India’s microgrid market is rapidly emerging, driven by multiple factors, including chronically unreliable main utility grids and ambitious government programs to adopt renewable energy and improve energy access – particularly for rural Indians. According to a country-by-country assessment of readiness for renewable energy investment, India ranks second in the list of over 100 countries.
In an effort to meet aggressive renewable energy targets and reduce energy poverty, particularly in rural areas, the India Smart Grid Forum (ISGF) was established as a PPP initiative of the Government of India to facilitate accelerated development of smart grid technologies in the Indian power sector.
ISGF – who works closely with policy makers, regulators, research and funding organisations, technology companies and electricity supply companies in India and overseas – assists with smart grid roadmap preparation and implementation, policy formulation, standards development, technology selection, operational support, knowledge sharing, training and capacity building.
Ahead of The International Microgrid Event, being held from 31 March to 3 April 2020 at the Optus Stadium in Burswood WA, Reena Suri, Executive Director at ISGF, talks about India’s Microgrid market, and about the climate and social context in India that made the decentralisation of energy a necessity.
Could you tell us about yourself and your work with ISGF?
I have over 19 years of experience in the energy sector. I have worked with various international organisations, providing technical assistance to electric utilities for bringing reforms in their operations and upgrading their infrastructure to match the international benchmarks. I have also worked on a program for supporting the cross-border trade of electricity in the South Asia region.
In my tenure of six years with India Smart Grid Forum (ISGF), I have been responsible for research projects, advisory services, business development, training and capacity building programs, customer outreach activities and members relations. I have contributed to the various projects, whitepapers and research reports of ISGF.
Could you explain the climate and social context in India that made the decentralisation of energy a necessity? What challenges was it a response to?
Access and availability of reliable and affordable electricity to every household is one of the major factors for India’s economic and social development. The Indian electric utilities are on the threshold of a rapid transformation with the advent of distributed renewable generation resources which pushed the system to move from a centralised generation, transmission and distribution to a new era of decentralised systems.
The growing concern for environment, government policies supporting renewable energy and rapidly falling technology costs have also created space for wind, solar storage batteries and other renewable energy resources into the system.
The decentralised energy sources have been acting as dedicated clean energy solutions providers for the unserved and underserved segments of Indian population. It has catalysed innumerable lives of this segment of population by creating opportunities for better livelihoods, increased income levels, safe and healthy living conditions, leap-frogged education opportunities and empowering women by eradicating drudgery at many levels.
The Decentralised Renewable Energy (DRE) sector has been contributing to India’s energy transition in many innovative ways, from local level energy generation to creating livelihoods through energy access. It is established that over a million people are employed in the solar rooftop sector alone in the country. DRE has enabled skills training and job creation in locations that need it the most.
As India makes rapid strides in achieving the energy access and sustainability goals that it has set for itself, DRE solutions are emerging as necessary and appropriate to meeting end user needs.
What kind of regulatory frameworks, incentives or targets were put in place to help make all of this a reality?
India is the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind China and the United States. India is one of the countries with the largest production of energy from renewable sources as well.
As of 2019, 35 per cent of India’s installed electricity generation capacity is from renewable sources, generating 17 per cent of total electricity in the country. To curb emissions, the Indian Government has set huge targets to increase the share of renewables in the nation’s energy mix. The present target of 175GW of renewable-based installed power capacity by 2022 is being raised to 450GW or 40 per cent of total capacity by 2030.
All states and union territories in India issued net metering policies during 2013 and 2016 which promoted the DERs. These regulations are being regularly updated with the changing times.
In the recent past, the Government of India and various utilities have undertaken a number of initiatives to foster the adoption of smart grid technologies to maintain grid flexibility and cater to the growth of renewable sources in a sustainable manner.
What benefits have microgrids brought for remote and disconnected communities in India?
India has completed village electrification in the recent past and has also connected 99 per cent of the country’s households to the electric grid. However, there are thousands of villages in some parts of the country where, due to constraints in the electricity distribution network, 24/7 power supply is not yet available. Upgrading the distribution network to ensure 24/7 supply will take several years due to multiple challenges, particularly the medium voltage network.
Microgrids are a more economical and viable solution to connect the remote and disconnected communities in India. It is an ideal solution with solar photovoltaic panels generating electricity during the day which get stored during daytime in batteries that could supply the households with electricity in the evening hours.
The grid-connected village distribution network could be turned into a microgrid capable of islanding from the grid during outages and providing power to essential loads and reconnecting to the grid when power is available on the grid. Both the solar panels and the cheap grid power could charge the batteries.
This approach would limit or displace the use of polluting diesel based electricity generators and encourage renewable energy to help meet India’s goals for reducing emissions.
What other benefits does a move to decentralisation offer? (economic etc.)
While the electrification of rural communities, and the reduction of energy poverty are primary benefits, within India we’ve seen a number of additional benefits as a result of shifting to microgrids. These include:
- Multiple sources for integration: Smart microgrids are capable of integrating multiple energy sources, like solar PV, grid power, energy storage systems, other distributed energy resources, if any. These sources can be added as the community load grows
- Dynamic demand-supply management: Smart microgrids manage demand using its scheduling and remote-control capability. They monitor the consumer demand, track generation real time to manage demand and supply dynamically within the microgrid. They connects and disconnect to the grid as and when available
- Remote technical support: Smart microgrids have access to real-time data, this helps in preventive maintenance and remote technical support. With remote control features, most of the troubleshooting can be done remotely. Stakeholders can have access to this data to monitor the progress and service quality provided to the consumers in real time with complete transparency
- Billing and collection: Smart microgrids have the capability of automated billing and payment. They provide flexibility of differential tariffs and various collection mechanisms, thereby building sustainability and financial discipline
- Reporting and intelligence: Smart microgrids will provide extensive data on consumer consumption, their pattern, billing and payment cycles, downtime etc. Various reports can be generated to compare the performance, quality, predictive analysis and forecasting
In many states in India, entrepreneurs and NGOs have setup rural microgrids which brought electricity to very remote regions. It has been established through various studies, the benefits of electricity in a village could lead to development of cottage industries, micro and mini industries and several citizen enablement services such as new water pumps, improved medical facilities, dairy processing capabilities, enhanced opportunity for local employment, allowing people to stay with their families and an increase in children remaining in school for longer.
- Water pumps – no need to walk several miles to fetch potable water
- Flour mills
- Medical facilities – medicines that can be kept in refrigerators, clinics with test equipment, X-rays and scanners
- Internet and communication services
- Photocopying and other documentation services
- Local diary, milk testing and processing
- Cold storage
- Grinding and cooking appliances
- Entertainment and information services through TV, Web Services etc.
- Increase in working hours in villages
- Enhanced opportunity for local employment
- Reduction in failure of motor pumpsets of farmers saving the maintenance cost
- Reduction in drop-out of children from schools, particularly female students
- Reduction in migration to towns from villages and in population growth
- Street lights reduce accidents including snake bites
Interested in learning more?
If you’re interested in hearing more from Reena about India’s energy decentralisation, as well as the renewable energy targets driving this transformation, then join us at the International Microgrid Event 2020.
The event, being held in Perth, Western Australia from 31 March-3 April 2020 and run in collaboration with the International Microgrid Association, brings together over 35 local and international energy decentralisation experts.
Speakers include the IMA, ISGF (India), Electric Power Research Institute (USA), ADB (China), National Energy Resources Australia, Clean Energy Finance Corporation, Western Power and ATCO Gas.
Energy Magazine readers are eligible for a ten per cent discount off the standard rate. Use the Code ENERGY10 upon registering.
This Partner Content has be brought to you by IQPC. For more information, visit www.iqpc.com/events-international-microgrid/.