Smart and green grid: Leverage the learnings of the lockdown

Published: June 20, 2020 6:01 AM

Decentralised generation will offer people energy independence as well as give rise to new and competitive business models.

The government also announced a host of measures in the Budget 2020-21 to augment solar capacity, electrify railway tracks as well as encourage e-mobility. The government also announced a host of measures in the Budget 2020-21 to augment solar capacity, electrify railway tracks as well as encourage e-mobility. (Representative image)

By N Venu

The Pandemic has fueled the debate about what choices India must make for its energy sector. As we restart our factories and offices and drive fuel-guzzling vehicles, we walk the tightrope of balancing our rising requirement for cheap and universal electricity and a dire need for clean air. The latter, as luck would have it, was made somewhat easier with the lockdown as carbon emissions fell to a four-decade-low. This period has also helped us identify the areas we must address to honour climate commitments while providing power for all. Until today, the transport sector continues to be the largest oil user in India, accounting for nearly half of the total consumption. It is also a major source of particulate matter. Though the government has placed stricter norms and incentivised EVs, there is a steady shift of freight transport to roadways from railways. At the same time, the supporting ecosystem for e-mobility such as e-highways and charging infrastructure remains scant.

To save the environment, we have to switch to cleaner alternatives. The best and simplest option is to electrify more. The grid itself has to be upgraded and primed to handle the changes in consumption patterns and load points. India is the world’s third-largest producer of electricity, more than half is generated from coal. But the mission to provide electricity to every household and build smart cities should be powered largely by cleaner and more reliable alternatives. Transitioning to decentralised electricity has the potential to put the dream of affordable, clean and reliable power within reach of every Indian. It can also provide a massive commercial opportunity for Indian utilities to reach millions of people in remote communities and create numerous jobs under the Make-in-India initiative.

Decentralised generation will offer people energy independence as well as give rise to new and competitive business models. That will also lead to the development of associated industries such as electric vehicles–already a key focus area for the government. Our efforts in grid modernisation are equally important. The integration of renewables into the power network increases the chances of grid instability. Strong focus on power quality solutions coupled with digitalisation across the entire value chain is, therefore, crucial for a stronger, smarter and greener grid that provides quality power.

At the UN Climate Action Summit last year, our nation committed itself to increase renewable energy capacity to 400 gigawatts by 2030. The government also announced a host of measures in the Budget 2020-21 to augment solar capacity, electrify railway tracks as well as encourage e-mobility. However, unless implementation on the ground is strengthened, mindsets radically changed, and caveats to incentives and financial help strictly enforced, we will likely miss the targets.

To shape the future of sustainable energy, we have to deploy a holistic strategy that accounts for the way we consume power today to the way we produce it. We must leverage the learnings of the lockdown and invest today in future-ready solutions to enable a tomorrow where everyone has access to safe, reliable and affordable electricity.

The author is Managing Director, ABB Power Grids India. Views are personal

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