Interview: Prakash Nayak, Chairman – Power Engineers Panel

Prakash Nayak IET

In an interaction with GreentechLead, Prakash Nayak, chairman – Power Engineers Panel, The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), discusses the challenges faced by Indian energy sector.

Tell us about current scenario of renewable energy sector in India? 

Fossil fuels, especially coal, are expected to continue to provide the majority of the increase in marketed energy use in India. Oil and other petroleum products are also expected to continue to account for the largest share of energy consumption, but their share is likely to fall over the next couple of years mainly due to increasing world oil prices, though there has been dip in the oil prices which in my opinion is temporary phenomena. Higher fossil fuel prices, energy security concerns, and environmental considerations are expected to improve the prospects for new nuclear power capacity and other grid-connected renewable energy sources in many parts of the world including India as a developing economy. Rising fossil fuel costs, particularly for natural gas in the electric power sector, along with government policies and programs to support renewable energy, will allow renewable fuels to compete economically over time.

The demand and supply imbalance in energy sources is pervasive requiring serious efforts by Power Ministry to augment energy supplies. India imports about 80 percent of its oil. There is a threat of these increasing further, creating serious problems for India’s future energy security. Economic growth, increasing prosperity and urbanization, rise in per capita consumption, and spread of energy access are the factors likely to substantially increase the total demand for electricity. Thus there is an emerging energy supply-demand imbalance. Already, in the electricity sector, official peak deficits are of the order of ~12 percent, which could increase over the long term.

What is the role of IET Power Engineers panel in addressing the issues faced by power sector in India?

IET Power panel is an initiative started some years back. The main driver behind this initiative was revive the focus on core engineering i.e. power engineering. Because it was very difficult to get the suitable skilled resources in the market place though there is huge demand for them. With growing capacity enhancement at Center and corresponding increase at state level, there was great need for qualified resources however, has become major bottleneck for last one decade with many of them moving to IT/BPO industry.  Also with better knowledge and research in Power System Engineering growing complexity of electricity grid could have been managed in most efficient way, some of the blackout happened in the country  are  result of lack knowledge and skill set. Our focus at Power Engineers Panel is addressing the root cause of the issue in hand.i.e. attracting more and more engineers so that they pursue the core engineering as their career and also pursue higher studies and research etc.. Second, make the engineering communities update them with new technologies by way of energy lectures, seminars and conferences etc. These lectures and conferences are not limited to IET members it is also open  for non-members. Most of these technical lectures are conducted during evening hours so that theprofessionals need not take off from their normal work. Third aspect is creating an opportunity for internship for the students and during early stage of their engineering so that they not only gain the theoretical knowledge and the same is also supplemented with practical exposures.

What are the core issues hindering the growth of the power sector in India?

There are many issues, starting with capacity enhancement, which has slowed down from last 5to 7 years due to environmental concerns and also availability of fossil fuel for bulk power generation.   Second most important is losses in transmission and distribution system.

Also unfortunately in our country the load centers are in the West and South and whereasthe bulk generation happens in East and part of West due to coal belt and hydro generation in the North. Most concerning issue are distribution losses. Barring few utilities almost all utilities have a distribution loses of the order of 30 to 35 percent. This has led them to be in financiallyin unviable situation. Due to this very few takers from the private sectors both domestic and international, though the Electricity act 2003 primary aim was to unbundle the generation  transmission , distribution and thereafter handover  some of them to private management.

What is the scope for clean and green technology in the power sector?

Increase the contribution of Renewable power in the total installed power generation capacity of the country from 16 percent to about 18 percent by 2022, with 7.3 percent contribution to electricity mix. This would require an achievement of about 13 percent over the already ambitious targets proposed.

In particular, the aspiration would be to reach grid parity for both solar PV and solar thermal and achieve technological breakthroughs is second generation bio fuels and hydrogen energy/fuel cells.

In my opinion,Increased Penetration of Distributed Generation, is one of the biggest areas of concern for utility executives will be the increasing penetration of distributed generation (DG), particularly solar, whereby developers offer industrial and commercial consumers the opportunity to purchase electricity from DG projects installed at their sites, at a lower cost than would be paid to the local utility. The ability of these developers to compete with utilities based on retail power prices is one of the key growth drivers for the DG Industry; country needs this kind of competition.

Net Metering. The lower price of solar and favourable state incentives have spurred strong growth of customer-sited (DG) solar. In fact, one of the hottest issues in 2014, and arguably 2015, will be the proper valuation of distributed generation. Net metering rules focusing on how ratepayers are compensated for electricity generated by a solar system and passed to the grid for the utility to sell to other ratepayers will have to be seen

In 2015, the India should turn its attention to Microgrids, as they play a growing role in meeting local demand, enhancing reliability and ensuring local control of electricity over the next five years.

Utility executives must not only look to upgrade the existing power infrastructure, but must open their business plans to incorporating alternative energies and alternative ways to generate and provide energy

Certainly, the power grid backbone also needs to become increasingly efficient, integrating renewable resources that reduce society’s need for fossil-based resources, among other approaches. The upgraded backbone, combined with Microgrids, will help us meet our goals for an efficient and eco-friendly electric power system achieving major energy/national security and economic growth milestones.”

Rajani Baburajan

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