Smarter Grid Solutions (SGS) was recently awarded India's first Active Network Management (ANM) contract by the electricity company, TANTRANSCO. In this exclusive interview, Alan Gooding, CEO of Smart Grid Solutions shares his insights on how new technologies like ANM can help India achieve its energy targets in a sustainable way.
Please tell us a little bit about what Active Network Management actually is And what makes it a ground-breaking development for India′s power grid
Active Network Management relates to the transition of the power system from one that is operated 'passively' to one where operators can more 'actively' control energy resources in operational timeframes to maintain network limits and reliability.
A good example is the output from wind or solar generation which due to the zero-marginal cost of energy production (since it uses no 'fuel'), is commonly left to simply export any generation it can produce when it can (i.e. when the sun is out or the wind is blowing).
This passive approach can create problems as the output of these generators fluctuate and other generation (or demand) technologies are not sufficiently flexible to work around these fluctuations. Active Network Management monitors the renewable generators and the grid and automatically changes the flows of power from renewables and around the grid. This is the first time that Active Network Management is being deployed to manage India's fast-growing renewable energy fleet.
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How does the ANM system work and what are some of its benefits
The power system that we still use today was designed around a model of centralised (and large fossil fuel) generation that can flex in line with consumer demand. As more variable renewable energy, such as wind and solar power, are used to displace the more polluting forms of generation that passive model of operation has to move to one where the network is operated more 'actively' much closer in time to power delivery.
Fossil fuel generators cannot change their output quickly or below certain minimum levels and so find it difficult to flex around the variations in renewable generation output. That makes it difficult for TANTRANSCO to manage system frequency and avoid links to other states breaching limits designed to avoid large scale blackouts.
Renewable generators are much more flexible and can provide the flexibility to ensure system stability. Actively managing the renewable generation to ensure the network stays within its limits is a new concept in India and will demonstrate how more renewables can be added to the system (to displace polluting fossil fuel generation) while ensuring system security and reliability.
ANM enables the development of much more clean energy sources of various types and sizes by maximising the utilisation of the current grid infrastructure and so delivers clean energy and economic efficiency benefits.
How do you see the implementation of ANM help the state of Tamil Nadu and India achieve its clean energy goals
The purpose of the ANM pilot project is to demonstrate how renewable generation, when used as a flexible resource can help operators to maintain system stability. By doing so it will show how more renewable generation can be added to the system and displace polluting fossil fuel generation. This will allow Tamil Nadu to develop its renewable resources faster and provide a replicable digital solution for other clean energy rich and new low carbon technology areas of India.
What are your thoughts on India′s energy market Does it offer certain synergies for closer cooperation with the UK?
India's energy market is rapidly developing and implementing a wide range of reforms to encourage competition, investment and efficiency. It is learning from the experience of other countries, including the UK, that have implemented similar market reforms over the last 20-30 years.
The UK is widely recognised in the energy domain as having some of the most advanced and progressive approaches to energy market reforms and smart grid developments. As India moves to net zero carbon by 2050, a massive effort is required to integrate renewables on a massive scale to not only displace fossil fuel generation but electrify other parts of the energy system such as transport and industry.
To do so will require a much more 'flexible' system where all users and providers of energy, not just the large power stations, can participate in the market and in balancing the system. India's ambitions in clean energy will require digital solutions like ANM and it is likely that India will play an increasing role in developing and deploying new digital, clean, flexible energy solutions.
What are Smart Grid Solution's future plans for India?
We are working closely with our partners, Enzen, to engage other transmission and distribution companies in India as well as Australia that can benefit from our technology.