Enhancing its infrastructure for future-ready solar applications

BSES discoms, BSES Rajdhani Power Limited (BRPL) and BSES Yamuna Power Limited (BYPL), are among the few technologically advanced distribution utilities in the country. The discoms, a joint venture of Reliance Infrastructure Limited and the Delhi government, have successfully reduced their aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses from 63 per cent to 8.98 per cent in the case of BYPL and from 51.5 per cent to 8.06 per cent in the case of BRPL.

They have achieved several key milestones by providing enhanced consumer services and strengthening their power distribution network. This has been made possible through the use of state-of-the-art technologies. The BSES discoms have successfully deployed smart grid technologies such as smart metering as well as load management and outage management systems to build a better power distribution network. Going forward, the discoms will invest in a host of next-generation technologies such as blockchain, electric vehicles (EVs), solar power and battery storage, which are expected to transform the grid in the coming years.

Journey so far

BRPL’s customer base grew by 3.23 per cent, from 2.47 million during 2017-18 to 2.55 million during 2018-19. In 2018-19, the company recorded a peak demand of 3,216 MW and a turnover of Rs 900 billion. AT&C losses stood at 9.42 per cent and 8.06 per cent in 2017-18 and 2018-19 respectively. BYPL’s customer base grew by 2.2 per cent, from 1.65 million during 2017-18 to 1.69 million during 2018-19. In 2018-19, the company recorded a peak demand of 1,653 MW and a turnover of Rs 550 billion. AT&C losses stood at 10.42 per cent and 8.98 per cent in 2017-18 and 2018-19 respectively.

The key objectives of BSES’s smart grid strategy were technical loss reduction, provision of enhanced services to different consumer categories (including tenants and high-end consumers) and outage management. The utilities have been continuously downloading consumers’ meter data since 2006 using hand-held units. Their meter data downloading efficiency is between 99.3 per cent and 99.5 per cent, including for single-phase meters. For electricity theft control, the utilities have deployed pole-mounted meters and since the AT&C losses are already low, there is not much scope for a reduction in commercial losses. The utilities’ special consumers include tenants/customers with temporary connections and prepaid customers. The utilities adopted smart metering for these consumers to overcome a number of issues. All government consumers have prepaid meters installed on their premises. In high-theft areas too, pole-mounted GPRS-based smart group meters have been installed.

In order to reduce technical losses, BSES is carrying out online monitoring of transformers and feeders. Data is continuously monitored to identify unbalanced loading and overloading of assets, and the load is optimised to reduce technical losses. Other key initiatives for technical loss reduction include the use of star-rated transformers and smart transformer connectors. As a result of these measures, BSES’s technical losses came down by 0.8 per cent (BRPL) and 0.5 per cent (BYPL) in 2018-19 as compared to 2017-18. The utilities are now targeting to reduce their technical losses further to between 0.5 per cent and 0.6 per cent with minimal capex. BSES’s discoms have adopted various smart technologies for outage management, such as digitalisation of ring main units (RMUs), automated meter reading distribution transformer (DT) health monitoring and low tension feeder monitoring. Overall, these solutions have significantly helped BSES’s discoms in reducing outages. Also, data from GPRS and the geographic information system has helped the utility to plan the location of batteries and solar PV systems.

Future plans

BSES’s discoms plan to aggressively pursue emerging technologies. They are actively promoting rooftop solar PV installations in their licence areas. In January 2018, BRPL partnered with GIZ and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) to launch the Solar City Initiative with the purpose of setting up grid-connected rooftop solar projects to manage peak demand in Delhi. In Phase I, Dwarka was selected for the installation of such projects, and around 100 housing societies and apartment complexes signed up for the installation of rooftop solar systems. Phase II, which was launched in end 2018, covers the Shakurbasti area.

Since the launch of the Solar City Initiative, BSES’s discoms have energised over 2,000 (around 80 MWp) solar net metered connections, with the maximum number of connections in the residential segment. This is expected to reach over 80 MWp by the end of the current fiscal. Recently, BRPL commissioned a framework study on the commercial impact of rooftop solar on discoms, which can be used by discoms across India. Meanwhile, BYPL has tied up with the Council on Energy, Environment and Water to study various models that can be adopted in the solar rooftop segment. A report has been published in this regard. Under this collaboration, a survey of customers has been undertaken to determine their requirements for adopting rooftop solar power. Under the Suprabha programme led by the World Bank, BYPL has approached about 300 housing societies in East Delhi for solar rooftop uptake.

BYPL, in association with TERI, is working on converting one of BYPL’s divisions into a green division. The project envisages the conversion of 10 BYPL office buildings into green buildings through a set of initiatives, namely, the installation of rooftop solar systems, replacement of various appliances with energy efficient appliances, use of sun-reflective coatings on walls to reduce power consumption, introduction of EVs for operational duties, and undertaking of water conservation and waste management. The project will also focus on measures to encourage residents to opt for energy efficiency and environment-friendly practices. Under the programme, around 10 societies have been covered and more are in progress.

BRPL recently partnered with Power Ledger, a blockchain-based technology start-up in Australia, to launch trials for a peer-to-peer (P2P) energy trading platform in Delhi. BRPL has thus become India’s first discom to use a blockchain-based platform for P2P solar power trading. The trial initially comprised 5-6 MW of existing solar infrastructure, servicing a group of gated communities (CGHS) in Dwarka. During the trial, residents with rooftop solar infrastructure sold excess solar power to their neighbours instead of letting it spill back into the grid. This gave participants access to cheaper renewable energy and prosumers (those who own the solar power infrastructure) an opportunity to monetise their investments in the solar assets. BSES was able to access a cost-effective energy alternative during peak demand times, leading to increased efficiency and power supply reliability. BRPL and Power Ledger plan to expand the scope of the trials by including blockchain-enabled solutions for group net metering, virtual net metering, EV charging and virtual power plant applications in the near future. Moreover, BYPL is a partner with the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati, the Florida International Institute, etc. for a Smart Grid Mission Innovation project, prosumer-driven smart grid, funded by the Department of Science and Technology for testing the applicability of P2P trading through blockchain technology and demand response. The discom has already piloted a manual demand response programme for two years with around 80 consumers, with savings of around 50 MW.

BYPL is one of the partners in the European Union H2020 project, E Land, along with 11 renowned European research/academic institutions. The project aims to develop a tool to manage the integration of distribution energy resources optimally. Under the project, three pilots will be undertaken in Europe and two in India. Meanwhile, BSES is taking steps to set up charging stations in line with the government’s e-mobility vision. It plans to set up over 150 charging stations across its licensed area in partnership with other entities. Of these, around 50 smart EV charging stations will be set up during 2019-20. Blue Smart Charge, the first of the smart public EV charging stations, was inaugurated in June 2019. It can charge two EVs simultaneously. BSES has floated a simple single-window platform on its website to enable the setting up of EV charging infrastructure in its licence area. Further, the discoms will play a major role in promoting home EV charging in line with Delhi’s recently announced state EV policy. Further, BSES’s discoms are members of the EV100 initiative and are committed to transitioning their fleet to EVs in a planned fashion. Ten such vehicles have already been plying successfully for the past one year.

BRPL is a part of the US-India collaborative for Smart diStribution System wIth STorage (UI-ASSIST) initiative. Under this, BRPL will carry out three pilots by installing a 330 kWh battery energy storage system (BESS). As a part of the initiative, in December 2019, TERI invited bids for battery storage on a turnkey basis. On its part, BRPL is working on DT-level BESS installations at six locations based on the technical feasibility studies undertaken, subject to the approval of the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission. BYPL is going ahead with the installation of BESS at the DT level for 1 MWh of capacity. The proposed system envisages the installation of lithium-ion-based energy storage systems at five DT locations that are overloaded or on the verge of overloading. The system would also have battery management systems for remote monitoring and operations. In order to test the capabilities of BESS at smaller loads, BYPL, along with Panasonic, has already installed four BESSs along with rooftop solar systems for around 20 kWh of capacity and these are at the evaluation stage.Clearly, BSES’s efforts are strengthening its position as a prominent technology leader in the power industry.



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