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Over the past couple of years, the Indian power sector has changed dramatically. In terms of issues, challenges and opportunities. In good ways and otherwise.

The most significant change lies in the fact that supply seems to be exceeding demand. PLFs are decreasing. Plants are being asked to back down. As a result, many existing plants are financially stressed. Plans for new conventional capacity are being shelved.

The new capacity addition, being planned or developed, is almost entirely from renewable sources, most of it from solar. The integration of this energy into the grid creates its own challenges, from the flexibilisation of coal-fired plants to increased transmission capacity, from greater storage requirements to net metering capability.

The threat from renewable energy is not the only challenge facing coal-fired plants, which provide almost four-fifths of the total power produced. The implementation of new environmental norms will require substantial new capital investment. Some operators may decide to decommission their older plants rather than incur this cost.

The demand for power, meanwhile, seems to have slowed down. It is growing at a rate lower than the GDP, probably a result of improving energy efficiency and decelerating manufacturing growth. There is hope that the focus on rural electrification, 24x7 supply, affordable power for all, Make in India and electric vehicles will reverse this trend. There are still many parts of the country where power is available only for a few hours a day. And the per capita consumption is still far too low for a country with aspirations.

Discom finances have certainly been helped by UDAY. Debt and interest costs have been sharply reduced, leading to lower operating losses. But further progress can only come from the rationalisation of tariffs and a reduction in T&D losses, areas where the discoms have been lagging of late.

We need to change our approach to planning in light of all the disruption that we have seen in the sector. We will also need policy and regulatory interventions to address the new challenges, and for the further development and evolution of the power market.

With these new challenges will come new opportunities – for new technologies, new business models and even new players.

The objective of the Power Line Summit 2017 is to provide a top-level view of the road ahead for the Indian power sector issues, challenges and opportunities. The summit will feature the viewpoints of all key stakeholders-developers, utilities, policymakers, regulators, technology providers and financiers.

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