperable information and communication systems have to be emphasised in the “new normal”.  “Modernisation of control centres with artificial intelligence tools and maxi­misation of system performance are some of the key areas that can ensure efficient system operations,” he adds.

The major challenges in grid operation and reliability, according to Baba, are the changing composition of generation resources, with an increase in renewable and distributed generation, an ageing AC transmission infrastructure and inc­re­ase in electricity demand. “These challenges are already stressing the existing in­frastructure and resulting in operations closer to grid stability limits. The future of the power system will re­quire more integration of renewable energy so­ur­ces for a cleaner environment,” he says. In this context, the application of flexible transmission elements, namely, HVDC, and FACTS would provide performance solutions for network control. It would also include EV applications.

In Baba’s opinion, the deepening of the markets through the introduction of new products and the increase in the number of players will affect the scale and complexity of grid operation. There will be operational challenges such as fast ramping, variability, intermittency, potential grid instabilities resulting from a loss of inertia, loss of visibility and co­n­trollability of behind-the-meter reso­ur­ces, load stagnation/oversupply, and inadequate communication interfaces and operator training. “To address these, flexible operation of the existing conve­n­tional generation is being increasingly called for,” says Baba.

Overall, Baba sees a positive outlook for the power sector in the next 25 years, as India is on track to achieve its renewable energy target of 500 GW by 2030. Going forward, the markets will have to cater to the diverse needs of grid security, reliability and economy. There will be an inc­reasing focus on the aggregation of distri­buted resources, for example solar roof­tops, and participation in the markets. In view of this, consumer-centricity would be a key priority, according to Baba.

Further, the electrification of transportation will be a major driver for de­mand gro­wth and flexibility resources. New forms of energy storage such as low-im­pact pumped storage plants and batteries will support the balancing of the grid with reliability support services. The ad­aptation of green hydrogen technology for various sectors of the Indian economy will also play a significant role in the cle­an energy transition. “Signifi­cant measures would need to be taken to make the grid storm-hardy and electricity infrastr­ucture more resilient to the various risks posed by climate change and other ph­enomena,” says Baba.

Sugandha Khurana

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