Covid crisis: Revenue down, outstanding up — Discoms are in a tight spot

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Published: June 4, 2020 12:30 AM

IEX’s success has been possible through its customer-centric approach and committed relationships with stakeholders across organisations and geographies.

RAJIV SRIVASTAVA, MD & CEO, Indian Energy ExchangeRAJIV SRIVASTAVA, MD & CEO, Indian Energy Exchange

During the recent Covid-19-driven lockdown, Indian Energy Exchange (IEX) has facilitated 24×7 power in India in an affordable, reliable and flexible manner, says Rajiv Srivastava, MD & CEO, IEX. According to him, the combination of policy, technological and customer need changes is leading to disruption of the traditional power utility business model. “New technological possibilities have the potential to transform the way people think about, produce and use power,” he tells Sudhir Chowdhary in a recent interview. Excerpts:

How is IEX positioned to deliver on the government’s vision of ‘Power for All on 24×7’?

Indian Energy Exchange (IEX) is a multilateral platform, that is, one-to-many, where we match the demand and supply of electricity and certificates. We offer the most competitive prices, transparency, flexibility to facilitate power on demand and our USP is to provide competitive price discovery which is possible because of our tech-based system. Our leadership lies in deepening the exchange market and short-term power market along with the advancements on the technology front like AI and blockchain to transform India’s energy ecosystem holistically. During the lockdown, we have facilitated 24×7 power to India in an affordable, reliable and flexible manner.

What is the outlook for the power market in the face of the pandemic?

The lockdown has led to a 25% drop in national peak power demand from 171 GW in the pre-lockdown period to about 131 GW during the lockdown. Discoms are in a tough spot as their remunerative source of revenue from commercial and industrial (C&I) consumers has dried up and the outstanding is increasing. Enabling distribution utilities as well as C&I consumers to procure power at lowest cost from the market will offer some relief in the current situation. However, the industry has to move towards a regime which is far more liberated and technology-driven than what it is today.

How is technology improving power generation efficiency?

Energy sector is poised for transformation at various levels. We are moving away from fossil fuel, and getting into renewable capacity, which is decarbonisation. Capacity creation is getting localised and allowing decentralisation. With this, hybridisation of energy is the future as all stakeholders deal with multiple energy sources. While other countries have already moved to a hybrid model, India is taking its first steps towards this new paradigm of hybridisation. This gives a strong push to intelligent automation as hybridisation cannot be done unless you have a very strong focus on technology. We are at the cusp of an opportunity to reinvent the sector and creating a new energy order.

What role do stakeholders and customers play in a typical exchange platform?

IEX’s success has been possible through its customer-centric approach and committed relationships with stakeholders across organisations and geographies. We provide best deals, flexibility and deliver optimum energy resource usage in every weather condition to all our customers. With an expert-led methodology, and a deep understanding of the customer, environment, and issues, IEX develops best-in-class, tailor-made technology and process innovations to maintain a high level of credibility and customer trust.

Can you tell us about IEX’s digital transformation approach?
We want to make the experience more intuitive and simple for all our customers. Therefore, we are shifting all our systems to a web-based platform, making it extremely uncomplicated for our customers. There is a huge amount of analytics and MIS involved around it. It has enabled us to develop Smart Power Procurement, a tool that allows to focus on demand and then optimise procurement for the state at any given day or time.

How will new/emerging technologies (AI/ML, blockchain etc) shape the future of our energy ecosystem in India?

Dealing in the segment we are in, prediction is an imperfect science. Therefore, it is necessary to improve the forecasting model and optimising the buying pattern of our buyers for which we are using AI/ML enabled technology. Robotic process automation (RPA) is also quite helpful in the work we are doing with state-load dispatch centres and national dispatch centres as it is presently done manually. At this stage, blockchain is under a testing process but if UAT (user acceptance testing) goes well, we’ll soon be utilising it in our financial model. We are in conversation with an international firm to introduce peer-to-peer trading which will be blockchain-enabled and will allow customers to choose their suppliers.

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