India Set to Leap-Frog Ahead with ‘Smart Grid’ Energy Strategy

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What is Smart Grid technology?

Are we prepared to become smarter with ‘Smart Grid’? Each week, about 1 million people around the world are estimated to move to cities. To put it differently, in India, it’s around 20 people every minute. To emphasize, the experts predict that the cities in the world will double by 2050; the population increase of 3.3 billion people to 6.4 billion in 39 years.

Synonymous with this growth is the need for sustainable, reliant resources — the need for smarter energy. According to the International Energy Agency, World Energy Outlook, 404 million people in India currently do not have the access to electricity.

Developing economies such as India are devoting millions of dollars to building and modernizing their power grids. To indicate importance, this is done to ensure the generation of the power needed, to fuel their economic expansion while balancing the environmental impact. Smart Grid technology is a significant puzzling piece for building instrumented, interconnected and intelligent ecosystems, that will support the next phase of urbanization.

Where is India positioned in the Smart Grid transformation journey? 

The global demand for electricity is expected to increase by 6% per year between 2006 and 2030 [Source: International Energy Agency]. Consequently, this will place an astronomical amount of stress on power grids worldwide. For emerging cities with a population over a billion, such as India, the need to provide clean, reliable and economical energy is severe.

Despite the technological advancements, countries still face challenges such as shortages, power outages, and other failures. In fact, this is due to the consistent growth and overexertion of the grid. Additionally, many utilities are beginning to see that old business models are becoming obsolete. In a word, they no longer address the sustainability, security and economic requirements of today’s population.

Like the most BRIC nations, India is making significant inroads towards Smart Grid planning and development. As a matter of fact, India is leapfrogging over other countries. For example, utilities in India have taken a Demand Response (DR) approach for managing peak energy demands by remotely controlling the power load to improve utilization capacity as well as carbon emissions.

A new report by Lux Research solar analyst, Ted Sullivan, says that India will emerge as one of the leading consumers of solar energy. With the support of government funding, Electric Distribution Utilities in India have started to build pilot IT infrastructures. Additionally, they are implementing basic IT applications that are strong enough to support current as well as future demands.

Why is Smart Grid technology instrumental for India’s economy and how will this impact consumers?

The power grid is the key instrumental source. Without power, there are no hospitals, no transportation, and no supply chain, in a word, the economy halts. Despite the need for power, inadequate and unreliable access to energy continues to be a lingering threat to the countries worldwide. This lack of access coupled with population growth and climate change is causing additional stress to resource infrastructures that provide necessities such as water, food, oil and other consumables.

By improving power grid efficiencies, countries can reduce the number of new power plants and transmission lines. Henceforth, this effect can save tens of billions of dollars in operating costs. How? The smart grid offers a layer of digital intelligence, that provides timely information on energy consumption across various sustainable energy technologies, right from the vehicles, the solar systems to the wind farms.

As a result, this level of insight enables utilities along with consumers to automate, monitor and control the flow of energy. Thereupon helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, electricity costs and improve conservation. Using analytics, consumers and businesses will have the ability to manage their energy usage. In fact, they can manage the individual networked appliances including thermostats, security systems, home technologies and likewise. Overall, this consumer empowerment will encourage better choices, which will lead to a quicker transformation of India.

Regulatory Bodies behind the Smart systems

Governments, regulatory bodies and utility companies in India are working to ensure and to address the current as well as the future demands. The India Smart Grid Forum (ISGF), a public-private partnership agency of The Ministry of Power, and the India Smart Grid Task Force have been established to create a roadmap for the development and deployment of smart and intelligent grid technologies. Furthermore, India also published the National Solar Mission in January 2010 that calls for to make India a global leader in solar energy. In brief, these are only a few initiatives that are helping India become a leader in power transmission.

To sum up, with continued education, new policies, and technological developments, India will have the tools to increase electrical generation capacity and modernize its grids.

How adaptable is India’s power infrastructure to change?

Like the most countries, increasing generation capacity and building additional analog utility grids is not the answer for India. In contrast, India should establish a system that can support exponential data and population growth. In order to remain competitive internationally as well as within its own markets, India must evaluate its current infrastructure and implement new business models that are applicable to meet current energy demand.

New technologies, emphasis on climatic change, consumer interest, and policy changes are contributing factors to the transformation. Indeed, India is developing new business strategies, standards, and infrastructures that not only support traditional energy generation but also boost emerging products and services.

Utilities in India are working to transform the current system into an intelligent network with real-time communication systems, smart sensors, smart meters and digital controls in order to build a sophisticated platform. As a matter of fact, this transformation will allow energy providers to effectively manage power distribution and integration of renewable resources, as per the demand. Accordingly, this will ensure that Indian villages too will have access to efficient – connected power.

What’s the future of India?

The “Power for all by 2012”; Ultra Mega Power Plants (UMPPs); Restructured Accelerated Power Development & Reforms Program (R-APDRP); Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission, and recent the work by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) in India and IBM to design & plan for the country’s first smart grid project; are all programs currently in place to drive grid transformation in India and ensure legacy infrastructures become adaptable to this new era of power distribution.

In conclusion, India is a country that recognizes the benefits of a smarter planet, including the power of the smart grid and its impact on Indian people, on industrialization, and on its economy. Notably, given the significant inroads in smart grid planning and development, India will leapfrog other countries. Under these circumstances, India will rule and its leadership is one the that would be followed.

-Excerpts from Interview with IBM Vice-President

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