Suresh Sugavanam, Vice President and Managing Director, UL South Asia
UL’s services to the energy sector cater to low and medium voltage switchgear and control gear products as well as renewable energy products. UL has a world class testing center at its Bangalore lab that caters to this sector and over 100 dedicated professionals that serve over 500 manufacturers in India. UL’s switchgear laboratory is one of India’s largest third party testing lab that can conduct limited short-circuit testing of products as well as help manufacturers sell their products in the US, Europe, China and Latin American markets, apart from others. We need to explore other options to ensure that our dependence of coal and oil is reduced, informs Suresh Sugavanam, Vice President and Managing Director, UL South Asia in an interaction with Electrical India…
What are solutions offered by the company catering to energy sector?
As solar and wind energy technologies become more prominent in the energy mix globally, UL has developed an advanced suite of end-to-end services to address the safety, quality and performance issues of these technologies. Our laboratory was the first private laboratory in India accredited to test MNRE requirements for PV components and systems. In the solar industry, we help manage risk by providing technical information and data for energy yield assessments (EYAs), technical due diligence, and measurements and third party inspection.
We have an exciting array of services for the wind industry as well. We provide on-site technical support that deliver quick, reliable results and reduced time-to-market. UL offers safety, performance and function testing services for the assessment of wind turbines and wind turbine components. We ensure that these services comply with regional, national and international regulations and standards, and also meet the needs of insurers, developers and investors. Our services cover many areas in project development for planning and engineering, construction and commissioning, and operations and maintenance.
Considering the challenges in evaluating operation efficiency in wind, we provide measurement services and instrumentation solutions to assess the quality characteristics and grid compliance of wind turbines and wind farms, the acoustic noise emission of wind turbines, and the performance and mechanical loads of wind turbines and wind turbine components.
In the renewable energy space, in particular, we work closely with the MNRE and allied bodies like the SECI and NIWE in lending our global experience to devise a robust country-specific standards framework for India. We work with some of the most significant players in the PV industry, including large players like ReNew Power, Suzlon Energy, Punj Llyod and Hero Future Energies. UL India can hence help the Indian renewable energy sector adapt to the highest standards.
What evolutions have you witnessed in Indian Power sector?
In which ever manner we look at it, 2017 has been a landmark year for the Indian power sector. There has been a record increase in contribution of renewable energy to the country’s energy capacity, a definite policy push in increasing access to electricity and the bold reforms to rejuvenate conventional and renewable power. The falling tariffs in both solar and wind are some of the lowest in the world, fostering keen domestic and global interest in the market. Recent data also suggests that private equity investment in renewables has increased by 46% in 2017, a healthy sign about the confidence in India’s energy transformation. India is fast emerging as the new epicenter for renewable energy – the latest announcement by the IEA that India is expected to double its renewable capacity and overtake expansion of green energy by 2022, is a major boost to the sector. The government is looking at ways to achieve energy security and sustainability rather than mere capacity addition – and this is a welcome sign. What is remarkable in the present scenario is the consultative and forward thinking approach adopted by the government to address issues that are hampering stable expansion of renewable energy, particularly, solar and wind power in India. For instance, there is now an increasing cognizance of the need to deploy a sound policy for energy storage systems to address the intermittent nature of renewable power. With the grid anticipated to grapple with the additional electricity generated through renewable energy, grid stabilization, optimization of transmission network for catering peak power demand and simultaneously controlling the vagaries of renewable power can all be achieved through energy storage.
Another noteworthy aspect that must be lauded in the government’s establishment of standards for solar equipment, enforceable from August 2018 that sets the right growth trajectory for the industry by ensuring a minimum quality level of products for installations across the country. Devised as per prevailing international norms, the new regulations provide a much needed respite to domestic module makers by ramping up their competitiveness and market value.
What kind of role does UL play to bring efficiency in operations of renewable energy sector with the government’s ambitious plans of producing 175 GW of renewable energy?
Success of India’s ambitious transition to clean power largely depends on the quality and bankability of the installations, which have direct impact on the operational efficiency of renewable projects. Even in the absence of regulatory control over these aspects, which was the case until the recent government order on standards for solar equipment, buyers and investors were keen to examine performance indicators of PV equipment when making purchasing decisions. To address these needs, manufacturers rely on non-partisan testing, inspection and certification services that help convince financial stakeholders of a product’s bankability and investment worthiness, as well as assure buyers that products are durable and can perform at the intended yield levels over the project’s planned operation time.
Considering our global leadership in meeting the testing, inspection and certification needs of the renewable energy sector, we are well armed to help Indian renewable energy sector with end-to-end professional services such as design evaluation, type testing and certification, wind measurements, energy yield assessment, technical due diligence, site classification and others.
As grid stability becomes a critical aspect with increasing capacity addition of renewable energy to the grid, UL’s Low Voltage Ride Through (LVRT) testing services have emerged as an important aspect of our services. Unlike conventional those of conventional energy, renewable energy projects are subject to voltage dips due to irregular wind flow or grid faults, thus impeding the power quality. These voltage dips in turn create transient voltage instability that eventually abates the overall stability of the wind turbine grid. LVRT describes the requirement that generating plants must continue to operate through short periods of low grid voltage and not disconnect from the grid.
UL conducts measurements and evaluations according to IEC 61400-21 for wind turbines and FGW TR3 for solar inverters/plants, to reveal the behavior of the generation unit during voltage dips and measure compliance with the corresponding grid codes such as CEA and BDEW guidelines. In light of the new regulations, UL’s test facilities in Bangalore, India are accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) and are in the process of BIS accreditation. Engaging with UL can help companies identify applicable requirements and obtain pre-compliance testing during design and development.
What opportunity does the company envisage in power sector with the Indian Government’s emphasis to bring sustainability & efficiency through the launch of 100 smart cities?
Adopting the clean technologies concept ensures optimal use of resources, promotes renewable energy solutions and calls for lower use of natural resources.
As we face massive waves of urbanization around the world, UL has been working relentlessly to advance safety in tandem with innovation in areas critical to life in a modern city – energy, buildings, transportation, and healthcare and public facilities. We partner with national standards bodies of most developed and developing countries and our experts are members of leading standards development bodies. UL has pioneered an approach to address the risk that is inherent in the development of smart cities, and make new technologies functional, reliable, and safe. Our variety of services are capable of serving smart cities in three broad areas—connectedness, safety, and The Concept of Green Cities.
In the ‘Green Cities’ criteria, we help in the sustainable deployment of renewable energy through certification of components and systems, bankability and insurability services, site assessment & plant Inspection, R&D Support, and Advisory Services.
How would you differentiate Indian energy markets as compared to global energy markets?
Even though India has become power surplus country and we have started exporting to other countries, we still have problems in terms of last mile connectivity and availability to homes and industries, mainly due to hurdles in the smooth functioning of the transmission and distribution network. Our dependence on coal based power plants is still high. At 12-15 % of total energy generation, the shift toward renewables or gas based power plants – though laudable, is less than Europe, which runs on 40% or more of renewable energy. We need to explore other options to ensure that our dependence of coal and oil is reduced. That being said, there is serious effort on part of the government to rectify the problems. The Soubhagya scheme for instance, is expected to prove to be a real boon to address the access to electricity in the rural areas. Renewable power will also gain impetus with greater focus on reliability and sustainability. Additionally, it is also aiding in job creation and development of skilled manpower.
What are your expansion plans in India with the government’s ‘Make in India’ program?
The changing regulatory scenario in India, the push for ‘Make in India’ has created a rise in demand for our services. We are dedicated to expanding our manpower, training our safety experts and enhancing our laboratory capabilities with best in class equipment and services. As the current Indian Government ramps up safety and quality standards, our scope of work is slowly evolving from helping Indian companies attain greater global market access to also enable international players to enter the Indian market.
In the renewable space for instance, we are planning to double our capacity to support manufacturers in improving quality compliance. We are also working with our global market access team around the world to ensure that manufacturers in foreign markets understand the new regulation for solar equipment in India and comply with it.
What is your outlook for 2017-18 fiscal for the power segment?
The power sector in the next fiscal undoubtedly will be dominated by a major thrust on renewables, where India may add upto 8 – 12 GW of power generation in 2018-19. The UDAY scheme for debt restructuring for DISCOMS will start bearing fruit and in a better position financially, which will help them address distribution losses. The government is seriously looking at steps to increase the reliability of renewable power. We can expect a lot of policy initiatives, regulatory reforms to improve reliability and bankability. As solar projects increasingly become grid-connected, reliability tests will ensure that these plants do not threaten to destabilize the grid.
We also see an expansion of electrical infrastructure for charging of vehicles to meet the aggressive push for electric vehicles. This will also provide impetus to the electric industry, which has been rather stagnant on innovation so far. Energy storage will also increasingly become a critical component in policy considerations for renewable energy. Over the past couple of months, the Indian Energy Storage Alliance (IESA) and UL are engaged in the development of India specific requirements for electrical energy storage systems, identifying ways in which various technologies can be integrated to the grid under Indian environmental conditions. Under the charge of the Central Electrical Authority, the Bureau of Indian Standards has recently initiated the process to create Indian standards for energy storage systems. UL is actively working with the BIS along with other public and private enterprises to share its expertise to build a robust standards regime to oversee safety, quality and performance aspects of energy storage systems in India.