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Strategic roadmap for electronics enabling energy efficient usage: Venkat Rajaraman, Su-Kam

September 16, 2010 1 comment

Venkat Rajaraman, CEO, Su-kam.

Venkat Rajaraman.

I am very grateful to Venkat Rajaraman, CEO, Su-kam Power Systems Ltd, for sharing his thoughts, as well as those of Dr. Ajay Mathur, director general, Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), presented at the India Semiconductor Association’s (ISA) conference titled ‘Electronics enabling Energy Efficiency E3’, in New Delhi.

In his presentation, Rajaraman said that if Graham Bell were alive today, he won’t even recognize his invention. Mobile devices have changed, the switching technology is vastly different and so is the communication medium.

However, if Thomas Alva Edison were alive today, he would be very happy! He would see that his invention in pretty much the same form. Of course, there are more generating stations, more transmission and distribution lines, but the technology is fundamentally the same.

This scenario is quite changing. Yesterday’s era was all about industrialization – more automation, less labor, etc. Also, the more energy you consume, the lesser it costs to produce. Energy was considered inexhaustible then. Now, there is a paradigm shift. It is all about energy conservation! We know that the energy cost is rising and the resources are finite.

The energy industry will change more over the next 15 years than it has in the last 100! The decisions made now to the next few years will determine whether the transition is considered a success!

So, these changes are not about simple energy efficient appliances, smart meters, renewables, etc. It requires a complete socio-economic and mindset change, and that’s the hard part of the problem.

Rajaraman added that there seem to be far too many stakeholders in energy efficiency implementations — financial Institutions, technologies solution providers, beneficiary industries, energy audit companies, measurement and verification systems, government/subsidy bodies, etc.

A plant owner is not attracted enough to make the investment in energy efficiency. There are questions such as who will own the results, who will deliver it, how will it be delivered? Herein lies the problem and the opportunity!

There have been several interventions from the BEE. They have been attacking this problem from policy perspective in a clinical precision manner. BEE has been doing a great job in coming out with policies that comprehensively covers such issues.

Rajaraman concluded that simple technological and policy interventions alone are not going to be enough. It needs a social and mindset change. He concluded: “Give a man one CFL/LED, you secure one CFL/LED worth of energy savings! Teach a man to love his CFL/LED, you inspire a life time of energy efficient behavior!”

Su-Kam has been doing simple interventions regarding energy efficiency – such as, replacing DG sets with inverters, LED lighting, etc.

I will later add a separate post on Dr. Ajay Mathur’s thoughts.

Need to look at smart grid standards from an Indian context: Venkat Rajaraman, Su-Kam


Venkat Rajaraman, CEO, Su-Kam Power Systems.

Venkat Rajaraman, CEO, Su-Kam Power Systems.

First of all, I would like to thank Venkat Rajaraman, CEO, Su-Kam Power Systems, for sharing his presentation as well as the points he made during a panel discussion yesterday evening on Smart cities and smart grid: opportunities and challenges at the Freescale Technology Forum (FTF) 2010 in Bangalore.

Need for multi-disciplinary, collaborative innovation
Rajaraman called for the need to innovate, which should be multi-disciplinary, collaborative and fast paced! According to him, smart meter is not relevant for 80 percent of the Indian population as of now.

Further, India needs to look at standards for smart grid from an Indian context, rather than try and apply some smart grid solutions developed elsewhere, as those may not be relevant. There is also a need to customize the testing standards for India. All telling points, these! Smart grid is a journey, and not an end result.

India specific challenges
Challenges that are mostly India specific are — one, we don’t have the complete solution. While the ingredients exist, the standardized, modular, scalable, open solution don’t exist yet. Next, few off-the-shelf products are available and niche solutions are expensive.

Further, there are an enormous number of stakeholders. There is a need for the concerted effort of utilities, regulators, vendors, technologists, standard bodies, appliance industry, IT industry and consumer group to work together. No one group can do this quickly on their own. And, no one has all the answers!

Many of the required solutions (e.g., smart appliances) don’t yet exist in India, but the incremental cost is low. India also requires the analysis and experimentation in communication technologies and business models.

Smart grid challenges and opportunities
The points made by Venkat Rajaraman are summarized below.

1.
Smart grid is truly one area – where you need multi-disciplinary, collaborative, fast paced innovation to happen. It requires the power engineers to work with the embedded engineers, IT/networking engineers, software developers, data mining experts, Web technologists and many other specialists — to all come together and work in a collaborative way.

2.
It requires multiple stakeholders to come together – smart grid experts, technology solution providers, regulatory bodies, utilities, etc. No one can come to the party before and no one can race ahead of others. They all pretty much need to come at the same time. If not, the weak link will slow everyone down. If the utility infrastructure is not ready for time of the day pricing, demand-response etc, implementing them at the consumer end is not of much relevance.

3.
In India, the current weak link are the utilities. Almost all of the public utilities are losing money very heavily (see below).
Total commercial losses of utilities:
* 50 Discoms (erstwhile State Electricity Boards) struggle to be financially viable.
* Mainly because of subsidy, power theft and also because of poor efficiency.
* Estimated utility loss at Rs. 40,000 crore in 2010.
* Loss estimated to Increase to Rs. 68,000 crore loss by 2014-15.
* Utilities – No reward for performance and no punishment for non-performance.
* Need regulatory framework to address this.

Aggregate Technical and Commercial (AT&C) loss
* India – 32 percent (overall).
* State DISCOM losses – from 18 percent to 62 percent.
* Low billing and collection efficiency (50 percent billed and only 41 percent is collected).
* Power theft (accounts for 1.5 percent of nation’s GDP).

Smart grid economy:
* R-APDRP: To bring AT&C losses to 15 percent (17 percent savings).
* Power production in 2010: 160K MW.
* 1 percent of avoided generation – saves 1,600 MW.
* 17 percent savings (32 – 15 percent) would amount to savings of 27,000 MW. Read more…
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