Back-up power solutions at infrastructure construction sites

Pankaj Jha

Pankaj Jha

Pankaj Jha explains that one of the main reasons for boom in the back-up power market in India is the demand-supply gap in power distribution wherein power deficits hover between the 3 to 10 per cent in various regions and in various seasons.


Easily accessible, clean, reliable and efficient power is a key requirement for any rapidly developing country. Today, India is an important market for back-up power as people, public services and businesses across sectors strive to deliver services and protect livelihoods.


One of the key reasons for the boom in the back-up power market in India is the demand-supply gap in power distribution. The power deficits hover between the 3 to 10 per cent in various regions and in various seasons. Also the reliability of the grid is one of the drivers for the back-up power in the country. The back-up power sector can be broadly categorised into four segments – UPS, Diesel Generators, Inverters and Batteries. The UPS segment has witnessed a consistent rise in demand owing to the rapid development of the IT sector coupled with a growing consciousness among individuals to protect costly electronic equipment which can be adversely affected by sudden power failures. Demand for diesel powered generator sets come from various sectors such as IT, telecom and construction, while inverters are primarily used in households, shops and commercial establishments.


The northern region in India is the manufacturing hub of the Indian back-up power industry, while the recent power deficit in the southern region, in particular from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala has triggered demand for reliable back-up power solutions. A shortage in coal and gas, often considered the primary raw materials for power generation, has also had an impact on the situation, as consumers become increasingly concerned about the duration of power cuts and seek alternative, reliable solutions.


This situation is providing tremendous growth opportunities for back-up power providers, with some industry commentators suggesting the market in India is about Rs.3600 crore and had seen a growth of nine percent over the previous year. This shortfall in power requirements has driven increased demand for and reliance on back-up power, delivered through a range of generator sets powered by reliable, dependable and cost effective diesel engines.


India’s 12th Five Year Plan has also identified the investment, development work and delivery programme for a new wave of power plants required to meet the ever growing domestic demand for power. However, in the interim, demand for a reliable source of power continues to provide growth opportunities for reliable and cost effective suppliers of back-up power solutions.


Reliability and durability are essential features for any trusted supplier of back-up power. The engine and generator set must be a dependable and reliable source of power; able to function at a moment’s notice. The engine must be efficient in terms of running and maintenance costs and be supported by an aftermarket service network that can respond quickly.

This has resulted in the market for diesel engines within EP, whether for prime or back-up power requirements, witnessing a significant growth. Peak power shortages across the country and the business development that is being seen, have driven a previously unprecedented demand for generator sets as a source of back-up power.


While each and every installation has its own unique challenge there are some common themes. Reliability, cost-effectiveness and product support are messages are at the forefront of people’s thoughts, and while each of these are synonymous with most global markets, there are situations that are distinct to the Indian continent.


In the usage pattern of gensets in the market there is a continuous downward trend. From the recent trends of average usage of >1000 hrs/ year the usage pattern is migrating to the 500 to 1000 hrs usage / year. While the markets still remain primarily a ‘prime’ market in genset sector, there are pockets where the ‘standby’ genset options are being looked at.


For instance, back-up power in India is very different to that in a more mature market, with generator sets in standby mode running for eight or more hours a day when brown-outs occur; a much longer period than normally associated with that mode of operation.


From a technological point of view that means the engine has to overcome the challenges posed by its application, its location, its installation and its on-going maintenance. Reliability is a key requirement and that is why mechanical engines are so predominant. These engines offer simplicity yet are extremely robust and capable of withstanding the challenging environment and conditions often imposed on them, while being technologically advanced.


The independent power sector has an important role to play in helping India to meet its energy needs, both now and in the future. There are situations where it can complement the grid; times where it can take its place and occasions when standby power is the only option available.


(The author is South Asia Marketing Manager, Perkins India.)