Over the past few years, the power sector has undergone a massive technology transformation, using smart grids and cleaner technologies. In the long term, the sector can look forward to trends such as flexibilisation, digitalisation and storage technologies, says Gerd Deusser, head, gas and power, Siemens India. In a recent interview with Power Line, he spoke about the company’s business highlights during the past year, the challenges faced by the equipment industry and the industry outlook for the next few years. Excerpts…
What is your outlook for the power sector for the next few years?
The power sector in India is undergoing a paradigm shift, contributing towards a carbon-neutral society. India, as the fourth largest carbon emitter, has committed under COP21 to reduce its emissions by 35 per cent by 2030 compared to the 2005 levels. The power sector is a major contributor and the demand for energy is expected to grow in line with the projected GDP growth over the next few years. There has been significant progress due to the implementation of several policies and initiatives such as 24×7 Power for All, the promotion of non-conventional and renewable energy (target of 227 GW capacity by 2022), improved flexibility in thermal power generation and promotion of electric vehicles. There has also been an increased focus on improving state-level transmission networks, driving the modernisation and upgradation of distribution grids. Further enhancements and possibly new policies are expected to accelerate the achievement of these ambitious goals.
We also expect progress in the implementation of policies such as the Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy and the Open Acreage Licensing Policy to benefit the sector in the future. We expect an increase in the use of digitalisation solutions to improve the efficiency and performance of the assets of power utilities and industrial operators. These drivers are expected to boost the market for electrification solutions as well as smart grid solutions to pare aggregate technical and commercial losses.
What is your assessment of the sector’s progress during the past 12 months?
The Indian power sector is very diversified in nature. Recently, increasing electrification and per capita usage have led to a growth in power consumption. Although coal remains the primary source, wind, solar and large hydro have been picking up. The sector has also seen improved awareness of technology. Digital sensors connected to physical assets, remote monitoring, additive manufacturing of spares, flexible operations and smart grid technologies for smooth renewable integration into the grid are some of the recent examples of a tectonic shift in the industry.
What are the key issues and challenges impacting the power equipment industry?
India has surplus power generation capacity but needs concrete infrastructure for supplying electricity to all who need it. However, the authorities are taking proactive steps and investing in technologies and solutions to strengthen the distribution networks. Further steps to help power distribution companies with an appropriate business model and to revive stranded assets might be needed.
The sector seems to be reviving with a decent growth rate and exports are also increasing of equipment such as switchgear, control gear, transformers and parts. Having said that, India needs to look at supercritical technologies and monitor the fuel to operate the existing thermal plants. Losses in system and service connections and theft are other issues that can be resolved by using technologies, and thereby avoid losses.
What market opportunities do you foresee in the power equipment industry in the next one or two years?
The Government of India’s visionary Power for All programme has provided a huge fillip for accelerated capacity addition. India is going through a transformation and reliable electricity will play a key role in powering ambitious infrastructure projects. Increasing electrification and industrialisation and improving infrastructure will drive growth in power consumption.
We believe this is a massive opportunity considering the demand and the renewable push and smooth integration in grids. The government is also promoting research and development to match the best in the world. This can give a huge boost to the equipment industry. High voltage technologies such as power transformers are in demand for seamless and economical power transmission. An Electrical Equipment Skill Development Council (EESDC) is also being planned to focus on the critical manufacturing skills required for the electrical machinery industry.
What were some of the significant business highlights for Siemens’ power business during the past year?
Digitalisation, globalisation, urbanisation, demographics and climate change are the forces that are shaping our world. These forces also drive Siemens’ business strategy. We are working with our customers to develop solutions to navigate these significant shifts, based on our knowhow and experience.
We help customers to meet the evolving demands of industries and societies and have a comprehensive portfolio for utilities, independent power producers, transmission system operators, and the oil and gas industry. We take pride in being the only company capable of supporting the entire energy value chain, enabling it through accelerated collaboration and co-creation as well as the strengthened collective knowhow of our people. Our recent successes stand testimony to our commitment to provide the most innovative and cutting-edge technologies for the industry. From installing technologies to optimising asset performance through digitalisation, improving the supply chain with additive manufacturing, protecting assets through cybersecurity and setting up application centres for co-creation and collaboration, Siemens has been at the forefront of bringing state-of-the-art technologies to support this energy transition.
What are the new and promising technologies that can help address the challenges in the power sector?
Going forward, we believe that investment is needed to make our existing power systems greener. We need to aim for increased decarbonisation in order to contribute to a carbon-neutral society. Therefore, the implementation of flexibilisation and efficiency improvement measures is needed. Further, sector coupling, or power-to-x, will definitely be one of the critical and interesting innovation areas. The industrial, building, and mobility sectors offer significant opportunities to shift energy allocations by better integrating their high demand and storage capacities. Hydrogen technology, along with biofuels, is emerging as one of the indispensable conversion and storage technologies for balancing demand and supply in an increasingly renewables-based energy system. They are presenting a sustainable alternative to oil and gas, given the long-term goal of decarbonising the energy sector. Another prospect for innovation lies in how we manage the complexity in the grid and seamlessly integrate traditional energy sources and renewables across generation, distribution and consumption. There is a real need to address this challenge to ensure continued reliability and realise the untapped potential of our power generation and delivery ecosystem.
We also need to leverage the power of digitalisation for the development of the power sector. By increasing automation and intelligence in the system, rich data can be translated into better and faster operational decisions as well as enhance efficiency and safety across the entire value chain. For example, service digitalisation can provide seamless monitoring of real-time conditions for optimising the uptime and performance of an installation and extending the life of mission-critical equipment. Innovative approaches like these are helping us address the challenges and provide support in the transition of the power sector.