Role of Smart Grids In Smart Cities

The smart city is all about how the city “organism” works together as an integrated whole and survives when put under extreme conditions

Smart grids are corner stone of some of Indian government’s important programs such as 100 Smart Cities, 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022, 40 per cent energy from non-fossil resources by 2030, 6-7 million electric vehicles and 24x7 power supply to all citizen. Smart grid technologies are the key enablers to resolve India’s energy woes, and address troublesome issues such as massive transmission and distribution losses and power thefts.

City authorities plan to use IT and automation systems to instrument and integrate all infrastructure and services to optimize the assets as well as use analytical tools to predict demand, usage pattern maintenance, reliability, emergencies and other incidents. In the Indian context where cities do not have a single owner for all their myriad services, it is a Herculean task to integrate all infrastructure and services on a common platform. Extending the available digital platform of one domain (say power) to offer services in other domains (water, gas, traffic, security, pollution and noise monitoring etc) can be a starting point. The smart cities in India can be in two categories – existing cities that should be made smarter by integrating all services on digital platforms; and new green field cities that would be built as smart cities with integrated communication, IT and automation systems.

The electricity infrastructure is arguably the single most important feature in any city. If unavailable for a significant enough period of time, all other functions will eventually cease.

Electricity distribution companies (DISCOM) maintain GIS map of all electrical assets and customers which in effect cover the complete roads and buildings in a city. This is a very useful tool for other infrastructure domains such as water and gas distribution, transport, telecom etc.

Distribution companies in bigger cities have automated their electrical network with Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition System (SCADA) and Distribution Management System (DMS). Some of the physical infrastructure of these SCADA/DMS can be shared for automating the water and gas distribution networks as well as managing the traffic and security cameras.

Most of the DISCOMs have state of the art billing and payment collection systems which can be leveraged for collecting the water bills and gas bills as well as house tax etc. Single bill for all utility payments and municipal taxes will be a huge relief for customers. Also they maintain 24x7 Call Centers in all cities which can be expanded as City Control & Command Centers at marginal cost.

Advanced applications such as mobile crew management systems which some of the forward looking DISCOMS are expected to implement soon. Again that platform can be shared with providers of several other services in a smart city.

A smart grid addresses three things. First, it modernizes power systems through self-healing designs, automation, remote monitoring and control, and establishment of smart microgrids. Second, it informs and educates customers about their energy usage, costs and alternative options, to enable them to make decisions autonomously about how and when to use electricity.

And third, it provides safe, secure and reliable integration of distributed and renewable energy resources. All these add up to an energy infrastructure that is more reliable, more sustainable and more resilient. Thus, a smart grid sits at the heart of a smart city, which cannot function efficiently without it.

Smart cities depend on a smart grid to ensure pliant delivery of electricity to supply their many functions, present opportunities for conservation, improve efficiencies and, most importantly, enable coordination between city control centre, other infrastructure domain operators and those responsible for public safety. The smart city is all about how the city “organism” works together as an integrated whole and survives when put under extreme conditions. Energy, water, transportation, communication, public health and safety, and other aspects of a smart city are managed in concert to support smooth operation of critical infrastructure while providing for a clean, economic and safe environment in which to live, work and play.

Under extreme conditions, the most critical functions of a smart city would be maintained and logistics information seamlessly coordinated with the public. The smart grid would shed load in a predictable and more manageable fashion so that critical city infrastructure and functions are maintained such as police, fire, hospitals, water supply, sewage pumping etc, supported by
microgrids. Self-healing automation would restore power rapidly to areas where alternate routes are available.

Local generation would be exploited to support most critical needs. The community (industry, commercial, residential) would respond, automatically, to reduce their energy needs to lessen the burden of restoration.

Transportation and traffic systems would coordinate with the energy systems to support critical transportation arteries and modes. Through it all, timely logistics information would be gathered and supplied to the public by all means available, but particularly through social media networks. Conservation, efficiency and safety will all be greatly enhanced through the availability of accurate logistical information on real time basis.

Smart cities, like the smart grid, will evolve slowly, but surely. They will fully harness, integrate and utilize information to be shared between departments, infrastructure operators and with citizens. Cities will partner with vendors to create integrated solutions, and the smart grid will become the part of a greater, more responsive urban ecosystem. Ultimately, with the smart city, we are all in it together.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house