Creating Smart Power Distribution Network

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“I feel that during the next couple of years India will be able to lay down the basic foundation for Smart Grid implementation,” says Dr Sergio Rossi, Head of Smart Grid and Peripherals, Infineon Technologies AG

Give us an overview of the Smart Grid technologies that are being developed in the world. What kinds of synergies are possible between the Internet and Smart Grid?

Smart Grid is a very broad concept which is perceived differently by different individuals and companies. Basically a Smart Grid is all about managing distribution of electricity more efficiently in order to safeguard the environment. The  Smart Grid brings much needed efficiency to the power sector. There is improvement in the overall structure of power generation and distribution. We also have better energy consumption and energy management. However, the overall implementation of the Smart Grid solutions is based on a range of cutting edge technologies, which are capable of controlling the energy flow and allowing seamless communication between all the stakeholders involved.

What kind of synergy is possible between the internet and the Smart Grid?

The communication infrastructure of the internet can be leveraged by Smart Grid, so that the level of interactivity between different stakeholders gets enhanced. Consumers can control the amount of electricity they consume by staying connected to the Smart Grid. As one way communication was made more democratic by the internet, in the same way, energy is no longer delivered from one major source to the citizens. Rather, it is much like there are many different energy centres, as every citizen has the ability to share energy with other citizens.

Tell us about the Smart Grid Semiconductor Solutions that Infineon has developed.

Infineon has been involved with Smart Grid for past ten years. Our semi conductors and our transistors have been used in several major projects, around the world. Our semi conductors have been placed in 400 MW BARD Wind Park, in Germany. When it comes to solar energy, the solutions from Infineon are displaying very high efficiency in power conversion from DC to AC. This is necessary to inject the power generated from the  solar tunnel into the grid. In North America Infineon semi conductors are being used in major solar parks. Systems for smart metering and smart forms might be more relevant to India at this point of time. We have invested a lot on the development of low cost energy measurement and monitoring systems.

What would be the probable market size of Infineon solutions in India during the next four or five years?

Infineon has just entered the Indian market, and we are positive about the business prospects. The market size of our products depends upon the government’s policy on the implementation of Smart Grid technologies. Taking into account the vast potential of a country like India, where the majority of the population is young and the economy is booming, we are definitely eyeing revenues of more than $100 million in a year.

Internet is prone to hacking, so do Smart Grids present a security threat? What kind of security should be there to safeguard Smart Grid from cyber-attacks?

Security is definitely a major area of concern, for consumers as well as private entities. The issue of security in Smart Grid can be looked at from three different angles – privacy protection, tampering of metres and hacking relatedincidents. There is no dou bt that the privacy of the consumers has to be protected. Meters have to be foolproof so that there is no scope for tampering. However, in case any hacking takes place, the effect of it will be much more alarming than the electricity bill of any particular household. There is also the possibility of misuse of grid components by hackers associated with terrorist groups. A study reveals that if a terrorist group gets the ownership of smart meters of even two blocks of households, they can cause a massive blackout in much wider area. Till date, the world has been able to avoid any major destruction due to Smart Grid technology. However, there is always the fear that the terrorists might be able to hack the system and cause massive problems. I am of the opinion that the governments should be very strict about the tight security settings of the Smart Grid.

In your opinion, what would be the greatest benefit(s) of implementing a Smart Grid system in India?

In India, there is a huge gap between demand and supply of energy. In order to make energy accessible to all citizens, energy should be deployed more efficiently. A more reliable energy distribution system and reduction in distribution related losses will be conducive for a much better economic environment.

How important is 4G broadband access to Smart Grid technology? 4G is now spreading across India; will this give a new impetus to transmission companies to switch over to Smart Grid systems?

Communication is the key to Smart Grid. A few parameters have to be kept in mind while implementing smart grid technology. Amongst them are factors like reach and responsiveness, reliability and cost. These parameters can be fulfilled by 4G systems, as they can facilitate communication and data exchange at very high speeds. Hence 4G will definitely have a positive impact on Smart Grid.

What kind of initiatives should the government of India come up with to enable further growth in the business potential of SmartGrid companies like Infineon? Tell us about your expectations from the government.

Under the Chairmanship of Sam Pitroda, a Smart Grid taskforce has been created. This is a very good starting point. India has the advantage of learning from the mistakes of other countries. The mistake that most countries made was implementing Smart Grid technology in a haphazard manner and not abiding by any systematic master plan. However, before India makes major moves in the Smart Grid sector, it has to find a cure for the weakness in the distribution space. The Government has to come up with practical policies to enable a speed implementation of Smart Grid systems.

In your opinion what will be the year of Smart Grid in India?

I feel that during the next couple of years India will be able to lay down the basic foundation for implementation of Smart Grid. And during the next two to three years, there will definitely be a much wider implementation.


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