Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on December 5, 2009
On the eve of the Copenhagen conference was a two-day meeting in Beijing about the smart grid in China. Check out the Cleaner, Greener China blog for some interesting analysis of the event, which included speakers from companies like IBM, ABB, Alcatel-Lucent and Enel.
Estimates vary on how much the Chinese are going to be spending to modernize their electricity grid, but the presence of execs from those companies is an indication that multinationals see big opportunities to take advantage of Beijing’s smart-grid push. At the same time, companies are also keen on getting a piece of the action in India, where governments are also making ambitious plans to build up smart grids. According to Kristian Steenstrup, research vice president at Gartner, “there’s enormous activity going on in India; every one of the states is simultaneously building up smart grids.”
So which Asian giant has the edge? According to Steenstrup, China has more of a top-down approach to smart grids that should make it easier for the Chinese to move quickly. In China, there are only a handful of power companies and grid operators; in India, there are lots of different players across the country. When it comes to the electricity infrastructure, it’s “easier and better to coordinate if you have fewer parties and more centralized control,” Steenstrup says. “I think there’s more potential with the Chinese approach to leverage successes across different areas and sectors.” For some industries, a decentralized approach works well, and certainly there are businesses where Beijing’s grip stifles innovation: Chinese consumers are not well served by having a choice of just three cellular operators for the whole country, for instance. If there’s one thing the Chinese really know how to do, though, it’s build infrastructure. Not many people say that about India.