Featured image: Vikalp Mundra (right) and Michael Gilbert (left), at the World Utility Summit at ELECRAMA 2018.

Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl, editor of ESI Africa, spoke with Vikalp Mundra, vice president of ELECRAMA 2018 and joint MD of Ujaas Energy, on the changing utility business model.

According to Mundra, the World Utility Summit held alongside ELECRAMA delved into the role technology has played in utility business models and how utilities can take advantage of the emergence of distributed renewable energy resources to create new revenue streams.

He highlighted how 'unicorns' have positively impacted on trends within the utility industry over the past decade and his predictions of the role the companies will have in the energy industry in future.

He defined 'unicorns' as new technology companies with a market revenue of more than $1 billion.

Listen to the audio: Vikalp Mundra. Vice Chairman. ELECRAMA2018

From unicorns to electricorns

These 'unicorn' companies operate in the information technology sectors. Over the past decade, the energy industry has witnessed an increase in the number of unicorn players, according to Mundhra.

“The coming decade we project convergence of many technologies including renewables, storage IoT, AI, e-mobility. These technologies will converge at a point resulting in the development of new and many business ideas.

“The coming decade will belong to 'electricorns', utility companies who will embrace new technologies to come up with new business ideas.”

According to Mundra, transformation in the utility industry has over the past decade been characterised by increases in solar uptake.

Asked how the transformation will impact on the energy industry in rural and urban communities, Mundra explained that solar PV will change the set up of countries' energy industries: "The future of energy will be fuelled by solar".

Mundra acknowledged that to date few countries are a step ahead, while others a step behind in solar adoption; however, solar generation will increase as a result of many factors including:

  • Solar generation plants are quick and easy to build
  • Majority of the countries are blessed with sunshine, and solar is cheap and free
  • Solar capacity is easy to expand or modernise
  • Solar is DER so it can be built at the point of consumption; there is a lot of saving, which would have been used for energy distribution and transmission

Mundra urged global utilities to align their business models with emerging technologies and regulations such as carbon emission reduction policies.

“They need to know solar is a friend not an enemy to existing business models,” he stated.

“They need to take an example of the transition, which has been witnessed in the telecommunications industry. Telcos have in the past relied on fixed telephones, the coming of wirelesss phones was seen as threat but as stakeholders aligned their models and incorporated new technologies, a wide range of new revenue streams were created.”

Advancements at ELECRAMA 2018

Primarily ELECRAMA has been seen as a transmission and distribution (T&D) expo, but because of the convergence of technologies in the energy industry, electricity is no longer positioned in a silo "hence a wide range of companies from different sectors are participating in this year’s expo".

This year’s expo displayed the current status of the energy industry and how IoT tech will improve the energy industry.

The ELECRAMA expo, hosted by IEEMA, is the largest show of electricity in the world and India expo across the industry.