Changes at the Top: Key appointments in the past year

Key appointments in the past year

Several leadership changes have taken place in the power sector over the past 12 months. The foremost among these was the appointment of a new minister for the sector. Raj Kumar Singh took over the reins of the power and renewable energy ministries in a cabinet reshuffle in September this year. His predecessor, Piyush Goyal, is now minister for railways, besides retaining the coal ministry.

Assisting the new minister in steering the power sector is an expert team of new secretaries in the ministries of power (A.K. Bhalla), coal (Susheel Kumar) and renewable energy (Anand Kumar). Management changes were also seen in major PSUs such as the Rural Electrification Corporation, Power Finance Corporation, NHPC Limited and Coal India Limited (CIL). A few private majors including JSW Energy and Jindal Steel and Power Limited, as well as equipment majors like GE T&D and Wartsila announced senior management changes.

With the power sector experiencing new challenges and greater complexities as it pursues bigger goals including a transition to clean energy and universal electrification, a lot will hinge on the vision and support of the new industry leaders.

Power Line presents a round-up of the changes at the top in the power sector over the past year…


Raj Kumar Singh,
Union Minister of State (Independent Charge), Ministry of Power, and New and Renewable Energy

Raj Kumar Singh assumed independent charge of the Ministry of Power (MoP), and New and Renewable Energy on September 5, 2017. A 1975 batch IAS officer of the Bihar cadre, he was selected to the Indian Police Service, where he served for one year before joining the IAS. Singh is a Lok Sabha MP from Arrah, Bihar, and is a member of the parliamentary standing committees on health and family welfare, personnel, pensions and public grievances, and law and justice.

In his career so far, he has served in multiple roles of responsibility, including secretary, Department of Defence Production, from 2009 to 2011. As secretary, he ensured that production from ordnance factories, defence shipyards and other defence manufacturing facilities touched record levels. He also held the position of joint secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, from 2000 to 2005, and is known for his contributions to schemes for police modernisation and prison modernisation, and for laying down a framework for disaster management. After completing his tenure in the central ministry as secretary, he went back to Bihar. He served as principal secretary of the Road Construction Department of Bihar from 2006 to 2009 and is credited with having transformed the road network to one of the best in the country. Singh has a bachelor’s in English literature from St Stephen’s College. He also has a bachelor’s degree in law and went on to study at the RVB Delft University in the Netherlands.

Speaking to the media after assuming office, Singh said that there is a lot of dynamism in both the power and renewable energy ministries, which will be continued. He further said that he would meet all the standards of performance set by his predecessor, the new railway minister Piyush Goyal. He gave his assurance that the good work started by Goyal would be completed and the prime minister’s vision realised.

With the sector facing some significant challenges, in particular plummeting power demand, low thermal plant utilisation and lower investor confidence in renewables owing to recent actions by states to dishonour power purchase contracts, the new minister certainly has his task cut out.

A.K. Bhalla, Secretary, Ministry of Power

A.K. Bhalla is a 1984 batch IAS officer of the Assam-Meghalaya cadre. He took over as power secretary from P.K. Pujari, who retired on June 30. Prior to this, Bhalla was director general of foreign trade. He also served as additional secretary in the Ministry of Commerce.

Bhalla has wide experience across various ministries and departments of the central and state governments. The key positions held by him include commissioner and secretary, Meghalaya government; deputy secretary, Department of Mines; and  director (ports) and joint secretary (ports), Department of Shipping.

Bhalla has a master’s in botany from the University of Delhi, an M.Phil. (social sciences) from the University of Punjab and an MBA from the University of Queensland, Australia.

At the helm of the power ministry, Bhalla will now have to deal with the challenging tasks of ensuring universal electrification, reviewing power purchase agreement (PPA) norms, improving plant utilisation levels and addressing the issue of stressed assets.

Anand Kumar,Secretary, MNRE

In June this year, following a bureaucratic reshuffle, Anand Kumar, managing director (MD), National Highways and Infrastructure and Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) was appointed secretary, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). (Rajeev Kapoor, former secretary, MNRE, has been moved to the Department of Chemicals and Petrochemicals.)

Kumar is a 1984 batch IAS officer from the Kerala cadre. He has an M.Phil from the University of Delhi and an MBA from the University of Queensland, Australia. After commencing his career as assistant collector in his home cadre, he held many important positions, including special officer and additional director, tourism; secretary, finance, Government of Kerala; and under secretary, Ministry of Surface Transport, and Commerce and Industries. He has also served as deputy election commissioner in the Election Commission of India and conducted the landmark Bihar Legislative Assembly elections in 2005. He was appointed chief technical adviser for the Nigerian General Elections 2007 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). He served UNDP, Nigeria, from 2006 to 2008. Prior to joining NHIDCL, of which he was the founding MD, he served as joint secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, where he is credited with several award-winning campaigns for promoting tourism.

Although investor confidence in the renewable sector has taken a beating of late with states renegotiating and dishonouring PPA contracts, Kumar is confident about the sector meeting the ambitious growth targets. “I am positive that we will not only achieve our targets but also surpass them by 2022,” Kumar stated at a recent Power Line conference.

Susheel Kumar, Secretary, Ministry of Coal

Susheel Kumar was appointed secretary, Ministry of Coal, in November 2016, taking over from Anil Swarup.

A 1982 batch IAS officer, Kumar has 34 years of experience and has held several senior government positions. He is credited with playing a key role in developing the concept of, and later drafting, the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, which later became an act in 2016. He also held the position of chairman of the Central Pollution Control Board, where he introduced several new measures for pollution control such as the Air Quality Index. He was also India’s chief negotiator during the multilateral climate change negotiatons under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Under his leadership, the Indian team participated in the ad hoc Durban platform negotiations as well as two other subsidiary bodies of the UNFCCC, which culminated in the signing of the Paris accord.

Kumar has an M.Sc. and an M.Phil. in Physics from the University of Delhi and an MBA from the University of Birmingham, UK.

Since taking over charge, several important policies have been finalised, including the operationalisation of the coal policy, SHAKTI, for transparent allocation of coal, a 24×7 initiatives monitoring and control cell, launch of a discussion paper on commercial coal mining and review of coal grades, among others. “Coal, which used to be a scarce commodity earlier, is now abundant owing to the enhanced coal production from CIL which has improved coal supplies in the country,” he stated in a recent interview.

Gopal Singh, CMD, CIL

Gopal Singh assumed additional charge as chairman and managing director (CMD) of CIL in September 2017 after the superannuation of Sutirtha Bhattacharya. Singh has been CMD of one of CIL’s biggest subsidiaries, Central Coalfields Limited (CCL), since March 2012. He has also been heading CIL’s arm, Central Mining and Design Institute Limited, since 2012.

Singh has experience of nearly 30 years in the coal industry. After graduating from the Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad, in 1982, he started his career as a mining engineer with CCL, where he spent nearly 21 years. He is credited with streamlining CCL’s operations for better management of its resources, which has resulted in efficient operations, and better profitability and productivity. He has also worked with South Eastern Coalfields Limited, another CIL subsidiary, as director, technical, and is known for ramping up coal production from the company’s Kusmunda mines.

Singh holds a master’s degree in opencast mining (M.Tech.) from the Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad, and an MBA in management.

P.V. Ramesh, CMD, REC

P.V. Ramesh, a 1985 batch IAS officer of the Andhra Pradesh cadre, took over as CMD of REC in January this year. Ramesh took over from Rajeev Sharma, who is now CMD of PFC.

Prior to joining REC, Ramesh was special chief secretary, environment, forests, science and technology, and development commissioner with the Andhra Pradesh government. A trained doctor from the Christian Medical College and Hospital, Vellore, Ramesh has held several important positions during his professional journey of 31 years. These include principal finance secretary; principal secretary, Department of Health and Family Welfare; and commissioner of industries, Andhra Pradesh. He also headed the state reorganisation department.

As the nodal agency for two of the biggest distribution programmes – the Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY) to provide electricity to all villages and the Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY) for the financial and operational performance improvement of discoms – Ramesh has a lot on his plate. “The progress has been remarkable, in terms of not just village electrification, but also habitat and household electrification. UDAY is showing very promising results,” says Ramesh.

Another key focus area for the company is generation, especially from renewable energy sources. In the first quarter of 2017-18, the company sanctioned Rs 177 billion worth of generation projects, of which more than 60 per cent in terms of value of sanctions were made for the renewable energy segment in 2016-17. “The company is focusing on maintaining a balance between capex investments and short-term lending, and thereby quality improvement,” he says.

Commenting on REC’s role in the sector going forward, he notes, “We are a public financial company and are committed to power sector development in the country.”

Rajeev Sharma, CMD, PFC

Rajeev Sharma took over as the new CMD of PFC in October last year. He succeeds M.K. Goel, who retired on September 30, 2016 on reaching superannuation. Prior to PFC, Sharma was CMD of REC. Under his leadership, REC scaled greater heights by doubling its revenue and profits in the last five years.

Sharma sees significant growth for PFC coming from renewable financing. “The key growth drivers for the company will be enhanced growth in renewable funding, refinancing as well as transmission and distribution. There was a 47 per cent growth in our sanctions in the first quarter of 2017-18, and in disbursements, there was a growth of 66 per cent. During the first quarter in particular, there was  a sharp increase in renewable disbursements to Rs 12 billion from Rs 2.36 billion in the previous year,” Sharma stated in a recent earnings conference call to discuss the performance in the first quarter of 2018.

Sharma is considered the architect of flagship schemes like the Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY). He has more than 30 years of experience and has served in various positions in the Central Electricity Authority (CEA), Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (Powergrid) and PFC (as director, projects). While in the CEA, Sharma was involved in the design, engineering and consultancy of the 1,500  MW Nathpa Jhakri Hydroelectric project.

Commenting on the outlook for power demand in the country, Sharma notes, “More people are getting access to power through the DDUGJY, the Restructured Accelerated Power Development and Reforms Programme  and the Integrated Power Development Scheme. Further, with the government’s target of 100 per cent electrification of all households, more and more rural areas will get electrified. So, the demand for power will definitely increase and the quality of life would also improve.”

Sharma has a B.Tech. (electrical) degree and a master’s in engineering from IIT Roorkee as well as an MBA from FMS, Delhi University.

Balraj Joshi, CMD, NHPC Limited

Balraj Joshi was appointed as the new chairman and managing director of NHPC, the country’s largest hydropower producer, in September 2017. Joshi, who comes with 35 years of experience, was elevated to this position from his earlier role of director, technical, at NHPC.

Joshi has a degree in civil engineering from the Government Engineering College, Karad, Maharashtra. He also has a postgraduate degree in hydropower development and planning from the Norwegian Technical Institute in Trondheim.

Joshi joined NHPC in 1982 at a probationary executive (engineering) at the 690 MW Salal project in Jammu & Kashmir. During his time with NHPC, he has worked on many hydro projects, including Dul Hasti, Kurichu (in Bhutan), Teesta V, Teesta Low Dam III and Teesta Low Dam IV, Parbati III, Chutak, Chamera III and Parbati II. He has also been associated with NHPC’s consultancy assignments for several projects.

According to a press release by NHPC announcing his appointment, Joshi has been instrumental in developing the generic document for devising a disaster management plan for hydropower stations, which is being adopted by the CEA at the national level.

He has represented NHPC at the International Court of Arbitration for the 330 MW Kishanganga project and has recently participated in government-level meetings in Washington, D.C., on the issues of the Indus Water Treaty.

Devendra Sharma, CMD, BBMB

In April this year, Devendra Kumar Sharma was appointed chairman of the Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB), which is responsible for managing the release of water to Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan as it controls the Bhakra, Pong and other dams. He was earlier MD of the Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation.

Sharma has more than 35 years of experience in the energy sector in India and abroad. Before taking over his current job, Sharma was associated with the Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board for more than 10 years. He was instrumental in implementing and commissioning the Tala hydropower station in Bhutan, which began the Indo-Bhutan association in hydropower. Recognised for his acumen in implementing power plants, he has also been associated with Larsen & Toubro (L&T) for its infrastructure development projects.

A graduate in civil engineering from the University of Indore, Sharma pursued his interest in energy abroad. In 1982, he won the Netherlands government’s fellowship to study for a master’s in water resources engineering from the Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok. Later in his career, he attended courses in hydropower in Canada, Sweden, Hungary, Japan and Norway.

One of Sharma’s main challenges is to ensure that the water of three rivers – the Sutlej, the Ravi and the Beas – allocated to India under the Indus Treaty of 1960, is utilised and regulated in such a manner that no water goes across the international border. The other target is to operate and maintain BBMB’s power stations in such a manner that all the water released from the reservoirs of BBMB goes through the machines of powerhouses, thereby maximising power generation. Thirdly, Sharma aims to modernise the powerhouses through the deployment of new technology and best practices.

Commenting on the state of the hydropower sector, he says, “In spite of various problems, however, the significance of hydropower cannot be undermined because it is required for ensuring grid stability and flexible operation, meeting peak load requirements and for flood control.”

R.K. Verma, Chairperson, CEA

Ravindra Kumar Verma is currently  chairperson of the CEA. He is also serving as member, grid operation and distribution, CEA. Verma has nearly 38 years of experience working in different capacities in the organisation. “I feel very happy and proud to be at the helm of affairs when the power sector is in the midst of this transition. For decades we have lived in a period of shortage. It is going to take us time to change our mindset to reflect the fact that a lot of power is now available,” he says.

Verma graduated as an electrical engineer from the Delhi College of Engineering and thereafter passed the Combined Engineering Services Examination conducted by the UPSC for the prestigious Central Power Engineering Services in 1979. He joined the CEA in 1981.

As chairperson, CEA, he is responsible for the formulation of the national power policy and plans, integrated resource planning and optimisation of resource utilisation, policies for safe, secure and economic operation of the regional and national grids, techno-economic evaluation of power projects, renovation and modernisation schemes, investigation of accidents on electrical installations, environmental aspects of generation projects, monitoring of rural electrification, etc. He is also the team leader of the central team constituted by the MoP for the preparation of state-specific documents for providing 24×7 Power for All, and chairman of the technical committee of the National Smart Grid Mission. He has been associated with various committees including those for the development of the Indian Electricity Grid Code and the Indian Electricity Act, and the formulation of various government schemes.

The future of renewable energy is very bright, he notes, given the fall in the price of solar power. “It is incredible that it has come down to below Rs 2.50 per unit. Because of the contribution of renewable energy, in the future, the contribution of coal-fired generation will fall,” says Verma.


Dhirendra Veer Singh assumed charge as CMD of THDC India Limited (THDCIL) in December 2016. Earlier, he was director (technical) with the company.

THDCIL has a portfolio of 18 projects with a total installed capacity of 6,374 MW at various stages of development. Its flagship asset is the Tehri dam project, one of the country’s most important multi-purpose projects. THDCIL is also diversifying into wind and solar energy generation, and has commissioned a 50 MW wind power plant in Gujarat.

Singh has taken over the company at a critical juncture as it seeks to consolidate its position in the hydropower industry as well as expand into the wider renewable energy space. “After a professionally fulfilling journey of more than two decades with THDCIL, it is an honour to take up this new responsibility,” said Singh at the time of his appointment. “As CMD, my objective would be to ensure that THDCIL continues to work as a responsible hydropower developer, and that we can take the same focus on sustainability to all our new endeavours.”

Singh is a civil engineering graduate from National Institute of Technology, Rourkela, and has more than three decades of experience in underground works, powerhouse works, spillways, contracts, material management, rehabilitation and heavy civil construction. Before joining THDCIL, Singh worked with L&T.

He played a key role in the planning and construction of the Tehri powerhouse. He was also actively involved in the construction and planning of the spillway system of the Tehri project as well as its associated jobs like contracts and material management, and construction of buildings and roads. Singh is also credited for his leadership in fast-tracking the progress on the 4×100 MW Koteshwar hydroelectric project, which had been almost derailed by delays. He introduced several innovations in its implementation, which helped THDCIL commission the project in a record time of four years.

Private Sector

Prashant Jain, Joint MD and CEO, JSW Energy

Prashant Jain was appointed joint MD and chief executive officer (CEO) of private major JSW Energy in June 2017, replacing Sanjay Sagar. A result-oriented professional with experience of over 25 years and with a strong passion for innovation, Jain will set the strategy for JSW Energy. He is responsible for developing and executing strategic and business planning activities and overseeing all aspects of the company’s business, thereby ensuring that JSW Energy continues to be recognised as one of the fastest growing players in the energy sector.

Jain is a mechanical engineer with more than two decades of rich experience in the areas of plant maintenance, project management, corporate strategy and development, policy advocacy, and cross-border operations.

He is known to be a persuasive professional with strong techno-commercial acumen and a proven proficiency in executing key business initiatives and strategies. Some of his notable achievements with the JSW Group are steering strategic collaboration with JFE Steel of Japan; raising an investment of over $1 billion in JSW Steel Limited and helping JSW Steel in the acquisition of Ispat Industries Limited (now JSW Steel Dolvi Unit).

Prior to taking up his current role, Jain was responsible for corporate strategy, joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions, corporate affairs, information technology and investor relations for the JSW Group.

Sunil Wadhwa, MD, GE T&D India

In March this year, Sunil Wadhwa was appointed MD of GE T&D India Limited. He was earlier MD of IL&FS Energy Development Company Limited (IEDCL).

Wadhwa has over 31 years of experience in business operations, project management, finance, corporate governance, etc. He joined the IL&FS Group in 2012 after a quarter of a century with the Tatas, where his last assignment was as MD of Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited (formerly NDPL). Wadhwa’s 25-year-long innings with the Tata Group began in 1986 as chief financial officer (CFO) of Hitech Drilling Service India Limited, a joint venture of Tata Industries and Schlumberger of France, in the oil and gas drilling business. During his 10-year tenure with Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited, the company received many recognitions including the best utility of Asia, the Thomas Edison award for use of technology in the power business, and the Hall of Fame recognition for balanced scorecard implementation from Dr Robert Kaplan. The company reduced its AT&C losses from 58 per cent to around 10 per cent during his tenure.

On an individual level, Wadhwa was adjudged the most inspirational CEO in the power sector across Asia by Asia Power (Singapore) for the year 2008.

In his new role at GE T&D India, Wadhwa has identified a number of key priorities. “The company has a healthy order pipeline of Rs 82 billion. Our next priority is to take the company forward into emerging markets of digital industrial, smart cities, electric vehicle charging, storage, bulk power transmission schemes, renewable integration and stability technologies,” he says. The company is, moreover, undertaking an HVDC project for Power Grid Corporation of India Limited for transmitting 6,000 MW of power from central to northern India in two phases. The first phase has been completed and the second phase is receiving topmost attention for speedy commissioning.

Wadhwa is also focusing on steering the company through the many challenges it faces. “In current times, when the market is facing a liquidity crisis, it is critical for us to secure every rupee in order to ensure a healthy return for our investors and employees. We are also being selective while picking deals.”

On his wishlist for the new power minister, distribution reforms are number one. “Ultimately, the entire power value chain gets paid by the end-consumer through the discoms. So, distribution reforms have the potential to reform the entire sector,” he says.

Neeraj Sharma, President and MD, Wartsila India

Neeraj Sharma was appointed president and MD of Wartsila India in July 2017. He has over 30 years of experience in the energy and industrial sectors. Sharma has significant experience in leading and developing emerging markets.

Prior to this appointment, he was executive vice-president, Asia-Pacific, and member of the executive board of KONE Corporation, Finland. Earlier, he was MD of KONE India. Sharma has also held management positions with global organisations such as General Electric and Alstom.

Wartsila has delivered around 250 power plants in the country with a total output of over 3,500 MW. A key priority for the company, says Sharma, is energy storage given the thrust on renewable energy targets. “Energy storage has become an important part of every power system and Wärtsilä’s topmost priority is exactly this. Wärtsilä energy storage solutions significantly improve efficiency by increasing back-up capacity and creating new opportunities in electricity markets.”

He further adds that the future of energy is hybrid. “In some markets, renewables are competing neck and neck with traditional power generation and lowering the entry barriers for hybrid solutions. Fast-starting, internal combustion engines – integrated with energy storage – offer considerable potential for fuel and cost savings. With these innovative solutions, existing and future customers will be able to utilise energy storage technology together with traditional engine-based power generation,” he says.

Ravi Uppal, MD and Group CEO, JSPL

In a recent announcement by the JSPL Group, Ravi Uppal is stepping down as MD and group CEO of JSPL on September 2017, subsequent to the completion of his five-year term with the organisation. His successor is yet to be announced.

Uppal is an industry veteran with more than 36 years of experience, working in the engineering and infrastructure segments in India and abroad. Prior to joining JSPL, he was whole-time director and president and CEO for power at L&T. Prior to L&T, he was president, global markets and technology with the ABB Group, member of the group executive committee of the ABB Group, Zurich, Switzerland, and chairman of ABB India. He was also founding MD and country manager of Volvo India.

Uppal is known to have successfully set up several new businesses and turned around low-performing units in the past. An alumnus of IIT Delhi and IIM Ahmedabad, Uppal also has an advanced MBA from Wharton.