Smart grids may make power sector financially viable

Smart grids, which increase the connectivity, automation and coordination between electricity suppliers, consumers and networks, will make the sector more financially viable, says an expert

Globally, smart grids are becoming more popular. Power distribution in India has also not been left untouched by this revolution in the grid system. If smart grids were to be the next big step for power distribution in India, it will make the sector financially more viable and control power theft, says an expert.

“Smart grids will make the sector more financially viable. This will help you get that much more money into the system. So with smart grids, power utilities will suffer lesser financial losses,” said Banmali Agrawala, executive director for strategy and business development, Tata Power Co Ltd.

A smart grid delivers electricity from suppliers to consumers using digital technology to control appliances at consumer homes to save energy, reduce cost, increase reliability and improve transparency. It includes all kinds of information technology—such as sensors, digital meters and a communications network.
 Among other things, a smart grid would be capable of avoiding outages, will save energy and help other green undertakings such as electric cars by encouraging use of renewable sources of energy.

With smart grids there is no need to send people to rectify things physically, in case of a power failure. A few commands from a computer at the control centre may help fix the problem or the equipment may even fix itself. Sensors on transmission lines and smart meters at customers' premises would locate the fault and smart switches then would be able to route power supply through other resources.

One of the important fundamentals in smart grids is ‘time of the day’ metering or time of usage, which involves dividing the time into different tariff slots where there would be higher rates for peak hours and lower rates for off-peak periods. With ‘time of the day’ metering, real time monitoring of the consumer’s actual consumption is possible. Mr Agrawala explains how consumption is already being monitored in some places in India. “In Delhi, we are already using it (monitoring actual power consumption) with New Delhi Power Ltd (NDPL); in Mumbai, we are using it in some areas and would like to increase it in other areas as well,” he said.

With ‘time of the day’ metering, problems like power theft could be easily tackled by both the consumer as well as the power supplier. ”Suppose if I see a family’s consumption going up all of a sudden, I should be able to call the consumer and enquire why the consumption has shot up suddenly. One can actually monitor consumption in a far more robust manner. With smart grids, you can have a far closer link with your consumer,” said Mr Agrawala.

A power import-export relation can also be established with the consumer through smart grids. Many electricity customers are installing their own electricity-generating equipment for reasons like economy, redundancy or environmental concerns. When a customer is generating more electricity than required for his own use, the surplus may be exported back to the power grid. This could prove helpful to distributors in meeting demand during peak hours.

In the exercise of distributing power, smart grids could make the system more efficient. “You can monitor the health of all the equipment that you have without actually having any people in place to keep a check,” Mr Agrawala added.
He also lists out other possible uses of the smart grid system. “We can look at the possibility of using the grid for other forms of communication,” said Mr Agrawala.
However, he points out what would be crucial in getting such a system in place, is ‘time of the day’ metering and lowering of current subsidies on energy.

“Without ‘time of the day’ metering, smart grids as a concept will not work. Secondly, the lower the subsidies on energy, the more effective will be these smart grids. The whole idea is that we want people to experience and experience the actual price of energy, before choosing a smart grid. The subsidy element has to go down,” added Mr Agrawala.

Smart grids—in the initial stages—would have a higher potential in urban areas, for power utilities. “To start with, the advantages in urban areas would be more because the potential in the urban areas to save is high and the subsidies in these areas are lesser. So if there is no subsidy, this concept of smart grids works well,” points out Mr Agrawala.
-Amritha Pillay [email protected]
 

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COMMENTS

Udit Chaudhuri

9 years ago

Nothing new in the concept or statement of need for a smart combination of local grids, distributed generation and inter-grid links, with facilities for trading, etc. Some of this was proposed in the Vickers report to our government during the First 5-year Plan. Unfortunately the Government decided to go whole-hog for only large centralised plants and dams. Micro-hydel generation from canals fed by large dams continue to get lip-service.

Even when Panchayats are empowered to facilitate local power plants, Government regulatory hurdles abound. A power line cannot even gross a road without permission from the district administration or municipal corporation concerned.

Clearing administrative hurdles and ridding the system of inter-departmental jealousies is imperative for any reform process. Otherwise we will miss yet another bus in power sector development and that will hurt the economy severely.

Big media houses tying up with individuals for TV content

Instead of producing 10 to 15 in-house shows and serials, big media houses are now tying up with individual producers and scriptwriters for good quality content

Big media houses are finding it difficult to generate good content and are now eying to tie up with well-known writers and producers, individually.
 
“You need individual creative teams for surviving in the television business. Corporates are now tying up with individual writers and local producers to create good content,” said Umesh Ray, chief executive officer and joint managing director, SP Telefilms Pvt Ltd.

Big media houses like the Reliance ADA Group and UTV as well as major TV channels are finding it easier to tie up with individuals for content rather than aligning with production houses like Balaji Telefilms Ltd. Earlier, these media houses tried to produce in-house content in collaboration with production houses, but they failed to generate revenues as well as deliver greater viewership through higher television rating points (TRPs).

Earlier in 2006, Reliance ADA Group’s unit Adlabs Films Ltd (now renamed as Reliance MediaWorks Ltd), had a tie-up with Synergy Communications Pvt Ltd—a production house owned by well-known quiz master Siddhartha Basu. The joint venture, Synergy Adlabs Media Ltd, produced some non-fiction shows like ‘Jiya Jale’, ‘Champ’ and ‘Angrezi Mein Kehte Hain’ as well as interactive shows ‘Aap Ki Kacheri’, ‘Kya Aap Paanchvi Pass Se Tez Hai?’ and ‘10 Ka Dum’.

Despite using top film stars as anchors and airing them on prime time, these shows failed to garner higher TRPs as well as capture the viewer’s mind.

Similarly, Ronnie Screwvala’s UTV, which is in the TV content business since 1991, has been unable to churn out good content lately. UTV made its mark with blockbuster daily soap ‘Shanti’ in 1994 on national TV channel Doordarshan. Later it produced some content like ‘Chakravyuh’ and ‘Saanp-Seedi’ for Zee TV, ‘Bhabhi’ for Star Plus, ‘Soni Mahiwal’ for Doordarshan and ‘Athiradi Singer’ for Sun TV.

UTV, also a major player in film production and distribution, later tied up with anchor-actor Shekhar Suman and Smriti Irani, but their joint ventures could not produce good, saleable content for TV. Last year, Smriti Irani Television Ltd (SITL), UTV’s joint venture with Smriti Irani, also known as the ‘bahu’ or daughter-in-law of the small screen, announced that it would produce a serial based on the life of Mahatma Gandhi. However, there are no signs of the serial till date.

9X, the TV channel promoted by Peter Mukerjea, former chief of Star TV India, also vanished from the scene as it could not produce appropriate and quality content to pull in viewers. Following decline in TRPs, Sony also revamped its content but is still waiting for results.

Star Plus and Zee, which also registered lower TRPs, have shown some good results after tying up with individual writers and producers. Zee has tied up with Swastik Pictures of Siddharth Tewary and Vikas Seth and is producing a daily soap called ‘Agle Janam Mohe Bitya Hi Kijo’. Swastik has also tied up with other TV channels and is producing serials like ‘Mata Ki Chowki’ and ‘Agla Janam’. Recently, Zee TV has tied up with film producer Rajshri Productions and is producing a fictional show called ‘Yahan Main Ghar Ghar Kheli’. SAB TV had also tied up with Tonny and Deeya Singh’s production house DJ’s Creative Unit for a program ‘Left Right Left’, a serial based on the lives of soldiers.

Mr Ray from SP Telefilms said, “Endemol, a UK-based digital production company, has tied up with two individual scriptwriters, Anjana Sood and Vicky Chandra, to produce ‘Sabki Laadli Bebo’ in Star Plus. SAB TV had tied up with Asit Modi’s Neela Telefilms to produce a family-oriented show ‘Tarak Mehta Ka Ulta Chasma’.

Colours, the most successful Hindi television channel, has partnered with some of the country’s leading production houses. The channel’s production partners include Endemol India (for ‘Fear Factor–Khatron Ke Khiladi’), Meenakshi Sagar Productions (for ‘Jai Shri Krishna’), Shakuntalam Telefilms (for ‘Bandhan Saath Janmon Ka’), Playtime Creations (for ‘Jeevan Saathi’), Sphere Origins (for ‘Balika Vadhu-Kacchi Umar Ke Pakke Rishtey’), Jay Pranlal Mehta (for ‘Rahe Tera Aashirwad’), Wizcraft Television (for ‘Sajid’s Superstars’) and Deepti Bhatnagar Productions for ‘Mohe Rang De’.
 
“Individual producers have responsibility for the content they produce as they need to cover the production cost and generate profits to survive and create a name in the industry. But when you are employed in a corporate you do not need to worry about performance because at the end of the month, you will get your salary,” said Mr Ray.

Five years back, big corporates were reluctant in funding individual writers or local producers and performance was a question. But now corporates are welcoming talented people and are ready to fund them. 
-Pallabika Ganguly
 

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R Sridhar

9 years ago

Very nicely researched article. Keep it up!

Indian textile exporters target fresh markets

Following tough competition from China and South Korea as well as lack of incentives, many Indian textile exporters are unwinding their positions from traditional markets like the US and the EU. These exporters are now focussing on markets like Japan, the Latin American countries, New Zealand and Australia. 

“The US market is a comfortable zone and a better bet for all of us as it offers good quality and quantity potential for textile exporters. However, due to incentives withdrawn by the Indian government, our battle with countries like China and Korea has become even tougher,” said a senior official from Nahar Spinning Mills Ltd.
 
According to the Apparel Export Promotion Council (AEPC), during the first half of the current financial year (April to September 2009), Indian garment exports tumbled 7.3% compared to last year. In October, the country's apparel exports were hit severely and declined by 17.6% to $603 million over the year-ago period.
 
Indian apparel exports to the US, the world's largest market, declined by 6.5% to $2.27 billion during January to September this year compared to $3.1 billion in the same period a year ago. However, during the same period, China's exports to the US increased by 2% to $17.20 billion while Bangladesh's exports rose 2.4% to $2.70 billion.
 
"The government must introduce fiscal relief measures to save garment exports out of India," said AEPC chairman Rakesh Vaid, adding that there are fears of the industry suffering collateral damage. "Stimulus packages and other steps announced so far have had negligible impact on the Indian apparel industry. These measures were either release of withheld benefits or the restoring of benefits withdrawn earlier."
 
With weak US markets and despite marginally better recovery signs from EU countries, the Indian textile industry is not expecting higher margins, said an official from the Synthetic and Rayon Textiles Export Promotion Council (SRTEPC).
 
Accordingly, the trend is likely to continue for another two to three years with a 2% drop in exports to these nations, the official from Nahar Spinning added.
 
Textile exporters from India are not against the idea of exporting textiles to the newer markets like Japan, Latin American countries, New Zealand and Australia but would have preferred to  enjoy their earlier privileges which the government has withdrawn, he said.
 
The government has provided better pricing for the newer markets and with less competition, the textile exports to these markets will increase, the official added.
 
“We have just started (exports) and have not rigorously entered these markets as we are to still studying and understanding them,” the Nahar Spinning official said, adding that it would take at least another six months to a year to do well in these markets.
-Aaron Rodrigues
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