Quit Nuclear Power – Part 2: Optimizing use of existing electricity production

The Central Electricity Authority issues an annual report describing the electricity situation of the country. The latest available information is the monthly power supply report for February 2012, which says our total Peak (MW) requirement was 128,680MW, availability was 113,086MW, so we had a shortfall of 15,594MW or 12.1%. Our Energy (MU) requirement was 861,591, availability 788,355 and shortage was 73,236 or 8.5%.  Our requirement during 2010-11 was 122,287MW, availability was 110,256MW, which means a shortage of 12,031MW or 9.8%. The projected needs for 2011-12 are requirement 136193MW, Availability 118676MW, Shortfall 17517MW or 12.9%. This obviously excludes un-electrified areas. Here is an alternative.

Cutting down on Transmission and Distribution losses

This is a biggie. Seriously. Transmission and distribution losses currently amount to 34% of our electricity production (2010). According to World Bank data, here is the profile of our transmission and distribution losses over the years till 2009. [table id=6 /] To make it graphically clear:

Transmission and distribution losses in India over the years

But this, gory as it looks, is not the worst of it. in 2008, the government created the Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Programme APDRPwhich became the Restructured Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Programme. Current data from it is really unclear.

Particularly significantly, there is no overall number for Transmission and Distribution losses or Aggregate Technical & Commercial (AT&C) losses as it calls them, so there are gaps in information and uniformity. However, there is something very useful. They have the AT&C losses by region and utility, which is very telling. The table has data for only half the places, but it is current. I was able to find data for 415 towns. Utilities with more than 50% AT&C losses in 38 towns:

TownAT&ClossesData period
Bhind81.98Dec09 to Feb10
Porsa80.92Apr10 to June10
Sabalgarh78.39Jun10 to Aug10
Joura75.51Apr10 to June10
Damoh71.05Feb10 to Apr10
Sironj69.74Apr10 to June10
Ambah68.9Apr10 to June10
Gohad68.81Dec09 to Feb10
Morena68.77Apr10 to June10
Karauli67.72Sep09 to Feb10
Sheopur67.6Dec09 to Feb10
Kodinar67.55Aug 09 to Jan 10
Kodinar67.55Aug 09 to Jan 10
Sarangpur64.12Dec09 to Feb10
Shivpuri63.85Dec09 to Feb10
Bari63.23May10 to Oct10
Gwalior63.16Dec09 to Feb10
Datia61.99Dec09 to Feb10
Mungeli61.97Jul10 to Sep10
Chhatarpur60.55Apr10 to June10
Dabra60.33Dec09 to Feb10
Aland60.15Apr10 to June10
Bhalki59.85Apr10 to June10
Shajapur59.5Nov10 to Jan11
Khetri59.27Jul10 to Dec10
Medak59.09May 11 to May 11
Rewa57.62Jan11 to Mar11
Narsimhapur57.41Feb10 to Apr10
Sehora56.27Dec09 to Feb10
Kaman53.63Sep10 to Feb11
Pipar City53.19Nov09 to Apr10
Khurai52.83Feb10 to Apr10
Shahabad52.51Apr10 to June10
Maihar52.44Feb10 to Apr10
Nowgaon51.89Nov10 to Jan11
Phalodi51.19Mar11 to Aug11
Jaora50.84Jan10 to Mar10
Panna50.72Apr10 to June10

I am not joking – the highest on this list has an 81.98% loss. What does it mean to waste more than half of the electricity produced? This is ridiculous. Like filling a vessel with a hole in the bottom. This will not do. And reducing transmission and distribution losses is possible. South Korea had T&D loss of 4%. It had offered to help us get better during a Power Ministry delegation’s visit to Seoul in 2010. However, as it quotes the article:

The official said, “They have reduced their T&D losses by wheeling high voltage current. Now we want to do the same, but there is no testing facility in the country.”

At present, power is wheeled into the country at 700 KVA. Though the voltage needs to be scaled up to 1,200 KVA for reducing T&D losses, the country lacks testing facilities for such high-voltage transmission equipment.

“As it would be unviable to get the high voltage transmission equipment tested abroad, we want to set up this facility here in India for which we would need South Korea’s help,” the official said.

At present, the country faces 30 per cent T&D losses, and the government is making every effort to reduce it to 15 per cent.

As per government estimates, T&D losses in the power sector amounted to Rs 45,000 crore for the fiscal ended March 31, 2010, and were likely to touch Rs 68,000 crore by the end of the current fiscal (2010-11).

This article was 2010. Now it is 2012 and the T&D losses are 34%. What has been done? But here’s the deal, we have been able to get our AT&C losses very low in many towns too. Here are the single digit AT&C losses from the APDRP list.

TownAT&ClossesData period
Kurnool9.85Jul11 to Sep11
Ilkal9.61Apr10 to June10
PETLAD8.8Nov09 to Jan10
Chirmiri8.57Feb11 to Apr11
Samalkot8.49Oct 10 to Dec 10
Tuni8.07Oct 10 to Dec 10
Peddapuram7.94Oct 10 to Dec 10
Kovvur7.4Jun11 to Aug11
Bhiwadi6.97Sep10 to Feb11
Anakapalle5.75Oct 10 to Dec 10
Salur5.72Oct 10 to Dec 10
Pithampur4.53Nov10 to Jan11

So, on one end we have a need for better technology, on the other, it is clear that in many places simply not enough is being done. This should be made a priority. Even if we can bring down our T&D losses to half, it covers our deficit. Right there. Nothing further needed. Even if not half, as long as it is over 8.5% on an average, we can solve our energy crisis. Considering the vast amounts of money we have been pouring into nuclear energy, this shouldn’t be such an impossibly expensive alternative.

The expensive technology from South Korea would be very nice, but for most of India, we will be able to learn from our own places in India that do well, while leaving the expensive tech for cities, where the density and quantity would mean that the higher investment is used with maximum impact.

The real problem is in the doing. The APDRPhas been formed in 2008. So far, we don’t even have statistics from all over India on the site, leave alone the possibility of planning change.

Smart Grid in India

A smart grid is a two way communication between the producer and consumer of electricity allowing for intelligent supply of electricity based on needs. A smart grid also provides some capacity for storage, thus blunting outages. India has been hot on the pursuit of smart grids too. The India Smart Grid Task Force is a collaboration between ministries to enhance all aspects of smart grids in India. It also has five working groups focusing on:

  • WG1 – Trials/Pilot on new technologies.
  • WG2 – Loss reduction and theft, data gathering and analysis.
  • WG3 – Power to rural areas and reliability & quality of power to urban areas.
  • WG4 – Dist Generation & renewable.
  • WG5 – Physical cyber security, Standards and Spectrum.

Smart grids are already a part of India’s reality with enthusiastic entrepreneurship invited and collaborations seeked. The first renewable energy based smart grid in India went into operation on the 1st July 2011 at TERI Retreat building in which a 3.2 kW wind generator, 10.5 kW solar PV power, 1 kW thin film, 2 kW SPV systems, 100kW biomass gasifier and diesel generator have been integrated to demonstrate optimal evacuation of renewable power. This is an area that will revolutionize the distribution of electricity in India and should be implemented with urgency.

Smart Grid Solutions in India by Arvind Patravali outlines some of the possibilities and potential for the future. And though it is early days yet, there are initiatives taking off as we speak. Echelon is developing a micro smart-grid at Palm Meadows in Hyderabad, an 86-acre integrated gated community with 335 homes and residential services. The Ministry of Power has said that it is finalising eight smart grid pilots worth Rs 500 crore with a focus on building a distribution business that is smart grid compatible and connects the proposed smart grid to the end consumer through smart metering and related technological interventions. Around 14 state utilities are expected to submit plans for pilot projects related to smart grid technologies.

On the 10th March 2012, Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (BESCOM) launched smart meters to track power consumption in thecity, which faces T&D losses of 15 percent. BESCOM is expected to deploy one million smart meters in the following year. However, this is not without its own concerns, as smart meters can be hacked into and power supply disrupted leading to blackouts. Functionality also comes with its price. It is important to disable unused functionality and secure networks – an area that should be developed urgently. Another interesting thing Japan has done as its electricity supply gets lowered drastically

Improving Electricity Storage

While much research has gone into producing energy, the fact is that the energy requirements are not constant throughout the day. Combining Smart Grids with efficient storage, surplus electricity can be stored and released back to the grid in times of high demand. This is an area that will become important in the future, because as the role of renewable energy increases, making efficient use of the energy produced will require ways of balancing out excess production and low production from the fluctuations in natural resources. This is less of a problem with thermal or nuclear energy, though it still is important with them, because even if production is stable, demand fluctuates.

Siemens has come up with electrolyzer plants as a way of managing this more efficiently than existing solutions. The idea is to divert excess electricity production to the plant, which would use it to generate hydrogen gas from electrolysis of water and store the gas to be used to power gas driven thermal plants during times of low production or increased demand.

Something like this could also be incentivized to the consumer. With smart grids, it may be possible to identify times of low demand when the cost of electricity can be cheaper, and homes can charge inverters at such times to minimize cost of using more expensive electricity during load. This opens the possibility of devices that can be smart – refrigerators that do most of their cooling and store some energy for intermittent cooling at programmed times or possibly directly communicating with the grid? Home electricity managing inverters that can help you save on your electricity bills?

But this is way into the future. Taking a leaf out of something Bangalore did recently (more on that in the article on solar power), it may be possible to offer routine inspections and efficiency certificates for household wiring and devices that translate into reward discounts in the bill in addition to the lowered costs from the efficiency?

Clearly there is much potential to transform our rather inefficient use of the electricity we do have.

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About the Author

Vidyut is a blogger on issues of National interest. Staunch advocate of rights, learning and freedoms. @Vidyut

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