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It’s time for the electric grid to smarten up in India

  New Delhi: September 5, 2016

In general, the smart grid is still a foreign concept for most Indian consumers.

A study from McKinsey estimated that the smart grid has the potential of delivering approximately $190 billion in annual benefits by 2019. The majority of benefits come from grid applications that improve reliability and from smart consumer applications that enable enhanced energy efficiency, demand response, and the integration of distributed energy resources such as solar rooftops and electric vehicles.

In contrast to merely smart meters, the Smart Grid connects the whole energy grid, from generation, to transmission, to distribution, to the meters, to beyond the meters — inside our homes and buildings — and extending all the way to distributed energy resources such as solar panels, energy storage, and electric vehicles. The Smart Grid will give our energy providers visibility into the way electricity is flowing, letting them fix problems fast. It will empower us with information on how we use energy, so we can choose to use it more wisely. It is our power, our choice.

Most Indians love smart phones, but don’t love the smart grid

The Smartphone is now the most popular consumer electronics device, with higher market share than ordinary dumb phones in India.  People love smart phones and use them constantly throughout their day. People get awakened every morning by iPhone alarm, quickly check email by phone as the fog clears their brain, check calendar on my phone before starting their days, and frequently use a GPS app to navigate to the right place for a meeting, all before making a phone call.

About 25 million Indians own smart phones—that is, devices with computing power, memory, Internet connectivity and the ability to run applications. That’s an installed base that will grow to near ubiquity in the next few years as smart phone prices continue to drop. Thus, a mobile controller for home energy management is rapidly becoming a reality, faster than utilities will roll out applications (and consumers will install smart, connected thermostats) to make that possible.

Now it is time for the electric grid to smarten up, too.

Connecting smart homes to smart grids

Now finally, the smart home market is poised to take off.  According to Transparency Market Research, the global home automation market is estimated to grow from $17 billion in 2011 to $47 billion in 2018.  However, smart homes have been discussed for decades and success is not guaranteed.  Many of the solutions being offered today will fail, because they are overpriced and overly complex, under-featured and underwhelming. Home automation is the one of the latest buzzwords in an Indian real estate market that is constantly seeking to differentiate—especially in the high-end segment where buyer budgets have the room for automation.

In India, roughly 27,000 MW of electricity is wasted every day. There is a need to control thermostats and smart plugs, read electricity meters and connect with a wide range of super cool devices through the People Power Cloud Platform, which is open to all hardware and software developers.

In fact, we need to live in a smarter world where everything is connected via the “Internet of things” and instead of working in isolation, every machine, appliance, home and car should be able to share information with its neighbours, with the infrastructure and with service providers.

By allowing everything to communicate, the smart network will enable electricity suppliers to balance the peaks and valleys of demand, reduce costs, use significantly less energy and use that energy more efficiently.

The government needs to assist in getting a universal smart grid put in place, with smart meters that talk to a home device like a TV or PC so that users can easily see what their energy use is. If the government does help spread awareness through mandated smart meter installations and similar initiatives, then smart home technology could easily become accepted – and demanded – by consumers.