Interview with Vikram Gandotra, Conference Convenor, World Utility Summit
The World Utility Summit 2018 will be among the several concurrent events during ELECRAMA, the mega power T&D show that will be held during March 10-14, 2018, at India Expo Centre, Greater Noida. In this interaction, Vikram Gandotra gives insights into WUS-2018 and discusses how this global summit can help in the true convergence of the utilities business. With respect to India, Gandotra feels that the country will move towards more self-reliance and low carbonization.
What will be special at World Utility Summit 2018?
WUS-2018 which will be held from March 11 to 13, 2018 will provide a common platform to utility personnel to discuss with their peers from other geographies, solution providers, consultants, researchers and regulators and re-define the “Utility of Utilities” in the changing business environment. The summit will focus on the following six themes:
- Empowering electricity, water and food security
- Harmonizing the regulatory frame work for utilities
- Racing with technologies
- Impact of environmental regulation on Utility
- Convergence of Utility business
- Transportation electrification, storage and renewable energy integration nexus
The Organising Committee of World Utility Summit 2018 has lined up a constellation of very experienced speakers in the World Utility Summit 2018, both from India and across the globe. The Standing committee & Advisory Committee have representatives from the utilities who understand the issues being faced by them better than anyone else. This brings value in terms of the most relevant line up of speakers to raise the most important discussion points which need to be addressed.
Some of the very famous speakers already confirmed to speak at the Summit include Mr Neil Chatterjee, Chairman FERC USA, Mr Kurt Bobst, CEO RE Power Switzerland, Ms Leena Shrivastava, Vice Chancellor TERI University, amongst others.
For each of the six themes that will be extensively covered in the Summit we have excellent knowledge partners who will contribute very good base discussion papers providing direction to the deliberations.
We also have a Country Partner for the first time, which is Germany, will bring to WUS 2018 the real domain experts who understand the impact of renewable energy in the utility business. This subject also has a strong relevance to India and other countries which are adding substantial renewable energy generation sources. A half-day workshop specially for Indian discoms is planned on March 13, 2018, to discuss the implications of renewable energy into distribution networks.
Please share the challenges that utilities are facing these days.
Utilities today face challenges from all sides. On one side are the customers who aspire excellent reliability of supply with minimal outages, economic supply prices and full engagement with respect to their consumption and availability of supply. Regulators define the framework within which utilities must operate their assets and systems and regulate the tariffs. Then there are huge financial losses that several discoms are burdened with as a result of several factors, power T&D losses being one of them. The network and equipment of most utilities is old and needs to be modernized, more visibility of the real time situation and ability to control the network is required.
With the new dynamics of renewable energy pricing, there is a difficult situation with respect to long-term purchase agreements. Utilities also face the challenge that their highest paying customers could also go out of their networks by either having their own generation (e.g. rooftop) or purchase through open market transactions. The most important challenge that utilities face are workforce-related — to have a motivated and trained team with the right skills needed to manage modern digital equipment and a stable strong management team.
What is your view about evolution of the energy sector and how is the future energy world shaping?
We are seeing more and more of electrification in the energy chain. As we all have committed towards lowering the carbon emissions, we will shift from fossils to cleaner energy sources. We are seeing these new dimensions in the energy sector both in the source side (with renewables playing an increasingly major role) and consumption side (with new types of loads like electric vehicles, more gains seen with energy efficient technology and demand response), added with new elements like storage. This will lead to greater innovation in new technology and also newer business models. The sector will be very exciting and dynamic.
What is your vision for the future of the energy system in India?
India has one of the fastest growing energy markets and we will continue to grow in the foreseeable future. Electricity will play a larger role in the future energy chain in India as we will move towards more self-reliance and lower carbonization. With the expected deregulation we will see more role for newer players like intermediaries for services. With the advent of renewables we will also see newer ancillary markets and players for providing stability to grid. To serve empowered consumers, utilities will need to revamp their networks with modern technologies and also leaner management structures. Domestic R&D, product development and manufacturing will play a very important role in the future.