Thursday, May 22, 2008

Energy Infrastructure

Mr. Cherian Thomas is the Senior Director at Infrastructure Development Finance Company (IDFC), which advises the government on infrastructure development projects. He spoke about all aspects of infrastructure – telecom, transportation, roads, and energy. Due to my work with GreenGrid, I was particularly interested in what he had to say about the power industry in India. He said that right now the power companies can’t meet 15% of peak demand. We saw the effects of this when we visited Amity University, the number one business shcool in India. Even at a top school there are power problems -- we experienced several power outages during our two and a half hour stay.

He noted that this performance is actually much better than the system before the industry was “unbundled”. The Indian government decided to unbundle the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity when it came to the conclusion that it no longer had the resources to do a good job of supplying the vast population here. As it now stands, anyone can set up a company that performs one of the three functions. He said that if you have enough money you can set up a power generation plant.

While the industry has made great strides, 15% unmet peak demand is still a terrible problem. The reason he gave was unmetered connections. He said that it is commonly assumed that the poor who live in slums are the culprits of the stolen electricity. However, an intensive study has shown that not only do the vast majority of the poor pay for their electricity, they actually pay more than their counterparts in the middle and upper classes. Mr. Cherian gave the example of how a poor person will pay 10 rupees for a bucket of water, but the rich won’t pay 10 rupees for all the water they use in an entire day. The real culprits of the vanishing power are the commercial properties who know how to tap into the distribution lines and get the power for free. He also mentioned that corruption and bribes likely play a large part in the problem.

Clearly, there is an opportunity for someone who can solve these problems. One solution he mentioned was getting people to use better lighting technology. LED’s and compact fluorescent bulbs, recently popular in the United States, have the advantage of consuming far less power than a comparable tungsten light bulb. Certainly, if this country of 1.3 billion people switched to light bulbs that consume half as much energy that 15% could be met.

From my perspective there is also a great opportunity for a company to use smart meter technology to ensure 100% uptime. Smart meters can be controlled by a central authority allowing them to turn on and off a home’s or businesses power. As part of an opt-in system, a business office could let the power company turn off their air conditioner (and only the air conditioner) in times of the highest demand. The business would get credit on their electricity bill, and the power company could more effectively meet demand with the lower consumption.

In a few more years, vehicle to grid technology will allow individuals to participate in the storage and in effect, generation of electricity. This is where GreenGrid shines, and it just goes to show how viable our ideas and products will be in the future. If you’d like to read about the project, head over to our website at


Anonymous said...

sounds like your having fun...

get to a draft back from klinger... he has made progress.

Check your chargethegrid email when you can, we are going to contact him about any revisions on monday.

Lata bro

Anonymous said...

i posted that comment prior to reading this article... sounds like you are learning a lot, and it sounds like there could be quite a bit of potential for greengrid as well...

Consider it an "overseas" business trip, exploring new markets to penetrate!

take care

Anonymous said...

i miss continue to amaze me and are so unbelievably wonderful!