The team wants consumers to become prosumers (as coined by American futurist Alvin Toffler) who can produce electricity (through) solar energy, use it and sell it to neighbours, commercial entities.
New Delhi Eshwar Agarwal, a 27-year-old analyst currently working at Bain Capability Centre (Bain and Company) has a plan that could revolutionise the power sector – at least that’s what his intentions are.
And now the World Bank wants to pick his mind.
An engineer in the field of information technology who graduated from Delhi College of Engineering (now Delhi Technological University), Agarwal and his team mate Krishit Arora have come up with the project, Anant Ujwala (infinite light), which will be presented at the World Bank Youth Summit at Washington DC in December. A final year electrical engineering student at the Vellore Institute of Technology, Arora is a tech enthusiast and takes part in various hackathons.
The two met at China’s Tsinghua University this summer while researching Chinese industries. As part of the project they did a detailed study on the blockchain (list of records that are linked and secured using cryptography and maintained usually by a peer to peer network) use cases for China.
Back in India, Agarwal explored cases that could be implemented in India as well and at the same time in September, applied for a competition organised by the World Bank Group that invited proposals using cutting edge technologies that benefit societies.
“ I contacted Krishit to form a team under my captaincy to pitch the idea of decentralised energy systems in the New Delhi area where I reside. The process involved first studying more about the technology, meeting policy experts, smart grid experts, the target consumers and other stakeholders, says Agarwal.
The proposal was sent by mid October to the World Bank.
The World Bank had received more than 500 proposals from more than a 100 countries, from which they selected the top 10 after three rounds of scrutiny. The final 10 were invited for an interview early in November with an expert panel from the World Bank. Now, the captains of the top six teams will be in Washington DC in the first week of December this year to pitch their idea.
The reason why Agarwal and Arora decided to focus on the energy sector was because it’s an industry that has largely remained unchanged. “We have a grid system that is centrally owned, resulting in fewer competitors, monopolist non-democratic tendencies, slower innovation and exploitation. About 70% of electricity in India comes from non-renewable resources like coal. The remaining 30% from renewable energy requires proper distribution as sources are located far away from consumers. The distribution channel itself is old and dilapidated with frequent power pilferage, breakdowns and losses. In the absence of any innovation like bidirectional flow of electricity, this sector has been opaque to any technological interventions. In India’s traditional system the flow of electricity is from the power plant to the consumer, ie one directional or unidirectional,” says Agarwal.
The team promotes a new system which will enable consumers to become prosumers (as coined by American futurist Alvin Toffler) and start producing their own energy using localised solar energy panels. This produced energy does not have to be self consumed entirely or sold at a government decided rate back to the grid. Instead the producers can sell it to their neighbours or commercial entities at rates decided by them. “So, in the new proposed system, the energy that has been produced using solar panels can be sold to other peers through a smart grid. Now there is a flow of energy back from the end consumer as well. Therefore the electric line now has two way or bidirectional flow of energy,” says Agarwal.
On securing the transactions between buyer and consumer, the team has decided to bring blockchains into play. “In any transaction, there has to be a third trusted party (banks, government, big companies) to conduct transactions between two parties. Here, the need of such a trusted party is done away with by using a blockchain. Blockchain is a secured database that is open and secure. Here every step of the transaction is updated using a new “block” that’s “chained” to the previous blockchains. As this data is distributed, any attempt to make illegal changes to the blockchain is easily red flagged. As this proposal is a policy change, it will require active participation of all stakeholders including the government, the bureaucrats and the people of Delhi for successful implementation,” says Agarwal.
Both he and his teammate hope that this technology will lead to the creation of a system that is open, transparent and amenable to change. Open patterns and access to data can help data scientists better study the system and bring new changes. An inherent benefit of the system is that it heavily promotes localised production and consumption of solar energy without requiring it to be stored. As each consumer now becomes a seller too, it creates opportunities for entrepreneurship.
“As a captain of my team I am now looking ahead to present my ideas at the World Bank Youth Summit in December,” concludes Agarwal.