Volume 2 No.2                                                                                                                               March 1999


The demand for electrical energy is ever increasing. Today over 21% (theft apart!!) of the total electrical energy generated in India is lost in transmission (4-6%) and distribution (15-18%). The electrical power deficit in the country is currently about 18%. Clearly, reduction in distribution losses can reduce this deficit significantly. It is possible to bring down the distribution losses to a 6-8 % level in India with the help of newer technological options (including information technology) in the electrical power distribution sector which will enable better monitoring and control.

How does Power reach us?

Electric power is normally generated at 11-25kV in a power station. To transmit over long distances, it is then stepped-up to 400kV, 220kV or 132kV as necessary. Power is carried through a transmission network of high voltage lines. Usually, these lines run into hundreds of kilometres and deliver the power into a common power pool called the grid. The grid is connected to load centres (cities) through a sub-transmission network of normally 33kV (or sometimes 66kV) lines. These lines terminate into a 33kV (or 66kV) substation, where the voltage is stepped-down to 11kV for power distribution to load points through a distribution network of lines at 11kV and lower.

The power network, which generally concerns the common man, is the distribution network of 11kV lines or feeders downstream of the 33kV substation. Each 11kV feeder which emanates from the 33kV substation branches further into several subsidiary 11kV feeders to carry power close to the load points (localities, industrial areas, villages, etc.,). At these load points, a transformer further reduces the voltage from 11kV to 415V to provide the last-mile connection through 415V feeders (also called as Low Tension (LT) feeders) to individual customers, either at 240V (as single-phase supply) or at 415V (as three-phase supply). A feeder could be either an overhead line or an underground cable. In urban areas, owing to the density of customers, the length of an 11kV feeder is generally up to 3 km. On the other hand, in rural areas, the feeder length is much larger (up to 20 km). A 415V feeder should normally be restricted to about 0.5-1.0 km. Unduly long feeders lead to low voltage at the consumer end.

Bottlenecks in Ensuring Reliable Power

Lack of information at the base station (33kV sub-station) on the loading and health status of the 11kV/415V transformer and associated feeders is one primary cause of inefficient power distribution. Due to absence of monitoring, overloading occurs, which results in low voltage at the customer end and increases the risk of frequent breakdowns of transformers and feeders. In fact, the transformer breakdown rate in India is as high as around 20%, in contrast to less than 2% in some advanced countries.

In the absence of switches at different points in the distribution network, it is not possible to isolate certain loads for load shedding as and when required. The only option available in the present distribution network is the circuit breaker (one each for every main 11kV feeder) at the 33kV substation. However, these circuit breakers are actually provided as a means of protection to completely isolate the downstream network in the event of a fault. Using this as a tool for load management is not desirable, as it disconnects the power supply to a very large segment of consumers. Clearly, there is a need to put in place a system that can achieve a finer resolution in load management.

In the event of a fault on any feeder section downstream, the circuit breaker at the 33kV substation trips (opens). As a result, there is a blackout over a large section of the distribution network. If the faulty feeder segment could be precisely identified, it would be possible to substantially reduce the blackout area, by re-routing the power to the healthy feeder segments through the operation of switches (of the same type as those for load management) placed at strategic locations in various feeder segments.

Typical Power Transmission and Distribution Scenario with DA components

The Technology Development Mission

A Technology Development Mission on Communication, Networking and Intelligent Automation, was jointly taken up by IIT Kharagpur and IIT Kanpur. While the mission focus at IIT Kharagpur is to develop technology for industrial automation, IIT Kanpur embarked upon the development of an integrated technology for power distribution automation system.

In a distribution automation (DA) system, the various quantities (e.g., voltage, current, switch status, temperature, and oil level) are recorded in the field at the distribution transformers and feeders, using a data acquisition device called Remote Terminal Units (RTU). These system quantities are transmitted on-line to the base station (33kV substation) through a variety of communication media. The media could be either wireless (e.g., radio, and pager) or wired (e.g., Dial-up telephone, RS-485 multi-drop, and Ethernet). The measured field data are processed at the base station for display of any operator selected system quantity through Graphic User Interface (GUI). In the event of a system quantity crossing a pre-defined threshold, an alarm is automatically generated for operator intervention. Any control action (for opening or closing of the switch or circuit breaker) is initiated by the operator and transmitted from the 33kV base station through the communication channel to the remote terminal unit associated with the corresponding switch or circuit breaker. The desired switching action then takes place and the action is acknowledged back to operator for information.

DA systems are being adopted by utilities in some developed countries in a phased manner, primarily for reliability evaluation in a field environment. In India too, a small beginning has been made by a few state utilities (Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Kerala and Rajasthan), which are confining themselves initially to the automation of 33kV substations. Electronics Research and Development Centre, Trivandrum, and Computer Maintenance Corporation, Hyderabad, are involved in these early experiments, the main objective being the development of know-how and a better understanding of the issues involved in implementing DA systems indigenously. The utility environment in India is far different from that in most of the developed countries, because of the existing social scenario. Hence, technological solutions available for DA in developed countries cannot be directly implanted in India. Also, the cost of importing a DA system technology is prohibitive.

The Mission Activities at IIT Kanpur

IIT Kanpur has embarked on an effort to develop indigenous technology for an integrated power distribution automation system in collaboration with four industry partners (Secure Meters Limited, Udaipur; Indian Telephone Industries, Raebareli; DataPro Electronics Private Limited, Pune; and Danke Switchgears, Vadodara). This effort includes development of

(a) communication and networking technology using wired and wireless media,

(b) micro-controller based remote terminal unit (RTU),

(c) remotely operable switch for 11kV and 415V feeders,

(d) application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC) for electrical instrumentation,

(e) DA software to enable remote monitoring, alarm generation and remote control, and

(f) distribution network simulator (a scaled down model of a real-life distribution network) to provide a test bed for a comprehensive testing of the developed technology, components and software.

Some of the developments noted above are being implemented in the IIT Kanpur distribution network as a pilot level installation for field reliability evaluation.

Salient Contributions

The technology development mission at the Institute has made the following contributions:

Communication and Networking Technology

This enables distributed data acquisition, monitoring and control system functions. Unlike traditional communication solutions, the approach here is to have a core communication controller in the base station that can support diverse choices of communication media (dial-up, RS485, Ethernet, and radio). This open approach facilitates cost effective implementation. The base station communication controller has cross-platform portability, supports functions for communications network management, and permits LAN, Internet, and Intranet connectivity through Ethernet. All command communication functions are invoked through GUI of automation software. Data transfer from/to RTUs supports industry standard data links.

Remote Terminal Unit

The micro-controller based pole-top RTU has 32 analog and 16 digital channels, and affords RS232 full duplex asynchronous communication. The acquired data (voltage and current) is processed for rms and power factor calculations. Some design goals focus at low cost, flexibility and expandability, modularity at signal conditioning level, and communication interface.

Remotely Operable Switch

A load break switch (LBS) for 11kV operation and a moulded case circuit breaker (MCCB) unit for 415V operation have been developed and tested as per available specifications. The three-pole 11kV LBS opens in 80 milliseconds at the rated current of 80 A. While this switch is primarily meant for breaking load current, it can sustain 16 kA of fault current for one second and can also close on fault. The remote operation is through a three-phase induction motor coupled with gear mechanism. The 415V MCCB unit, on the other hand, has an isolator on the incoming circuit and two MCCBs for two outgoing feeders. Flexibility exists to choose the MCCB of appropriate rating corresponding to the rated feeder current. The remote operation is through solenoid-plunger arrangement.

Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC)

ASIC supports up to four-phase analog inputs (four voltage and four current) for applications such as tri-vectormetre, RTU, and single-phase meter. It has an option for frequency selection (50/60 Hz) and is of 0.2 class accuracy with 16 bit A/D converter. Sampling rate is 5000 samples per second per channel. It calculates quantities like rms values of voltage and current (both actual and fundamental), power, power factor, total harmonic distortion, frequency, and energy. The ASIC design is verified using Verilog HDL simulation. While the ASIC fabrication is being finalised, the ASIC-based metering applications have been validated using the hardware behavioural simulation of ASIC.

DA software

The DA software has the following components: (i) Distribution network software with attributes like graphical representation of network, cross-platform portability (Windows NT, Linux, Solaris), editing features, customizing, network validation, system topological information, component specification, and billboard printing; (ii) Set-up utilities for installation on different platforms; (iii) Automation software having real-time features, cross-platform portability, alarm generation (audio/video), system monitoring (of system quantities, equipment health and switch status), switch control commands, control interlocks and event log report; (iv) Database with real-time attributes that conforms to DNP3.0 library format, uses shared memory approach, provides SQL interface for backup in standard databases for all off-line applications, permits sharing of data in multiple processes, and has registry access for security and RTU identification; and (v) Application software which includes packages for network re-configuration, load shedding, volt-var control through capacitor switching, and fault detection and isolation.

Distribution Network Simulator

It is a scaled-down model of the actual IIT Kanpur distribution network, having suitably scaled-down versions of fourteen transformers, thirty 11 kV feeders, forty one circuit breakers represented by four-pole controllable relays (with selection for remote/local operation), LT loads which can be varied from 0-150% in steps of 25%, communication linkage (for Ethernet, dial-up, RS485 and radio), single generic RTU (96 digital and 128 analog channels) covering all transformers. The simulator applications include testing of various communication systems and protocols, testing of DA software, fine tuning of RTU and LBS control prior to field installation, and integration and testing of application software. As the simulator provides a feel of actual physical system, it can serve as a training tool for operators of DA system.


Most of the developments undertaken as part of the mission have been completed over the last three years. Some of these developments have already been implemented in the 33kV substation of IIT Kanpur. Implementation at five 11kV substations in IIT Kanpur is currently in progress, and is expected to be completed by the end of 1999. Based on this field experience, the necessary fine tuning of the technology will be done for increased reliability. It is expected that the technology for DA system developed through this mission, will be marketed by the four industry partners, not just within India, but also in the other developing countries.

For more information, please contact:

Professor Sachchidanand

Department of Electrical Engineering

Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur

Kanpur 208016

Telephone : (0512) 59 7152;

Fax: (0512) 59 0065

e-mail: sachchi@iitk.ac.in

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