Smart Grid: It’s all relative

Power lines. Photo.India’s Smart Grid Week kicks off next week. What is a smart grid from an Indian perspective?

On March 3rd, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch India’s Smart Grid Week. Alongside Ministers and technical experts, the week will enjoy the intellectual inputs of top global thinkers like Thomas Picketty and Jeffrey Sachs. 15 country delegations have been confirmed, including one from Sweden.

But what is a smart grid, from an Indian perspective? India still has 30 per cent of its population without access to electricity, and the government promises to provide electricity for all by 2020. Smart Grids are going to be an important part of a future energy Indian landscape that looks to increase access with limited additions to supply. But there are some big questions to be answered; transmission losses are currently up to 26 per cent, state electricity boards are chronically mismanaged and subject to political pressure. This was perhaps best symbolised in July 30th – August 1, 2012 when grid failure left up to 620 million households without any power.

For a country like India, a smart grid will start with proof of concept pilot projects. The Government, has put 14 pilot projects in place with tenders put forward by private giants like Reliance, TATA, and Alstom.

India is seen to be a huge potential smart grid market, with a plan to install up to 130 million smart meters in the next 10 years. In addition to more basic system upgrading, technology development will be a large part of the cost of India meeting its smart grid vision.