‘We have helped in bringing innovative energy services’
An interview with Dr Rahul Walawalkar, President & MD, Customized Energy Solutions and Executive Director – India Energy Storage Alliance.
Customized Energy Solutions
Solutions in the field of energy
What are the services provided by CES? Who are the customers and how exactly do the services help these customers?
Customized Energy Solutions (CES) is one of the fastest growing energy consulting and services companies, with head office in North America for the past 19 years. CES works with over 500 clients across the value chain of electricity industry globally. We started our India operations as Customized Energy Solutions India Pvt Ltd in 2010. We work with commercial and industrial customers to help reduce their energy costs through better utilisation of the energy markets and emerging technologies. We have helped in bringing innovative energy services such as demand response and energy storage to India. We are pioneers in exploring integration of latest technologies such as energy storage, microgrids as well as smart grid maturity model.
CES assists clients in managing and staying ahead of the changes in the wholesale, retail electricity, renewable and natural gas markets. It offers best-in-class hosted software solutions and consultative services focused on optimising energy market operations. CES manages over 7 GW of generation and demand response, and is committed to promoting economic development through the advancement of transparent, efficient and non-discriminatory practices in the energy markets.
CES empowers clients by helping them better understand and manage the inner workings of energy markets and emerging technologies. CES believes that India has an opportunity to leapfrog in adoption of energy storage, microgrids and electric transportation technologies for transforming grid in coming decade. To help in this transition, CES launched the India Energy Storage Alliance in 2012 to bring together various stakeholders and create awareness about these emerging technologies.
These services work best in deregulated markets. Are the markets in India deregulated in the true sense? There seems to be disconnect between generation and distribution companies?
In most States of India deregulation is implemented where generation, transmission and distribution are separate businesses and different entities are responsible. Deregulation is meant to create independence in operation between generation and distribution companies to encourage competition. India also has national energy exchanges where customers can purchase power and generators can sell power. Unfortunately, some of the regulations such as open access are facing significant challenges in most of the States. Also current regulations do not provide sufficient enforcement for power quality and reliability. CERC has been considering introducing regulations for ancillary services and has already started procuring operating reserves. We anticipate in next 6 to 12 months rest of the ancillary services such as frequency regulation will be introduced.
CES works in electricity and natural gas – what are the synergies at play here?
CES provides value-added natural gas support services for generation dispatch and large-customer consumption to minimise costs and optimise assets. It has developed energy purchasing and price-risk strategies to minimise costs. As an agent, CES can purchase natural gas from client-approved suppliers to meet generator dispatch and/or large end-use requirements.
Required normal and intraday pipeline nominations are performed to coincide with regional grid operators’ generation dispatch and manage any LDC/pipeline imbalances to minimise costs. CES generation services customers benefit by close coordination of both gas and power scheduling by the CES Market Operations Center. Pipeline and supply invoices are reviewed and reconciled for accuracy and customised reports are developed to meet client’s internal needs. CES will incorporate asset management strategies such capacity release and any storage assets into daily and monthly purchase strategies and arbitrage opportunities to help offset supply costs. CES will optimise supply, transportation and storage to meet generation dispatch or large commercial/industrial requirements. The 24-hour Market Operations Center insures any gas Operational Flow Orders (OFOs) or emergencies are handled expeditiously, including weekends and holidays and also provides our customers with 24-hour access for operational changes. Coordination with CES Generation Services insures optimisation of both fuel utilisation and power sales.
Is evacuation of solar/wind power still a problem in certain states, or is there total grid connectivity now?
Wind farms in India are largely concentrated in States such as Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat. Even within these States, only selective sites offer high wind energy potential. Due to this concentration of generation assets, and limited evacuation arrangement of energy, there is still congestion/curtailment of energy generated from these power plants. Similar situation looms for some of the Solar Parks also.
However, with the SECI (Solar Energy Corporation of India) taking a lead on the new solar projects for which contracts have been awarded recently, the grid evacuation has been envisaged and the capacity has been identified/allocated considering the Transmission/Distribution constraints. We believe that these new solar/wind projects may not have to face curtailments due to Grid connectivity/availability.
At the same time, there is increasing awareness that wind-solar-storage hybrids can help optimise the costs for transmission and distribution upgrades and also improve utilisation while providing better grid resiliency against natural and manmade disasters. CEA is considering requirements for integration of storage with large solar and wind farms for addressing challenges of grid integration.
With the government seriously promoting e-mobility, the need to increase power generation through diverse methods is only going to increase, a problem not unique to India. Are we prepared?
The Government of India has clearly decided to prioritise electric vehicles with a goal of having 100% EVs by 2030. Depending on how the charging infrastructure is created and associated policies are developed, this may or may not require substantial new generation capacity, as e.g., with 100 GW of anticipated solar capacity added by 2022, India is expected to have a net load curve which has sufficient capacity for taking additional load during afternoon. If we can have sufficient public charging facilities which can be used for charging EVs during the day, then this can actually solve a problem of low net loads during the times when maximum solar energy is being produced.
Niti Aayog is working on developing various scenarios, and India Energy Storage Alliance (IESA) has also recently launched an initiative, MOVE, to focus on creation of robust EV and charging infrastructure in India. Energy Storage is a key component of this and there are number of ways in which EV adoption could be transformative for the grid. With better tariff structures and use of right storage technologies in EVs, we could also use EVs as distributed storage and provide grid balancing services. This transformation will not only help in greening the transportation fleet by reducing diesel/petrol consumption and associated emissions, but will also help in greening the grid if EVs are used for better integration of renewable resources in grid.
The quest for breakthrough solutions continues. How promising are the prospects for companies like Bloom Energy?
This is an exciting time for energy industry. The pace for innovation as well as speed for commercialisation is rapidly increasing. There are multiple areas witnessing significant improvements such as energy storage, demand response and fuel cell technologies. Bloom Energy has a promising fuel cell technology and we are following the progress. The challenge for companies like Bloom is not only to keep making improvements in their own technology, but also trying to keep up with the pace of commercialisation that is taking place in energy storage area, which can potentially be an alternate technology for same application.
Within energy storage technologies, Li-ion batteries have witnessed almost 90% cost reduction in past 10 years, while more than doubling the energy density and cycle life. The pace of improvements in fuel cells has been slower. There are definitely areas such as transportation where fuel cells are still seen as a promising technology, particularly in Europe and Japan. So we will continue to watch the progress. As IESA, we are trying to work on removing barriers for deployment of both energy storage and fuel cell technologies. So we wish best for all emerging tech companies and look forward to working with them to help transform electric grid in India in coming decade.