Interview (Venkatesh Dwivedi)

Venkatesh Dwivedi,
Director (Projects) at Energy Efficiency Services Limited

“What role can solar play in enriching our farmers'lives? What kind of projects is EESL working on in this niche?”

The agriculture sector’s demand for electricity is anticipated to double over the next decade, as it is linked to the irrigation demand for larger cropped areas, newer crop varieties, and rising mechanization. Without proper intervention, agri-subsidies will continue to hurt DISCOMs and the energy value chain.

Farm access to electricity has two challenges: ensuring farmers have access to the energy they need in the daytime and ensuring that the sector's energy demands don't further aggravate the stress of DISCOMs. Here, solar energy, which has proved itself as the star of India’s energy transition, provides a pathway.

One of the simplest ways to implement solar energy is by solarizing the agricultural feeders deployed to transmit energy to the farms by DISCOMs. A solar agri-feeder is a 1-10 MW community-scale solar power plant, which is linked to a substation. Necessitating five acres of land, the power generated by a single 1 MW solar plant can support around 350 five-horsepower pumps. Pumps connected to dedicated agri-feeders can receive 8-10 hours of reliable and sustainable daytime electricity, without farmers having to spend on installation, maintenance and operation. In the case of solar intermittency (e.g. due to cloud cover), DISCOMs can still assist the agriculture sector. And in case of low demand for irrigation and other farm functions (e.g. during monsoons), excess solar generation can be used by the DISCOMs.

Leveraging the potential of solar energy in India and recognizing the need for access to clean, cost-effective and reliable sources of energy, EESL has initiated a first-of-its-kind large-scale programme wherein existing agricultural feeders will be solarized via implementation of small solar power plants at vacant/unused lands at DISCOM substations. DISCOMs get the opportunity to integrate this solar power at an attractive tariff by signing a long-term power purchase agreement with EESL.

EESL’s business model encourages DISCOMs to install small solar power plants on vacant land of substations in India. The rollout has been done under the ESCO model, wherein EESL will make the entire investments upfront, and the cost will be recovered on a monthly basis from the accrued savings. EESL will also be responsible for operation and maintenance of the equipment for the project period.

The solarization of the substations of Maharashtra’s state utility, Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL), is expected to achieve 200 MW of annual generation capacity. This clean energy can be infused into the grid at attractive tariff via a long-term power purchase agreement. Also, this implementation will generate around 300 million units of electricity every year and will reduce CO2 emissions by 0.246 million tonnes per year.

Solarization of agriculture feeders offers many benefits. It is highly scalable, as an entire array of small solar power plants can rapidly be set up in the open or unused land of substations across India. Solar feeders also do not necessitate capital subsidy from either the State or Central government; instead, they enable reduction of the agri-subsidy. For DISCOMs, this can contribute to mitigating the high losses from agri-electricity subsidy, helping cut overall losses.

EESL also intends to develop a programme to provide a reliable source of supply to agricultural pump sets which are currently being operated by grid supply by way of solar PV based pump sets. By developing such solar PV based pump sets, farmers will be able to receive some revenue on monthly basis by selling the power to the grid for a period of 20 years.
In the proposed programme, interested farmers will be given an energy efficient pump set of same rating as their existing pump set and solar modules to power the respective pump set, around three times the capacity of the pump set i.e. for ex. For a 5 HP pump set, 15 kWp solar PV modules will be installed in their agricultural land. Solar PV enabled agricultural pump sets can irrigate the farms during the day time and farmers would not have to depend upon the DISCOM for electricity supply. The excess energy generated by the system can be exported to the DISCOM’s grid which will enable farmers to earn some revenue from the energy saved apart from reliable source of irrigation. Installation of grid connected Solar PV based Agricultural pump sets not only helps in replacement of expensive electricity from grid but also helps in reliable source of power to the farmers.

On the similar programme structured by EESL, Government of India is also coming up with a scheme known as ‘KUSUM’ where Government intends solarization of 10 Lakh Grid Connected Agriculture Pumps. Under the scheme, the government plans to develop decentralized solar energy and other renewable energy generation plants of capacity up to 2 Megawatt (MW). This would enable savings in transmission system requirement and also reduce T&D losses. EESL is one of the centralized agencies for the procurement under active consideration by the Government.  

“How do you rate India’s progress in promoting energy efficiency in buildings. Also please let Energetica India readers know about EESL’s focus on energy-efficient buildings?”

India has initiated several national missions such as the National Mission on Sustainable Habitat, and National Mission on Enhanced Energy Efficiency, that focus on scaling building efficiency. In 2007, the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) launched the Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) that establishes minimum requirements for energy-efficient design and construction for buildings with a connected load of 100 kW/120 kVA or more, and provides guidelines for building design, including the envelope, lighting, heating, air-conditioning, and electrical systems.

A revised version of the ECBC was released in 2017 prescribing energy performance standards for new commercial buildings to reduce consumption and promote low-carbon growth. It sets parameters for builders, designers and architects to integrate renewable energy sources in building design, with a goal of achieving a 50 percent reduction in energy use by 2030. While the ECBC has been developed by BEE, its implementation and enforcement are the responsibility of the state governments and urban local bodies. Presently, the code is in voluntary phase of implementation with about 22 states being at various stages of mandating it.

BEE has also introduced the star labeling programme for existing commercial buildings, which provides a label to buildings based on their actual energy performance. Further, the United Nations Development Programme UNDP, in association with BEE, is executing “Energy Efficiency improvements in Commercial Buildings” which aims to overcome barriers of the informational, capacity, institutional, and financial types. The Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance has issued instructions to all government departments for mandatory installation of LED-based lighting and energy-efficient equipment such as fans and ACs. As of now, EESL has completed such installations in over 9000 buildings under its Buildings Energy Efficiency Program (BEEP).

Moreover, EESL has partnered with USAID to develop strategies for the roll-out of scalable, market-led solutions for sustainable cooling technologies and super-efficient buildings under the MAITREE programme. Hence, EESL now offers an entire spectrum of state-of-the-art energy-efficient products and services for buildings and commercial operations under its Integrated Energy Efficiency Services Model. The aim of the new model is to deliver the maximum benefits of EESL’s expertise at a low cost to customers. Spanning energy efficient appliances, power generation technologies, metering devices and sustainable transportation, this model has the potential to enable energy efficiency at multiple points of usage.

EESL has partnered with socially and environmentally responsible public and private sector agencies to moderate energy use-related costs. Nearly 2,000 buildings have been retrofitted for Maharashtra PWD with 3,000 more in the pipeline. Efficient lighting solutions have been implemented across 75 airports for the Airports Authority of India. 400 schools of South Delhi Municipal Corporation now have advanced lighting and cooling appliances. Other organizations such as Mahindra and Mahindra, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, Airport, NITI Aayog, Coal India Limited, and Bank of Baroda, too, have leveraged EESL’s expertise in this field.

“Please explain EESL's ESCO model for energy efficiency in buildings?”

EESL’s Buildings Energy Efficiency Programme (BEEP) offers a unique solution for buildings of the government, industry, and institutions to implement and retrofit energy-efficient appliances and systems at affordable prices. EESL has applied its proven model of demand aggregation as a means of ensuring affordability for the energy-efficient appliances, the implementation, and the systems maintenance it offers. Our programme is not only unlocking energy efficiency potential at a significant scale, but also ensuring economies of scale for the appliances, systems, and services it offers. The cost effectiveness and high rates of returns in the form of savings on electricity has created a market momentum in the commercial buildings space. Promising a lifetime of energy savings, EESL has made it feasible for buildings to implement these retrofits at a significantly higher scale than before.

Under BEEP, EESL offers two attractive pathways to clients: The Energy Service Company (ESCO) model, where EESL bears the entire upfront cost, which is repaid via monetized energy savings, and Project Management Consultancy, where EESL is fully paid for its strategic input, implementation, and equipment maintenance. With a pan-India network of regional offices, EESL ensures that its clients have access to last-mile delivery and real-time availability at locations across the country.

“Please share more details on EESL's EV programme?”

EESL has been working towards removing various hurdles to facilitate the growth of electric mobility in the country. With our approach of demand aggregation and bulk procurement, we have been able to contribute to addressing significant challenges like low demand, the high upfront cost of adoption, and lack of charging infrastructure. Our objective is to create universal access to electric mobility, enable more energy savings and emission reduction for a sustainable future.

With the objective of replacing five lakh cars deployed for government service across the country, EESL launched the National E-Mobility Programme in India in 2018. The mission aims to provide an impetus to the entire e-mobility ecosystem including vehicle manufacturers, charging infrastructure companies, fleet operators, service providers, etc. We strongly believe that our robust business model can transform the EV market and create the conditions conducive to rapid EV adoption, as well as associated infrastructure and services in India.

Since electric vehicles (EVs) are a niche market in the country, there is a need to achieve scale for commercial viability. EESL has taken up the challenge of aggregating demand of EVs to test both innovation and infrastructure in the country. Through a tender, EESL has procured 10,000 cars manufactured in India at 60 percent of the prevailing cost in international markets to replace the government fleet with EVs. We have also installed 2,125 chargers.

Our programme implementation began in the National Capital Region and has now expanded beyond Delhi. E-cars and chargers have been deployed in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Haryana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The cars provide multiple benefits to the users, and officers who have used them have expressed delight at their appearance, low noise and overall comfort.

“What are your thoughts of India's global place in EV industry manufacturing, especially after the trends in Indian solar manufacturing?”

There is a need to strategically build the EV value chain and ramp up the EV manufacturing base in the country. Efforts are being made for large-scale commercialization of indigenous battery technologies, which can offer economies of scale for lithium battery manufacturing in India. Such initiatives will benefit both the battery manufacturing industry and the automobile industry. The Indian government has undertaken many initiatives to promote EV manufacturing in India. It has recently approved the National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage to encourage the setting up of large-scale, export-competitive integrated batteries and cell-manufacturing Giga plants in India through the Phased Manufacturing Programme (PMP). This will enable holistic growth of the battery manufacturing industry in India. This localization of production will enable reduction of costs of battery storage which will drive further adoption of EVs and enhance the uptake of renewable energy and storage solutions.

“How is India Inc working towards energy efficiency in the manufacturing sector?”

The Government of India has undertaken multiple initiatives to enhance energy efficiency interventions across industry sectors. Prominent among these is the Perform, Achieve and Trade (PAT) scheme which was launched by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) to reduce energy consumption and promote enhanced energy efficiency among specific energy intensive industries in the country. In the first cycle of this scheme from 2011-14, 478 energy-intensive units from eight large industrial sectors, namely thermal power plants, fertilizers’, cement, aluminum, pulp and paper, iron and steel, textiles, and chlor-alkali were given specific energy reduction targets to be achieved. According to the BEE, PAT Cycle 1 has achieved more than 30 per cent of this targeted energy saving, along with an almost 2 per cent reduction in emissions. This involved a cumulative investment of ₹24,517 crore in energy efficient technology by the industries included in PAT Cycle 1.

Further, the notification of PAT Cycle-IV for 846 DCs (designated consumers) from 13 sectors has been issued. This includes refinery, distribution companies, railways, petrochemical and commercial buildings (hotels).

As compared to the large organized industries’ sub-sector, the MSME sector continues to use conventional technologies and operating practices that are inefficient and result in higher energy consumption. Lack of data on energy consumption and other operational parameters in MSMEs, on a national scale, limits the development and implementation of focused initiatives on improving their energy efficiency. EESL, under the GEF-5 project focuses on improving energy efficiency in India’s MSME industrial sector through continued capacity building, information dissemination, and establishment of standard operating procedures to implement energy efficiency investment projects. Such initiatives are contributing to the increasing penetration of energy-efficient technologies and practices in Indian industry.

EESL has also designed the National Motor Replacement Program to encourage replacement of inefficient motors by IE-3 motors in the Indian industry through its innovative financing model. The program aims to create an enabling environment to stimulate supply for High Efficiency Motors (HEMs) adhering to minimum IE-3 standard through awareness creation, capacity building of manufacturers and developing success cases for convincing decision makers.

Interview 20/04/2019 by Moulin
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