Overhaul India’s Transmission Grid

Along with the augmentation of sustainable power generation sources, a well-designed and a futuristic transmission grid is required to drive India’s economic growth and transformation

July 08, 2020. By News Bureau

Uninterrupted supply of power – one of the prerequisites for any advanced economy – is imperative to drive India’s economic transformation and growth. It requires large-scale investments across the board, from sustainable means of power generation to augmenting the energy delivery mechanisms. 

According to the 19th Electrical Power survey by the Central Electricity Authority's (CEA), India’s electricity requirement (demand plus transmission and distribution losses) to reach 1,566 TWh (peak demand 225.7 GW) by 2021-22 which will further increase to more than 2,047 TWh in 2026-27 (peak demand 298.7 GW). An additional 1.1 lakh circuit km and about 383,000 MVA of transformation capacity in the substations at 220kV and above voltage levels are required by the financial year 2024 to manage the annual peak load demand of 225.7 GW. 

Need for Overhaul

In tandem with the focus on sustainable power generation sources, infrastructure bottlenecks such as inadequate transmission and distribution (T&D) networks also need to be resolved on high priority. The need to modernize India’s transmission grid assumes importance given the focus shifting from fossil fuels to renewable sources of power generation. India, the fourth-largest carbon emitter in the world, has committed to reducing emissions by 33–35% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. This would require the country to source 40% of its total energy requirement from non-fossil fuel sources. The Prime Minister’s call for ‘One Sun, One World, One Grid’ underscores the need for a strong transmission system that will support India’s renewable energy growth.

Overcoming Obstacles

The Indian power grid needs better planning. The T&D and aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses of the country are high resulting in huge losses, both in terms of energy and revenue realization. This has badly affected the financial health of DISCOMs in India. The total loss of all power distribution companies stood at Rs27,000 crore in FY2018-19. 

Across India, energy requirement (MU), peak demand (MW), and the supply of energy have increased from an average year-on-year growth rate of ~5% in 2015/16 to 6% in2018/19. Transmission capacity has also witnessed a similar growth rate of 6.5% year-on-year over the same period. From 377150 ckt km in 2015-16, transmission line capacity had increased to 456,843 ckt km in 2019-20 (up to December 2019).

According to a CII white paper, ‘New Age Power Systems For 21st Century India – Challenges, Solutions, and Opportunities’, along with capacity augmentation of the existing transmission system, more flexible transmission planning and improving the reliability of the network are required to facilitate India’s plans to provide an uninterrupted power supply.

The tightening of grid performance parameters is required, especially in the context of increasing renewable energy (RE) integration. Modernization of the grid is a key prerequisite for achieving renewable energy investment ambitions, according to a study by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA). 

Need to Improve and Upgrade

The country, which has set an ambitious target of 175GW of variable renewable energy by 2022, rising to 450GW by 2030, currently has an installed capacity of 86 GW (as of December 2019). The complexities of India’s grid mean that transmission will continue to be a major hurdle and slow the adoption of renewable energy. It also raises the risk that variable renewable power may remain under-utilized and/or constrained in the absence of both grid discipline and a modern and upgraded transmission network.

A well-designed, forward-looking grid with the ability to rapidly embrace evolving technologies is the answer. It will ensure consistent low cost, deflationary renewable power uptake, and improve the viability of investments in renewable energy. To take the electricity dream forward and transform the country’s future, we must upgrade its grid for adequate capacity and reliability to ensure a high quality of power transmission.    

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