“The future is extremely bright”: Interview with Jitendra Kumar Agarwal

Interview with Jitendra Kumar Agarwal

ELECRAMA, the flagship industry event organised by the Indian Electrical and Electronics Manufacturers Association (IEEMA), will be held on February 18-22, 2023, at Greater Noida. The event, themed “ReImagine Energy – For Sustainable Future”, will showcase key aspects of the electrical and allied electronics industry ecosystem. In an interview with Power Line, Jitendra Kumar Agarwal, chairman, ELECRAMA 2023, discussed the key features of the upcoming event, emerging grid technologies, major issues faced by the power sector and the future outlook. Excerpts…

What are some of the unique features of ELECRAMA 2023? How will it be different from the previous editions?

ELECRAMA 2023 is a platform showcasing, under one roof, everything that is required for the energy transition from oil to electricity. It’s the biggest stand-alone electrical and allied electronics show in the world. The beauty of ELECRAMA has always been that it keeps getting better. This time, we are focusing on the perspective of new energy and sustainability. Apart from the regular stuff that we do in generation, transmission and distribution, work is also happening in the new energy and sustainability segments. In line with the theme, in the event, a lot of focus has been given to reimagining en­ergy for the sustainable future. Apart from this, we have ma­ny concurrent ev­en­ts such as ETechnxt, which focuses on the pertinent challenges of next-generation technologies; and start-up awards for power sector start-ups.

Could you tell us about the events planned at ELECRAMA 2023 in new and emerging areas such as energy storage and EV charging?

Multiple concurrent events are happening at ELECRAMA. There is a specific co-located event called ETechnxt. ELECRAMA 2023 will host the third edition of ETechnxt. The focus of this two-day conference will be on new technologies and innovations, facilitating a clean and sustainable energy transition. We are also doing a half-day conference on the capital that needs to be raised, as nothing can happen without money. This conference is for micro, small and medium en­terprises as well as large industries, discussing what kinds of investments are required in the power sector, and how this capital will be raised from the private market/institutional investors.

What is your perspective on the current state of the power sector?

We are transitioning, consumption is growing very fast and the pattern of consumption is also changing significantly. Further, the consumer has also become very demanding. The good part is that the Government of India has underst­ood this well in advance, and already a lot of work is happening in the power sector – in generation, transmission and distribution, because all these segments have to work parallelly. The consumption pattern of humankind is changing, especially in India, and accordingly, we will have to change generation, transmission and especially distribution, be­cause there is no predictability. Now that consumer predictability and requ­i­re­ments have changed, it is very difficult to judge how much electricity is needed, and when. For this, a lot of modernisation is needed in the distribution system, for which the Government of India has already taken the very forward-looking step of getting into smart grids. The first step towards smart grids is smart metering. The Government of India has made a plan to invest more than $40-$50 billion over the next three to five years under the Revamped Distribution Sector Scheme (RDSS). Under this scheme, they are revamping the entire distribution sector. This kind of planning will bring huge challenges, but also huge opportunities to the sector. So, the sector is now getting back to the normal, pre-Covid levels, and the future is extremely bright.

What are the biggest issues and challenges in the power sector?

The consumption pattern of electricity is changing and the consumption of electricity is increasing every day. With the Government of India’s dream of making India a manufacturing factory for the world, the demand for electricity is going to increase further. Thus, we ne­ed to increase generation. But, at the same time, the environment is a very big concern, so we need to have different ways of generating electricity. With re­ne­wables, we cannot have a standard pattern of generation. Therefore, we have to do a lot of modernisation to make sure that electricity is available whenever required. These are the challenges facing the country. Further, with renewables, there are issues with res­pect to storage. These are the broad iss­ues upon which the Government of India is already working. If you look at how the RDSS is devised, you will see that things are already on the ground, they are happening. As of date, 8 million-9 million smart meters have been installed in the country. This is very good progress, and things are heading in the right direction.

What, according to you, are some of the new and upcoming technologies in the transmission and distribution (T&D) segment?

In the T&D segment, a lot of information technology is being used. Almost every piece of equipment is becoming smart, such as smart meters and smart grids. Once we have a lot of data being generated by such T&D equipment, and we have two-way communication, a lot of facilities can be provided to consumers. The smarter the product, the better the services for the end consumer.

What is your outlook for the power sector in the next few years?

According to an IEEMA study, in the next two decades, more than $2 trillion of investment will be required in the power sector of India. The per capita consumption of electricity in India is 950 units, compared to 13,000 units in the US and 6,000 units in Europe. But this is the scenario when not even half of the vehicles in the country are electric. Once the tra­ns­portation sector also moves from oil to electricity, big time, the consumption of electricity is going to grow massively. So that is the kind of opportunity we are seeing. I am positive about the future of the power sector in the country and across the globe.