Power Performance: Utility experience in IT-OT implementation

Utilities across the power sector value chain are adopting information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) for increasing process efficiency, reducing costs and enhancing consumer services. With the increase in decentralised generation, penetration of renewables and the adoption of electric vehicles, utilities need to prepare and implement clear technology roadmaps. Leading utilities share their experience in the implementation of IT-OT, its impact on the overall performance and their future plans. Excerpts…

What new IT and OT technologies have been implemented by your organisation in the past one year? How have these helped improve the company’s overall performance? What are the key areas for digital transformation going forward? Which technologies will have the most relevance?

B.B. Mehta

IT and OT technologies implemented by OPTCL

The use of OT in conjunction with IT pla­ys a critical role in auto­mating the operations of a transmission company. Last year, Odisha Power Tran­smission Corpo­ra­tion Limited (OPTCL) implemented an automatic demand-side management system, which helps it remotely control and operate over 180 numbers of 33 kV feeders in compliance with the regulatory provisions and the frequency requirements laid down by the Central Elec­tri­city Regulatory Com­mission. The system helps re-stabilise the grid and improve grid frequency. To facilitate this, the company has es­ta­blished an hour-based system at the SLDC, which is connected with the SCADA facility as well as various 33 kV, 132 kV and 220 kV feeder substations. The 33 kV feeders designated by the distribution company are operated based on the requirement and are spread across all four distribution companies in the state. The system has helped OPTCL to maintain grid discipline on a larger scale.

Old transmission companies are modernising their substations using the substation automation system, that is, operating substation elements such as isolators, breakers and feeders through a control room. OPTCL has deployed the substation automation system in many grid substations across the state. It has also rolled out certain central control ce­ntres such as the Chandaka control centre, which manages around five different grid substations remotely and is connected through the optic fibre ground wire. A remote-operated camera is also deployed for verifying the actual operation being carried out.

In addition, the company has adopted other IT-based applications like amendment to GIS mapping and analysis of digital relays, which have significantly im­proved its overall performance. Rem­o­te operations have improved the accuracy of systems and reduced the likelihood of mishaps. Further, the automatic de­ma­nd-side management scheme has im­pro­ved grid parameters, leading to enhanced grid stability. Corrective action can further improve grid parameters.

Key areas for digital transformation

Digital transformation is taking place across industries, including the power sector. OPTCL has undertaken a large project to implement the wide area monitoring system (WAMS) across the state. Till date, SLDC operations have been carried out using SCADA data, which indicate power flow and the status of breakers and isolators in the grid. However, this approach will not be sufficient with new developments and challenges. To address this, the company is planning to implement a WAMS based on phasor measurement units and is also approaching the Power System Development Fund to support the project. In a year or so, the company will be rolling out this project, which will enable accurate visualisation of the grid across the state. It will also in­dicate the technical parameters like angular difference between two successive or remote buses and provide phase-wise data. The analytics from a WAMS will help to predict the upcoming risks associated with the system. The prospect analysis will be quite precise, making it easy to identify vulnerable elements that are under stress or overload conditions.

In addition, OPTCL has undertaken a big project to establish a state transmission asset management centre. The central control station for the entire state of Odi­sha will manage around 210 grid sub­­stations from a single location. All data from the remote station will be tra­nsmitted to the central control station through optic fibre.

To mitigate faults in the grid, the company has planned to set up a regional control centre, which will improve the operational flexibility and reliability of the system. Moreover, this will eliminate the need to monitor the grid parameters or take readings of the line flow of grid elements as the regional control centre will perform these tasks automatically. Only the maintenance team will be located in a nearby central location to oversee op­erations. This will ensure the grid opera­tes more safely and efficiently with fewer manpower, thus freeing up the manpo­wer to be utilised for other productive work within the company.

IT-based solutions are much needed in a large geologically sp­read organisation like OPTCL. To implement the new technology in a better way, OPTCL is also implementing the enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution based on SAP solutions that will have two important features – asset monitoring and product project management apart from the finance control module.

The transmission company plays an important role in the timely completion of the project and in communicating project challenges to the top management through dashboards. With the implementation of the web-based ERP system, the utility will be able to precisely monitor its assets and identify defe­c­ts/faults in vulnerable devices, products and elements.

OPTCL has also established optic fibre ground wire network across the grid substation in the state. As the communication requirements of transcos are limited, the spare fibres are being ut­ili­sed for generating additional revenue. The utility is leasing out the spare fibres of its assets on a large scale to monetise its investment.

Santadyuti Samanta

Recently adopted technologies and derived benefits

Tata Power has identified the potential to provide improved services using sm­art grid technologies such as advan­c­ed metering infrastructure (AMI), advanc­ed distribution management system (ADMS), internet of things (IoT) and distribution automation. These techno­logies have been implemented across all distribution businesses in Mumbai, Del­hi and Odisha. Tata Power has also discovered that improving operational efficiency and sustainability is advantageous. The deployment strategy is primarily motivated by strategic business objectives that make economic sense. We have placed greater emphasis on the integration of systems and processes, as well as the use of data with artificial in­telligence (AI)/machine learning (ML)-based decision support systems and automated work processes in order to improve self-service for both consu­mers and service workers. In addition, an omnichannel contact centre has been utilised.

The deployments are notable for their comprehensive and multidimensional approach, as opposed to only reading-billing and complaint management. The objectives include inc­re­a­sed asset utilisation, capex optimisation, loss reduction (both technical and commercial), digitalisation of outage detection and management, asset life enhan­ce­ment, complaint management auto­m­a­tion and self-service, and enhanced visibility-controllability and predictability of operational and consumer services.

Benefits observed by Tata Power:

  • Digital payment stands at around 84 per cent
  • Digital no-power complaint registration has increased to 68-73 per cent
  • Enhanced utilisation of distribution transformers by 18 per cent, resulting in a reduction in capex requirements
  • Improved distribution transformer lo­ad balancing and reduced technical lo­ss
  • Automated smart prepayment system for revenue management
  • Predicted consumer call/footfall management, etc.

Tata Power Delhi ranks among the top 20 utilities globally according to the Sin­gapore Power Annual Survey of the Smart Grid Index.

Key areas for digital transformation

Electricity is a part of the critical infrastructure business and the use of these technologies will play a crucial role in the years to come. The key areas for digital transformation in the sector include:

Optimisation: There was a spurt in coal, metal and market energy prices last year due to the Ukraine war and a heatwave. Early deployment of this technology can prove to be beneficial in unforeseen situations. For instance, op­timi­sation algorithms using ML-based statistical data analytics systems for be­tter fuel mix can help save a significant am­ount on high coal costs during times of high demand.

OCR-based automation: The deployment of large-scale OCR-based practices for the field crew’s mobility applications can positively impact billing efficiency, operations and maintenance (O&M) and crew effectiveness and safety. This can result in improved consumer services and O&M services.

Video and image analytics: This technology can enable real-time monitoring of remote locations. In generation, for ins­tance, video analytics can help en­hance the efficiency and safety of the fuel management system. In transmission, technology can be used to identify abnormalities for maintenance prioritisation be­fore a breakdown occurs, whi­ch can en­hance availability and reduce the cost of maintenance. The same technology can also be used to identify ab­normalities to help the O&M team and determine commercial loss probabilities and the quality of installations.

Robotic process automation: The auto­mation of invoice management, optimisation of customer service and other repetitive tasks will significantly impro­ve operations.

Data-based intelligence: Data can be utilised in various ways such as creation of risk-based maintenance prioritisation, optimisation of network planning, optimisation of capex, and a re­duction in the cost of inventory. Doma­in-specific data lakes for visualisation, comparison, tren­ds as well as predicted outcomes can he­lp in identifying consumer defaults, the­fts, asset failures, etc., allowing utilities to take timely ac­tion against defaulters.

Unified consumer platform: This can be offered by utilities to current as well as prospective customers across the services segment. It will empower them to make data-driven decisions.

Sanjeev Sinha

India’s power sector has grown over the past few decades. From being a power-deficient country, it has grown into a power-surplus country. But the problems are far from over. There is still about 1 per cent power deficit in the co­untry, largely due to technical reasons. The power sector has two main problems now – high ag­gregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses in the distribution sector and high dependence on fossil fuel generated power in the generation sector, despite depleting coal levels. India is bl­e­ssed with abundant sunlight and yet solar capacity is only 65 GW, accounting for just half of its renewable power ca­pacity. Also, consumer profiles have changed from be­ing pure consumers to becoming producers. As a result, they expect net me­tering capabilities from their discoms to support such changes.

The solutions to most of the above problems lie in the digitalisation of the sector. The use of technologies such as SCADA, IoT and smart metering (AMI meters) co­n­verts a grid into a smart grid. A smart grid converts the data collected from smart me­ters and networks into useful, readable, predictable and ac­ti­onable information that drives business decisions to address the changing sector requirements.

Smart meters are a vertical of IoT technology and have net metering capabilities. India has recognised the need for smart meters and its plan to implement 250 million smart meters – the largest project of its kind – is already under way and targeted to be completed within a few years.

Smart meter adoption by utilities: Sm­art meter installation at utilities has gained pace. Consumers are being progressively moved to smart meters. These include both post-paid and prepaid consumers. The smart metering system not only offers an opportunity to monitor customers remotely with regard to consumption, but also provides information on demand, load, load survey, consumption patterns, prepayme­nt/po­st-payment, connect disconnect, supply quality voltage and power outage, DT metering energy audits, data analysis, which can help minimise non-technical revenue losses.

With the increased implementation of smart meters, utilities have already be­g­un to experience benefits. Utilities are now able to monitor supply voltage, load, current and power factor from the available data. Smart meters also derive other benefits such as accurate remote readings, timely reading and billing, alerts to consumers regarding low balance, over demand, shutdown and tariff changes.

Consumers are also experiencing benefits. Prepaid consumers can now recharge online through the app, check their balance and daily charges, view their current meter reading, load on screen and sanctioned load on screen, check their connect/disconnect status on display, and see their hourly and daily consumption graphs on the app. They can also monitor their voltage and load status.

Smart meters need to be supported by technical architecture: Most utilities implement meter data management (MDM) systems to store smart meter data. Utilities also need to implement head-end systems (HESs) to connect to their smart meters and provide better control over the smart grid. HESs, as a temporary repository of data, and MDM, as a permanent repository of da­ta, are essential components of smart meter architecture. The high capex for HES and MDM has often been a hurdle in fully benefitting from smart metering systems. Therefore, utilities can consider adopting a full system on the opex model to make it a viable option.

The choice of an HES and MDM is an im­portant step for the successful implementation of smart meters and its choice and adoption may be based on several considerations. An HES should ideally be compatible with all the makes of meters. This will allow different meters to get added along the journey. Meters also ne­ed to be compatible with different co­m­munication channels like radio frequency (RF), GPRS, narrow band in­ternet of things (NB-IoT), etc. The entire network needs to be mapped with HES and MDM so that the complete network is visible in a single view. It must have the capability for visualisation of consumers with geo-location using latitude and longitude. This view can provide a single window for connected and disconnected consumers. The system sh­ould allow for remote control of various functions such as disconnect, reconnect, change in tariffs, chan­ging meter modes (prepaid, post-paid, net metering), understanding the basis of outages, updating and up­grading the meter firmware. It should also be able to interconnect with various systems to enable data interchange and operatio­nalise workflows, such as integrating pre­paid platforms with customer portals and mobile apps to extend digital benefits to consumers.

Utilities with smart metering expertise have joined the fray and are implementing smart meters for the benefit of other utilities. India Power Corporation Limi­t­ed (IPCL), a Kolkata-based utility, is im­plementing about 1.3 million smart me­ters in Madhya Pradesh. When IPCL had completed the installation in Mhow, it became the first town in India to have 100 per cent smart metering. This is in line wi­th the government’s Digital India Programme.

Digital security: The implementation and adoption of smart meters is a significant step towards converting a utility into a data-driven organisation. While this brings in efficiency in every sphere of operations, it poses a risk too. Data se­curity is, therefore, more important th­an it ever was. It is highly recommended that utilities that adopt smart meters also adhere to the ISO27001 standards in information security. Also, a cybersecurity management plan needs to be in pla­ce. Utilities can collaborate with the National Critical Information Infrastruc­ture Pro­tection Centre, Government of India, for assistance. They can also colla­borate with the Cyber Swachhta Ke­ndra and Compu­ter Emergency Readi­ness Team (CERT-In) for collaboration. The Ministry of Elec­ronics and Informa­tion Technology along with CERT-In has also launched the Ho­neypot project to provide alerts to utilities as well as CERT-In for protecting utilities and thwarting cy­berattacks. It is important that utilities take advantage of these initiatives to protect not just IT but also the OT network, which is equally vulnerable.

Security measures are only effective when employees and customers are aware of and play a role in data security. Hence, there is a need to train employees on security. In addition to their individual efforts, utilities can also take advantage of the Government of India-funded digital training programmes managed by NASSCOM in India.

The benefits of smart meter implemen­ta­tion have already been established. A discom in Indore, where over 200,000 smart meters have been installed, has reported a significant drop in AT&C loss from 17 per cent to about 6 per cent. With a large volume of data getting ac­cumulated from smart meters, there is a need for a policy to provide value-ad­ded services for both discoms and consu­mers. Some progress has been made but much more needs to be done before the benefits of smart meters can be truly realised. Also, a consolidated MDM in the country will allow utilities to connect on a SaaS model and reap the benefits at a fraction of the cost.

BSES Spokesperson

IT and OT technologies implemented by BSES

AR/VR-based training implementation: Live O&M on high voltage electricity eq­uipment is an expertise job. Improper operation can result in equipment failure, system outages and heavy losses. It is also one of the major causes of accidents and safety hazards. According to data analysis of equipment failures, approximately 32 per cent of failures were attributed to improper operation and poor execution work.

BSES has taken the initiative to provide operation staff training in a realistic virtual environment by using virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies. BSES has developed 3D graphical models of various equipment, such as air circuit breaker and ring main unit (RMU), for O&M training in a realistic virtual environment. Trai­ne­es wear VR headsets and hand controllers to operate the equipment, and their actions can be streamed and cast on a screen to examine their performance.

The use of AR/VR technology is extre­mely helpful in enabling staff to develop their skills through regular practice in a virtual environment. This will help to prevent or reduce accidents, incidents and equipment faults due to unskilled resources.

Power demand forecasting: Demand forecasting is the process of estimating the amount of electricity required at a specific time in the future. This critical task enables power utilities to ensure a reliable supply of electricity to their customers while minimising government penalties. AI- and ML-based applications play a significant role in scheduling de­mand forecasting for upcoming time pe­riods through real-time analysis. Several natural factors, such as temperature, rainfall, cloud coverage, wind speed and direction, humidity, as well as historical data factors like festivals and events, impact demand forecasting. The primary inputs for demand forecasting include the previous day’s unrestricted demand (demand met + outages); the previous day’s historical weather data; and the next day’s weather projection.

Various weather products available on the IMD-POSOCO website and Climate Connects are utilised. These include Meteograms for day-ahead and medium-term demand planning and decision-making regarding station/unit operation, and radar images for intra-day demand forecasting and scheduling operations. The accuracy of demand forecasts is continually being assessed and improved using the latest technology.

Key areas for digital transformation

Asset health monitoring (transformer): BSES has successfully piloted the dep­loyment of an IoT solution in a sub-division by monitoring the distribution substation assets 24×7 for risk and condition-based monitoring. This was achie­ved by collecting real-time information from a combination of sensors deployed on assets and advanced meter data infrastructure. The data was displayed on a web dashboard and a field force application.

Different types of sensors were ins­talled at the DT levels, including DT sensors for measuring the oil level, oil temperature, lug/palm, and outage mo­nitoring, DT meters for instantane­ous parameters, load profiles, and outage monitoring, and RMU monitoring for circuit breaker tripping, isolator tripping, SF6 low-level indication, and fault passage indicator (FPl) tripping. Remote tripping was possible through NO/NC points. These parameters help­ed to proactively perform precision predictive maintenance, thereby reducing downtime and failures and saving time and money.

In addition, BSES collaborated with Vi­drona to conduct inspections of extra hi­gh voltage towers and lines using drones for preventive and predictive maintenance. The drones were able to identify phase-to-phase clearance, phase-to-ground clearance, loose connections, and other mechanical or electrical ab­no­rmalities. The collected data was an­alysed using AI and ML algorithms, which provided actionable items and allowed managers to better track their maintenance activity.

The benefits of this IoT solution include condition-based maintenance, continuous asset monitoring, real-time information and alert notifications, continuous asset data capturing for relational analytics, field staff awareness of equipment condition/health/risk, and automatic maintenance work orders triggered by events.

ADMS: An ADMS is designed to help utilities to improve the reliability and efficiency of their distribution network operations. BSES is upgrading field assets to make it SCADA communicable for real-time monitoring and controls. There are around 300 feeder assets that have been upgraded by BSES in South and West Delhi alone. They account for around 20 per cent of the total assets.

An ADMS typically includes a variety of advanced features and functions such as real-time monitoring and control of network assets such as transformers, swit­c­hes and substations. Network modelling and simulation are performed, which includes all network elements to evaluate the impact of changes in the network. Fault detection and remote isolation helps reduce downtime and impro­ve network reliability. Outage management keeps track of network outages. Distributed energy resource (DER) is integrated with solar panels and battery storage systems to ensure a reliable and efficient supply of power.

Unbalanced load flow (UBLF) is an integrated application available for on-de­mand execution in real time, simulation and simulator modes. Unbalanced load flow can be executed and the results can be viewed from any graphical map including geographic maps, site maps, auto-schematic maps, simulation windows, and simulator windows.

The ADMS functions include load flow modelling, UBLF, fault location, res­to­ration and switching analysis, automatic fault location isolation and system restoration, feeder reconfiguration, and outage management system. Overall, ADMSs are essential tools for utilities to manage their distribution networks, improve reliability and optimise operations.