Smart Grids and Quality of Supply

Published On: Apr 26, 2015

Today, the electricity distribution industry is grappling with an unprecedented array of challenges, ranging from a supply-demand gap to rising costs. The distribution network today has become vulnerable and is increasingly governed by bi-directional power flows and fluctuating voltages determined by customer load & generation. Left with an ageing infrastructure, the conventional distribution network needs an upgrade and the smart grid phenomenon seems to be the way forward.

While the understanding of smart grid is different for different stakeholders, like five blind men deciphering an elephant in the room, however the fact is that we are in the midst of a revolution that can transform our conventional grid into an efficient and intelligent one. For most utilities, smart grid is about installing smart meters and establishing an outage management system, whereas for consumers and industries, the smarter grid would be of little value unless marked with highly reliable supply and resulting in optimized monthly electricity bills.

Effective implementation of the smart grid involves advanced distribution network automation integrating the power network with ICT technologies and electronic devices. Such automation demands adequate power quality to guarantee the necessary compatibility between all equipment connected to the smart grid. Power quality, therefore, is an important issue for the successful and efficient operation of existing as well as future grids.

In addition, the use of sophisticated equipment (particularly DC) by consumers is also putting an additional responsibility on the network operator to maintain quality of supply as per the set standards.

Thus, this blog attempts to discuss the importance of addressing the quality of supply requirements while implementing smart grid projects and leveraging these projects as an opportunity to improve and efficiently manage power quality.


Effective realization of smart grid requires advanced distribution network automation, which includes Substation automation, advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), outage management system, distribution management functions like voltage control or reactive power (var) control, harmonics detection and analysis, etc.

Such automation involves the use of power electronic devices and converters, which are highly vulnerable to harmonic distortion. The use of power electronic interfaced loads has considerably increased with the proliferation of personal computers, TV sets, adjustable speed motor drives for pumps or air conditioning appliances, etc. When these loads are connected to the grid, harmonics produced by these nonlinear loads are injected back into the supply systems. These currents interact adversely with a wide range of power system equipment thereby causing additional losses, overheating and overloading. Harmonics, one of the fastest growing PQ issues, are caused by the non-linearity of customer loads. Harmonics is a form of disturbance in electrical network, which influences and affects the operations of assets like transformers, feeders, etc. These harmonics also cause interference with telecommunication lines and errors in power metering, malfunction of data processing equipment, nuisance tripping of protective devices, etc. The smart grids equipment like communication devices, routers, relays, switches, capacitors, smart-meters, servers, sensors, etc. are very much vulnerable to harmonics and voltage, and hence maintain the quality of supply plays an important role in implementation of smart grid. (For more details on how harmonics affects the electrical distribution network, see our previous blog: T&D Network Planning – Do Utilities Consider Power Quality)


Worldwide, national governments are encouraging smart grid initiatives as a cost effective way to modernize their power distribution infrastructure. India ranks third among the top ten countries in smart grid investments and has announced substantial smart meter rollout projects with a plan for more than 130 million smart meters by 2020 with an investment of $1billion. However, the existing policy and regulatory framework are typically designed to deal with the existing network. With the move towards the smart grid, these policies must evolve in order to encourage incentives for investments. Policy makers need to take some immediate action in certain critical areas like standards and regulations for its effective implementation. The Government of India (GoI) has appointed India Smart Grid Task Force (ISGTF) and India Smart Grid Forum (ISGF) with the prime objective of accelerating development of smart grid technologies in the Indian power sector by bringing together all the key stakeholders and enabling technologies.

Along with policies on smart grid, it is essential and important to focus on improvement in quality of supply. Government and various state regulatory bodies in India measures reliability supply indices such as SAIFI, SAIDI, CAIDI and monitor the interruptions on a regular basis, however there are no or only few occasions where Regulator has incentivized or penalized discoms for non-compliance on these parameters. Even reporting of such reliability indices are of doubtful integrity at times. Utilities that consider installing smart meters need to also focus more holistically on the overall quality of supply of smart grids than merely installing smart meters.

The table below shows the Smart Grid initiatives by some of the developed nations, thereby helping them improve quality of supply.


Smart Grid Initiatives in developing countries


USA has more than 130 ongoing smart grids projects, spread across 44 states and 2 territories. It has made significant investments for upgrading the grids and distribution automation. A fund of $11 billion has been set aside for the creation of smart grids. Also, the Smart Grid Investment Grant program (SGIG) had provided close to $3 billion for smart metering, $1 billion for electricity systems, and roughly a half billion dollars each for electric transmission and customer systems. More than 10.8 million smart meters have been installed which is 8% of total meters and 287 networked phasor measurement units (PMUs) are in place to check PQ. United States’ electric utilities plan to install 60 million smart meters by 2020.

European Union

European Union has around 459 ongoing smart grid projects in 28 member states and has a budget of around €3.15 billion spread across 578 sites. Around 200 million smart meters in Europe (72 % of EU customers) are expected to be deployed by 2020 with an estimated investment of €35 billion. Germany has taken a lead in Europe for implementing smart grid projects. It has taken an E-Energy – The Internet of Energy initiative and has mandated all buildings to be equipped with Smart Meters from 2010 and Demand
Response program from 2011. It has estimated to invest €40 Billion in Smart Grid by 2020.


Japan has initiated 4 smart grid pilot projects with an investment of 12.6 billion Yen (USD 157 million). Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has announced a plan of installing 17 million smart meters in households by 2018 and 27 million meters by 2023.


China has estimated an investment of $100.8 billion for smart grid implementation. It is currently focusing on the creation of a large capacity interconnected transmission backbone to transfer bulk power and to accommodate fast growing electricity demand. It has set to rollout 180 million smart meters by 2030 and is investing heavily in more efficient distribution transformers.

South Korea

South Korea plans to spend $24 billion over the next two decades on around 10 Smart Grids projects to make electricity distribution more efficient. It plans to install total 24 million smart meters by 2020.

Table 1. Smart Grid initiatives of Developed Nations

(For more information, refer bullet # 1 & 4 in References section below)


The new technology associated with smart grid offers the opportunity to improve the quality and reliability as experienced by the customers. This new energy infrastructure shall be greener, dynamic, flexible, reliable, secure, and resilient. However, an issue of voltage quality regulation, especially in integrated, multi-function and multi-communication platform like smart grid is considerably high. Improving power quality for implementation of smart grids will require new developments from all stakeholders involved. If appropriate and immediate attention is not given, it may lead to financial losses, equipment damage, etc. The smart grid will be at the heart of tomorrow’s connected world underlining the ‘Quality’ of life for each one of us, hence conscious planning and implementation of the smart grid with attention to good power quality environment is the only way forward.


  1. Smart Grid – Indian Power Sector
  2. Power Quality Requirements for the Smart Grid – Aleksandar Janjic, Zoran Stajic, Ivan Radovic, International Journal of Circuits, Systems and Signal Processing, May 2011
  3. Power Quality Aspects of Smart Grids – Math H.J. Bollen, Jin Zhong, Francisc Zavoda, Jan Meyer, Alex McEachern, and Felipe Córcoles López, International Conference on Renewable Energies and Power Quality, Spain, 2010
  4. Smart Grid Projects in Europe: lessons learned and current developments – Vincenzo Giordano, Flavia Gangale, Gianluca Fulli (JRC-IE) Manuel Sánchez Jiménez (DG ENER), JRC Reference Reports
  5. Smart Grid Bulletin, – April 2014
  6. Important Challenges Facing Smart Grid Implementation In India – July 10, 2014
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