As chief executive officer, Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) and Convergence Energy Services Limited (CESL), Vishal Kapoor’s key focus areas are smart metering and energy efficiency. In an interview with Power Line, he spoke about the current state of the power sector, the areas that need attention with regard to energy efficiency, smart metering, and the bottlenecks in electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure. He also talked about EESL’s key priorities, achievements and future plans. Excerpts…
What is your assessment of the current state of the power sector?
The power sector in India has undergone a significant transformation in recent years, making impressive strides towards providing the population with reliable, affordable and sustainable energy. We successfully moved from a power-deficit nation to a power-surplus one by adding 175 GW of capacity in the past nine years. Globally, we are ranked fourth in installed renewable energy capacity, with 43 per cent of our total installed capacity coming from renewables. Under the Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojana, as many as 28.6 million households in both urban and rural areas have received electricity connections. According to the International Energy Agency, this has been the fastest expansion of access to electricity in the world. Under the revolutionary Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LED for All programme, EESL helped in reducing the prices of LED bulbs by almost 90 per cent between 2014 and 2019. Further, the Revamped Distribution Sector Scheme (RDSS) was introduced with the aim of enhancing power distribution efficiency. As a result, distribution losses for discoms have significantly decreased – from 21.5 per cent in financial year 2020-21 to 16.5 per cent in financial year 2021-22.
India’s power sector has not only overcome significant challenges, but has also set a noteworthy example for the rest of the world. Achievements such as universal electrification, the rapid expansion of renewable energy capacity, improvements in the distribution infrastructure and the promotion of energy efficiency are testaments to India’s remarkable journey of progress and resilience.
What are the key areas that need attention with regard to energy efficiency? Are we doing enough to double energy efficiency by 2030?
The primary challenge lies in the visibility and awareness of energy efficiency projects. Unlike large-scale renewable energy projects such as wind and solar, these projects often lack the prominence that comes with visible signs of economic progress. This disparity in recognition needs to be rectified through awareness campaigns and education, highlighting the tangible benefits of energy efficiency for both the environment and the economy. Another significant hurdle is securing investments and financing for energy efficiency projects. The relatively modest budgets associated with these projects may not entice investors who perceive higher risks. To encourage more substantial investments, efforts should be made to reduce perceived risks and ensure better access to financing options. This includes incentivising private sector involvement through innovative financial mechanisms.
Aggregating energy efficiency projects is a strategy that can enhance their appeal. By bundling projects of similar nature and scope, aggregation offers benefits such as increased market demand visibility, reduced costs through scalability and enhanced attractiveness to investors. This approach also simplifies the process of channelling finance to energy service companies (ESCOs) and project offtakers.
Technical complexities surrounding the measurement and valuation of energy efficiency projects present another challenge. Standardising measurement methods and simplifying these technical aspects can go a long way in promoting wider adoption. Moreover, innovations in technology are crucial for the development of more efficient products and systems, advancing energy efficiency.
Creating a dedicated marketplace for energy-efficient products and services is a promising initiative. Such a marketplace would offer consumers a wide range of products, including appliances and lighting, while also serving as a platform for ESCOs to showcase their services. This centralised approach can simplify access to comprehensive energy-efficient solutions, encouraging greater adoption.
Addressing these key issues is crucial for achieving the goal of doubling energy efficiency by 2030. It requires a multifaceted approach involving governments, businesses and individuals working together to realise the environmental and economic benefits of energy efficiency.
What are the key bottlenecks in scaling up EV charging infrastructure?
In India, charging infrastructure continues to be one of the leading detractors affecting the adoption of EVs. The Indian government’s efforts to expand the EV charging network have yielded favourable results, with 6,586 public charging stations being operational, as of March 2023. Given the remarkable 40 per cent annual growth in EV adoption in India, it is anticipated that around 106 million EVs will be sold annually by 2030. In order to maintain the optimal ratio of one charger for every 40 EVs, India must undertake the installation of over 400,000 charging stations each year, resulting in a cumulative count of 1.32 million chargers by the designated year. However, a charging station represents only a single component within the broader framework. Numerous other elements must converge to establish a resilient infrastructure in India. Supporting the shift towards EVs and renewable energy sources necessitates the establishment of a sustainable infrastructure. This encompasses the integration of renewable energy, energy storage systems and smart grid technologies to meet the increasing demand for charging, and to foster a more environmentally friendly transportation ecosystem.
Further, the viability of EVs for long-distance travel relies heavily on fast-charging solutions. Fast-charging stations, capable of delivering high voltage charging, significantly reduce charging time, alleviating range anxiety for EV owners. Therefore, the strategic placement of fast-charging stations along highways, major travel routes and rest areas is essential to support long-distance travel and improve the overall convenience.
The lack of a common app for locating chargers; the variety of payment options (such as QR codes and radio frequency identification); issues such as vandalism and theft of parts at public charging stations; and the unavailability of land for charge point operators are other challenges hindering the scaling up of EV charging infrastructure.
“Creating a dedicated marketplace for energy efficient products and services is a promising initiative.”
What is your outlook for smart metering in the country? What are your plans for the segment?
Smart meters are crucial components of the modern power sector, playing a critical role in addressing challenges posed by the evolving energy landscape and the goal of providing uninterrupted 24×7 power supply to every citizen. In line with this objective, we, in collaboration with our joint venture partner IntelliSmart, have achieved a significant milestone by deploying 3.6 million smart meters across Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Bihar, Rajasthan, and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands under the Smart Meter National Programme. Going forward, we aim to maintain a portfolio of over 7 million meters, and are actively engaging with other states to expand our reach.
The digitalisation of the power grid offers a multitude of benefits for all stakeholders in the energy ecosystem. Globally, power utilities are increasingly embracing digital technologies as a central element of their business strategies.
As we know, smart meters eliminate manual errors in meter reading, thereby ensuring billing efficiency along with accurate and time-bound capturing and processing of information. Ensuring the accurate measurement of end consumption is of paramount importance. This precision is crucial for effectively managing service delivery in alignment with customer expectations, and for ensuring that the energy we provide is promptly compensated through timely payments. Likewise, in the context of subsidy provisioning, it is essential to demonstrate the accurate delivery of energy and the collection of due subsidies from the government.
Smart meters will not only facilitate the integration of clean renewable energy into the grid, but will also stimulate innovation in business models, create fresh revenue streams and bring utility providers closer to their customers by better understanding of their needs and preferences.
What have been the key achievements of EESL in the past one year?
This year has been good for EESL. I want to underscore some of our highlights, such as the launch of our new strategy, which focuses on enabling India’s net-zero transition through energy efficiency initiatives in sectors such as lighting, cooling, heating, utility energy management, demand flexibility and electric mobility. The launch of our renewed strategy was announced at the 14th Clean Energy Ministerial in Goa.
During the event, we also signed MoUs worth Rs 7 billion with organisations such as Andhra Pradesh State Energy Efficiency Development Corporation Limited, Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council, Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (Akshardham) and CSC E-Governance Services India Limited. These partnerships are a testimony to EESL’s dedication to exploring innovative solutions to ensure energy access, clean cooking, decarbonisation and energy efficiency.
CESL, a subsidiary of EESL, is honoured to support the Government of India’s PM-eBus Sewa scheme, which aims to augment urban bus operations with a central assistance of Rs 200 billion for the deployment of 10,000 electric buses. The scheme underscores our nation’s commitment to fostering sustainable transport solutions for achieving decarbonisation ambitions. CESL has been at the forefront of efforts to deploy electric buses in India. We have been nominated as the implementing partner for the ambitious National Electric Bus Programme, which aims to deploy 50,000 new e-buses across the nation by 2027. Besides this, EESL has enabled significant efficiency improvements in an array of sectors, be it buildings, transportation, industry or energy generation. Our energy efficiency initiatives have reduced the annual energy consumption by 57 BUs, helping the country avoid a peak demand of 11,200 MW. These programmes have reduced CO2 emissions by 45.5 million tonnes annually.
What are EESL’s future plans and key focus areas? What are some of the new initiatives that you are working on?
As previously mentioned, our primary focus areas revolve around facilitating India’s transition to a net-zero future through innovative energy efficiency solutions. To achieve this, we are developing a pioneering one-stop marketplace that will offer a comprehensive range of energy efficiency solutions, products and government schemes implemented by EESL. This marketplace will have standardised agreements for both products and services, which, in turn, will help in scaling up the energy efficiency market. This approach is designed to catalyse the energy efficiency market and will be fully integrated with cutting-edge information technology. It will expedite approvals for mega-scale projects, ensuring swift implementation.
Additionally, we have ambitious plans to deploy 10 million energy-efficient fans, including three-star- and five-star-rated models, throughout India. Conventional fans equipped with single-phase induction motors typically consume 70-80 W while delivering airflow at rates of 210-220 m3 per minute. In contrast, the introduction of brushless direct current fans represents a significant breakthrough, consuming a mere 35 W while achieving air delivery in the range of 220-230 m3 per minute. This innovation has the potential to slash electricity consumption by an impressive 50 per cent. Super-efficient air conditioning, electric cooking and energy-efficient motors are also major thrust areas for EESL.
To further enhance accessibility and affordability, we will harness the power of demand aggregation and bulk procurement for these energy-efficient fans. This strategic approach will not only result in price reductions but also ensure that these fans are readily available to a wider audience, making energy efficiency more accessible to the masses.
What are your top priorities for EESL?
In the past, EESL has carried out large-scale energy-efficient interventions on the demand side. Alongside these, we plan to scale up the uptake of energy-efficient appliances across the country. We aim to be the go-to solution provider for anything that is termed energy efficient.
What is your outlook for the power sector and the role of EESL in it?
The outlook for the power sector in India is one of transformation and adaptation, driven by the ever-increasing electricity demand, the imperative of environmental sustainability and the need for robust infrastructure and cybersecurity measures.
India’s electricity demand has reached record highs, driven by economic growth, climatic factors and an expanding population. This surge in demand underscores the importance of transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable resources for energy generation. India has set ambitious targets to achieve at least 50 per cent of its installed capacity from non-fossil sources by 2030. Energy storage systems will play a pivotal role in this transition, ensuring stable power supply during peak demand periods.
There is also a growing need for robust IT and cybersecurity frameworks. These frameworks are essential not only for mitigating cyberthreats but also for enhancing the overall performance and efficiency of power distribution and management. The Ministry of Power and the Central Electricity Authority have taken proactive steps by issuing cybersecurity guidelines to bolster the sector’s resilience against security threats, improve vulnerability management and safeguard critical information infrastructure.
Balancing the grid and ensuring its stability will be critical aspects of India’s power sector evolution. The integration of large-scale renewable energy sources such as wind and solar will be pivotal in achieving this balance. Initiatives such as the Unified Real-Time Dynamic State Measurement Project by Power Grid Corporation of India Limited are instrumental in enhancing grid reliability, reducing blackouts and enabling efficient power supply management. Furthermore, digitalisation and network improvements, as exemplified by the RDSS initiative, are driving the power sector towards greater robustness, reliability and resilience.
The power sector in India is on an exciting trajectory. These developments are essential not only for meeting the nation’s energy needs and contributing to global sustainability goals, but also for ensuring reliable and efficient power supply for all. At EESL, we are committed to playing a significant role in shaping this future, driving innovation and promoting energy efficiency throughout the power sector landscape.