Chairman Emeritus Reconnect 44 – “Energy Storage for Intermittent Renewables”

My dear friends,

Our Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has been announcing to the entire world that India has scaled up its plans from Mega Watts to Giga Watts in the arena of Renewable Energy in view of its environmental sustainability. The quantum jump being mentioned is 5,000 MW to 100,000 MW (100 GW) in respect of Solar Energy and 25,000 MW to 60,000 MW (60 GW) in respect of Wind Energy by 2022.

Such an ambition is not realizable without complementary energy storage of intermittent renewables. Both the above stated renewable energies are available only for 6-8 hours/day, not matching with peak load requirements and are further subject to seasonal variations. One of the basics of Power System is that the electricity must be generated at the precise moment it is demanded. It is the ultimate “just in time” system, where long-term inventory of electricity is denied. (Electricity can only notionally be stored in Capacitors and Inductors for a short time.) It cannot be stored in significant quantities but its converted forms like chemical energy in batteries, gravitational hydro potential energy etc, are possible to be stored.

Recent Cabinet Approval on Amendments in Tariff Policy

Recently the Union Cabinet has approved the proposal of the Ministry of Power for amendments in the Tariff Policy. For the first time a holistic view of the power sector has been taken and comprehensive amendments have been made in the Tariff policy 2006. The amendments are also aimed at achieving the objectives of Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY) with the focus on following 4 E’s:

  1. Electricity for all
  2. Efficiency to ensure affordable tariffs
  3. Environment for a sustainable future
  4. Ease of doing business to attract investments and ensure financial viability

Unfortunately the 5th E i.e. Energy Storage for Intermittent Renewables has been missed out. Cost of energy storage should have been built in to the Peaking tariff. This was not expected in the present scenario when we have a common Union Minister for Power and MNRE.

Recent R&D Council Meeting of the National Wind Energy Institute under MNRE

I attended the latest (Twenty-third) meeting of R&D council of the National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE) held at Chennai on 30.12.2015 wherein their 10-Year Vision Plan was presented.

I pointed out that the renewables like wind and solar can become 24X7 power suppliers only when the appropriate Energy Storage systems are in place and hence a thrust be given for projects in developing Energy Storage systems, for renewables.

Pumped storage is one of the most promising options for energy storage in the form of hydro potential whose assessment in India is more than 96,000 MW of which not even 6,000 MW has been harnessed so far. Almost all (>99%) of power-grid-scale energy storage in the world today is pumped-hydroelectric.

However, Pumped storage is also undergoing a conceptual transformation. Rivers and dams are no more required. Sea water can be used as pumped storage media in novel approaches and “swinging door algorithm” pumped storage becomes a big battery analog for wind farm energy storage. Even an exhausted mine can be used as lower reservoir, if you can find a small water pond at a higher elevation nearby. There are many such novel systems that would revolutionize the energy storage spectrum and need immediate focus and practical green field pilots.

It was agreed in the Committee that a new group for “Energy Storage” would be created in NIWE, reflecting it as an essential ground-breaking component in the 10-Year R&D Vision Plan.

There is no future for Wind Energy Sector (and so also the SPV) without “Energy Storage”. Its importance is more than the “Solar-PV Hybrid” which can only expand the electricity supply period in a day to an extent, not necessarily matching with the Grid demand. It may however facilitate more land space for PV.

With “Energy Storage” component, the load demand can be met much better, right from cyclic stability to daily demand pattern to even seasonal demands. Without Energy Storage component Wind Energy & SPV can never be accepted as viable options for energy supply due to their intermittent nature. The cost of energy storage system has to reflect in the peaking tariff of energy supply. Higher absorption of renewable energy round the clock on the other hand may reduce its cost of supply.

There are four basic options in Energy Storage:

  1. Mechanical→Pumped Storage (Seasonal balance), Compressed Air (Daily stability), Flywheel (cyclic stability)
  2. Chemical→Batteries, Hydrogen (Electrolysers), Fuel cells
  3. Electrical→Double Layer Capacitor, Superconducting Magnetic Coil
  4. Thermal→Heat Storage (Molten Salt), for stability in heating systems or re-conversion in to electricity

The above options may suit different sets of wind farms & SPV stations and their connecting sub-stations to supply 24×7 and more specifically as per grid demand and the environment around.

I hope, all concerned wake up to the urgent need of Energy Storage in our country!

Satyamev Jayate !!!

Best wishes and Regards,

Dr. B.S.K.Naidu

BE(Hons), M.Tech., Ph.D., CBI-Scholar, D.Engg. (Calif.), FNAE, Hon.D.WRE (USA)
Chairman Emeritus, Great Lakes, Gurgaon, NCR, New Delhi, INDIA
Former Director General (NPTI & CPRI / REL), Ex. Director (REC) / Executive Director (IREDA)

No job is small or big, the way in which you do, makes it small or big (c)

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Chairman Emeritus Reconnect 18 – Electricity Tariff

My dear young friends,

You may be noticing that in the backdrop of forthcoming elections some of the political parties are addressing “Electricity Tariff” as one of the major issues, rightly so. However, they may not be knowing the fundamental reasons of the tariff being so high.
We engineers calculate the tariff based on following 7-components:

1. Cost of Generation
2. Cost of Wheeling Power to the Distribution Sub-Station
3. Cost of Recovery of Distribution Assets
4. Cost of Distribution O&M
5. Commercial Cost
6. Legitimate Losses
7. Interest on Working Capital

However, there are 13-components which get built up in a roundabout way, remaining invisible.

1. Political Cost
2. Cost of APDRP & R-APDRP
3. Cost of corruption / Power theft
4. Cost of Coal maffia
5. Cost of improper planning
6. Cost of inefficient management
7. Cost of misplaced environmental perceptions
8. Cost of Bureaucratic delays
9. Cost of commercially unviable rural electrification
10. Cost of non-optimum resource mix
11. Cost of non- training
12. Cost of non – R & D
13. Cost of Grid indiscipline

Let us take up these 13-components one by one:

1. Political Cost:
In my last monthly letter I indicated the political cost of distribution sub-stations. Same is true of locating thermal power stations. Instead of going for pithead stations only, politicians force on locating power stations based on their political maps, not appreciating that transmitting electricity on high voltage lines is much cheaper than transporting coal through railway lines. Politicians also interfere in locations of hydropower stations on political maps rather than river basins. Courts decide the dam heights. All these factors build in inherent extra cost of electricity.

2. Cost of APDRP & R-APDRP:
Cost of accelerated power development and reforms program (APDRP) and Revised APDRP, barring some portion for modernizing the system like IT interface, is the carried over burden of political interference in locating substations treating them as status symbols for the constituencies rather than allowing engineers to locate them load centric.

3. Cost of corruption / Power theft:
Cost of power theft and associated corruption gets built-up in the tariff and the poor customer pays for it. More the theft more is the burden on a faithfully paying customer.

4. Cost of Coal maffia:
Coal is over weighed by 10% or so and the siphoned off payment is made up on record by windage loss or high ash content of coal or low efficiency of thermal power systems.

5. Cost of improper planning:
Improper planning of distribution system by resorting to unfavorable LT/ HT ratio as bad as 5 (Indian average) against world average of 1.5 is one of the reasons for high distribution losses. Obviously the geometry of Indian power network has gone to winds.

6. Cost of inefficient management
Power distribution companies are prepared to be efficient to the extent of making sure to get 16% return on investment (which they are permitted) and not beyond, to make more profit to pass on to their customers to make electricity cheaper for them.

7. Cost of misplaced environmental perceptions:
Environmentalists think that small is beautiful. Yes, but is it productive unconditionally? Can you go to US in an environmentally friendly balloon? A 2-m dia. hydro turbine can produce only 2-MW under 10-m head but the same size machine can produce 100-MW under 300-m head. In order to create 300-m head, one needs to create a high dam or a long vertical tunnel. If Sardar Sarovar project was to be replaced by Small Hydro’s, entire Gujarat would have to be submerged.

The submergence required by schemes identified by CEA to develop country’s entire hydropower potential would be <0.77% of the total area of the country, of which forest land would be 0.2%, since most of it would be the river bed itself. Not appreciating real environment-development logic, environmentalists have virtually brought hydro development to a grinding halt. Hydro provides electricity at 1/3 cost compared to that of polluting thermals. Customer is paying the cost of misplaced environmental perceptions.

8. Cost of Bureaucratic delays:
Bureaucratic delays in clearing the projects are causing huge loss to the country and the sector. Delay in commissioning of a power project of 500 MW by a single day can cause a revenue loss of nearly Rs 10 million. Further, multiplier effect of electricity on country’s economy (GDP) is more than 10 times. Can bureaucrats ever realize how much country is losing by their delays in clearance of projects at various stages by months and years?

9. Cost of commercially unviable rural electrification
Cost of rural electrification requiring T&D lines over long distances to cater to small loads causes a huge burden on average cost of power. With no cognizable effort on “distributed generation through renewables”, this will continue to be a heavy burden on the power system and the customers at large.

10. Cost of non-optimum resource mix
Hydro:Thermal Mix in our country today is 20:80. If it would have been just reverse, the cost of power would have been nearly half of what we are paying today.

11. Cost of non- training
EPRI of USA conducted a revealing experiment of operating a set of thermal power plants by simulator trained as-well-as untrained operators and found that the difference it made was a saving of $ 4,632/MW/Yr in case of former; in terms of savings on availability, thermal performance, equipment damage and environmental compliance. Translated to Indian situation, non-training of thermal plant operation staff on simulators could cost to the nation a staggering figure of Rs 4,350 Cr/yr.

12. Cost of non – R & D
Similarly, cost of non-R&D could be Rupees thousands of Crores every year in terms of import of technology, its finesse going superior every day due to continuous research going on overseas.

13. Cost of Grid indiscipline
All of us saw the cost of grid indiscipline July last year facing the largest electrical blackout in human history. Overdrawing, overfeeding of power leading to frequency and voltage fluctuations harming not only our users’ equipment but also the smaller generators, getting recovered through tariff.

I wish politicians and public at large also understand the above hidden factors somewhere responsible for high tariff. If you analyze, all the factors are related to ethics and ethos of different stakeholders of electricity sector.

Satyamev Jayate !!!

Best wishes and Regards,

Dr. B.S.K.Naidu

M.Tech., Ph.D., CBI Scholar, D.Engg.(Calif), FNAE
Hon.D.WRE (ranked amongst 30-most eminent scientists in the world)
Chairman Emeritus, Great Lakes, Gurgaon, NCR, New Delhi, INDIA
Former Director General (NPTI & CPRI / REL), Ex-Director (REC)/ Executive Director (IREDA)

No job is small or big, the way in which you do, makes it small or big (c)

Chairman Emeritus Reconnect 17 – Mindset Issues of Electricity Sector

My dear young friends,

Once a non-technical colleague of mine in NHPC asked me an innocent question. He said “if I switch off the bulb during my lunch time, how does it help? The electricity has already been generated and traveled to my doorstep. Can it be degenerated? How does it save the resource-water or coal responsible for generation?” I realized that day that electricity is an extremely complex product being utilized by common man. Neither its technicalities nor its economics are easy to understand by the consumers and other stakeholders.

There is a notion in public mind that solar electricity is expensive. Yes, if you think of a 50 MW plant supplying to a city but if you think of a 50 KW plant supplying to a small village it breaks even with other sources like gas/diesel. And if you talk about a 50 W installation for a hut, it works out to be the cheapest version. Therefore Solar is expensive for the rich but most economical for the poor. 

As Director (Technical) REC, once I was addressing a meeting of Chairmen, SEBs. I was questioning and criticizing them for locating electrical sub-stations non-optimally. After listening to me for a while, Chairman of one of the largest Electricity Boards stood up and said “We don’t decide the location of the sub-stations. Each 33 KV sub-station is decided by the local MLA and 132 KV sub-station by the local MP”. Imagine more than Rs 60,000 Cr. is being pumped into the Indian grid system from the central Govt. under APDRP & R-APDRP programs for rectifying and re-configuring the network to reduce the ill effects of sub-stations located off the load centers.

Once I was sitting with the MD of West Bengal Power Development Corporation during evening time. Looking at the ‘Frequency Watch’ in his office, I told him how lucky he was to have frequency very close to 50 Hz. He said “Please wait for an hour or so, you will see a rising surge in this frequency as soon as NTPC’s Super Thermal Plants start pumping power with no sensitivity to grid frequency, since they have to bag Gold Medals for their high PLF. My small generators cannot withstand that high frequency and break down due to higher centrifugal forces on the LP side.” They get the Gold Medals and we incur huge losses, he said.

Once I visited the control room of Scandinavian Power Pool (100,000 MW) in Stockholm.  I observed a typical wall clock there with a single arm, hardly having moved from its zero position. On enquiry I came to know that it was showing the guilt accumulated in last 24-hours of frequency supply variation. In our country we don’t have guilt watches or “Guilt” itself. In the rural end of supply the voltage levels being alarmingly low, the agricultural pump-sets draw higher current and in the process get burnt up, incurring huge expenditure on their repairs.

What we see in India today is insensitivity towards customers/ consumers of electricity. Once we were conducting a program on “Six sigma for power distribution” in a large Power Distribution Company. At the end of the Program, head of a distribution zone shot a question. “Why six sigma in power distribution?” Though it is a quality tool by which we can analyze a pain area of our business and improve upon it to make more profit, he said. He went on further to say why should his company make more profit when Govt. regulations mandate only 16% return on investment by the company.

I was stunned. I asked him what stops him from making more profit and passing it on to the customer. “Customer was not only out of focus but was out of sight”. For instance in Delhi the two private sector companies claim to have reduced the AT&C losses (including theft) from nearly 50% to 15%. If this benefit is passed on to the customers, their energy bills are bound to reduce.

A shocking question was posed to me on another occasion after concluding a Program on “Energy Conservation” for a Power Distribution Company again. “Why should we promote energy conservation, when we are in energy supply business? Let the consumers waste energy. Every extra unit we supply, we have a profit margin in it. An interesting question emerging out of perceptional perversion and lack of values and consciousness…..!

I had to make an effort answering the above question. I said firstly there should be no worry as a hardcore businessman, as for any unit saved there is a queue waiting for new connections which is a profit making proposition. The argument fitted well in the conversant 1st orbit of intellectual logic. Secondly I asked them whether they would like to supply energy in energy surplus/ wasting area or energy starved area? I gave them an example. In Hawaii sugar industries at the receptions, one is offered sugar as well as sugar-free crystals along with the tea. Once I asked them as to why they offer ‘sugar-free’ as sugar producers, their reply was “we don’t produce sugar for sugar-surplus people”. Similarly as responsible energy producers and suppliers good businessmen should have a clear preference for energy-starved area vis-a-vis energy-surplus or energy-wasting area. This was the 2nd orbit of emotional intelligence.

Finally taking them to the 3rd orbit of social and spiritual consciousness, I said that after 10 years, even if the supply equals demand, for every unit saved there will be a saving of 1 kg of coal (conserving it for the future generations); 1 kg of CO2, 0.4 kg of ash, 6 gm of Nitrous Oxide and 1 gm of Sulphur-di-oxide (causing pollution for the present generation) !!

There is so much of hype about “Smart Grid” but no one knows where it exists in India. If every Circle/ City distribution could have just declared its peak hours and the differential tariff, displaying it on the internet and insisted for a timer in the consumers’ meters; the load curves would have flattened meeting the first and foremost obligation of a Smart Grid. What is perhaps required is implementation mindset !

Wish you all a very happy and enlightening Diwali!

Satyamev Jayate !!!

Best wishes and Regards,

Dr. B.S.K.Naidu

M.Tech., Ph.D., CBI Scholar, D.Engg.(Calif), FNAE
Hon.D.WRE (ranked amongst 30-most eminent scientists in the world)
Chairman Emeritus, Great Lakes, Gurgaon, NCR, New Delhi, INDIA
Former Director General (NPTI & CPRI / REL), Ex-Director (REC)/ Executive Director (IREDA)

No job is small or big, the way in which you do, makes it small or big (c)