The inertia in the legacy electricity system persists due to regulatory barriers. For instance, time-of-day electricity pricing (currently absent) could nudge consumers to use appliances in off-peak hours. This would make it more feasible for distributed renewables to supply customers without needing additional storage.
In Dwarka, New Delhi, more than a dozen housing societies have benefited from Solarise Dwarka, a programme to supply power for common areas with distributed solar installations. With 2.5 megawatts already installed, the utility (BSES Rajdhani) has received further orders for 6.5 MW. In Chhattisgarh, more than 1,000 health centres are using rooftop solar systems, saving on diesel costs and improving health outcomes (emergency services, outpatient services, pregnant women choosing to deliver children in the PHCs).
The electricity system of the future will look different from the past. Will utilities and power transmission companies passively witness the systemic disruption?
Several disruptions — in technology and business models — are occurring concurrently. First, generating power from distributed renewable energy (DRE) reduces demand on the grid. Instead of a single centralised system, technology allows for potentially millions of points of generation.
Meanwhile, global demand for stationary electricity storage, excluding pumped hydro, could rise from 400 megawatt-hour in 2015 to 50 gigawatt-hour by 2025. By flattening electricity demand curves for low- and high-demand periods, distributed storage reduces the need for peak power plants supplying into the grid, while increasing the share of renewables.
Another technological development is superefficient appliances. These include household appliances (lights, fans) and wider applications (efficient refrigeration to store vaccines or for milk chilling units). Energy-efficient motors can also power small manufacturing using DRE.