GRIDCON 2023: Highlights of conference on digitalisation in transmission asset management

Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (POWERGRID) recently held a two-day international conference, GRIDCON 2023, in Gurugram. The theme of the conference was “Digi­talisation in Transmission Asset Mana­gement: Building Block for Future”, and it covered global transmission asset ma­nagement practices. International ex­per­ts and industry leaders from countri­es such as the USA, Canada, South Af­rica, Scotland, Japan, Portugal and Ger­ma­ny discussed issues pertaining to the operations and maintenance (O&M) of power transmission networks.

GRIDCON provided an excellent platform to enable sharing of knowledge and expertise in the transmission sector, and discussions that helped identify international best practices, innovative solutions and new opportunities for collaboration in the rapidly evolving area of O&M practices for asset management. Power Line was the media partner for the event.

The theme of the conference is particularly relevant in today’s fast-paced world where demand for electricity is increasing and maintaining reliable and efficient power transmission is a necessity, digitalisation is no longer optional. The conference brought together experts from arou­nd the world to share their knowledge, experience and insights on how digitalisation can improve asset performance, reduce downtime and optimise the ma­in­tenance of transmission assets. The th­e­me of this conference focused on the in­tegration of renewable energy, which is a timely and relevant topic. The conference sessions were insightful with discussions around Gas-Insulated Switchgear (GIS), switching surges, etc. Ideas on the implementation of cybersecurity were also presented at the conference.

The platform facilitated discussions on the latest trends and practices in the field of asset management. The conference covered sessions on global digital transformation journeys, grid integrati­on of renewables, green substations including alternative gases to SF6 for a carbon-neutral future, GIS design optimisation and maintenance, development of a multi-layered defence-in-dep­th approach to cyber physical security of substation assets, and utilisation of digital techniques for protection systems. Two sessions focused on the best practices followed by South Africa’s Eskom and Scottish Power.

The following section presents edited excerpts of the inaugural session, featuring remarks by K. Sreekant, chairman and managing director (CMD), POWERGRID; R.K. Tyagi, Director (Operations), POWERGRID; and S.R. Narasimhan, CMD, Grid Controller of India Limited…

Globally, the power sector is facing challenges in the areas of sustainability and energy security. While the issue of energy access has been well addressed, affordability remains a concern, especially with the recent Russia-Ukraine war leading to the scarcity of natural gas globally. In India too, the power sector is facing issues of sustainability, energy security and affordability in different de­grees. The access to electricity has been one of the biggest achievements till date in India, but the fact that we have only one-third of global average per capita consumption of electricity indicates that there is still a lot of opportunity to grow the electricity sector at a rate that is not available in any other country.

India is at the forefront of sustainability and energy security initiatives. It has co­mmitted 50 per cent of the total electricity generating capacity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030. The integration of variable intermittent renewable energy into the grid is a big challenge and transmission is a key enabler of this integration. India has benefited from the large transmission network created over the years. Today, it has nearly 110 GW of so­lar and wind capacity, and this has been seamlessly integrated into the grid with a very robust transmission network. The journey to sustainability cannot be undertaken without renewable energy.

As wind and solar are getting connected to the system, a number of power elect­r­o­nic devices like high voltage direct current (HVDC), static VAR compensator and static synchronous compensator (STATCOM) are transforming the way the systems operate. Studies are being un­d­ertaken worldwide to understand the be­h­a­viour of these power electronic devices.

In the case of India, affordability of power is a key requirement for economic gro­wth. Although transmission is a small po­r­tion of the total cost, it is still important to focus on digital initiatives to make it more efficient and cost effective.

Power transmission has been progressing rapidly with the use of digital tools and digitalisation across equipment and protection systems, planning and desi­gn, and asset management. Going forward, digitalisation in the transmission sector will include the use of data analy­tics, artificial intelligence and automa­tic and faster systems. These solutions will ultimately bring down the cost of electricity for end consumers. In the last th­ree to five years, cybersecurity has also emerged as a key area of concern.

As India aspires to become a $5 trillion economy in the coming years, the country’s power system needs to expand. By 2070, India has committed to become a carbon-neutral country. Currently, electricity accounts for only 18 per cent of the total energy consumption. To beco­me carbon neutral, India needs to use mo­re renewable power and green hy­dro­gen. The country currently has an installed capacity of 410 GW, of which 170 GW is renewables based. By 2030, renewable energy is expected to become 500 GW plus, out of 850 GW of total ins­talled capacity. With the integration of renewables, the grid is expected to be­come more complex

POWERGRID has been at the forefront of digital transformation of the transmission sector in India. It has leveraged digital technologies to improve the O&M and management of its transmission assets, resulting in increased reliability and efficiency. Out of the approximately 450,000 ckt. km of transmission line length in the country, POWERGRID accounts for 173,000 ckt. km. Similarly, out of about 1,100,000 MVA of transmission capacity, POWERGRID has a capacity of 493,000 MVA.

Increasing integration of renewable energy poses challenges to grid stability. The­se challenges are going to increase further as more and more renewable en­ergy gets integrated into the grid. POWERGRID is continuously interacting and wor­king with international experts to overcome these challenges and to ensu­re reliable system operations. The company has adopted many technologies ov­er the years like resin impregnated paper (RIP) bushing for transformers, co­ntrol switching for transformers and reactors, auto­ma­tion and remote operation. Its Nati­on­al Transmission Asset Monitoring Centre is the biggest control centre in the world, which is handling ex­tra high voltage (EHV) stations re­mo­tely from the control centre.

In 2016, POWERGRID completed GIS mapping of all its transmission line to­wer and substation assets. In-house di­gitised patrolling system named PG DARPAN was introduced in 2021. Later, transformer health indexing was done in 2020, and the first digital substation in the world at the 400 kV level was commissioned at Malerkotla in 2020.

POWERGRID has been able to maintain transmission system availability above 99.8 per cent and the tripping per line in the range of 0.3-0.35, which is comparab­le to that of the best utilities in the world.

Recently, POWERGRID has been benchmarked as one of the best transmission utilities in the world.. In 2022, POWERGRID made the decision to digitalise all its asset management procedures to ad­dress the challenges that come with a complex grid through digitalisation and automation. This conference presents various ideas that will help the utility achieve its vision of digitalisation.

Overall, the conference is one of the big­gest conglomerations of power professionals, experts, regulators, policymake­rs, domestic and global utilities. The event brought together the world’s leading experts and power sector enthusiasts to brainstorm over latest trends and practices in the field of asset management, and helped participants to get abreast with global industry standards and projections.