Electricity will be the backbone of energy systems, says Venu

N Venu, MD (India) and head of Region South Asia, Hitachi ABB Power Grids   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

ABB Power Products and Systems India Ltd.,an arm of Zurich headquartered Hitachi ABB Power Grids, operates in more than 16 manufacturing locations in the country. N. Venu, MD (India) and head of region, South Asia, discusses about the relevance of a smart grid and digitisation. Edited excerpts from an interview:

What is the grid of the future?

The grid of the future is all about renewable penetration and increased electricity consumption. The Railways has an ambition to electrify their entire network; besides, electric vehicles (EVs) will be one of the biggest growth drivers spurring electrification in the country. There will be growing electrification of utilities, industry and buildings. In addition, we will see a rise in sustainable energy carriers such as green hydrogen which will transform our energy systems.

This is what the future of grid, the future of power systems looks like. It means that electricity will soon be the backbone of our entire energy system.

How will it be different from what it is today?

The grid has been there, and it has been there since electricity was invented 200 years back. We now see smart grids transforming ways utilities communicate with their customers. Supported by digital technologies, power grids can quickly respond to demand/supply changes and enable electricity producers to enhance power reliability, availability and efficiency. They can also bring cost savings, not only for utilities but also for customers. Besides, an efficient grid will allow faster restoration of power outages and support better integration of large-scale renewable energy sources, bringing environmental benefits.

What is the way ahead?

Every penny that goes into the system now needs to be future ready. That means, if you invest one dollar in an asset today, you must think about how this asset will serve you in the long term. That means taking care of your grid’s future aspects such as digitalisation, optimisation at the time of buying itself. It was not like this earlier. Today if you are buying a transformer, you are mindful of future needs and changes. That is how it should be done. Everything you invest in now should be future proof.

What are the challenges?

Regulation is one challenge for digitalisation. The second challenge is availability of technology and the right skill sets. Technology has to be managed for a very long period of time and hence we need to have a holistic approach for the whole system and very clear and balanced regulatory policies. We must also consider the environmental costs as we strive to achieve carbon neutrality.

We need to have very clear, holistic ways of investment as well. When you are investing, it is not only for today but also for the future. Since every challenge is also an opportunity, we should factor all these issues as part of the investments at an early stage going forward.

What are the benefits of an efficient grid?

The main benefits are reliability and flexibility. Today, so much renewable energy is getting added that there has to be predictability in generation and supply. Say, the government is now planning to put 7.5 GW of solar capacity in Leh, Kargil. What would happen when suddenly there is a cloud for a few minutes? The 7.5 GW capacity would go out of your energy system. How do you manage the flexibility? These are the challenges.

Besides, in India, we are at a nascent stage of e-mobility. Once it catches on, just imagine the number of cars that will need to be powered and the strain they will put on the grid. A smart grid can better handle this – managing and ensuring power. Reliability and flexibility will also bring down the cost of ownership. Ultimately it should be brought down to the lowest level, only then it makes sense.

How has COVID-19 enabled faster transformation in the sector?

COVID-19 has directed everyone to look at sustainability, the way society is working, from a carbon-neutral lens. The whole power ecosystem is adapting. We are now talking about 3 Ds: decentralisation, de-carbonisation, digitalisation on the whole. COVID-19 brought about an increased utilisation of digital technologies, remote technologies in particular.

Take us for example, we went for remote commissioning of projects which was unheard of previously. We commissioned a large substation without any of our people going to the site; even the client was not present physically.

How is Hitachi ABB Power Grids helping?

We have a complete portfolio of solutions to help the grid. It includes technology, R&D and engineering capabilities that we have developed in-house in the country. We engage with our customers right from the planning stage of their assets to the building phase. We facilitate digitalisation by co-creating innovative solutions with our partners and customers.

I will give you an example of North East Agra HVDC transmission link - a big project. We executed it to bring more than 6 GW of clean energy generated in the North East to the load center in Agra. Using our technology, the grid can be much more environment friendly. It will ensure lower losses and enable clean energy to load centers at very affordable costs.

Same for metro systems where we are using our SCADA software, our supervisory control system, and making the running of trains smoother and more efficient.

We have also signed an MoU with Ashok Leyland and IIT Madras to bring clean mobility to consumers. In an affordable and clean manner, our technology ensures e-buses can carry more passengers without losing space to big batteries.

We want to help customers and people through a stronger, smarter and greener grid.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2021 12:47:41 AM |

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