The mainstreaming of renewable energy in India is leading to multiple grid integration challenges for generation and transmission utilities. The power sector has begun its digital transformation to mitigate such market disruptions. This has created opportunities for transitioning utilities to evolve new business models, and for technology providers to enable a smooth transition. In an interview with Dr Ken Haig, senior director, market development and regulatory affairs, Oracle, Renewable Watch discusses the role of digitalisation in the renewable energy sector. Excerpts…
What is your take on the digital disruptions taking place in the power utilities space in India?
The big data that is generated from smart grids can be used to increase the operational efficiency and facilitate the integration of renewable energy. But, what is more exciting is to create new interactions with end-use customers. This is so because with big data, tailored services can be provided to each customer. The data collected will also be used for reducing aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses, and increasing billing efficiency. Therefore, going forward, discoms will need to think about the possibility of leveraging this enormous amount of accurate data to provide additional services to customers and to create effective business models.
What has been Oracle’s role in facilitating energy efficiency and renewable energy?
Opower, which was started 10 years back, combined behavioural data and computer sciences to not only run analytics on data points for providing feedback to customers but also for providing behavioural insights. According to industry estimates, over the course of time, people will spend less than 10 minutes thinking about energy efficiency. Given this estimate, we have designed our Home Energy Report in a way that captures people’s attention immediately. In California, we educated solar energy prosumers about the benefits of using rooftop solar as a resource. We are also educating them to save money by using time-of-day tariffs to charge their electric vehicles.
Is the Indian market ready for these disruptions?
I think the Indian market is ready for digital disruptions. An incredible increase in the demand for energy, coupled with changing expectations of users from service providers, bodes well for the Indian energy market. The growing installations of net meters have further prepared the Indian market.
What kind of solutions can Oracle bring to facilitate the integration of renewable energy?
Utilities have a number of electrical engineers. Oracle, meanwhile, has software engineers that focus on user experience. With this pool of skilled software engineers, we can provide energy management services to discoms. On the operations side, Oracle can provide distributed resource management systems and network management systems.
Can Oracle’s experiences work in the Indian market?
There has been a remarkable increase in the integration of renewable energy in India. Our experience with Opower shows that the biggest motivator for end users to save energy is not ecological obligation, but peer-to-peer comparison. This factor is crucial in the Indian market where users are extremely price-sensitive.
What is the way forward for Oracle in the Indian market?
We are determined to help the Indian utilities with solutions in terms of demand-side management by using big data. Oracle also sees the opportunity in serving a growing number of renewable-based prosumers. We are closely working with BSES Rajdhani and are open to working with more utilities in this regard.