Union Budget 2019: Besides energy efficiency, smart infrastructure solutions enhance safety, sustainability and reliability.
Budget 2019 India: As scorching summers set electricity demand soaring to record highs, the government has its task cut out in driving energy reforms and policy initiatives. These factors should be significant as the Centre prepares to announce the 2019 Union Budget on 05 July. Robust power sector outlays are especially imperative since energy plays a pivotal role in propelling vibrant economic growth.
Power reforms are also required to resolve the financial crisis in discoms (state electricity distribution companies), which is behind their late payments to power utilities and doesn’t bode well for power producers and consumers. With the government already having committed to using the right energy mix in creating a cleaner environment and making state electricity entities financially sound and more administratively efficient, there are high hopes the Budget will address such issues squarely.
Raising Energy Efficiency
Administrative reforms apart, much needs to be done at the ground level in ensuring energy security. In fulfilling its 24×7 Power for All mission, the Centre needs to deploy smart infrastructure solutions. For example, it can fast-track the Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY) II, which emphasises smart technology in curbing theft while simultaneously improving metering, billing and collections.
Indeed, there are many smart infrastructure solutions in advancing greater production, distribution and transmission efficiencies across the nation’s power supply chain. Consider smart grids. Presently used in the Smart Cities’ mission, these can be an ideal solution in managing demand-supply gaps. Smart solutions via the digitisation of facilities offer a great opportunity in optimising the entire value chain – right from generation to consumption while advancing more efficiency, greater control and better value from resources.
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The importance of energy efficiency is paramount. Like access to modern healthcare, access to quality energy is an inalienable human right, particularly in remote regions where providing power is more challenging. Besides access, the energy supply needs to be wholly safe, sustainable and reliable. These parameters make efficient energy usage and management crucial. In achieving this goal, one needs to critically consider the modes of energy generation, distribution, management and consumption.
Apart from other problems, inefficient energy usage occurs when relevant data isn’t available. Again, digitisation is a model solution in addressing such shortcomings. This is true more so in the case of India’s energy network where, despite the ample generation capacity available, inefficiency affects connectivity, distribution and transmission during the last-mile stage since these networks function independently. Data from the demand and supply sides being unavailable for integration, the gap between the two remains too large to balance in improving total network efficiency.
Today, however, the Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data increasingly promote operational efficiency and sustainability. Driven by smart connectivity, the real-time supervision of energy systems permits more prudent, informed decision-making. This includes linking energy usage to users’ behaviour, thereby ascertaining more efficiency. In effect, automation, Big Data and data analytics ensure greater energy management, enhancing efficiency and the productive use of energy and similar resources.
Smart and Sustainable
Like digitisation, decentralisation is equally crucial. When more electricity generation happens locally, the security of supply is boosted because of lower transmission losses as well as carbon emissions. Decentralisation opportunities are rising universally in all market segments – be these solar, smart grids, micro-grids and grid automation. As the rates of renewable energy keep hitting new lows even while better storage solutions come up, decentralisation will continue its steady rise.
Alongside the above, it’s essential to take into account the energy mix constituting fossil fuels and renewables. Since fossil fuels such as coal are highly polluting, these must be phased out and replaced gradually with renewables that include solar and wind. Globally, generation of renewables is growing faster than nuclear power and fossil fuels combined. In India too, accelerating the use of renewables (solar, wind and biomass) and decreasing the fossil fuels (crude oil, coal and gas) component in the energy mix can help lower the global carbon trail.
But the promotion of renewables should not be treated solely as the government’s responsibility. Corporate stakeholders can also ensure the generation of renewables occurs as close to the location where load centres are based. In this manner, solar power could be deployed for captive consumption even as any extra energy can be resupplied to the grid.
In many geographies, such a model is already operational, helping transform consumers into ‘prosumers’ – or those producing and simultaneously consuming electricity. After digitisation and decentralisation, a third ‘D’ can raise energy efficiency – decarbonisation. Research indicates 82% of potential cost-effective energy efficiency remains untapped in buildings. For industry, it is more than 50%. And in energy grids, experience shows that the demand side could offer thrice the decarbonisation levels compared to the supply side.
Decarbonisation in companies can be promoted via the creation of a sustainability index that monitors the carbon footprint of all activities and services. Once aware of inefficient offerings, companies can innovate and create new ones with greater energy efficiency. In this way, companies can transition towards being more carbon neutral – augmenting government efforts in creating a cleaner, greener planet, while ensuring every citizen receives 24×7 power.