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Electricity – The Focus is Moving to Consumers

SPF: Let’s start with some background of IEEMA, the history of the organisation etc.?
Indian Electrical & Electronics Manufacturers’ Association (IEEMA) was established in 1948 when eight Indian companies decided to create a platform for promotion of Indian Electrical Manufacturers’ Association (IEMA). The establishment of the association synchronized with attaining of independence by India reflecting the faith of Indian industrialists in the growth of various individual sectors of economy in the atmosphere of freedom. In those years, universally, electronics had not attained the status it enjoys today and was mainly restricted to audio, broadcasting, telephonic and telegraphic communication. Telephones were still considered a luxury, affordable by elite class only. Others areas of electronics were defence oriented. Development of civilian industries in this sector was restricted. In General, electronics was considered as a part of the electrical industry.

SPF: What kind of projects do you run for your members?
In it’s seventh decade of existence, IEEMA continues to provide unique services to its members. IEEMA undertakes various activities, major ones being disseminating information about government policy changes and statistics, representing views of the industry to the government, evolving price variation clauses covering a wide range of products and circulating price indices for the same, formulating industry standards etc.

Mr Vijay Karia, Chairman, ELECRAMA 2018

SPF: You also organise ELECRAMA – a biannual exhibition for the industry. How has the event changed over the years?
There have been 12 editions of ELECRAMA prior to this one. And each of them have been slightly better than the previous one. ELECRAMA, over the years has been a torchbearer of the Electrical industry in India, and is today the largest Electrical exhibition in the world. From the first edition in 1990, IEEMA’s prestigious flagship event for decades has witnessed changes of the industry very closely. In one way or another ELECRAMA has always stayed relevant to the industry, to its needs and the challenges being faced. ELECRAMA 2018 this time will undergo a complete digital transformation and will be full of surprises for all the visitors, exhibitors and stakeholders.

SPF: How important is renewable energy in the energy mix in country?
Renewable energy sector has come a long way from being a luxurious source of electricity to an essential source of electricity. Government slowly changing its role from being a regulator to facilitator is commendable. The target for renewable electricity generation of 175 GW set by the government by 2022 is an ambitious one but has opened lots of innovative options to adapt renewable energy as a main source of electricity.
Awareness has also played a great role in advancing the usage of Renewable Energy. People are now aware that alternative sources of energy can provide them electricity without being dependent on the grid. This in turn helped in increased rate of acceptability to get electricity from non conventional sources of energy. Increase in efficiency of the solar systems, focus shifting towards restarting in-operational solar plants, implementation of mandatory power purchase obligations, and having supportive policies by the government have completely changed the face of the Renewable Energy segment.
On the technology front there are significant advancements being made such as the MNRE promoting R&D of battery operated vehicles (BOV) through the alternative fuel for Surface Transportation Programme. Recently the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) successfully tested lithium-ion batteries developed by the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre for use in two- and three-wheelers. This in turn will promote India’s electric vehicle programme, and this is an example of energy storage solution for clean energy.

SPF: What is the size of India Energy Meter industry? At what rate industry will grow in the medium term?
Smart meters are a win-win situation for both utility and consumer. It is the integral element in a smart grid, leading a paradigm shift in how the energy is delivered and consumed. For consumers, smart meters give them greater control over the use of electricity by providing detailed information about their usage and consumption patterns helping them in planning expenses better. It also provides more accurate reading of their electricity consumption to the utility, which in turn can help the consumers to make informed decisions to choose energy savings solutions.
For utilities, smart meters will provide simple overview of the entire grid at click of a few buttons. Utilities with greater clarity and accuracy of data will have much faster response rate during outages and when resolving faults. It also helps utilities to serve a wider consumer base at much higher KPI’s when it comes to energy reliability. Implementation of smart meters is the first step in paving the way for a smart grid, which will act as a backbone towards India’s Smart City Mission and cleaner energy path.

SPF: What are the bottlenecks that the Indian Energy meters industry is facing? What kind of support would you expect from the government?
Metering industry is catering to length and breadth of India. One of the most critical issues is the procurement of meters across utilities which differ for each segment of the metering ecosystem. To make things more complicated, each segment has multiple specifications leading to unfocussed approach in product development and utilising the available resources . One of the key objectives of the smart grid pilots in India is to arrive at single specification for a metering segment, resting on the Advanced Metering Infrastructure’s (AMI) specification issued by Central Electricity Authority. It remains a challenge to date.
Evaluation of the bids based solely on most competitive quoted price has impact on the quality of the product and service delivered. Government of India needs to enforce a uniform policy of bid evaluation which will be a balance between quality and financial price mechanism. Stage wise bid gates first on technical before reviewing on its financial will not solve the problem either. Scoring mechanism based on four important elements - experience, quality, manufacturing capability and financials should be formulated and implemented.
Last but not the least is the legislation encompassing the tampering of meters. The industry is short paced by “innovative” ways of tampering. The cost of implementation on safeguards against tampering, is paid by all consumers. With the advanced features, the meter has capabilities to detect tampering therefore such cases should be dealt with iron hand duly supported by legislation.

SPF:What opportunities do you envisage with the Government scaling up the target of renewable energy capacity to 175 GW by the year 2022 which includes 100 GW from solar, 60 GW from wind, 10 GW from bio-power and 5 GW from small hydro-power?
India has a high potential for renewable energy given our country’s climate and geographical landscape. Given that our energy use has almost doubled since 2000, and energy consumption per capita is still only around one-third of the global average, more generation of will definitely benefit all the stakeholders of the power sector value chain.
One of the economic opportunities that we see with the introduction of renewables is the creation of more jobs and also emergence of new technologies that will ultimately benefit the end consumers, giving them more control over their energy usage. In a competitive energy market, innovation will allow utilities to drive and unlock unparalleled energy solution to suit each customer’s needs and ultimately lead to having them to manage their own supply and demand.
However, in the background, the grid needs to be more resilient when managing variable renewables, such as wind and solar to enable utilities in unlocking values and offerings for end consumers. As for end consumers, innovation and technology backed by cost effective solutions centered on local needs of India will be accepted and adopted.
India is home to 1.34 billion people – 18% of the world’s population. Energy demand will continue to rise and if we are committed to a cleaner energy outlook, we need all industry players from federal, central and state-level government to energy policy makers and utilities to create a robust policy framework and financial restructuring across the energy sector to enable the integration of renewable energy. This will lead to much awaited boost to all the industry segments across the energy chain.

SPF: What is your outlook for the sector?
Under the able guidance of our Honorable Prime minister Shri Narendra Modi and complemented with a visionary Ministry of Power, the Indian power sector is going to shift top gear aiming at Electricity for all. This is major opportunities for each one of us as a responsible entity in India to contribute to the outlook. Government is supporting in form of various schemes but utilities need to be careful in planning and quick deployment of the meters. Meticulous execution may be achieved by choosing the right technology partner without myopic vision which can surely yield the desired results.
I believe India’s energy outlook will continue to remain promising, pushing boundaries to connect the whole of India to affordable electricity and cleaner energy system. I have confidence that locally, the industry is capable of supporting, delivering the product and services for this cause.