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IBM Planning to Offer Smart Grid Solutions to India

IBM, one of the world’s leading IT companies and smart grid solutions leaders is planning to offer its services to Indian utilities over the next few years. IBM’s General Manager of Global Energy and Utilities told an Indian business daily that his company sees tremendous potential for growth in the Indian market as it expands to provide electricity to more consumers.

India suffers from grave power shortage which is likely to worsen over the next few decades. On one hand, there are problems with the lack of adequate generation capacity with power cuts ranging to several hours still prevalent in many cities. On the other hand, there are problems with the lack of transmission infrastructure with several thousand villages still not connected to the national grid.

A third of the power transmitted is lost in the transmission network while a tenth is lost to theft. While these losses have been coming down slowly over the recent years, there is still a long way to go for the utilities to achieve the desired state of operations. India has also been missing its generation infrastructure expansion plans for the last several decades.

Last year the Indian government announced the National Mission on Enhanced Energy Efficiency which aims at improving energy efficiency in industrial as well as commercial and residential sectors. While for the industrial sector a scheme similar to the carbon trading, called the energy efficiency certificate scheme is in works, the case with the commercial and residential sector is slightly complicated. The industries can take care of themselves once the binding efficiency targets have been stipulated to them but the government needs to put in more effort for improving efficiency in the commercial/residential sector.

Therefore, such a situation calls for the implementation of the smart grid. A smart grid would help the utilities get information about the electricity use by the consumers and can potentially adapt it distribution process with respect to the time and quantum of power demand. The smart grid which uses smart meters could potentially be used for detecting power theft. In addition, the info that the consumers would have access through the smart meters would possibly help them manage their energy use in a better and more efficient way.

An IBM-backed smart grid pilot project conducted in Fayetteville, Arkansas showed that homeowners and businesses were able to save about 15 percent during the six months and some homes achieved savings of as high as 40 percent. These savings were attributed to the change in behavior of the consumers towards their power usage as they had access to the power usage by their appliances in real-time.

A key to the project was the use of personalized, web-based displays for each business or residence that allowed facility managers or homeowners to log in and see how much energy their appliances and gadgets are using in real-time. the project also allows the FPWC to manage energy use from these devices during high electricity demand periods.

The companies’ goal with the pilot project was to highlight the energy used by “ghost” devices: air conditioners, water heaters, and other devices that are using electricity even when no one is around. With the instant information provided by the smart meters, individuals and businesses are able to see when unecessary energy is being used, and turn those devices down or off.

Smart gird technology can not only help India make its transmission network much more efficient and safe by reducing losses and theft but can also make the whole process of energy use much more efficient. And this is extremely essential for the Indian grid which is still in the expansion mode and can incorporate these new-age technologies easily at this stage.

One of the leading distribution companies in India, New Delhi Power Limited, has joined the Intelligent Utility Network coalition and with its partnership with IBM the company aims at reducing the transmission losses from the current 18 percent to 10 percent in the next three to seven years.

Image: Marcus Wong (Wikimedia Commons)

The views presented in the above article are author’s personal views and do not represent those of TERI/TERI University where the author is currently pursuing a Master’s degree.

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Mridul currently works as Head-News & Data at Climate Connect Limited, a market research and analytics firm in the renewable energy and carbon markets domain. He earned his Master’s in Technology degree from The Energy & Resources Institute in Renewable Energy Engineering and Management. He also has a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Engineering. Mridul has a keen interest in renewable energy sector in India and emerging carbon markets like China and Australia.


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