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Smart Grid - is it really relevant in India?


The buzz is everywhere.

No power sector conference, no consultant, no analyst, or even humble utility employee can escape the noise being made on smart grid in India. Everyone, or almost everyone, seems to be excited and has happily joined the crowd heaping praise upon the so called smart grid. A few have even started claiming that they have done it all and have truly arrived!

Alright, so I am also excited and have spoken and written on the subject. I have talked about the great things it could do and some of the things it is already doing.

But is smart grid really relevant in India when we have so many basic issues to address in power sector?

What's the relevance of smart grid concepts in our current context of high AT&C losses and large demand-supply imbalance? Can we really say that it all applies in India or only a select few concepts and technologies apply here?

Are we going to easily and quickly import the idea from another context and try to replicate it in Indian context hoping that the benefits would repeat? It could be a dangerous approach!

I believe that we are going to have to think afresh about the business value of these technology-heavy investments specific to Indian context, or more strictly each type of Indian context. We may not be on solid ground if we assume that this is simply too "strategic" or unquestionable future of the industry to require any debate on its business case. Yes, often a smart grid pilot project may not have a business case by itself, but the post-pilot project should have clearly measurable benefits, typically to the utility, its customers and society at large.

I feel that this is where there would be some key differences and specifics we need to think through and analyse in detail when bringing all the much-admired smart grid concepts and technologies to India. It definitely holds a lot of promise and we could truly leapfrog, if we can do it right.

What's your view and experience so far?


Thanks for a thought provoking article, Vivek.
The current diversity of energy consumers in India is immense.
Most of the AT&C losses can be attributed to the bad debt created by the non-paying customers.
In the ARR filings every year all these losses are included in the revenue requirements.
I think the only way issues can be handled is with enhanced technology and the related data mining/information management.
Also being a regulated business means that end-consumers will have to agree to pay for any modernization of the grid.
And they won't agree unless there is a convincing business case for them in this initiative.

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