10 Jul 19

Public-Private pushes India electrification

Notwithstanding several well-meant initiatives from the Indian Government, vehicle electrification has not been a success worth speaking of in the South-Asian giant. Be it because of regulatory complexity, inadequate planning and execution or overly optimistic expectations, the penetration of EVs is close to zero.

Cars or mobility?

What undermines many good initiatives – and commercial aspirations from leasing companies and OEMs alike – is the focus on India’s low car-per-capita ratio (about 8%). If this were Europe in the 1950s, it would be fair to expect the ratio to quadruple in a decade or so. But it’s India in 2019, which means that there’s a potential to cope with an increasing need for mobility otherwise than by cars. If India wants to electrify, it should start with mass public transportation and infrastructure, not by adding more cars to an already unsustainable traffic grid.

Light at the end of the tunnel?

An Indian company called Energy Efficiency Services Ltd. (or EESL), a global leader in street lighting, might have understood one key element: EV will never become a success if the charging infrastructure is not developing. EESL’s plans are impressive: installing 10,000 charging stations across India in the next 2 years. But it gets better.

EESL is giving it a go without state subsidies and will be offering special deals to mobility providers, taxi operators and aggregators in order to promote EVs where they are most effective: as people transporters in city areas.

Never giving up

This is not EESL’s first attempt at creating awareness about energy efficiency. Back in 2017, the company launched a tender for 10,000 electric cars on behalf of the Indian Government. The tender led to the purchase of about 1,000 units only. Although premature and slightly naïve with regards to the complexity of state-wide tendering in India, the EESL efforts did manage to lift the EV topic to Governmental level.

Where EESL has been successful however, was in the conversion from regular street lights to LED in a pay-as-you-save model, where the municipalities spread the payment over 7 years, offset by the energy savings coming from LEDs.

Finally, the company is developing a mini-solar plant program to help farmers in remote areas. The program has kicked off in the rural parts of Maharashtra and will reach a production of 500 megawatts by the end of the year.

The future of India

Good ideas are not enough to convince investors, but EESL has a great thing going: the public lighting activities are the foundation of the company that bring in money which is being reinvested in sustainable energy services. Also, through the public lighting activities, EESL has built up a good working relationship with public instances, which is of tremendous value in complex India. If electric in the country has a chance of traction, it will be to a large extend thanks to innovation coming from companies like Energy Efficiency Services.

Authored by: Yves Helven