The Financial Express
Vera Silva is building the power grid of the future. As the chief strategy & technology officer of GE Grid Solutions, she reckons that grid digitalisation and modernisation of the Indian power and distribution industry is the need of the hour. “Smart grids provide big benefits in making electricity transmission more efficient while accomm- odating the energy transition,” she tells Sudhir Chowdhary in a recent interview.
India is at the cusp of a major energy transition as it amps up its capacities to achieve 500 GW of renewable capacity by 2030. How will smart grid technology help it achieve this target?
Most power grids of today have been built progressively for about 100 years ago mostly for high voltage electricity that will be available all the time. Now, with the energy transition, original grid systems require upgrades and strengthening. Today, resources are being produced far away from the demand centre, as is the case with renewables.
Additionally, there is a change in how resources are connected. The grid is separated between high voltage transmission and last-mile distribution networks that were designed for one-way flows. But with renewables, power is distributed and needs a two-way flow. Here, smart grids provide big benefits in making electricity transmission more efficient while accommodating the energy transition.
Does grid digitalisation also make grid management easier and cost effective?
A smart grid couples electric utility equipment with data communications — an intelligent system that leverages real-time information and analytics. Accompanied with the modernisation of electric utility infrastructure, this helps increase efficiency of operations and makes grid management easier. So, today, we are getting more observability at distribution, monitoring, communications, and district management systems – based on software with orchestration in digital substations — along with an added advantage of enabling these smart systems to behave much more like conventional plants. At GE, we have developed a broad portfolio that delivers smart, cost-effective, short-cycle solutions for digitalised substations that can be scaled to meet the varying needs of utilities across the globe.
What are the cybersecurity measures to protect digitalised grids from external attacks?
To ensure cybersecurity, interoperability, reliability and safety for consumers and utilities, standardising technology is vital. Interoperability is of key significance here. We need to abandon dedicated protocols and look for data models and communication protocols specific for smart grids. Today the industry seeks to set standards and protocols on cybersecurity for smart grids. It started at a time where people didn’t want to share their challenges and has evolved so that people understand the need for cooperation.
How does the grid system in India compare with those of mature ones in Europe and USA?
In India, digitalisation of the grid matches the implementation to that in Europe and USA. India is the largest synchronously connected grid in the world which is also expanding at a rapid pace. The country presents a great opportunity in adopting automation and digitalisation at the level of generation and distribution. The government’s recent recognition to make investments on inter-state transmission systems for grid evacuation and integration with renewables is welcome. As we integrate more clean sources of power to the grid, strengthening transmission and distribution systems will be key.
How does your company incorporate the latest innovations in smart grid technology?
At GE Grid Solutions, we provide power utilities and industries with equipment, systems, and services to bring power reliably and efficiently from the point of generation to end-consumers. With a strong focus on innovation and R&D, we help address the challenges of the energy transition. Around one-third of the world’s energy is created by GE, 90% of power transmission utilities have been equipped with our technology and 40% of the world’s energy is managed by our software.
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