Saurabh Kumar is the Managing Director of Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), a joint venture of public-sector undertakings under India's Ministry of Power. The company's UK JV, EnergyPro Assets Limited (EPAL), recently emerged as Britain's fastest-growing Indian company in the 2020 'India Meets Britain Tracker'. In this interview with 'India Global Business', Kumar analyses this success story as he lays out the company's future plans to build on the UK-India energy partnership for sustainable growth in India and globally.
What are the key factors behind EESL EnergyPro Assets' fast-paced growth?
Through EnergyPro Assets, we have crafted a global brand that consorts closely with Prime Minister Modi's appeal for fostering local businesses. It is a testament to our vision of building a world-class energy service business that delivers economic, environmental, and social benefits locally. The success of EPAL also marks a significant stride towards achieving India's overall energy transition, aided by the exchange of technology and best practices between India and the UK. Adhering to the motto of being vocal about local with global aspirations, EPAL was at the top of the list of the fastest-growing 842 India-UK companies in the Grant Thornton and CII tracker.
What are the key areas of collaboration between India and the UK in this field?
The JV, between EESL and British impact-focussed energy efficiency firm EnergyPro Asset Management (EPAM) has grown at a rapid clip, further reaffirming India's role as a global energy efficiency pioneer. EPAL bridges the energy transitions in India and the UK and marks an important chapter in the UK Energy Alliance endorsed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015. EPAL began its journey when EESL and EPAM joined together to acquire energy service company (ESCO) operations in the UK quickly followed by clinching a share in a grid-scale battery project in Canada. The acquisition combined the innovative business models of EESL and EnergyPro, engineering excellence of UK and together have created a win-win situation for sustainable growth of decentralised generation and cooling in India.
There is an imperative need to take a holistic view of the clean energy transitions in all economies, particularly in India where drivers of energy demand are more profound. The bedrock of such convergence stems from the requirement of balancing Ancillary Services (AS) in the grid to integral growing capacity of renewable energy (RE), surge in cooling demand, potentially large market for EVs and a resolve to digitise grid transactions on the demand side. This presents a unique opportunity to design innovative policies and regulations that enable multiple revenue streams interconnected in the seemingly independent sectors, to usher in decarbonisation and affordability. Globally, the nations that have built Ancillary Services markets are those where renewable energy injection in the grid is more than 18-20 per cent. In these countries, AS are exclusively used for balancing the grid during sudden dips and surges. This is where, we can garner key learnings from our international counterparts, the UK being one such example.
The UK has been an early mover, in terms of its energy transition. Its share of renewables has grown significantly over the years, driven chiefly by solar and wind power. Its power sector has also moved towards the mega-trend of decarbonisation, decentralisation and digitisation. This has also necessitated the need for flexible balancing of the grid. The UK has thus, created a portfolio of capacity to provide AS to balance the grid, comprising of hydro, gas-based plant and the unutilised capacities of thermal stations. Battery storage too has gained immense prominence for grid balancing and frequency regulation. India is currently in the nascent phase for setting up its AS market and can gain actionable insights from the UK's energy system. The UK model, in which the system operator procures AS through an open and transparent auction seems to be the most appropriate for India. An open and flexible market leads to greater competition, which drives down the cost. The time is now ripe for India to build its Ancillary Services market.
We are currently in the midst of an unprecedented health, social and economic crisis. The Covid-19 pandemic has spread across globally, leaving significant disturbance in its wake. The power industry is among the sectors affected. Power is one of the essential commodities in our everyday life and without power, life as we know it is impossible to sustain. During this time of the lockdown, there is consistent need of power not only for the essential healthcare institutes and services, but for the households and also for maintaining the atmosphere for work from home practice. In such challenging times, a comprehensive energy data analysis may reduce uncertainty and will ensure optimal decisions to minimise economic loss. Globally, the various governments are looking at the very immediate future: i.e. how to create jobs and boost economies. Clean energy can very well be a part of this imperative as investment in all fields of clean energy can deliver great opportunities to increase employment and economic activity.