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Mapping India’s path to sustainable and efficient energy management

September 26, 2023 2:15 pm

Mapping India’s path to sustainable and efficient energy management

India’s power sector faces pivotal shifts, balancing energy efficiency, sustainability, regulations, and innovative solutions for progress.

In the dynamic landscape of India’s power sector, experts provide crucial insights into the transformative changes and challenges facing the industry. From energy efficiency to sustainable power transitions and regulatory influences, this article delves into the multifaceted journey towards a cleaner, more efficient energy future.

Maximising tangible benefits

India’s power sector is at a pivotal juncture, with the need for transformative changes echoing across the industry. In a conversation with experts, Mr. Anil Kadam, Chair of the Smart Grid Division at IEEMA and Director for EcoStruxure & Cyber Security at Schneider Electric, and Mr. Ripunjay Parikh, Director of Sales – Power Distribution at Eaton Electrical Sector India, shed light on the tangible benefits and advancements in energy efficiency that can revolutionise the sector.

Mr. Kadam emphasised that energy efficiency isn’t just about conserving power; it extends to optimising operations across the power value chain. He highlighted the cascading impact of energy losses, stating that for every unit lost in distribution, there are approximately four units of primary energy lost in generation. In his view, energy efficiency is the “lowest hanging fruit” to reap substantial gains. To achieve this, he stressed the importance of measurement and incentivisation. While basic metering systems exist, he called for more robust mechanisms to actively motivate consumers to participate in demand-side management and energy conservation.

Additionally, Mr. Kadam pointed out the untapped potential of data generated by distribution companies. He argued that this data is a goldmine, capable of optimising network topology and reducing losses. However, its true potential must still be addressed due to competency issues and underutilisation.

Analysing advancements 

Mr. Parikh reinforced that energy efficiency isn’t just about power conservation; it’s about power quality and sustainability. He highlighted the benefits of reliable and clean energy, emphasising the importance of reforms to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and promote energy storage solutions. With advancements in technology, users can now monitor the source and quality of their power supply, enabling informed decisions and greater utilisation of renewable energy sources.

Both experts agreed that a fundamental shift is needed at the policy level to promote energy efficiency. Also, India’s regulatory framework should incentivise distribution companies to invest in energy-efficient solutions. Moreover, affordability remains crucial, especially in implementing energy storage technologies.

The benefits of energy efficiency in India’s power sector are multifold, from reducing waste and costs to curbing emissions and ensuring reliable, clean power. To maximise these advantages, a comprehensive approach is required, encompassing measurement, incentivisation, data utilisation, and policy reforms. As India strives to sustainably meet its growing energy demands, energy efficiency stands as a cornerstone for progress in the power sector.

Quantifying implications of the transition 

The shift from traditional fossil fuel-based power generation to sustainable alternatives carries both economic and environmental implications, as discussed by Dr. Bhaskar Natarajan, a Senior Fellow at the Alliance for Energy-Efficient Economy, and Mr. Anil Kadam, Chair of the Smart Grid Division at IEEMA.

Dr. Natarajan highlighted critical concerns related to this transition. While renewable energy has gained ground, its environmental impact has yet to be comprehensively assessed. The production of critical materials for clean energy technologies often needs to be accounted for in terms of environmental costs. Additionally, the disposal of renewable energy components poses a significant challenge. The need for adequate recycling systems and the growing waste volume raises questions about the costs involved.

Moreover, Dr. Natarajan emphasised that renewable energy systems operate at lower efficiencies than conventional power generation. Energy conversion from renewable sources to chemical energy in batteries comes with inherent losses, which must be factored into the equation.

Mr. Kadam acknowledged the inevitability of transitioning to a greener energy landscape to combat climate change. However, he stressed the need for technologies to address the challenges associated with this transition. Integrating intermittent renewable sources like solar and wind into the energy ecosystem requires advanced forecasting and demand response mechanisms.

Regarding decarbonising transportation, Mr. Kadam proposed local solutions to alleviate the strain on power grids. He suggested utilising microgrids and local storage for megawatt-scale electric vehicle charging. This approach could reduce reliance on the central grid and ensure smoother power distribution.

While both experts highlighted challenges, they also underlined the ongoing innovation in the energy sector. Mr. Kadam encouraged a continuous cycle of problem-solving and solution implementation, emphasising the urgency of transitioning to sustainable practices.

The transition to sustainable energy alternatives presents a complex landscape with economic and environmental implications. The need for comprehensive environmental assessments, efficient recycling systems, and innovative technologies is evident. Despite these challenges, experts like Dr. Natarajan and Mr. Kadam remain optimistic about the potential for transformative solutions to drive a cleaner, more sustainable future.

Regulations significantly influence advanced energy management

Regulations play a significant role in shaping advanced energy management in India’s power sector and pose certain challenges to their effective implementation. According to Mr. Ripunjay Parikh, Director of Sales – Power Distribution at Eaton Electrical Sector India, the Indian government promotes sustainability by adopting carbon emission norms and embracing renewable energy technologies like electric vehicles (EVs) and fuel cells.

In urban areas, the government is pushing to transition from diesel and CNG-based commercial buses to electric ones. This transition requires the development of EV charging infrastructure within cities to support long-distance travel on a single charge. However, Mr. Parikh points out that there needs to be more differentiation in the user experience when adopting these new technologies. The choice of going green often depends on individual preferences.

One significant challenge mentioned by Mr. Anil Kadam, Chair of the Smart Grid Division at IEEMA and Director for EcoStruxure & Cyber Security at Schneider Electric, is the rigid procurement processes based on government tenders. Companies in the power sector often need help to experiment and innovate due to the stringent rules and regulations governing their operations. Kadam suggests a shift towards partnership-based procurement, where technology companies become true partners in innovation rather than mere vendors.

Another hurdle is the need for specialised task forces within utility companies to handle new technologies effectively. Kadam emphasises the need for curating specialised teams and seeking the expertise of domain-specific consultants to ensure successful technology adoption and implementation. He also highlights the issue of fully utilising and maintaining digital investments made in the past.

Innovative strategies 

Dr. Bhaskar Natarajan, a Senior Fellow at the Alliance for Energy-Efficient Economy, discusses innovative strategies to address renewable energy intermittency and improve integration. He emphasises that demand should drive supply, and consumers should be flexible to adapt their energy usage based on pricing and renewable energy availability. Flexible demand and dynamic pricing can encourage consumers to shift their energy consumption patterns, reducing the strain on the grid during peak times.

Dr. Natarajan also raises the point that if storage costs continue to decline, microgrids powered by solar energy and battery storage may become more prevalent, potentially challenging the existing grid’s role and necessitating a reevaluation of power generation and distribution.

While India is making strides in adopting advanced energy management solutions, regulatory challenges, inflexible procurement processes, and more customer-centric demand management strategies are key roadblocks. Collaborative partnerships, a focus on demand-side management, and adaptability to emerging technologies are essential for the country’s sustainable energy future.

The power sector in India stands at a crucial crossroads, with the transition towards greater energy efficiency and sustainability presenting both opportunities and challenges. The tangible benefits of energy efficiency, such as reducing waste, costs, and emissions, are undeniable. However, maximising these advantages requires a multifaceted approach, including robust measurement systems, incentivisation for consumers, and effective utilisation of data.

The shift from fossil fuel-based power generation to sustainable alternatives offers economic and environmental benefits. Still, it poses challenges like ecological impact assessment and recycling of renewable energy components. Nevertheless, experts emphasise the importance of innovation and problem-solving to address these challenges and move towards a cleaner future.

Regulations in India play a pivotal role in shaping advanced energy management, but they must also evolve to promote sustainability effectively. Challenges for companies include rigid procurement processes and the need for specialised task forces to handle new technologies. To address renewable energy intermittency and improve integration, flexible demand, dynamic pricing, and the potential rise of microgrids powered by renewables and storage are promising strategies.

In summary, India’s power sector transformation requires collaborative efforts, policy reforms, and technological innovation to ensure a sustainable, efficient, and environmentally friendly energy future.

QUOTES:

Mr. Anil Kadam – Chair – Smart Grid Division at IEEMA, Director for EcoStruxure & Cyber Security, Schneider Electric

“Energy efficiency is the ‘lowest hanging fruit’ to reap substantial gains in the power sector.”

Mr Ripunjay Parikh, Sales Director – Power Distribution, Eaton Electrical Sector India.

 “Transition to green tech depends on user experience and overcoming procurement challenges.”

Dr. Bhaskar Natarajan, Senior Fellow, Alliance for Energy-Efficient Economy

 “Flexible demand, dynamic pricing, and microgrids can sustainably transform India’s energy landscape.”

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