World as One Big Power Grid vs. Million Microgrids


At the recently concluded World Economic Forum 2018 – Strategic Outlook – Energy Systems dialogue, Piyush Goyal, India’s Minister of Railways and Coal, Ministry of Railways and Coal, articulated his grand vision of the world having one power grid. “If India can be one grid, why can’t we have one world grid, especially when the world is moving towards 24/7 power for all.” He was politely reminded by Jean-Pascal Tricoire, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Schneider Electric, that the future is moving towards decentralized micro-grids that are more efficient and cost effective.

Mr. Goyal passionately shared India’s achievements in the last 3 years especially on LED light bulbs and rapid growth in installation of renewable energy capacity. Because of aggressive and transparent procurement by Government of India the cost of LED bulb today is 60 cents (latest deal with Philips) compared to $6 five years ago. This bulb even has 30% greater illumination.

India has replaced 800 million bulbs with LED bulbs in the last three years and doing this has ensured 120 billion tons of CO2 is not emitted. On an investment of $ 1 billion, the savings is estimated to be $ 6 billion.

He also said the vision of the world moving 100% to renewable energy by 2050 is likely to be achieved much earlier going by the speed with which the world is progressing.

 Consumers will drive energy markets, not suppliers

 Jean-Pascal Tricoire, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Schneider Electric, vociferous in stating that the future of energy systems will be shaped by consumers and not by suppliers, as it has been all along. This is possible as power generation and consumption is getting decentralized and is driven by digitization. “The past no longer predicts the future,” he said.

He said his company is using India as an innovation lab for the world in its storage foray.

Mr. Tricoire noted that despite all progress, 3 billion people still have no access to clean cooking device and 1.1 billion have no access to reliable power. “Almost no money is flowing into this segment.” He wondered by not much innovation has taken place in this area. However, he sees this as a big opportunity for businesses to invest.

 Politics, not lack of capital holding up energy efficiency

Rachel Kyte, CEO of Sustainable Energy for All, and Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All, is leading the charge for less politics in energy policy. “Consumer does not want politics. She prefers secure, clean and cheap energy,” she said forcefully. What’s holding up massive efficiency gains in energy systems is not lack of capital or technology. We are tantalizingly close to transformation. Leaders should not be scared.”

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