By Bragadesh Damodaran
The Energy sector is undergoing global transformation to fulfill its net-zero and sustainability commitments. The Indian power sector is seen to be responding positively to this global phenomenon. Indian markets too are responding to the opportunities in the power sector, as major business drivers are in place for the absorption of new technologies and solutions to achieve the sustainability goals to keep carbon emissions in check. Here are some of the developments and technology trends with huge transformational potential in the Indian energy markets.
New and clean energy alternatives: Exploring new energy sources and fuel alternatives are high on the agenda for Indian markets. This includes solar-thermal, solar-wind hybrid, smart battery storage, green hydrogen, and carbon sequestration. The use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to manage the distributed energy resources to optimize generation is the new norm.
Innovations in utility asset management: Indian utilities are facing an enormous burden of aging infrastructure and have started exploring solutions that can provide a better overview of the diverse assets, “retain or retire” decisions, and use of technology to measure asset performance and enhance its life.
The markets are aligning to the needs of the Indian power sector, with the growing demand for smart asset monitoring, visualization, and analytics. These needs will push the adoption of cloud-based services on the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model in the Indian power sector. The solution will spur the demand for enabling technologies like 5G, edge analytics, cloud computing, and cybersecurity. The use of AR/ VR and digital twins are other technologies that will dominate the Indian market space in the future.
Smart metering: This has a huge potential in the Indian market. It is not just about the meter-reading device, but about solutions built around it, e.g. load management, energy efficiency management, network health monitoring, predictive analytics and
There is a growing future market in India to add more intelligence and improve communication and security in the humongous rollout of smart metering in India. There is a huge opportunity in the Indian markets for the creation of robust and secure communications (e.g. 5G), smart bots, and energy data analytics (using AI/ ML).
The age of internet-of-things: The Indian power sector is now opening up to embrace internet-of-things (IoT) as a technology of choice in a big way. There is a fast-emerging market for IoT in the Indian power sector – for applications like planning and forecasting, utility asset monitoring, predictive maintenance, energy efficiency, and performance improvement. The appetite for IoT-based solutions in the Indian power sector is growing fast and there is a huge market for enabling technologies for IT-OT integration involving ERP, geographical information system (GIS), and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition System (SCADA). IoT-based solutions are also opening the market for Secured cloud computing, data communication using 5G and AI/ ML.
There is a fast-emerging market for IoT in the Indian power sector – for applications like planning and forecasting, utility asset monitoring and predictive maintenance.
EV charging infrastructure and vehicle-to-grid solution: The demand for EV infrastructure is growing in the Indian market, including the use of vehicle-to-grid (V2G). There is a growing scope to exploit this market segment to use EV battery energy of stationary vehicles to power the grid. Many leading Indian power distribution companies are setting up the infrastructure to develop EVs as a potential source of clean energy powering the grid.
Huge market demand is predicted for EV infrastructure solution which tracks grid parameters, energy demand, pricing, and weather predictions, using AI/ML, to enable EV owners to make informed decisions on charging their vehicles and exporting power to the grid.
Defining energy-sector challenges
The roadmap to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 is also fraught with numerous challenges.
Community participation: Involve the community at large to participate in energy-saving programs such as demand-side management (DSM). This entails creating awareness among energy consumers on adopting energy-efficient practices, thereby reducing their energy bills.
Creation of charging infrastructure: Manufacturing of EVs in large numbers and gradual phase-out of petrol and diesel vehicles will spur the demand for charging infrastructure, which is essential for the healthy growth of EVs in the Indian market.
IT-OT integration: Since many utilities still use legacy applications with proprietary standards, it becomes a challenge to enforce the integration of different solution components. This has to be addressed by upgrading certain solutions to conform to open standards.
Cybersecurity compliance: Cybersecurity compliance has to be ensured at various levels – devices, networks, data, and the cloud, which could be challenging. This can be resolved by doing vulnerability assessment and penetration testing.
Standards and interoperability: There is a need to ensure the adoption of industry standards for a smooth migration to new platforms on the cloud, 5G compatibility, and IoT-based systems.
A growing market is foreseen in India for hyper-personalization solutions, using real-time communication systems and RPA to enhance the user experience.
Solutions at hand
The Indian power sector is contemplating different solutions to meet the energy demands in the most sustainable way, with a focus on long-term energy security and sustainability. The following initiatives by the Indian power sector are likely to create a huge market impact, offering a huge opportunity for bespoke solutions.
Supply-side (generation side) initiatives
- Renewable energy (RE) generation: Distributed Energy Resources Management System (DERMS), Automated Demand Response (ADR), and intelligent Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) targeted to maximise operations and efficiency of the Indian utility’s RE portfolio. Technologies that will drive the above solutions are 5G, Edge analytics, and AI/ ML.
- New energy network technologies: Indian power sector will require proven solutions to enable grid resiliency, self-healing, and adaptive energy networks. This is likely to see huge growth potential in the Indian markets for remote monitoring and visualization, smart asset analytics, and predictive maintenance, with demand for IoT-based and data-driven cloud technologies, and faster communication networks using 5G.
- Community microgrids: Grid-connected community microgrids are gaining acceptance in India. Powered by renewable energy, these are self-sustained energy networks supplying power to the local community. There is huge market potential in India to develop an intelligent microgrid, to export excess energy to the main grid, with an attractive revenue model, using AI/ML and IoT-based energy data monetization. Virtual power plant (VPP) solution using AI/ ML is a huge future market prospect for India.
Demand-side (load side) initiatives
- Demand-side management: There is a demand in the Indian power sector to develop solutions to track the energy consumption of end-use customers, and send them automated alerts on their smartphones to promote energy efficiency and save precious resources. This is called demand-side management (DSM) which will see a future market push of developing smart solutions using edge intelligence to communicate with energy customers in real-time to bring down their energy bills, thus avoiding wastage of energy and resources.
- Smart metering and hyper-personalization: Smart metering with in-home displays will help residential and commercial energy consumers keep a tab on their energy consumption rate. The projected growth in the smart metering segment in India is creating a demand for intuitive interactions with energy customers using AI/ML. A growing market is foreseen in India for hyper-personalization solutions, using real-time communication systems and robotic process automation (RPA) to enhance the user experience.
There is a growing list of opportunities in the power sector in India. New technology adoption, focusing on sustainability and IT-OT integration are creating opportunities in diverse areas such as SCADA, GIS, ERP, smart grids, predictive maintenance, smart asset analytics, remote monitoring and visualization, cloud computing, cybersecurity, big data, industrial IoT, and AI/ ML.
In fact, RE proliferation will encourage sustainable technologies of the future like automated demand response (ADR), distributed energy resources management system (DERMS), digital twins, AR/ VR technology, AI-based modeling, and forecasting to name a few.
Another huge opportunity is ERP migration to a cloud-based platform. Since many Indian utilities are using SAP ISU, there is a growing future market on SAP ISU migration on the S4HANA platform and cloud-computing technologies. The need for bandwidth to support these technologies and real-time systems will spur the demand for 5G in India. Opportunities are emerging in the mobile computing front to enhance digital experience, workforce management, SaaS, and technology-on-the-go.
Opportunities are emerging in mobile computing front to enhance digital experience, workforce management, SaaS, and technology-on-the-go.
A positive future outlook
Indian market is looking up positively to far-reaching transformation in the energy sector, and progress the sustainability agenda to achieve near net-zero targets by 2050. The future outlook for the power sector in India is expected to transform in many ways. As the country continues to adopt clean technologies, there will be a growing penetration of renewable energy into the grid, and more independent microgrids – solar, wind, biomass, battery energy storage, waste-to-energy – will continue to power communities. It is estimated that by the middle of the century, India can expect four times as much renewable energy generation as what the country has today.
By 2050, more bioenergy will be added to the energy landscape. It is estimated that liquid biofuels will surpass petroleum products is fuelling the industry and transport sector, before the mid-century. Also, there will be a big push for green hydrogen as a fuel for the industry and transport, and n carbon sequestration technologies
While the future looks promising for the Indian power sector markets, to achieve its target the country will need to rely heavily on solutions based on IoT, AI/ ML, cloud, data integration, and 5G. Driven by actions to reverse climate change, India will continue to invest in processes, technologies, end-use energy efficiency, and carbon footprint reduction. Besides, market-driven mechanisms, such as peer-to-peer energy trading, carbon pricing, congestion-based pricing, and green certificate trading will become more innovative with AI/ML technology, which will stimulate reallocation of capital and resources to fund these opportunities.
Damodaran is Director at Energy & Utility IndustryHub, Capgemini