Experts Column

Solar cables: A quality game changer

Shreegopal Kabra, Managing Director, RR Kabel

“Five years from now, the electrical sector, altogether, would be worth around ₹250 lakh crores”

Shreegopal Kabra, Managing Director, RR Kabel, discusses what is working for the electrical industry, what is and will curb the further growth of the electrical sector, and clearly emphasises on having quality dominance on each industry.

The Indian power sector is one of the most critical components of an infrastructure that affects the economic growth, and it’s undergoing a major transformation. What is your take on this?
There has been a major transformation in the power sector. However, the transmission and distribution line companies are, currently, not in a good shape, although big developments are undertaken every now and then. There are many areas where the government is opening up. Since distribution sector is not in good shape, people are of the opinion that power sector, too, is not doing well. But, I would say, that is not the case. Though the distribution sector has been facing losses for many years, several private players have helped the sector in gaining momentum. So, currently, my take would be that it’s doing reasonably well.

Do you think demand of electrification in all regions and sectors will drive India’s growth?
Definitely! The consumption of electricity is increasing and will increase further because several electrical gadgets are being used whether it’s in office or personal space. If we take a look at the last 15 years, there has been a significant increase in energy consumption just for charging mobiles. Apart from that, electricity has been consumed for various other business and personal purposes. Also, electricity consumption is increasing with the increase in use of consumer appliances such as AC, refrigerators and washing machines. Simultaneously, several energy saving products are being introduced, which could further increase energy demand.

Almost every year, several initiatives are announced to breathe new life into Indian electricity sector. Can you mention one such initiative that has proved beneficial for your sector and has been a game changer?
The biggest game changer is Saubhagya Scheme or Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana — an Indian Government project to provide electricity to all households. The government has spent over ₹60,000-70,000 crores in electrification projects. In Uttar Pradesh, alone, the government has planned to spend ₹5,500 crores with regards to electrification. With Saubhagya, the government is bringing electricity connections to each and every village. So, this is one of the biggest game changer. Five years from now, the electrical sector, altogether, would be worth around ₹250 lakh crores. Meanwhile, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) — an initiative by the Indian Government to provide affordable housing to the urban poor — is another biggest game changer, where lot of constructions is in the pipeline.

After almost a decade, the electric wire and cable industry is finally out of its infancy. What are your thoughts on it?
Last year, alone, the electrical industry recorded a growth of 12.8 per cent, which includes segments such as wires, cables, conductors, transformers and motors. And this year we’re expecting a growth of 14 per cent altogether in the electrical sector.

How do you attain consistent quality quotient in the production process in the wake of newly gained demand of the cable and wire industry?
Quality is an issue right now. The government should implement strict laws with regards to quality control. There are several companies and industries, par with the global standards, that are coming up with many products; for such industries, quality maintenance should be made mandatory and essential. Lots of changes are required in BIS as well.

For example, FRS wire is nowhere in the world. Government should make Losh wires mandatory for all commercial buildings and high rises, and to achieve that, BIS, Central Electrical Observatory, National Building Corp, and NAC should work together. Also, in RERA, builders must be asked for a guarantee of five years for materials being used for building purposes and minimum 10 years for electrical insulation materials. This will make builders to use quality products. RERA needs to be very strict now. So we’re working on that.

Insulation is one of the most important aspects in wires and cables. Pure copper is good for conduction of electricity and Losh wires, which is globally available, is best for insulation.

How imperative is it for the cable and wire industry to increase their focus on renewable? What is the future?
In renewable industry, they use only solar cables, only one product. In future, the demand is going to be different. New avenues are coming up. But, in solar business, the demand for solar cable, which is around 3-4 per cent of the entire cost of the project, will definitely increase. However, unfortunately, there is a major issue concerning the use of solar cables; the Indian solar companies are lacking in producing good quality cables. So, maybe after five years, because of quality issues, their output will take a dip and those who have bought such products will face loses. Every product must get TUV approval, which is not the case, as of now. It’s going to be a big challenge.

So, it is my request to the industry to make good quality cables and wires. Consumers should be very vigilant and cautious before making a purchase. Even the contractors, consultants, and developers needs to address the quality issue. Though there will be a minor increase in terms of cost, the safety factor is surely guaranteed. Everyone should consider this for the purpose of people’s safety.

What are the different initiatives undertaken for the same?
IEEMA conducted a workshop on ‘Electrical Safety at Workplace’ in association with RR Kabel and IEEE. We are also planning to conduct a workshop in Chennai on November 30, and another one in Kolkata on December 14. We will be inviting fire department officials, people from CEA, BIS and all other agencies to talk about electrical safety.

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