EPR Personality

Copper: Wiring India’s pockets

PCA is a voice for quality electrical infrastructure in India. It provides a platform to raise our concerns towards a safer, reliable and efficient India.
Virender Kumar Gupta, Chief Manager (RE), International Copper Association India.

Copper consumption in the country has to be increased. Why? Because copper has higher electrical conductivity as compared to aluminumin the ratio of 1.6 to 1. 0, says Virender Kumar Gupta, Chief Manager (RE), International Copper Association India.

Please walk us through what PCA is all about and how valuable is its contribution towards India’s electrical infrastructure.
India is the fastest growing economy and its energy consumption is likely to double in the next six years. This makes it vital for the country to develop quality electrical infrastructure which will support its growth for several years to come. Power Cable Alliance or PCA is our attempt to bring like-minded people together right from rod producers to actual users and policymakers. We are proud to present PCA as a voice for quality electrical infrastructure in India to answer the many unanswered questions pending to be addressed. It is an advocacy group towards the creation of an infrastructure that is advanced. Ultimately, PCA provides a platform to raise our concerns towards a safer, reliable and efficient India.

What is the role of ICA India in promoting renewable energy?
Government has set very high targets for setting up electricity generation capacities based on renewable energy sources. It believes in increasing the share of renewable energy to 30 per cent of the total installed generation capacity. Due to sustained campaign in solar power, it has already reached 10 per cent. Government has been trying to bring in higher quality, efficiency, reliability and safety in such upcoming renewable energy based systems. ICA is proactive in supporting such measures, be it product standards, best installation practices, increasing awareness, skill development programs.

Over the past decade, the wire & cable industry in India has come a long way growing from being a small industry to a very large one. How do you reckon its growth?
In India, the electrical sector applications accounted for about 54 percent of the total copper demand at ~970 kt in FY16. India’s copper demand growth has emerged as the second fastest after China and has grown by CAGR 5 per cent from 2006-2016. The increasing energy requirements from residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural sectors call for energy efficiency products such as transformers, motors, pumps and renewable power, including wind and solar. This would help encourage the copper consumption in the country. Demand for copper in wires and cables segment has been driven by demand from building wires (PVC wires) segment (66 per cent share in the wires and cables segment).

Why use copper rather than aluminium as the conductor in power cables?
Electrical conductivity: Copper has higher electrical conductivity as compared to aluminumin the ratio of 1.6 to 1. 0. This difference is highly beneficial to power cables. In fact, for the same current-carrying capacity, aluminium conductor needs a 56 per cent larger cross-sectional area than copper.

Thermal withstand capacity: Copper has a lower coefficient of thermal expansion. This parameter measures the tendency of a material to change in volume as a function of temperature. Copper’s lower value is very important for cables since it reduces the risks of sag and destructive forces in joints.

Environmental resistance: Copper is resistant to most organic chemicals and can operate indefinitely in most industrial environments. The protection of copper is unnecessary, even in salty offshore environments, whereas oxidation is a problem with aluminium conductors.

Creep: It shows good resistance to creep; essential to avoid relaxation of contact pressure and for components of complex shape. Aluminium, on the other hand, exhibits evidence of significant creep at room temperature, whereas a similar rate of creep is only shown by high conductivity copper at 150°C.

Jointing: Copper is one of the easiest metals to solder and for this reason, combined with its conductivity, finds many applications where good joint integrity is essential.

Water immunity: Copper does not react with water. This is important because water can find its way into a cable during shipping, handling, outside storage, accidental damage or cable joint or termination failures. In contrast, aluminium reacts with water to produce hydrogen gas. If the pressure of hydrogen inside a cable builds up, it can damage the insulation, resulting in partial discharge activities, failure or even complete destruction.

Given their smaller cross-sectional areas compared to aluminium, for the same current rating, copper cables are easier to install and to repair.

Copper is also less brittle which is important when using 3-core cables which must be shaped and bent within cable ducts and termination enclosures.

Life cycle cost: First procurement cost of copper conductors is higher as compared to aluminum. This price difference becomes less significant considering the above advantages. However, when looking at lifetime costs, there is no economic advantage to using the initially less expensive aluminium rather than the more technically performant copper.

How far have government initiatives helped the copper industry?
The copper sector in India is constantly blooming and we are sure that in the coming years the market will just get bigger for more opportunities and businesses. The total copper demand is expected to reach ~1,812 kt by FY26. Government initiatives such as ‘Electricity for all 24×7’, developing SMART cities, National Mission on affordable housing for all, and efforts to reduce carbon footprint are expected to favourably affect the growth of copper. These factors will increase copper demand in the form of wires and cables, high-efficiency motors, distribution transformers, renewable energy, electric vehicles, and more. Moreover, as the Indian economy grows, increasing disposable income, urbanisation, large young working class, formation of large megacities and new cities, and infrastructural push led by the government through their various initiatives, would lead to rising copper demand across businesses verticals. This surge in demand will witness innovation that will push the industry to adopt energy efficient copper alternatives.

How do you view the future of copper in the Indian electrical sector?
Since copper is an excellent thermal and electrical conductor among the engineering metals, power systems that utilise copper generates and transmits energy with high efficiency and minimal environmental impacts. By using copper instead of other lower electrical energy-efficient metal conductors, less electricity needs to be generated to satisfy a given power demand. Copper conductors are used in electrical renewable energy components, such as turbines, generators, transformers, inverters, electrical cables, power electronics, etc. In our line of business ‘Make in India’ is a key initiative over the recent years that have bought about significant changes. The fresh demand for power will come from 230 million people who will get electricity for the first time. Effectively, India’s electricity consumption will increase four times from about 1.1 trillion units to 4 trillion units by 2030. Despite massive rollout of energy efficient schemes, we still see a possible 10 percent jump in the electricity growth annually for the next 15 or 16 years. ‘Smart Cities’ initiative by the government is another key demand driver for copper.

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