Overview of India’s power sector

India’s power market is the fifth largest in the world. The power sector is high on India\’s priority as it offers tremendous potential for investing companies based on the sheer size of the market and the returns available on investment capital. The current installed capacity of power plants is 132329 MW (as on March 31, 2007). Almost 55 per cent of this capacity is based on coal, about 10 per cent on gas, 26 per cent on hydro, approximately 5 per cent on renewable sources, about 3 per cent on nuclear and 1 per cent on diesel. In the past few years, there has been considerable growth in power plants based on renewable sources of energy. The current installed capacity based on these sources is about 6,200 MW of total utility capacity. An initiative to add 50,000 MW of hydro capacity by 2017 was announced in 2003. The current installed capacity, at about 32,000 MW, utilizes just over one -fifth of 150,000 MW hydro potential. The Plant Load Factor (PLF) of generating plants has improved consistently over the last 10 years. In 2005-06, the PLF of generating plants was almost 74 per cent, compared to 60 per cent in 1994-95. In the past five years, there has been a much greater emphasis on transmission and distribution reforms. The inter-regional transmission capacity has been increased to 9,500 MW. The National Grid Development Program calls for 37,150 MW of inter-regional capacity by 2012.

The government aims to provide “power to all” by 2012. To achieve that promise, it will have to add as much as 1,00,000 MW of generation capacity, cut AT&C losses substantially to below 20 per cent, rationalize tariffs and ensure that average revenue realization is greater than the cost of production. It will have to continue to push the process of reform and restructuring and ensure greater private participation, in every segment.

Automation in Power Sector

Today over total 21 per cent of electricity (theft apart) generated in India is lost in transmission and distribution. Automation techniques can be employed to reduce this loss to its minimum. After understanding the need for automation in the power sector, the government has in the Union budget of 2010, set down a plan for creating and harnessing alternative sources of power using automation. Yet, automation must be rightly implemented in this sector if India has to achieve its goals to its fullest potential. As the volume of production goes up and the drive for higher cost efficiency continues, one can anticipate that the gap in automation will be bridged in the coming year. The real challenge is to develop the right application and customize them in such a fashion that India\’s energy needs can be achieved, which requires innovation in both i.e. in technologies as well as in business models.

The best utilization of solar energy can solve this problem to maximum but again, we have to adopt and train the concerns (which are still sticking to old techniques). Automation is now being directed towards creating a \’smart grid\’, a technology popular in the West. Among others, the power ministry is looking at a system where the transmission lines can be controlled from a distance. The ministry is looking to come up with a system where one can look at switching off the power of an area without a lineman being physically present there. The country is also looking at higher electricity generation from the renewable energy sectors like solar, wind and hydro. However, the sources do not generate electricity in a continuous manner like coal-based or gas-based power generation. Blending electricity generated from renewable sources with the main source of power from coal-based power plants in the grid is a troublesome process. The ministry seeks high-end technology to solve these issues.

India has never been the best when it comes to implementation of automation technologies on many occasions. There are many reasons to it, and one of the main reasons will be the lack of the will to bring an effective combination of the old techniques in the sector of renewable energy. Government needs to setup the right policies and create the necessary awareness so that entrepreneurs are interested in adopting new technologies from other countries and will invest in India.The automation system needs to focus more on customer benefits and also needs to educate them about latest possible ways to implement them.