India has a power grid that is ripe for renovation and transformation. More than a third of the nation’s grid electricity is lost to power theft and inefficiencies, and that doesn’t include the half of the population that has no grid electricity at all. For those who do, daily blackouts are a common occurrence, and major system-wide failures, like last year’s blackout that left 600 million people in the dark, point to long-term challenges in matching power supply with booming demand.
All of these problems spell opportunity for the smart grid industry. After years of stalled-out attempts to drive investment into grid transformation, India’s central government is now in the midst of its Restructured Accelerated Power Development and Reform Programme, or R-APDRP, which is directing roughly $10 billion over the coming years to grid modernization.
But India’s smart grid efforts likely won’t play out like those we’ve seen in Europe and North America. Specifically, the failures of India’s previous grid renovation projects have driven today’s R-APDRP program to start with systems to diagnose distribution grid losses in cities and towns across the country, along with proven progress in lowering those losses, before bigger investments can go forward.
In other words, big deployments of smart meters, distribution automation systems and other smart grid gear won’t get funding until that critical benchmarking and diagnosis framework is in place. That means that India could see a much bigger upfront role for the kind of system integration and data analysis work that many U.S. and European utilities are just now starting to add to their multi-million-dollar AMI and DA deployments.
And, while that indicates opportunities for U.S., European and Japanese grid and IT firms in these fields, it also includes a major role for India’s IT giants like Infosys, Wipro and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), the IT arm of Indian conglomerate Tata Group.
Out of the eighteen Indian states now engaged in R-APDRP projects, TCS is managing the IT infrastructure for thirteen of them, Sumit Kumar Ray, head of the Center of Excellence for TCS’ Utilities Business Unit, told me in an interview last week.