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Smart cities will encourage sustainable development. They will also help to optimise resources, to meet the demands of growing urban populations. These cities would also encourage usage of shared services among different utility functions.
Development of infrastructure in any country is synonymous with growth. It is seen that better infrastructure facilitates development and delivers better quality of life to the people. Investment in infrastructure largely was seen as an investment coming from the State, however, it is imperative that the private sector plays a larger role in this, given the challenges of fiscal deficit, other social priorities, that the government has.
The investment in infrastructure sector will encourage employment in a variety of skills, motivate investment in the industrial and commercial organisations which will have the combined effect of creating a sense of security among citizens and thus encouraging them to spend. Through this Budget the government did show intent to drive investment in infrastructure which would necessarily mean investment in many related areas. Power will always remain one of the key drivers of development and economy. India, over the years, has been suffering from deficiency of electricity and more so with the inefficiency in the distribution of electricity and reaching out to the people/consumers. The electricity which is produced, is, even today wasted through the losses in the system and is not getting delivered to many places due to lack of reliable networks.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, in his first Budget, has announced an investment of around Rs 7,000 crore to create 100 smart cities. Along with this, there is also an intent to set up more Metro rail systems, transportation including bus schemes, roads, environmental friendly initiatives like encouraging usage of solar power, rainwater harvesting schemes etc. Rs 500 crore is also allotted to solar power projects and there will be an attempt to "unlock dead investments in coal and power sector". Connectivity between cities is to increase, which will help in developing the economy in different parts of India and perhaps there is also an attempt to create cities which can come up parallel to the metropolitan cities. This is important to arrest the burgeoning population of metro cities and a few important cities of different States, thus straining the system to the limit, be it be water, power, sanitation or transportation. Creating of new opportunities and employment across different States may also help in arresting the exodus to young talent moving from their place of origin for their basic survival.
This has to be complemented by making sure that electricity reaches all of these places and to all of these new cities and towns. This will be an important step the government needs to take and ensure that it is done within a defined timeframe. For doing this, there is an opportunity for the government to extend the successful distribution model like the one in Delhi to other cities or to the "smart cities" to start with.
Smart cities would also mean usage of technology and automation towards digitisation. From the perspective of electricity distribution, it will be extension to the smart grid which will merge with smart mobility, smart buildings, smart resource management and so on. Smart grids in electricity distribution would bring in efficiency in the system through implementation of different technologies like SCADA, Distribution Automation (DA), Distribution Management System (DMS), Outage Management System (OMS) etc., which will also help in improving reliability. Some technologies like Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), Demand Response will also give an opportunity for the utilities to engage more with the consumers and share more information with the consumers and thus will sensitise them in changing their behaviour with respect to their energy consumption. The combination of improvement in reliability & efficiency will help the system to proactively anticipate breakdowns and facilitate a self-healing network, help in reducing energy wastage and also the changing behavior of the consumers will result in more efficient and optimum use of electricity which will support in reducing the peak and may lead to a flatter demand curve.
The major difference smart cities will be making will be from the point of view of sustainability and optimising of the resources to meet the requirement of the increasing population of the city. Smart cities would also encourage usage of shared services among different utility functions, be it electricity, water, gas or any other municipality service. With sustainability would come more efficient use of power and importance of having smart grids. Through a smart city we should be able to "demonstrate" how we are going to "do more with less". This will create an opportunity for companies who have right technologies, defined efficient processes and success in deployment of such technologies in improving reliability and quality of supply. The reliability and the quality of power will play a key role in development of smart cities in the digitised world.
Another area which is bound to be important in the future not only from the sustainability point of view but also from the efficiency point of view will be effective use of renewables and distributed generation. Renewable integration is one of the key focus areas of smart grids which will help to reduce dependency on fixed conventional generating assets, help in conserving natural resources, and will encourage consumers to participate in renewable generation and seriously look at the concept of micro grid and storage to make efficient use of energy. This will also pave the way for increasing electrification even at the rural and remote areas through micro-grids. This concept has a potential to be a successful business model in India with a co-operative model approach. We need to focus on renewables considering the challenge we have in relation to the natural resources which have been used till now to produce electricity in a big way. The penetration of renewables will also help us to manage our peak demand effectively without adding new conventional generation to manage the peak during the day. This may also turn out to be a cost-effective model as we look to seriously implement it.
Smart cities may be a solution for us to create more number of cities which could be an answer to the resource challenged metros, but the success of the smart cities would depend on how smartly we are able to deploy different platforms, and how efficient are these platforms in integrating with each other in providing efficient services to the consumers and citizens. It is imperative that a conducive environment is created to encourage private participation in building this dream and to realise the dream. We are all looking forward to a Smarter India and will put in our best efforts forward.
This article has been authored by Praveer Sinha, CEO & ED, Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited.