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Dr Prashant Atrey Shares NHPC’s IT & Cybersecurity’s Roadmap: In Conversation with ObserveNow

Dr Prashant Atrey

In a Hydroelectric Power Corporation, IT infrastructure plays a crucial role in ensuring smooth operations and maximizing efficiency. From monitoring and controlling power generation processes to managing vast amounts of data related to energy production, distribution, and maintenance, a robust IT infrastructure is essential. It enables real-time monitoring of power generation facilities, facilitates communication between different departments, and supports decision-making processes through data analytics and predictive maintenance algorithms. Ultimately, a well-designed IT infrastructure enhances the reliability, safety, and productivity of hydroelectric power operations. In this regard Shivani Babbar, ObserveNow interacted with Dr Prashant Atrey, Executive Director IT, NHPC.

Below are a few edited excerpts from the interview:

Can you provide an overview of your background and experience in the IT industry, particularly in the context of your role as Executive Director at NHPC?

Before joining NHPC, I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from Aligarh Muslim University, followed by a Master’s degree in Computer Aided Design from IIT Roorkee. Mid-career, I completed a PhD in Structural Engineering at Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi, focusing on FEM-based software simulation techniques. Throughout my extensive career, I achieved various milestones including digitizing design and engineering processes, implementing LANs, and introducing enterprise-level software for project monitoring. I also contributed to the development of MIS systems, IT consultancy projects, and web portals for government entities. Notably, during the Covid-19 pandemic, I facilitated remote work by digitizing processes and implementing e-office solutions. Additionally, at NHPC, I spearheaded the implementation of a new IT roadmap, focusing on ERP, IT infrastructure upgrades, and cybersecurity enhancements. I played a key role in fortifying NHPC’s cybersecurity infrastructure and establishing early warning systems for hydroelectric projects. Furthermore, I led initiatives to improve communication infrastructure, including the deployment of SDWAN and video conferencing setups, along with modernizing internal platforms such as the intranet and mobile apps.

NHPC operates in a dynamic environment. How do you see the role of IT evolving within the organization, and what strategies do you plan to implement to keep pace with technological advancements?

The role of IT within NHPC continues to evolve rapidly, driven by technological advancements and changing business needs.

IT as Strategic Enabler: IT plays a critical role in driving innovation, enhancing efficiency and enabling growth of the company. IT is no longer seen as just a support function but as a strategic enabler for achieving business objectives.

Data-Driven Decision Making: With the proliferation of data, IT is becoming instrumental in enabling data-driven decision-making across all levels within NHPC. NHPC is shifting towards a major technological change through implementation of the State of the Art “New Age ERP”. This involves implementing robust data analytics and business intelligence solutions to extract actionable insights from data.

Cybersecurity: As we all know, energy sector comes under the most critical sector. Hence, energy sector companies and in particular the government companies are always on target by cyber attackers or cyber hackers. NHPC has implemented a very stringent policy, procedures and equipment to safeguard its vital installations. In the coming year, NHPC has already planned to continuously update and upgrade its cyber security infrastructure by implementing robust cyber security measures to protect sensitive data, systems, and networks from cyber threats.

Cloud Adoption: The shift towards cloud computing will accelerate the business process of NHPC. New Age ERP will be implemented by migrating the IT infrastructure, applications, and services to the cloud. This enables greater flexibility, scalability, and cost-efficiency.

Data Governance and Management: Implement effective data governance and management practices to ensure the integrity, security, and compliance of organizational data.

Data security and privacy are paramount concerns in today’s digital landscape. How does NHPC ensure the integrity and security of its IT infrastructure and data assets?

Organizations can bolster the integrity and protection of their IT infrastructure and data assets, thus reducing the likelihood of data breaches and security incidents. NHPC has instituted various strategies encompassing People, Processes, and Technology to embrace a proactive stance toward safeguarding data privacy and security. These strategies include ongoing employee training and awareness initiatives, the implementation of a Cyber Crisis Management Plan and Cyber Security Policy, conducting risk assessments and management procedures, implementing robust authentication and access control measures, ensuring regular security updates and patch management, deploying firewalls and Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS), establishing data backup and disaster recovery protocols, managing vendor and third-party risks, maintaining security monitoring and incident response capabilities, adhering to regulations and standards, and following advisories issued by government agencies, among others.

With the emergence of new technologies like AI and IoT, how do you envision leveraging these technologies to improve NHPC’s operations and services?

The emergence of new technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) presents tremendous opportunities for improving operations. Overall, the combination of AI and IoT offers unprecedented opportunities to optimize operations, enhance services, and drive innovation across a wide range of activities in NHPC. NHPC is already using IoT devices in its “Early Warning System”. IoT devices are also going to play a lead role in Real Time Monitoring of Construction Projects and Power Stations. New Age ERP currently being deployed in NHPC is AI / BI enabled.

Lastly, considering NHPC’s vision for sustainability and environmental stewardship, how do you propose leveraging IT solutions to support these initiatives while driving operational excellence?

NHPC Limited, the foremost entity in Central Sector of India dedicated to Green Energy development, possesses comprehensive capabilities spanning from initial planning to project execution. Initially focusing on hydro projects, NHPC has now expanded its portfolio to include solar, wind, and pumped storage power plants. With an ambitious goal of achieving a 50,000 MW capacity as a Green Energy company by 2047, NHPC’s digital transformation has become imperative. Utilizing IT solutions to bolster sustainability efforts and operational efficiency stands as a pivotal strategy for NHPC’s progression. Key areas of focus include implementing energy management systems leveraging IoT sensors for real-time energy monitoring, integrating renewable energy sources into infrastructure, adopting green practices in data centers, optimizing server utilization through virtualization and cloud computing, deploying IoT sensors for environmental monitoring, and utilizing e-learning platforms to instill sustainability practices within the workforce, thus fostering a culture of environmental stewardship.