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Reliance Energy: Powered by GIS

Read on to know how one of India’s largest power distribution companies is benefiting from integrating GIS in its processes…

The various parameters that are used to monitor the health of Indian power sector indicate that post initial disappointments, reforms are back on track. The existing installed capacity of 140,000 MW will have to be increased five-fold to 800,000 MW by 2030-40, the major contributors being the economic/GDP growth as well as India’s below average per capita consumption of 700 KWH as against the world average of 2600 KWH. This opportunity brings with it complexities and challenges too, the most important being aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses. Some amount of loss has been reduced but it still ranges between 18-62%, with national average being around 33%. Now, with Restructured Accelerated Power Development & Reform Programme (R-APDRP) initiative by the Ministry of Power (MoP) and PFC (Power Finance Corporation), the state electricity boards (SEBs) have no choice but to shape up.

IT modernisation at Reliance Energy
Reliance Energy embarked on IT modernisation and GIS implementation way back in 2003-4. The company implemented Telvent Miner & Miner’s ArcFM solution based on Esri’s ArcGIS technology for their electric distribution systems in the cities of Delhi and Mumbai, covering more than four million consumers spread over 1300 sq. km. Today, more than 1500 Reliance Energy users access the utility network data and end-to-end integrated business applications anywhere, anytime through geospatial technologies.

Need for GIS
The electrical utility business is characterised by a large physical spread of assets, work sites and offices. This spatial element plays a significant role in the work of the company’s field staff. The GIS solution was envisaged in order to model their physical workspace in to a digital workspace. An enterprise-wide integrated GIS solution was planned in order to maximise the benefits from various IT systems like SAP, IS-U CCS, SCADA, DMS, AMR and CYME. The ultimate purpose was to help end users solve business problems and achieve international level of customer service.

Business challenges before GIS implementation
Implementation of GIS has solved several critical problems faced by Reliance Energy. A major problem was the nonavailability of network in entirety. The cable route drawings of the existing 70-year-old underground network were not available. The implementation exercise plotted the network in the system and thereby provided the spatial coordinates to every element of the network.

Integration with SCADA gave very valuable real-time information to GIS users which otherwise was impossible. Fault location could be identified quickly and easily through an intelligent combination of GIS and fault passage indicator (FPI). Providing visibility of prospects on land base with the network features in the proximity made planning for network growth easier. Visibility of topography assisted in handling emergency situations such as floods and water logging. GIS helped O&M give the visibility and pattern of energy losses, making the remedial measures simpler.

GIS integration with SCADA and DMS
A typical power system consists of generation, transmission and distribution. The basic structure of power transmission and distribution system covers a huge network consisting of a wide range of equipment, feeders and facilities. Different disparate systems exist to efficiently manage utility operations. The role of each system is different and unique. Typical systems used in the electrical utility are GIS, SCADA, DMS, NA and ERP. GIS is used to superimpose the complete electrical network assets from generation to service point on top of the land base data. SCADA system consists of a complex network of electronic measuring and sensing instruments for capturing the data which is communicated over LAN and WAN to the control center. Like a watch dog, SCADA monitors the utility network in real time and provides the remote control of switching devices, transformers and equipments. This facilitates utilities to coordinate the maintenance and fault rectification activities of the distribution system. DMS (distribution management system) supports operational improvements by using online network and is used to efficiently manage the 11KV and below network by providing planned switching orders and load flow analysis to minimise losses and equipment overloads.

The SCADA/DMS – GIS interface helps meet the requirement of utility managers and executives who are looking for new ways to optimise their operations, increase workforce efficiency and the business processes. These capabilities distinguish GIS from other information systems and make it valuable in explaining events, predicting outcomes and planning strategies for distribution system management. Integration of GIS with SCADA /DMS and AMR leverages modern computing capabilities to deliver highly actionable information to a wide range of users, all while meeting the organisation’s increasing need for real-time information.

Outage management system (OMS)
Reliance Energy has developed end-to-end integrated outage management system using geospatial technologies. This system has been integrated with IVR, SCADA, CYME, SAP PM, IS-U CCS billing system. This helps users in identifying the probable fault location based on who is calling. This is a bottom up approach wherein the exact network upward traceability is used. In the large area complaint, a top down approach is used.

For outage management, Reliance has also developed several other tools including fault locator tool, energy audit and feeder-wise loss calculation tool and capacity planning solution. In case of underground cable faults, GIS provides solutions which help crew working in field to locate the fault as well as neighbouring joints in the network within a shorter time. This functionality is made available in the field by equipping cable fault detection van with laptops with GIS database connectivity. GIS provides the energy audit personnel a visual tool to help identify suspicious / loss area. This energy accounting information, along with the service point (customer delivery point) meter tampering data on top of a GIS map helps in detecting the probable area/service points of pilferage.

Return on investment
Sustainable enterprisewide initiatives like GIS are dependent on obtaining senior management’s buy-in. This, in turn, depends on the performance evaluation of the investment. Return on investment (ROI) is calculated to evaluate the efficiency of the investment.

Reliance Energy uses the following process to calculate and measure the returns:

  • Define the scope of the project with the deliverables, internal and external stakeholders etc.
  • Enlist all possible business opportunities from this implementation.
  • Calculate all investment in hardware software, networking satellite images land base survey and creation network survey and creation application development integration with other IT systems like SAP, SCADA, AMR and DMS.
  • Calculate the cash out flow with amount, month and year.
  • Estimation of benefits or returns: This is the most important step in this whole exercise. This estimates saving in manpower for various activities, improvements and efficiency enhancements.
  • Identify all departments and users using / going to use the GIS functionalities.
  • Identify and list all activities which would give saving returns.
  • Quantify all those activities on annual basis and SMH (manhours) required for the same.
  • Come up with the help of industrial engineering principals (work study, time and motion study) percentage saving and improvement.
  • Convert these savings into the money (INR) saved annually.
  • Convert these benefits as cash inflows with specific month and year.
  • Calculate NPV (net present value), IRR (internal rate of return), payback period or other metrics to get the ROI. NPV is a more scientific way of calculating the returns and a decision making financial metric.

GIS in smart grid journey
Reliance Energy is expanding the scope of GIS to transmission as well generation business, giving it a larger canvas to experiment. It is planning to have GIS-driven transmission life cycle management from pre-bid stage to bid, tower design and scheduling till operation and maintenance stage.

Accurate, latest updated and quality data is the essence of GIS and smart grid in distribution. A lot of business processes changes need to be initiated in order to capture the network changes on a day-to-day basis. Reliance Energy places a lot of emphasis to this aspect, right from the beginning. GIS plays a significant role in establishing a communication between automation systems like SCADA, DMS, AMR and customer care and billing systems like ISU CCS, and OMS. This, in turn, is helping the company in its smart grid journey.