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‘There is an urgent need to push the idea of smart grid in India’

According to reports, in July last year an electricity grid failure plunged India into darkness, affecting about 20 States.

As the country takes steps to improve its supply and grid system, Bindu N. Lohani, Vice-President, Sustainable Energy and Knowledge Management, Asian Development Bank (ADB), feels a smartgrid can be one way of improving efficiencies and integrating cleaner energy sources in India.

Excerpts from an interview:

Which are the areas is ADB looking at in India’s energy sector?

We are helping India reduce transmission and distribution losses in the existing system. Also, we are approaching climate change challenges through mitigation and adaptation. For mitigation, we are investing in renewable energy, hydro, solar, wind etc. ADB has already provided $8.5 billion to the power sector in India since 1986, most of which is for pushing renewable energy alone.

Can you name some projects?

We have provided assistance to the 40-MW Dahanu photovoltaic plant in Rajasthan, which began generation in 2012. Another $100-million loan is being extended to Reliance Power for another facility to be built adjacent to the Dahanu plant.

In addition, ADB has approved $100 million to develop a solar park in Charanka, Gujarat. We have also set up a financing facility to provide partial credit guarantee to lenders willing to fund solar power projects of up to 25 MW, designed to reduce risk for the private sector.

ADB is also working with the Government to mobilise about $550 million of long-term concessional financing from sources such as the Clean Technology Fund to finance innovative elements in the transmission network and bring down development costs in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.

Any other plans in the renewable energy sector?

We are talking to the Government to see if solar power can flow into grids and help them in finding out how this can be done in a better way in future.

Also, we are trying to see how we can bring in the private sector into the sector, in the form of public-private partnerships (PPPs), including in renewables. This can be done in two ways — we can create an Asia-wide private equity fund, which can also fund projects in India, or the private sector can generate solar energy and put that into the grid.

What will be the pricing arrangement?

The private sector can generate energy and can have a power purchase agreement with the Government. But, it will be a problem if the grid does not take the generated power. So, we are emphasising that the Government should go in for something called the smart grid – a grid that will be able to take solar power and switch from coal to solar as and when availability is there. There is a lot of need to push the idea of smartgrid in the country…you may soon have biogas or wind energy – so a grid has to be smart to make intelligent choices on where to draw energy from.

Do you have any specific model in mind?

Some countries such as Korea, Japan and Germany are advanced in this region, but the difficulty that most countries face is on how to convert the present grid into a smartgrid. Setting up a new one is easier, making an existing grid smart is always more difficult. Having said that, we feel this is an important area that needs to be looked into.

What about reducing transmission & distribution (T&D) losses?

We have projects in Gujarat. Rajasthan has also indicated that they would want such projects. We are also involved in reducing T&D losses in Assam, Bihar, Uttarakhand etc.

But, India also needs to reduce inefficiencies in the transport sector. Cities need to invest in mass transit railways. The trend of private motorisation is going up.

In Asia, there is a value system that if you don’t have a car parked in your garage, you haven’t arrived. This has to change. But, we have a lot of hope in young people. The younger generation is different, they think a lot and are more knowledgeable.

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