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Modified electricity grid code likely to include renewable energy, cybersecurity

FE Bureau

The upcoming version of the Indian Electricity Grid Code (IEGC) is expected to include new provisions to accommodate the increasing penetration of renewable energy and address the potential threats stemming from cyberattacks.

An expert group has prepared the draft IEGC, 2020, which aims to "strengthen grid security and resilience with emphasis on flexibility of resources". The group has reviewed the existing version of IEGC, implemented since 2010, "based on past experience, recent developments in the power systems, changes in market structure and the future challenges".

The expert group formed in 2019 has suggested the formation of a qualified coordinating agency (QCA) which will act as the nodal agency on behalf of wind and solar power producers and coordinate with electricity load dispatch centres (grid operators) round the clock to provide an estimate of available generation capacity from such sources.

So far, grid operators have been trying to manage the variability and intermittency of solar and wind generation based on output forecasts from power producers and backing down thermal units during high renewable season. However, with the rising penetration of renewables, such stop gap measures can be rendered inadequate in the near future, the expert group noted.

In order to strengthen grid security and resilience, the IEGC proposes to have new regulations such as the cybersecurity code and the protection and commissioning code. Under the cybersecurity code, critical information infrastructures would be identified and information security officers would be appointed who would implement the guidelines by the National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre.

The protection and commissioning code will help in the coordination of protection systems to isolate faulty equipment. The code is also designed to avoid unintended operation of protection systems.

The first electricity grid code was implemented in 1999 and renotified in 2006 and 2010. The expert group held 26 meetings between June 2019 and December 2019, where it consulted with a broad spectrum of stakeholders.

The state-run discom of Maharashtra suggested that in cases when power cannot be procured from a plant due to congestion issues, the fixed cost should be borne by the transmission network operator.

NTPC pointed out that 'merit order' (power plant with lowest fuel cost gets to sell electricity first) should not be based only on fuel prices, but other parameters such as efficiency of power plants should also be included. It further said discoms end up spending more on power purchase as state-run generators have relaxed norms to run their plants, in spite of using more expensive fuel, distorting merit order operations.