New Delhi: The power ministry is poised to make it mandatory for all electricity distribution networks in the country to employ only energy-efficient transformers, energy savings from which are put at 2,854MW—sufficient to supply the individual demands of states such as Kerala or Orissa.
This is part of the government’s green-technology initiative which also includes putting in place a massive information technology network to optimize power distribution and upgrade existing thermal power plants to reduce carbon emissions.
“We plan to introduce energy-efficient transformers that will reduce technical losses by around 0.6%. Today, per-transformer loss is around 1.5-2%. The new specifications will have to be adopted by the transformer manufacturers,” said a senior power ministry official involved in the process who did not want to be identified.
There are around 40 transformer manufacturers, which supply to the state electricity boards that will be vested with the power to implement the proposal, which is in the final stages of formulation. But adhering to the new specifications, aimed at reducing heat dissipation that reduces the efficiency of the transformer, is expected to increase costs.
That increase will be worth it, said a government official.
A Central Electricity Authority official who did not want to be identified said, “While the costs will increase, this will bring efficiency in the distribution system. It will bring down the failures and prevent outages.”
The new standards assume significance given the requirement of around 1.8 million new transformers in the country during the 11th Plan (2007-12). Of these, 900,000 or so transformers are required for ambitious Central schemes such as the Accelerated Power Development and Reform Programme and the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana. The country’s distribution network has around 3.5 million transformers in operation.
Fighting power theft
Shortage due to limited generation capacity and growing theft has been identified as key infrastructure bottlenecks in India. The country’s per capita consumption of electricity is only 700 units, compared with the world average of 2,600 units.
Although India ranks sixth in the world in terms of power generation, it still faces a shortage because around 34% of the power generated is lost due to theft and pilferage. India has an installed capacity of 147,000MW.
To counter this, state-owned power utilities are in the process of spending Rs10,000 crore on information technology-based electricity flow and accounting and auditing software for 600 projects. This order, the largest placed by power utilities for software, will help them manage their distribution networks better.
“The largest potential is in the distribution side, as the largest losses are there. The business is also very difficult to manage and the endowment of these utilities is extraordinarily poor. Yes, there are pilot projects, but they never get adopted in a sustained manner,” said Shubhranshu Patnaik, executive director at audit and consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.
In transmission, Power Grid Corp. of India Ltd (PGCIL)—responsible for power transmission and grid stability—has been using technology to its advantage. S.K. Chaturvedi, its chairman and managing director, claimed: “We are using state-of-the-art technology and that is the reason there were no grid problems during the last winter.”
The firm has installed sensors on its network which provides it with readings every 15 minutes on key transmission parameters. The company uses this to monitor its systems and and take corrective measures. It also plans to install synchro phasers, that will monitor the distribution network to detect any surge or stress in the system on a real-time basis.
“It is the difference between X-ray and MRI. During winters, due to fog, lines trip. Tracking temperature and humidity in a day, or even every hour, does not help us. So, we started putting sensors at our substations. We have also undertaken substation automation for remote controlling them. We have also reduced cabling in the substations, which has reduced the metal used in wires. Smart grids consist of tariff, economics, efficiency and security,” said S.K. Soonee, executive director, national load despatch centre, PGCIL.
Five regional load despatch centres and one national load despatch centre manage power transfer between regions and form the backbone of India’s transmission network. PGCIL manages 100,000MW at any given point through its 117 substations and 700,000km circuit and plans to increase its inter-regional power transfer capacity to 37,000MW by 2012 from the current 20,800MW.
Power generation is the other area where utilities plan to use technology to build less polluting plants. State-owned Bhel and NTPC Ltd plan to jointly develop integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) plants to convert coal into cleaner fuel that is then burnt to generate electricity.
K. Ravi Kumar, chairman and managing director, Bhel, said: “IGCC requires ash recovery at high temperatures. This technology has to be perfected before it goes for commercial production. In our attempt to help the environment, we are focused on super-critical technology and we are planning to set up an integrated photovoltaic facility and enter the wind business.”
NTPC, India’s largest generation utility, also plans to work with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, to use bacteria for clean-coal technology and carbon capture and absorption. It also plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from its coal-based plants with India’s first photobioreactor at its Dadri unit in Uttar Pradesh, also in association with CSIR and The Energy and Resources Institute. It also plans to develop 1 million sq. ft of green building space by 2017.
R.S. Sharma, chairman and managing director, NTPC, said: “By 2012, we plan to initiate the process of inducting new technology. The likely gain in cycle efficiency shall be around 7.5% compared with 500MW standard configurations.”
It is also pursuing the biological route, using marine algae that are expected to yield 30 times more than the conventional energy plantation of jatropha and ratanjot to produce biofuels. Still, “the technologies which are economically tested and found to be commercially accepted should be adopted by better performing generation utilities as a consistent policy, which is not the case today,” Patnaik said.