Smart Management: Utilities focus on sustainable utilisation of resources

Utilities focus on sustainable utilisation of resources

With the increase in demand, emergence of alternative sources of energy and the need for better quality power, mainstreaming renewable energy and automating water distribution have assumed greater importance. Digitalisation has triggered several trends, including Industry 4.0, electric mobility and renewable energy integration. It helps in reducing the downtime of assets by 70 per cent, improving their lifetime by about 30 per cent, increasing energy efficiency by 10 per cent, lowering the overall costs and enhancing productivity. At the India Smart Utility Week 2019, specialists in the power and water utility segments came together to discuss the primary challenges, solutions and the way forward for Indian utilities.

Complete asset systems are now being deployed with sensors that help in sending data to the cloud, which is then combined with inputs from external sources that affect asset operations. Meanwhile, digitalisation is driving new innovations in the fields of augmented reality, software-defined machines, artificial intelligence and machine learning, big data, inexpensive computing, cloud computing, cybersecurity, advanced connectivity and blockchain. With high penetration of renewable energy, it now needs to be integrated with distributed sources such as storage and microgrids to cater to different areas such as island and remote communities, and commercial and industrial consumers. This will lead to the evolution of the power distribution segment. Moreover, it is also important to have the digitalised charging infrastructure in place for electric vehicles to help drivers share information on charging station availability, charging time, etc. Digitalisation of water distribution will require the inclusion of sensors in assets that can provide information on flow, leakages and other critical parameters.

The importance of increasing the contribution of renewables in the energy mix is paramount for every country. During the period between 2020 and 2050, investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency in Arab countries are estimated to exceed $400 billion, with a target of more than 70 GW for renewable energy. The Arab countries have also set an ambitious target of reaching 20 per cent of energy efficiency by 2025, with the total expected electricity demand of 300 GW by 2050. It is anticipated that the primary energy requirement will reduce by 2050 and the electricity demand will increase by 150 per cent by 2050. The countries are further involved in bringing about a social behavioural change, improving knowledge transfer, enhancing public awareness, updating the information on green technologies, addressing technical gaps and reformulating policies to enhance cooperation.

There are considerable similarities and challenges faced by the European Union (EU) and India. Both the EU and India are similar in terms of their dependency on imported energy, and this makes them highly vulnerable to global price variations. This, to some extent, has a negative impact on the gross domestic product. In such a scenario, it is imperative for both the EU and India to develop domestic resources and their renewable energy base for ensuring national energy security and energy access to all their citizens. To this end, the EU has rolled out a new package of legislations to improve the market design, decentralise generation and promote clean energy development by 2030 in Europe.

Going forward, a sound regulatory base will be needed for promoting the development of clean energy and ensuring better integration of renewable energy into the grid. For India, there is room for further dialogue at the regional and state level, as this will help in providing affordable, clean energy to its citizens. The massive integration of renewables is strategic to building a low-carbon economy. Distribution system operators are one of the key players on the front line to facilitate energy transition. This will be achieved through new uses such as electric mobility, in close coordination with all power system and market stakeholders. With the integration of renewable energy, there will be a shift from network management to system operations.

Smart water management and the impact of climate change are similar in nature. There is a strong need to develop the available renewable energy and water resources in a sustainable manner. Hydropower should also be considered as an important energy component and constraints in the segment must be addressed. All water requirements, be it for the purpose of drinking, agriculture, domestic or industrial use, as well as energy needs must be met sustainably. Smart management and water conservation are important to avoid a water crisis and need to be tackled in mission mode.