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Central Electricity Authority invites proposals for R&D on power in India

According to reports, amid rising mismatch between the demand and supply of power and other challenges facing the sector, the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) has invited proposals from the government and private agencies for the preparation of research reports on generation, transmission and distribution of power — renewable or otherwise — besides material technology and energy efficiency. The recommendations of these research agencies would be used in the formulation of a National Perspective Plan for research and development (R&D) in the country’s power sector.

CEA, which has issued the application format and guidelines, said India’s power sector was facing major challenges today with the government’s introduction of reforms, along with globalisation and liberalisation policies. “With increase in system expansion, stability and security problems have become challenging,” the authority said in its note. “It is of vital importance to focus our attention now on ways and means to build expertise within the country, to find solutions for the problems existing in the system and also for the problems that may arise in the future. Research in a phased manner is needed to bridge the knowledge and technology gaps, more so due to changes in technology today at a more profound and faster pace in the new millennium.”

Former Union power minister Suresh Prabhu welcomed the government’s new idea, but said it should, instead of doing fresh research, search past reports. “Unfortunately, the government seems to be lacking institutional memory,” he told Business Standard. “I, as power minister way back in 2001, had initiated the first ever comprehensive intervention on R&D (research and development) in the power sector.”

The Centre Power Research Institute, Prabhu recalled, was given the mandate to bring together all top brains on the type of R&D needed to accelerate power development. “Further, I had also appointed Nandan Nilekani (then CEO of Infosys) to submit recommendations ways to getting ICT (Power Company Inc) into transmission and distribution,” he said. “The report gathered dust until Jairam Ramesh (during his tenure as minister of state for power) called Nilekani to prepare a report on the matter.” During his tenure, the power ministry had brought in the first-ever personnel policy, Prabhu said. It had released another policy to create an MBA course in power management.

According to CEA, the major thrust areas of R&D in thermal power generation include measures to improve plant availability, reliability, efficiency and safety, besides blending of coal and green technology approaches such as carbon sequestration and use of super-critical boilers for power generation. In the case of hydro generation, the research agency is expected to recommend measures for performance improvement, renovation and uprating and hydro-environmental interface.

As far as renewable and distributed generation is concerned, the research agencies are expected to focus on grid connectivity of large wind mills, self-healing wind-connected micro grids and large use of ethanol for energy products. Research agencies need to suggest steps required for development of micro and mini grids and larger penetration of renewable energy.

Against the backdrop of efforts to bring down aggregate transmission and commercial losses to 15 per cent by states, CEA said the research agencies were expected to focus on capacity building so as to transform the present-day distribution system into smart grid. Moreover, R&D in transmission needs to be focused on planned and strong transmission system to ensure optimal utilisation of transmission capacities for cost-effective delivery of power.

The research agencies would have to focus on value-added product technology demonstration and production centres for fly-ash utilisation and emission-control technologies. Furthermore, research agencies would have to give careful attention on demand-side management, standards and labelling besides load management for energy efficiency.

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