Friday, December 31, 2010

A Smarter Electric Grid for Bangalore, India

By Karin Rives
Staff Writer
Washington - A power company in Bangalore, India, will be exploring smart-grid technologies with the help of a $453,350 pilot study funded by the United States. The project could be a win-win for the two nations as they seek to build expertise and market share in the emerging clean energy sector.
The 12-month smart-grid study is also an opportunity for the countries to build on the Partnership to Advance Clean Energy that President Obama and India Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed in 2009.
The grant from the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) will pay a U.S. contractor to work with the Bangalore Electricity Supply Company Ltd. to explore how best to integrate smart meters and automated meter reading into an electric distribution system in the south India state of Karnataka.
USTDA links U.S. businesses to export opportunities while creating sustainable infrastructure and economic growth in partner countries - in this case by offering U.S. expertise to India as that nation builds and enhances its electric grid. The agency is now taking bids for the study.
Known as BESCOM, the Bangalore power supplier is exploring ways to deliver electricity in a more reliable and efficient way to customers in its rapidly growing service area. The company won the India Power Award in 2009 for its energy efficiency and conservation efforts.
It has also been working for several years to upgrade its system, in part with assistance from the U.S. Agency for International Development, according to USTDA's request for proposals for the contract.
The smart-grid pilot study is welcome in India, where the government is earmarking a large portion of its planned $2.3-trillion energy investment over the next few decades for renewable and clean power sources and technologies.
The Bangalore project will help India meet "its energy-efficiency goals, an issue of critical importance to Indian energy security," said Blair Hall, counselor for economic, environment, and science and technology affairs at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi. "Through the grant ... India will improve its ability to streamline electricity demand."
Large economies such as those of China and the United States are rushing to develop new technology that will help the world meet growing energy demands in an environmentally friendly way, and to gain a competitive advantage in the clean-energy technology marketplace.
In this new environment, it makes sense for the United States and India to work together, said Nishant Shah, a fellow at the policy research group Americans for Energy Leadership.
"While India has not been a major investor in clean energy innovation to date, its recent undertakings signal a shift in the right direction, he wrote in a December 2010 blog entry. "Such a pursuit on the part of India could facilitate widespread adoption of clean energy technology and be a major win for U.S. economic interests."
In November 2010, the United States and India agreed to establish a Joint Clean Energy Research and Development Center  that seeks to mobilize up to $100 million in public-sector and private-sector funding over five years. Also under the Partnership to Advance Clean Energy, the United States pledged in November to use two government-financing vehicles - the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the Export-Import Bank - to steer private sector investments in clean-energy infrastructure to India.
OPIC is providing $100 million in financing for solar, wind, hydropower, advanced biofuels and natural gas projects in South Asia, the bulk of which will be invested in India. More than $280 million in U.S. financing could eventually be channeled to the country.
The BESCOM pilot study likely will be housed in an office park outside Bangalore called Electronics City, where many of the city's information technology businesses are based, USTDA said. The state capital, Bangalore, is a thriving business community and home to 5.9 million residents.
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. )

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