An estimated 1 million people around the world are moving to cities each week. In India, its 20 people every minute.
Experts predict the world's cities will double by 2050 -- from 3.3 billion people today, to 6.4 billion in 39 years.
Synonymous with this growth is the need for sustainable, reliant resources -- the need for smarter energy. According to the International Energy Agency, World Energy Outlook, 404 million people in India currently do not have access to electricity.
Developing economies such as India are devoting millions of dollars to building and modernizing their power grids to ensure they can generate the power needed to fuel their economic expansion, while balancing the environmental impact of their growth. Smart Grid technology is a significant puzzle piece to building instrumented, interconnected and intelligent ecosystems that will support the next phase of urbanization.
Where is India positioned in the Smart Grid transformation journey?
According to the International Energy Agency, the global demand for electricity is expected to increase by 6% per year between 2006 and 2030. This will place an astronomical amount of stress on power grids worldwide. For emerging cities with populations over one billion, such as India, the need to provide clean, reliable and economical energy is severe.
Despite technology advancements, countries still face challenges such as shortages, power outages and other failures due to the consistent growth and overexertion of the grid. Additionally, many utilities are beginning to see that old business models are becoming obsolete and no longer address the sustainability, security and economic requirements of today's population.
Like most BRIC nations, India is making significant inroads in Smart Grid planning and development, leapfrogging over other countries. For example, utilities in India have taken a Demand Response (DR) approach to manage peak energy demands by remotely controlling the power load to improve utilization capacity as well as carbon emissions.
According to a new report by Lux Research solar analyst Ted Sullivan, India also will emerge as one of the leading consumers of solar energy. With government funding, Electric Distribution Utilities in India are now starting to build and pilot IT infrastructures and are implementing basic IT applications that are strong enough to support today's -- and tomorrow's -- demand.
Why is Smart Grid technology instrumental for India's economy, and how will this impact consumers?
The power grid is instrumental. Without power, there are no hospitals, no transportation and no supply chain, the economy halts. Despite the need for power, inadequate and unreliable access to energy continues to be a lingering threat to countries worldwide. This lack of access coupled with population growth and climate change is causing added stress to resource infrastructures that provide necessities such as water, food, oil and other consumables.
By improving power grid efficiencies, countries can reduce the number of new power plants and transmission lines, which in effect can save tens of billions of dollars in operating costs. How? The smart grid offers a layer of digital intelligence that provides timely information on energy consumption across various sustainable energy technologies, from vehicles to solar systems and wind farms.
This level of insight enables utilities along with consumers to automate, monitor and control the flow of energy, thereby helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, electricity costs and improve conservation. Using analytics, consumers and businesses will have the ability to manage their usage energy right down to the individual networked appliance including thermostats, security systems, home technologies and the like. This consumer empowerment will encourage better choices, which will lead to a quicker transformation in India.
Governments, regulatory bodies and utility companies in India are working to ensure that they can address current and future demands. The India Smart Grid Forum (ISGF), a public private partnership with The Ministry of Power, and the India Smart Grid Task Force have been established to create a road map for the development and deployment of smart and intelligent grid technologies. India also published the National Solar Mission in January 2010 that calls to make India a global leader in solar energy. These are only a few initiatives that are helping India become a leader in power transmission.
With continued education, new polices and technology developments, India will have the tools to increase electrical generation capacity and modernize its grids.
How adaptable is India's power infrastructure to change?
Like most countries, adding generation capacity and building additional analog utility grids is not the answer to India establishing a system that can support exponential data and population growth. In order to remain competitive within its own markets and internationally, India must evaluate its current infrastructure and implement new business models that are applicable to meet current energy demand.
New technologies, emphasis on climate change, consumer interest and policy changes are contributing to the need for transformation. India is developing new business strategies, standards and infrastructures that not only support traditional energy generation, but emerging products and services.
Utilities in India are working to transform the present system into an intelligent network with real-time communication systems and smart sensors, smart meters and digital controls in order to build a sophisticated platform. This transformation will allow energy providers to effectively manage power distribution and integrate renewable resources as demand requires. This will ensure that Indian villages too will have access to efficient, connected power.
Additionally, The Power for all by 2012, Ultra Mega Power Plants (UMPPs), Restructured Accelerated Power Development & Reforms Program (R-APDRP), Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission, and recent work by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) in India and IBM to design and plan for the country's first smart grid project are all programs currently in place to drive grid transformation in India and ensure legacy infrastructures become adaptable to this new era of power distribution.
India is a country that recognizes the benefits of a smarter planet, including the power of the smart grid and its impact on Indian people, on industrialization, and on India's economy. Given the significant inroads in smart grid planning and development India is making to leapfrog other countries, its leadership is one that should be followed.
Brad Gammons is Vice President of IBM's Global Energy and Utility Industry. In this role, he is responsible for global sales and solution development as well as sales and execution of IBM's Intelligent Utility Network growth initiative.