The power sector is one of the successful areas of the Awami League government of successive tenures, with the generation capacity increasing nearly fourfold from some 4,000 MW to more than 16,525 MW in the past one decade.
Though nearly 94 per cent areas of the country have been brought under electrification, and the plan is to extend it to make it cent per cent by the end of this year, the government is yet to take effective measures to stop power pilferage.
Experts concerned with the sector said that a smart grid system, equipped with micro grid facility and modern monitoring tools, could help the country save up to at least 500 MW of electricity per day.
A digital micro-grid system would regulate the current zones better, reduce power outages and provide stability to the power sector, said Dr Sanwar A Sunny, a Bangladeshi expatriate who has worked as project manager for the renewable energy office of the Department of Energy of the US government.
What is smart grid technology?
Explaining the ‘smart’ digital grid, Dr Sanwar Sunny, who returned to Bangladesh and founded the Bangladesh Green Building Council (BGBC), said digital micro-gridding meant that the current power distribution zones would be further divided into residential and commercial zones.
It should be ensured that an entire zone does not go without power during an outage, but only micro zones do. He added that the zone itself should have mixed land usage and better urban planning.
He explained that the current physical power lines incur transmission losses as the grids are not micro types. The circuit breakers at the grid coordinates are not enough to make the grids smaller and more manageable.
“That is why, if one of the sections malfunctions, the entire ‘large’ area succumbs to a blackout,” he said, adding that a smart grid with small, relatively cheap, locally made radio transmitters—operating by remote means in unlicensed radio bands using two-way real-time communication—could change the scenario.
It could transmit coded instructions from the central board (electricity offices) to the circuit breakers in selected coordinates of the micro grid substations and could maintain multiple power flow lines with automated control and digital metering, he added.
“The individual grids could themselves be resource-efficient, with their own waste management and generation capabilities, and with the reduced need for transportation,” he said.
Dr Sanwar Sunny said that feed-in tariffs (FIT) would also be possible, as the energy usage could be monitored by remote means and private power generation and energy-efficient entities could be offered rebates and incentives.
“This would also expedite investments in this sector, create job opportunities for engineering graduates and technicians, and ease pressure on the government,” he added.
How the renewable energy programme could be integrated?
Dr Saiful Haque, president of the Bangladesh Solar Energy Society and a professor of the Renewable Energy Institute (REI) of Dhaka University (DU), said that digital micro grids could integrate renewable energy and private power generation, and monitor how much power was produced and used.
There were many ‘off the shelf’ and customized ways of incorporating private power and generation from renewable energy sources into the grid, he said, adding that various private companies were already designing them, but policy problems, not technological ones, were stalling their installation in the country.
He said a smart grid could make our electric power system more resilient and better prepared to address emergencies such as thunderstorms, earthquakes, terrorist attacks, large solar flares etc. Smart grid allowed for automatic rerouting when equipment failed or outages occurred, thanks to its self-diagnostic and self-healing technology. This technology could detect and isolate the outages before they became large-scale, he added.
“The main feature of a smart grid is that it is smart—for example, it ensures that electricity resumes quickly and strategically after an emergency, routing electricity to hospitals and emergency services first. There is increased consumer control when one uses this technology,” said Dr Haque.
Siddique Zobair, a member of the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (SREDA) told that the traditional grids in Bangladesh used two types of systems to transmit generated electricity to the consumer: A transmission system that transferred electricity from power generation plants to distribution substations and a distribution system that transferred energy from distribution substations to the consumers.
Bangladesh must drastically change the existing grid infrastructure to adopt Smart Grid technologies. “Incorporating a smart-grid system with renewable energy would be a good step for the adoption.”
“But the problem is that apart from pilferage from the power grid, more than 12 per cent of the daily generation (around 600 MW) is lost in the old transmission lines. If these lines are not changed, then a smart-grid system alone cannot curb system losses,” he pointed out.
Regarding FIT for smart grid with renewable energy, Zobair said the concept should be made clear to the public before the government implemented it. “FIT is the preferential rate paid for the electricity fed back into the national grid from a renewable energy generator,” he said, adding that more than 64 countries have adopted FIT in an effort to find a solution to the power crisis.
“Even neighbouring India has a feed-in tariff policy. Under this policy, a solar-system installer can sell electricity to the national grid at a slightly higher price. This encourages residents of urban areas to install solar systems and feed the extra electricity to the grid lines,” he said.
From The Independent