India's renewable power sector is growing by leaps and bounds, but existing leaks in the transmission network have to be plugged for electricity to reach every nook and corner of the country.
The power sector in India is set for explosive growth following the stated policy objective of the Union government to provide 24x7 power to all households by 2019. Put simply, this means doubling current power generation capacities by 2040, reducing transmission & distribution losses and channelizing investment in renewable energy sources (alternative sources of electricity such as solar and wind power).
The Union government has assured that all households in India would receive affordable power by 2019. This would be a phenomenal target achievement within a span of three years, considering it has taken us 16 years to double our power generation capacity.
Says Anil Kadam, Senior Manager - Solution Architect (Utility Segment), Schneider Electric India, 'Even after being the third largest market in the world in terms of gross electricity generation, India's per capita electricity consumption is less than that of Africa's and one-tenth of America's level. Almost 250 million people still do not have access to power.'
According to Kadam, rectifying the situation is critical to India's ambitious five-fold growth plans by 2040 for which policies such as 'Make in India', 'Skilling India' and 'Digital India' will have to concurrently succeed, that would truly energise India. Then there has to be a surge in power generation on the renewables side of energy. But here, there is a happy story to tell.
Take the case of the highly power intensive forging sector for instance. The President of the Indian Forging Association, Murli Shankar Sambasivam, tells INFRASTRUCTURE TODAY that his firm Super Auto Forge has pursued renewable energy sources (solar and wind) in tandem with the Union government's announced impetus policies for the two sectors in 2001 and 2011 respectively.
As a direct consequence, Sambasivam says his firm has scaled up its captive power generation potential considerably. 'While three years back we faced an erratic power supply which was at high cost for industry as well, we are currently using solar and wind energy to meet 60 per cent of our total power requirements. Even others in our industry have scaled up to 50 per cent through captive power generation of the alternative varieties,' he says proudly.
But much more is needed to be done in the energy sector on the efficiency front in India where state-run power utilities continue to indulge in both upstream and downstream business activity and are therefore unable to exhibit efficiencies in either sector. This is unlike in the West where the two sides of the business are mostly distinct and separate and this has helped power companies over there to essentially buffer the shock of falling oil prices.
Says Michael Matthews, Vice President of Strategy & Consulting, Enstoa, 'In response to the collapse of oil prices in 2014 and the continuing low price environment for natural gas, leading US oil & gas companies have concentrated on improving their capital effectiveness and delivering more value with less investment.'
Hartek Singh, CMD, Hartek Power Pvt Ltd, is cautiously enthusiastic about the potential growth in the solar energy sector. He says, 'The country's solar power generation has gone up 14 times in a span of just five years from 0.5 MW in 2011 to 7 GW now. As a result, the revised solar target of 100 GW by 2022 looks distinctly achievable.'
However, he adds, 'But the transmission system is not growing in sync with the increase in solar power generation.'
India's power sector is in earnest need of a game changer, similar to the one introduced in 2003, when the then Atal Behari Vajpayee led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government rolled out the Electricity Act that amongst other provisions, made theft of electricity a non-bailable offence.
Now, if only the Modi-led government can manage a policy fillip to set right the power networking scenario in India.