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India can profit from Swiss learnings on clean energy

Dec 04, 2018

India can potentially profit from the Swiss learnings and leapfrog inert centralized systems, says Dr Merla Kubli from University of St. Gallen and Zurich University of Applied Sciences, Switzerland.

Dr Merla Kubli from University of St. Gallen and Zurich University of Applied Sciences, Switzerland, in an interview to OneWorld South Asia, said that decentralised energy solutions are particularly promising for villages not yet connected to the electricity grid. Excerpts from the interview.

OneWorld South Asia: How are decentralised energy solutions compatible for a big country like India?

Merla Kubli: Decentralized energy solutions around solar PV, storage and wind have the power to cover electricity demand in a very efficient and local manner. Since the electricity is generated right at the place of where it is consumed, a less extended grid infrastructure is needed. Some systems can even function self-sufficient.

These properties make decentralized energy solutions attractive for various countries, independent of their size. In India with a growing electricity demand, decentralized energy solutions can contribute to covering the electricity needs in a sustainable and clean manner without producing CO2 emissions.

Decentralized energy solutions are particularly promising for villages not yet connected to the electricity grid. The avoided costs of building a grid connection could be rightly invested into developing decentralized electricity supply system.

OWSA: As India tries to widen its basket of renewable energy, how can decentralised energy solutions take the drive further?

Investments in decentralized energy bring cheap and clean energy supply solutions with local ownership. The people profit from improved living quality through less emissions and more reliable electricity supply. By locally installing renewable energies, energy becomes a tangible good that not just comes out of the plug, but is right on their own rooftop. This simple fact will empower people with a high entrepreneurial potential – and there are many in India – who will find ways to further develop these systems and develop local business models, bringing value to the community and shaping the Indian energy transition.

OWSA: What could be the main takeaway for India at the Cleantech Week?

Merla Kubli: India and Switzerland can learn a lot from each other. Both the countries face the same challenge of building a clean, sustainable and reliable electricity system for our countries, but are confronted with a different context. This has great potential for mutual inspiration.

I believe that the pilot projects currently conducted in Switzerland, as well as the research on new business models and customer preferences are of great interest to Indian energy experts. Switzerland, with a traditionally very centralized electricity supply system, faces today a strong decentralization trend. This requires adjusting the infrastructure, technology and business models to the newly emerging systems.

India can potentially profit from the Swiss learnings and leapfrog inert centralized systems by investing in energy supply systems that are already prepared to integrate decentralized energy systems.

OWSA: Is technology a challenge for developing countries like India while switching to decentralised energy solutions?

Merla Kubli: The main challenge in transitioning to decentralized energy solutions is in my view not the technology, but finding well-suited business models. Business models need to resonate well with customers’ needs and investors’ preferences, but also be robust to major changes in the electricity system.

The technology itself is readily available. Promising avenues for further development are in the domain of intelligently connecting numerous small producers with customers and the main grid, as well as integrating electric vehicles in the electricity system. India, with its leading IT specialists, has good changes to develop intelligent electricity grids.

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