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There is no alternative to automation in power distribution

India’s power sector is one of the most diversified in the world. Electricity demand in the country has increased rapidly and is expected to rise further in the years to come. In order to meet the increasing demand for electricity, the government has set a target for renewable electricity generation of 175 GW by 2022. Sunil Misra, Director General, IEEMA says, this has opened lots of innovative options to adapt renewable energy as a main source of electricity.
What is the roadmap of the power generation & distribution equipment industry?
The long term focus on creating a fully digital economy and expanding rural industrialisation by harnessing digital technologies is laudable. This is combined with a reiteration of Make in India, which can support the evolution to the smarter, Industry 4.0. A combination of all these measures, when undertaken, will put India firmly on road to become a $10 trillion economy in the next eight years.
How are automation and smart technologies helping the manufacturers?
There is no alternative to automation in power distribution; automation is required for proper accounting, necessary diagnostic analysis and to have the next level of improvement. But as of now, automation has, so far, penetrated only to a few of the enlightened DISCOM and 72 towns covered by Restructured Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Programme (RAPDRP), as a result of which, SCADA systems and remote terminal units (RTU) were commissioned. The MoP is trying to bring almost 25 million consumers under the scope of AMI and prepaid meters. For power grid, most of the substations are now unmanned stations. At transmission level, the system is quite automated. The distribution automation is gradually coming in but it will take more time. But utilities which are aiming for very high uptime and very low T&D losses have gone for substantial automation.
How has renewable sources changed the landscape of power transmission and distribution in India?
Policy initiatives in the area of solar roof top off grid power generation, energy storage, e-mobility and required charging infrastructure based on renewable energy are driving the agenda forward. Also the government is slowly changing its role from being a regulator to facilitator is commendable. The target for renewable electricity generation of 175 GW set by the government by 2022 is an ambitious one but has opened lots of innovative options to adapt renewable energy as the main source of electricity.
Awareness has also played a great role in advancing the usage of renewable energy. People are now aware that alternative sources of energy can provide them electricity without being dependent on the grid. This has helped in increased rate of acceptability to get electricity from non conventional sources of energy. Increase in efficiency of the solar systems, focus shifting towards restarting in-operational solar plants, implementation of mandatory power purchase obligations and having supportive policies by the government have completely changed the face of the renewable energy segment.
On the technology front, there are significant advancements being made, such as the MNRE promoting R&D of battery operated vehicles (BOV) through the alternative fuel for Surface Transportation Programme. Recently, the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) successfully tested lithium-ion batteries developed by the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre for use in two and three-wheelers. This, in turn, will promote India’s electric vehicle programme and this is an example of energy storage solution for clean energy.
What are the major challenges before the industry?
EHV transmission capacity is more or less sufficient to cater to the present generation capacity through National Grid. Therefore there is less emphasis in EHV Transmission system at the moment, resulting in less tenders in the near future. Further, there are major challenges due to global competition and the falling prices. Also, stringent payment terms by most of the utilities is creating additional pressure on the cash flow. New and smart technologies needs to be introduced to bring down the cost and be competitive.

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