Do We Really Understand the True Energy Demand in India?

Gopi Katragadda
Published: 04, Sep 2012

(Gopi Katragadda is the Managing Director at GE India Technology Center) Be it going down unknown roads of a new city, or peeling the onion of a known fact to discover fascinating unknown layers, what drives me is the unknown… The amount I have learnt trying to decipher the Indus script is as valuable as the eventual goal of decipherment. As a boy, one summer, I learnt to make soap from my English teacher, and I sold the soap to neighbors and friends. I made soap because I enjoyed the act of creating and I sold soap because it was a validation that what I created had value… Today, deep down, I am still that boy who makes and sells soap… Leading GE Technology in India provides me the ultimate platform to probe unknown corners of Energy, Healthcare, Transportation, and Aviation. We create intellectual property and put it into products that solve some of the world’s toughest problems. Over the last decade, the work done by inventors at GE India has resulted in over 1500 patents being filed by the Parent General Electric Company. My book on innovation titled ‘Smash Innovation,’ explores the barriers to innovation in India and how we could break those barriers. This blog is again my exploration of how to make this a century of Indian Innovation.

The grid collapse of July 2012 in North, Eastern, and North- Eastern regions serves as a wake-up call to re-look at the power supply-demand-transmission scenario in India. Close to 50 GW of power was impacted – a quarter of the install base of India. The report of the enquiry committee identifies a few areas related to the grid for improvement including better outage management, mandatory generator response based on frequency variation, availability of real-time data and intelligence at the load dispatch centers, reactive power compensation, regulations to limit overdrawing /underdrawing, fail-safe relays, and wide-area monitoring systems. While we get better at grid management, we need to better understand the true demand for power in India. Current estimates of power shortage are understated to be at 10-15%. These estimates are based on a ‘fix the famine mindset’ rather than position for the growth aspirations of a young nation. I would make the case that we have a 100% shortage of power even at half the world average per-capita consumption.

I would like to focus this blog on the latest technology for grid modernization, also known as smart grid… I will also briefly touch upon the renewable opportunity as we add generation capacity.

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) defines Smart Grid as one that incorporates information and communications technology into every aspect of electricity generation, delivery (transmission & distribution) and consumption in order to minimize environmental impact, improve reliability, service, efficiency, and reduce costs. To this I would add asset modernization as an important element of Smart Grid.

When it comes to electricity generation the ability to use renewable energy is limited by the fact that renewable energy sources are intermittent. With intermittency the quality and reliability of power is questionable if more than 20% of generation is dependent on renewable sources. Smart Grid through effective power-factor control and intelligent resource deployment makes renewable energy more grid-ready

Electricity transmission then occurs at high-voltages (and lower currents) so as to minimize the I2R losses. In addition to the I2R losses, reactive losses in transmission can be significant. Another issue is that of grid congestion with increased generation capacity and demand but with a grid that is behind times. Smart Grid encompasses existing technologies to mitigate losses such as intelligent deployment of capacitor banks to offset reactive losses and new opportunities through the visualization and prediction of the grid state to handle grid congestion issues.

During distribution, losses occur not only due to technical reasons but also because of power theft. In a round table on Smart Grid organized by the Digital Energy Solutions Consortium, representatives from the Indian Ministry of Power highlighted detection of theft as a chief area of focus. Smart Grid for distribution requires asset (transformers, switches, and breakers) modernization and will provide tools for optimal asset deployment. In addition effective visualization can identify and isolate theft locations.

And finally Smart Grid enables distributed power generation where consumers are able to feed back into the grid. Also, the consumers can deploy their appliances during off-peak tariff hours using smart meters with integrated appliance programming and control. Additionally as plug-in hybrid usage increases, the grid needs to turn smart and deliver power to the vehicle while optimizing availability and other demands. Smart metering and Smart appliances will bring the smart grid to the consumer.

Smart Grid has benefits at multiple levels. The nation moves towards energy independence through increased renewable use. The people benefit from new jobs created and a control over their electricity bills. Industrial growth is spurred through a reliable grid. Utilities continue to be profitable despite rising fuel costs. And most importantly there are lower emissions through better usage of the electricity generated and better control of how it is generated

There is much more than a smart grid required for building a strategic road map for the power supply-demand-transmission scenario in India. One such aspect is the renewable opportunity.

From a technology standpoint, as the renewable opportunity is maximized, the following aspects need to be strategized:

• Energy storage (as more renewables enter the mix) • Aero-derivative and gas engines for peak power needs
• Renewable voltage and power regulation like a conventional power plant
• SCADA to operate, manage, and maintain the renewable plant
• Reactive power even with no wind
• Uninterrupted wind turbine operations through grid disturbances

Also from a policy stand point, to continue the growth of renewables in the India market, the following needs immediate attention.

• Extend generation based incentive for the 12th Plan (previous incentive has expired in March 2012) and increase amount to Rs. 1 per kwh
• States to follow CERC wind tariff norms of Rs. 3.97-5.42 per kwh (some of the states today provide lower tariff)
• In the short/medium term go with preferential tariff model vs. competitive bidding given uncertain environment

India needs to double its generation, transmission, and distribution capacity from 200GW to 400GW in a manner that is inclusive, environmentally conscious, and time-bound to meet the aspirations of a, so far, very patient population. There is no silver bullet but a comprehensive road map that includes fossil, hydro, nuclear, and renewable sources coupled with a modern grid that will get us there!

  • Narasimham L. Nukala

    Truly, this is a fascinating article, it points out the reality of the grim power situation in India, and comes up with a practical solution, "The Smart Grid". I belive that Smart Grid has the potential to address the problem, and the government should seriously look into this solution pointed out by Dr Gopichand asap.

    on Sep 16, 2012
  • Guru Pai

    Hello Mr. Gopi, First up, your article is well written and optimistic. I enjoyed reading it. I agree with you in many fronts and I believe the future is bright for an ordinary Indian. I however see many discrepancies and perhaps an overreach of many technology aspects. For instance you start with wide-area monitoring and conclude with SCADA. Another instance is the expectation of small wind farms (induction generator based turbines) to give reactive power support. I don't know how realistic they are. Of course everything you mention have a technological possibility but I am not sure of the policy environment or the business case. For example who would invest in the changes and why? There is little profitability or the legal mandate! With that respect, wouldn't it be far more pragmatic to start with simpler goals such as quality of service, reduction of non-technical losses, making use of the privatization (and other such aspects) to make a policy enforcement for quality of service, a central regulatory body (with powers to make rules and enforce them) and the like. I think power industry as a system with high inertia, it is perhaps time to shake it up a bit, drop some of the lose ends and tighten some others! I think this is the need of the hour and will create the room for a long-term smarter grid that you envision in this post.

    on Sep 16, 2012
  • venkateswara rao. m

    it is a very good article. govt has to look forward for solar/wind/biomass power generation. thanks for permitting me to read the article.

    on Sep 14, 2012
  • Gopichand Katragadda

    Well thought through inputs everyone! I will work on how we convert this into action working with the appropriate national agencies/consortiums...

    on Sep 11, 2012
  • Vijay Ogirala

    As we enjoy our success - our middle class family lifestyles have growing energy needs in electric water heaters , air-conditioners , refrigerators , treadmills , televisions . On the flip side we also have a major section of our citizens still surviving off-grid. Our grid , rural electrification and political system , all need to develop. What we need is a strong and committed nuclear power program. We understand that our energy policy is largely defined by the energy deficit and increased focus on developing alternative sources of energy – solar , wind and nuclear energy. We look forward for energy independence , need to invest in nuclear power generation in a big way using thorium-based reactors ( thorium - available in abundance in our country) . But what we see is mass protests around these proposed nuclear power plant sites - launching protests that are now raising questions about nuclear energy as a clean and safe alternative . We need to collectively advocate the necessity/safety of nuclear power to meet our growing energy needs and work towards a system ( personal accountability ) in drawing the power from creaking power grid. An article that is well thought of … provides hope to ease the situation in this energy sector for India.

    on Sep 11, 2012
  • Abhishek Sharma

    Excellent article stating and analysis of key aspects of challenge for Smart grids and Power sector in general. One more aspect, "Consumers selling power" as stated in earlier comment by RAM, can be a great avenue of power generation that can be utilized by a Smart Grid. This helps consumers as well as the grid to balance out power requirements and thus contributes to more stability. ~Abhishek

    on Sep 10, 2012
  • RAM

    1. roof top solar energy must be implementation across India, ie. 20 to 40% demand is met and will act as independent power generation unit. ( in-case emergency (break down of power at grid) independent power in service to every one across India. 2.hybrid system solar,wind,biomass should must at implemented 3. Energy metering (net metering) set up all the station with smart grid. reduce loss, control usage and application of power. 4. Use of OLED/LED based product on luminary across india. ban CFL ,FTL and MH , others 5.Giving incentive and Income Tax benefits one and all o 1KW to 100KW installation for all type of energy generation. I feel we can reach out demand , also make independent power generation unit irrespective of everyone need. (of course in emergency break down power, due to flood,earthquake ,fire, weather warfare it help everyone) RAM

    on Sep 9, 2012
  • Srinivasan Muthumani

    A article that is most needed. Being in a power starved state of India the need foe modernizing the grid, increasing the generation is of vital importance. But electricity is a subject of politics now. Supply to favored states & denying power even if it is available has become the trend in Centre-State politics. Also in developing new projects we drag our foot in a slow pace. Any power project will take years to come into production, if we do not plan now ( with our BIG gap between production -demand ) this will certainly reflect in our economic development & industrial growth. The need of the hour is a independent agency to PLAN-EXECUTE-PRODUCTION of power above from the Central & State governments. This will speed up projects to meet our demand.

    on Sep 7, 2012
  • Swethnag

    Nice article. Liked the way it is presented. I sometimes feel, if there is any intention to slowdown the power generation? Like you rightly mentioned ‘fix the famine mindset’. When we compare the power generation capacity with China, India added 41, 110 MW between 2002- 2007, and plans to add 78, 700 MW by 2012 (dont have the numbers how much it was succesful) ut, China added 3, 50, 000 MW between 2002-2007. In 2000 itself it has added 1,00, 000 MW. Way to go!!!

    on Sep 5, 2012
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