US multinational GE Energy feels India’s economy is headed in the right direction, but a lot more can be done by bringing in legislation to rein in water usage. The company entered water technology and solutions in 1999. Its India Region President and CEO, Mr Banamali Agrawala, tells Business Line that unless this is done, water will be a serious constraint for power generation in India.
Which areas are you looking at in the water segment here?
In India, the challenges around water are beginning to manifest in various ways… From the power generation perspective, too, water is becoming a serious constraint. India may have enough coal, but not enough water to produce power (for cooling down equipment and producing steam).
So, what is the way out?
The first thing to do is to raise awareness…You can live without power and electricity up to a point, but not without water. And even if you do have water, you need power to bring it up, be it for irrigation, industrial use, etc. There is a deep connect between power and water. Unfortunately, raising awareness works only up to a point. You need to bring in legislation and combine it with policies and incentives.
What kind of legislation?
Say, on usage of water in industry, on reuse of wastewater. The Government has done something on this front, but it is patchy.
Also, in power generation, we need to look at other ways of producing power, such as using gas, which needs much less water. Then, we need to optimise conservation. Basically, a combination of policies on industrial use of water, such as reuse and recycling, and wastewater and sewage handling by municipalities need to be looked at seriously.
Also, if there is not enough water for coal-based power plants, then options that use less water could be looked into, such as gas-based units, renewables, etc.
What kind of technology do you offer?
We are engineering solution providers to industrial utilities as well as municipalities. We provide chemicals that can clean water, membranes that can treat discharge, even very difficult ones.
Water can be treated to any degree — potable, industrial and agricultural use, etc. Technology has to be brought in to conserve and treat water and somebody’s got to pay for it. So, I think it’s time we also begin to levy a certain price for water usage.
What has been your experience here?
We have had a lot of success with many industries here. The forward-looking ones are willing to invest more, but we can plan better once legislation comes into force.
Also, municipalities need to look at water treatment in a far more aggressive manner, and they should be willing to pay for it (technology). How they collect it in turn is a political decision.
Shouldn’t your company also be using power generation equipment that uses less water?
Look, per capita power consumption in India is about 800 units. The global average is 2,500 units. The phase of development in which India is now, we have to consume more energy, but efficiently, so that we do not end up like some developing economies that are obsessed with energy consumption.
Directionally, India is all right. Our challenge is that we lose 30 per cent revenue through theft and losses in power.
Where do you see the future of power and water in India?
I personally see India as a sustainable and green economy, may be more out of compulsion than choice. In fact, I see an opportunity here. So much subsidised diesel is being pumped in to produce expensive power, at Rs 14-15 a unit. Any renewable source of power can be produced at this rate, so why don’t we simply do that? The challenge is storage, and a way can be found once the policies are right.
This alternative price point (Rs 14-15/unit) that we seem to have accepted is so high that it will allow a lot of solutions, innovations and products to come in. The Government would do well to encourage this. But it should make sure that energy is priced correctly.