I had been invited to India by the executives of the Indian Electrical and Electronics Manufacturers Association (IEEMA). We had selected the visit to coincide with ELECRAMA, the electrical equipment show IEEMA hosted this January in Mumbai, India. This has got to be the biggest event in the world focused on power delivery. Chairperson Indra Prem Menon informed me that this show was made up of 1,500 booths with 100,000 people in attendance.

At the opening ceremony, P. Uma Shankar, secretary, Ministry of Power, Government of India, provided some statistics, stating: “The government is looking at power-sector revenue estimates of US$56 billion from transmission, $91 billion from distribution and $147 billion from generation.”

Prior to ELECRAMA, IEEMA hosted GridWeek Asia with Sam Pitroda, energy advisor to Prime Minister Manmohan, providing the keynote. Pitroda addressed the reality of a struggling Indian power sector while providing plenty of opportunity for hope. Pitroda, who also heads the India Smart Grid Task Force, put it this way: “Power is our biggest bottleneck as we approach 8% GDP growth. It is a larger challenge than many of us realize, but I am sure all this will change as this decade has been declared the ‘Decade of Innovation.’”

India already has two robust business segments, the IT sector and the telecom sector. By combining these two strengths with funding from government and the private sector, Pitroda expects to see rapid progress in meeting the challenges in the energy sector.

In smart meters, for instance, Pitroda predicts India will need to install 100 million meters. Toward that end, the Smart Meter Task Force, which he also chairs, is entrusted with introducing low-cost meters connected using the existing GSM wireless communications system. “These low-cost meters will feed critical data into the smart grids that are considered to be the panacea for our primitive power sector,” states Pitroda.

India has a 10% energy shortage at peak, so curtailment is common, particularly in the summer months. And with a predicted growth rate in the country of 7% to 9% per year, India faces quite a hurdle to meet the energy shortfall while meeting electricity growth targets. But this issue is being tackled, and today, India has five separate joint ventures charged with building more generation. To give you an idea of the tremendous growth potential of the electric market, India is one of the largest economies in the world but consumes only 4% of the global total electricity produced.

Ashok Lavasa, additional secretary, Ministry of Power, shared issues facing state-owned distribution companies. “The amount of energy lost is huge, on average on the order of 27% to 28%,” said Lavasa. I learned that the revenue losses vary significantly by state but are typically due to poor accounting systems, to theft and by inefficiencies in the distribution system. To address these issues, India is looking at smart grid technologies to maximize throughput, increase energy efficiency, and develop diverse generation and storage plans.

India cannot afford to use traditional off-the-shelf smart grid solutions for customers who consume very little electricity, so the country is looking to develop indigenous solutions to provide cost-effective and reliable solutions. Some states also have privatized ownership of distribution facilities, giving private companies tremendous incentive to address inefficiencies. As India addresses systemic losses on the distribution system, more funds become available to invest in the distribution, transmission and generation facilities.

On the transmission side, India's smart grid technology is much further along. N.S. Sodha, general manager of load dispatch with the National Grid of India, shared the great strides the company is taking to build the world's first 1,200-kV transmission grid. The National Grid of India is also installing synchrophasers as it builds out its bulk power grid control and monitoring system.

With the tremendous expansion going on in India, the National Grid is upgrading to 800-kV dc and up to 1,200-kV ac to increase corridor transfer capacity. Power Grid India is also increasing circuit capacity with series capacitors, SVC and FACTS devices along with high-temperature, low-sag conductors. India is also moving to GIS substations while optimizing tower designs with taller towers and multi-circuit towers.

To address its energy needs, India is inviting global investors and global vendors to join in building out a more robust, secure energy future. Going forward, we will continue to share with you what that future will look like. Right now, T&D World is working with Indian federal and state utilities along with the IEEMA executive team to see how we might share the incredible changes going on in India in energy. Just as India has focused its might, first on IT and next on telecom, this giant economy is now taking aim on energy.