In the electric power system, switchgear is the combinations of electrical disconnect switches, fuses or circuit breakers used to control, protect and isolate electrical equipment.
Switchgears are used both to de-energize equipment to allow work to be done and to clear faults downstream. This type of equipment is directly linked to the reliability of the electricity supply.
Switchgear has to perform the function of carrying, making and breaking the normal load current like a switch and it has to perform the function of clearing the fault in addition to that it also has provision of metering and regulating the various parameters of electrical power system. Thus the switchgear includes circuit breaker, current transformer, voltage transformer, protection relay, measuring instrument, electrical switch, electrical fuse, miniature circuit breaker, lightening arrestor or surge arrestor, electrical isolator and other associated equipment.
Electric switchgear is necessary at every switching point in the electrical power system. There are various voltage levels and hence various fault levels between the generating stations and load centres. Therefore various types of switchgear assembly are required depending upon different voltage levels of the system.
Besides the power system network, electrical switchgear is also required in industrial works, industrial projects, domestic and commercial buildings.
State of Industry
The Indian MV&HV Switchgear industry is a matured, well established industry using contemporary technology to manufacture a large variety of switchgear and controlgear ranging from 6.6 KV to 1200 KV equipment.
Indigenous development of 1200 KV AC electrical equipment including switchgear in a short period of 5 years demonstrates the capability of Indian equipment manufacturers to absorb the latest technology and develop the products.
The MV&HV switchgear segment is primarily in the organized sector. However, equipment from 6.6.KV to 11KV is increasingly being manufactured by small scale units as there is not much technology / capex required at this level and most of such manufacturers are mere assemblers sourcing components at cheaper rates from China. This segment is therefore witnessing cut throat competition eroding both top-line and bottom-line. This also impacts quality and reliability of such equipment. IEEMA is striving to tighten to QR norms for sourcing such equipment based on parameters like quality, reliability, efficiency etc.
This industry segment is likely to face consolidation if anticipated demand does not materialize quickly.
The industry increased its capacity over the last several years in view of announced power addition programme which did not materialize fully leading to over capacity and intense competition. The L1 procurement system followed by Government PSUs also does not help.
The precarious financial conditions of the DISCOMs are another unwanted complication impacting the entire electrical industry including switchgear. The Government is actively looking at these issues and has come out with various programmes including financial assistance on a matching basis from the State and the rating system for enabling further loans to such entities.
However, it may take a very long time to put all this in practice as electricity is a concurrent subject and every State has its own priorities. The DISCOMs are expected to focus on the quality of power supply to the consumers which includes the safe & continuous power supply – this will increase the demand of strengthening the distribution network whereby the requirement of switchgear & equipment will go up. DISCOMs also need to focus on the safety aspects which may also need to increase the requirement of switchgear & associated items.