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Feature | September 2016

The wires and cable industry in India

Growing domestic market, priority for infrastructure development, improved life-style and newer opportunities, have propelled the Indian copper industry, specially for wires and cables.

The wires and cable industry in India has come a long way, growing from being a small industry to a very large one, over the past decade. With the segment compriing nearly 40 per cent of the electrical industry in India, the increasing demand for power, light and communication has kept demand for wires and cables high. Growing at a CAGR of 15 per cent, boosted by momentum in the power and infrastructure segments. The present estimated per capita consumption is only about 0.5 kg. As GoI is focusing on ´Make in India´, the industry can grow at similar rate for the next five years.

When talking about the power sector, copper holds high significance in terms of usage and consumption. The world average per capita consumption is around 2.7 kg, with the electrical sector being the largest user of copper in India. Since copper and its alloy components play vital role in electricity generation, distribution and utilisation, 12-15 per cent p.a. demand growth in this sector is possible, if good quality is assured.

Quality of copper plays a very important role in wires i.e. use of Electrolytic Tough Pitch (ETP) grade copper wherein the purity of copper in percentage terms should be Min 99.90 per cent as per national standards, All electrical consultants and A-grade electrical contractors, while specifying makes, should ensure quality credential from independent laboratory, or else poor quality of copper used in the wires may result in safety hazard as well as energy loss. As important as it is to use good quality copper, there are various disadvantages and serious consequences of using untested copper for wiring.

Tests conducted amply prove that wires with commercial copper are not only inferior in physical properties but are also alarmingly low on electrical parameters such as conductivity. It is proved further that high level of impurities has resulted in steep increase in resistance by as much as 88 per cent. This obviously explains almost twice the temperature rise as compared to ETP copper since higher resistance cause higher loss resulting in heat. ICA India therefore strongly recommends that all concerned such as, consultants, contractors, electricians etc., should only consider using ISI certified copper wires.

To ensure that copper is duly tested and verified for safety, in India, we have IS 694 for PVC insulated wires for working voltages up to and including 1,100 V, IS 8130 for specification of conductor for insulated electrical wires and flexible cords.

Additionally, Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) issues ISI mark to all wire and cable manufacturers on compliance of minimum qualification criteria of above mentioned IS standards. The below aspects can conform adherence to regulatory norms and encourage a good quality copper output:
Strict monitoring and compliance of qualification criteria by BIS before issuing ISI mark to wire manufacturers.
BIS should ensure regular sample check of all ISI issued wire manufacturers.
Electrical consultants, A-grade contractors and project heads should approve wire makes which adhere to quality and maintaining resistance as per standards.
Test of wire samples in large, medium and small projects should be mandatory.

Growing domestic market, government´s priority for infrastructure development, copper in many end-use sectors, improved life-style, newer opportunities, etc., have all given a boost to the Indian copper industry. Going forward the demand for copper is expected more in the railways and automobile sectors.

India showed a five per cent increase in copper wire rod used in wires and cables production for 2014, which is a vast improvement on the year-on-year reduction of 0.4 per cent in 2013. In India, wires are manufactured in organised as well as unorganised sectors. The Indian power and cable industry has about a dozen producers in the organised sector, claiming more than two-thirds share of the market.

The unorganised sector constitutes a few small units. The divergence in the two segments goes beyond their unit sizes. The two sectors exhibit significant differences in quality and capacity. While the organised sector has been manufacturing high voltage and speciality cables, the unorganised sector limits itself to the relatively low voltage market. The organised segment caters also to the industrial market.

The electrical conductivity of copper is second only to silver and is 65 per cent better than aluminium, which makes it a preferred metal for the wire & cable industry. Copper being harder, stronger and more ductile, expands less and does not flow at terminations and consequently does not require periodic inspection and tightening of screws. Higher copper content in transformers improves energy performance and consequently lowers life cycle costs in most cases.

The growing trend in building, construction and automobile sectors is expected to keep demand of copper high. Understanding the copper technology involved in copper production, exploration, mining, and the uses of copper, as well as the global industry structure would impact copper mining, the environment, the various markets of copper, etc. The industry is affected by the price trends of copper, market performance, import/export scenario, the physical market trends, demand for copper, and of course, a market forecast.

GoI has made an ambitious plan. According to their Indian Electrical Equipment Industry Mission Plan 2012-2022, the government has planned to make India the country of choice for the production of electrical equipment and reach an output of $100 billion by balancing exports and imports. Requirement of electrical equipment is one of the most important inputs for the development of the power sector. The user enjoys right for safe and quality products and should be quality conscious while selecting the make.

Author: Amol

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17 Oct 2016
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