3rd November 2018
Rafael Granja

The targets need to be set based on realistic expectations and realistic requirements. It is just like that you have more than 20,000 mw in generation but you cannot efficiently get that capacity to a customer. So, for Bangladesh, the number one concern is, whether the country is going to be able to get that planned 60,000 mw power efficiently to the customers. A country can have a hundred thousand megawatt of generation but if it cannot get the electricity to the customer, it will be ill-starred investment. The country needs to make sure that you can move that power freely throughout the country. Such as, if you have a generator in north, make sure that you can get that power to the south without worrying about overloads or any contingency issues.

Rafael Granja, an electrical utilities sector expert who was on a visited to Dhaka recently, made the observation in an exclusive interview with Energy & Power Reporter Mohiuddin Miah.

Rafael Granja spent 29 years in the Distribution, Transmission and Generation electrical utilities sector managing and executing multiple project and technical roles like Manager of Distribution Planning, Manager of Distribution Reliability, Nuclear Lead Project Manager, System Operations Engineer, Emergency System Manager, System Integration Analyst, System Architecture Developer and Integration.

Also Rafael has served as program lead on several projects that have focused on developing strategy for Smart Grid Deployment, Distribution Capacity Planning, Distribution System Application Integration, Renewable Business Strategies and Advanced System Application Integration for Distribution and Generation system implementation of Energy/Generation management systems for multiple clients.

What is the purpose of your visit to Bangladesh? 

I was here in Bangladesh for 5 days to administrate two workshops for the employees of the Power Grid Company of Bangladesh (PGCB) with the invitation of Bangladesh-Japan training institute. The workshops were on ‘grid operation best practices and IT control’ and ‘smart grid and smart operations of utility company’. However, this is my second visit to Bangladesh; last time I was here back in 2007 and that was for a training program on energy efficiency.

Well, in last 10 years the generation capacity has increased a lot. In 2007, the capacity was around 4,500-5,000 megawatt (mw) and now it is 20,000 mw. Do you think our transmission and distribution capacity also increased accordingly?  

Well, it needs to. We have been talking over the last couple of days that the load requirements and the load growth in Bangladesh doubled in 5 years. The bottom line is the transmission system and the distribution system should always be ahead of the forecast. Because if not then you run into bottlenecks in capacity issues and I know that right now they are struggling to transmit and distribute the increasing load that is generated. They are behind right now. I think everybody understands that they have to be put in, but the question is, are they going to able to get ahead of the load growth in next couple of years? They need to catch up.

You visited Bangladesh in 2007 to attend a workshop on energy efficiency program as a resource person. Bangladesh set a target to achieve 15 percent (baseline FY2013-14) efficiency by 2020. Do you think this is an achievable target? 

Organically it is very much possible. If the government is putting the correct investment plans and they have the right vision in place than it is possible. There is no reason why they should not be able to. I believe the government can achieve this target.    

At present the system loss in transmission and distribution level is above 12 percent. Do you think this is near to the international standard?

No, I think there is an improvement opportunity from technical perspective. The company has to address power factor concerns, voltage concerns and capacity concerns. If those concerns are put into place and handle technically then you will start to see improvement in all aspects like system loss, reliability or efficiency.

However, the system loss percentage is really depending on the maturity level that the system has. It means if the resources, infrastructures and all the technical tools are more mature, you start seeing the benefits. It just depends on the investment are made when you start see the load growth. So, countries and companies that are beginning to get their required investment may see some of these conditions like commercial and technical losses arise. But once the system and the investment are in place you will start to see the benefits very quickly.

The government has a plan to adopt smart grid system. What should be the measures that the government should take before going into that system? 

In my opinion, the first thing is that you need to build the foundation. You must have all the critical assets for controlling and data acquisition.

The second thing is, from system perspective, you need to have system that help you to analyze infrastructure. You have to have automatic generation control at all generators so that you are not chasing the frequency which seems to be one of the biggest concern.

Third, develop a strategy for all the advanced technology that are required to run the transmission system such as tools for state estimation, contingency control, power flow analysis and all the required analytical tools and resources associated with the operations, resource planning, system planning, next day forecasting or a year forecasting so that everybody is working based on the same data or mapping.

Fourth, develop a data warehouse so that you can see all the data in one location and it would be easy for organization to do analysis based on their requirements. Such as, if you want to develop a tariff then you can see how many customers are using x amount of energy and develop a tariff for those customers. So, it gives a company the ability to do better analysis and more target based business results.

The fifth thing is, which always may be the number one, is resource training. Always keep your resources at a level that they can continue doing their work and always training them to make sure that they can continue moving forward. However, another important thing is making sure that your organization matches what is your need.

After adopting the smart grid system what kind of difficulties or problems may arise while operating the system?

When you look at business transformation that takes a legacy utility to a higher level technological utility; you have to look at what changes are going to be required. You also have to think about the people infrastructure. From a challenge prospective, you will have a digitized cyber site which needs to be protected. You need to reengineer your organization which will make you capable to support this new digital environment. So, where IT was the small player in the legacy utility becomes much more important phenomena in smart grid system because that system is responsible for operating and maintaining many more assets. In smart grid system you are not maintaining just an electrical grid; you are maintaining a communication grid. So, you need to start looking at those transformations at the business and organizational level also.

The challenges are manifold. First of all, you have to secure security from a cyber-prospective; second, you have to ensure that your resources are the right resources which make you proficient to maintain both the utility side which is the electrical infrastructure. Finally, all the resources and all the data coming from the system need to have required tools to convert those into business level executable information which is the most important.

So, in short, secure the infrastructure from the outside entities, transformation of your internal organizations to the digital grid and finally ensure that you have the right analytical tools.

Currently, Bangladesh is generating more electricity than its demand. Nevertheless, the heavy energy-intensive industries are not depending on the grid connection. Do you think smart grid will bring the reliability? 

It would help, but in my opinion the first analysis should be done to know that why the customers are not getting quality power? Is there an issue of infrastructure? Is there an issue of generators? Even though you have 20,000 mw of capacity, maybe the capacity is not in the right location, maybe you don't have enough lines to bring the generation from here to this point or maybe you don't have enough contingency in your system to have adequate power flow.

So, my first point is, before investing in smarter grid you have to understand what are the issues? Once you understand the issues, you can apply the smart grid concept to mitigate all those conditions.

Human resource development is a major challenge for the government in addition to what we are talking about adopting smart grid system. Under these circumstances, which sector the government should emphasize to develop human resource for achieving this ambitious target?  

If I was the government and I was going to invest in research structure. I would start looking more investment in IT sector. Because this sector, where you are going to start adding a considerable amount of resource, will play a vital role to run your digitized systems. So, I would look at first strengthening that IT organization and bring the resources and expertise who will work in more mature utility companies and understand the requirements for a mature operating company.

The government has a plan to reach 60,000 megawatt generation capacity by 2041. In which level the government should focus to efficiently handle such huge amount of generation capacity?  

Targets need to be set based on realistic expectations and realistic requirements. Just like we have been discussing you have more than 20,000 mw in generation but you cannot efficiently get that capacity to a customer. So, for you, to have 60,000 mw capacity, my number one concern is, are you going to be able to get that 60,000 mw efficiently to those customers? You have to have a plan in place to ensure that the power flow within the country is adequate to be able to move the 60,000 mw of generation. Because, I can have a hundred thousand megawatt of generation but if I cannot get it to the customer, it will be ill-starred investment. So, alongside this thought of 60,000 mw capacity, you need to make sure that you can move that power freely throughout the country. Such as, if you have a generator in north, make sure that you can get that power to the south without worrying about overloads or any contingency issues. So, to be able to reach those goals of 60000 mw by 2041, your transmission has to match that level of dispersing the generation in an efficient manner.

How do you evaluate the growth of Bangladesh and what will be the challenges that Bangladesh may face in future?  

My opinion, from a big picture perspective, when you look at doubling the loads in 5 years that means something organically is correct. You don't just grow and double in size if there were issues or concerns. So, you can tell that there is growth. If you look around Dhaka all you can see is constructing everywhere. There is investment going on and companies are spending money in apartment buildings commercial buildings. So, something is correct and there is an organic driver.

The challenge is how you are going to operate efficiently as you continue this load growth. If you continue or able to continue operating efficiently then you will start minimizing the issues of blackout, customer concerns. So, what will that do? If an outside investor comes in and asks, how is the quality of service in Bangladesh? The better that service is became the better chance there is an external investment and this is what every country want.


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