Discoms discover tech, aim to automate grid operations for service delivery

Tata Power, which has discoms both in Delhi and Mumbai and is in the process of adding more cities to its kitty, has also been adopting solutions to track demand-supply and grid infrastructure
With consumers expecting more than just steady electricity supply, power distribution companies (discoms) have begun using artificial intelligence (AI)-based applications to meet the unique demand of every consumer. At the same time, as electricity grids and meters become “smarter”, discoms are also investing in machine learning and blockchain.

Adani Electricity Mumbai (AEML), for instance, is upgrading its grid infrastructure with investments in automation and using technology-enabled service delivery, processes and training modules.

A company spokesperson said, in an emailed response, that the entire distribution network assets of AEML — the largest discom in Mumbai  — are mapped on Geographical Information Systems (GIS). It also has an advanced distribution management system for introducing automation in grid operations.

“This allows for effectively managing daily operations on a real-time basis with minimum supply interruption,” the spokesperson said, adding that in the last two years, customer complaints have declined by over 35 per cent, while distribution losses have come down from 8.6 per cent to 7.4 per cent. In five years, AEML aims to increase the level of distribution automation from 40 per cent to 100 per cent.

Reliance Infrastructure-promoted BSES Limited has undertaken projects for visual and thermal mapping of its power distribution infrastructure in Delhi. It also plans to use drones to monitor the health of the electricity network. It is also deploying AI for its back-end. 

“BSES uses a mix of advanced statistical forecasting models using complex algorithms, combined with state-of-the-art weather forecasting solutions, including AI and machine learning. Accurate day-ahead, intra-day and medium-term demand forecasting is vital for optimal and cost-effective planning in ensuring reliable power supply to consumers at an optimal cost,” said a spokesperson of the company in Delhi.
BSES recently partnered with Australia-based Power Ledger, a global leader in blockchain technology, to launch consumer-to-consumer (peer-to-peer) solar power trading on a trial basis.

Tata Power, which has discoms both in Delhi and Mumbai and is in the process of adding more cities to its kitty, has also been adopting solutions to track demand-supply and grid infrastructure. Sanjay Banga, president, transmission & distribution, said the company bases its technology needs on two parameters — operational excellence aimed at reducing faults and maintenance time, and customer experience — to meet every unique demand.

“We are doing weather forecasting, real time demand-supply monitoring and building algorithms based on that. This is not just to predict accurate demand patterns but also put that data in power supply feeders. This reduces our maintenance time, as the system is up-to-date on fault timing and location,” says Banga.

Every two years there has been a 20 per cent improvement in reliability parameters, he adds. In Mumbai, electricity outage time has declined from 50 hours to 20 hours a month, and in Delhi it is down to 26 hours.

Similarly, for AEML, the system average interruption duration index (Saidi) in minutes per customer has come down from 55.9 to 33.8 and the system average interruption frequency index (Saifi) in events per customer is down from 1.54 to 1.09. Saifi and Saidi are power supply quality parameters.

One major challenge that discoms face is the increasing share of renewable energy in the supply grid. This disrupts grid balance, which in turn can cause fluctuations and supply glitches. Back-end technology suppliers believe that the existing infrastructure can be ramped up to face this challenge.

“Energy utilities need to extract the maximum from the existing infrastructure base, minimise future capex and still meet the growing needs of industry. This can be achieved through rapid absorption of various technological advancements that are readily available,” says Vishal Pandya, co-founder, REConnect Energy.

REConnect is a Bangalore-based energy management services company. It has recently commissioned GRIDConnect, a tech platform that combines the power of AI, Internet of things (IoT), automation, GIS and weather forecasting. GRIDConnect enables digital transformation across generation, transmission and distribution assets to reduce operational and financial losses, says Pandya.

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