Mission India Energy Security

Mission India: Energy Security now and for the future

By: Sanjib Pohit
The signing of Paris agreement by India, concomitant with its submission for Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), has charted out the path that India plans to adopt for energy security. While India’s plan in the past has always looked good on the paper, how far India would be able to meet the target leaves a big question mark. In addition, India’s submission to INDC fails to address how India would meet its energy security in the transportation sector.
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Historically, there exists a significant association between the energy consumption and countries’ composite indicators of human well-being, commonly known as Human Development Index (HDI). Initially, countries with low per capita energy consumption tend to have a low HDI, which starts to grow rapidly i.e., a higher HDI goes hand in hand with increased per capita energy consumption. Dubash (2012) opines that no country in history has improved its HDI without a corresponding increase in energy consumption and India cannot be any exception to this trend. At present, India’s per capita energy consumption is approximately 20 per cent of the global average. It is about 4 per cent of the USA and 28 per cent of China’s per capita energy consumption. Thus, India needs to ensure sustained growth in energy consumption in coming decades to fulfill the aspirations of her citizens.

Unlike in the past, India has, however, little leverage to increase energy consumption without looking at the consequences of the same on the emission profile. The Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), submitted recently by the Government of India to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), capture India’s position with regard to these aspects including its commitments to reduce emission intensity of the economy in the coming decades. India has committed to 20-25 per cent reduction in emission intensity by 2020. To fulfill this goal, India needs to achieve 40 per cent of electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel by 2030. Unlike in the past, these commitments have taken into account the quantum of 24 hours electricity requirement for all Indian citizens.

Energy from the renewable sector is supposed to play a major role in India in the coming decades. This is in sharp contrast to the current energy mix, which indicates that coal is the major source material for producing electricity (Fig 1).

India's installed capacity
Fig 1: India’s installed capacity as of March, 2016

The change in energy mix itself is a major challenge. India is now running one of the largest renewable capacity expansion programs in the world. Between 2002 and 2015, the share of renewable grid capacity has increased over six times, from 2 per cent (3.9 GW) to around 13 per cent (36 GW). This momentum of increase in the previous decade is to be significantly scaled up with the aim to achieve 175 GW renewable energy capacity in the next few years (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 2015). India has also decided to anchor a global solar alliance termed as the International Agency for Solar Policy and Application (INSPA), of all countries located between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. The banking on solar energy is a good idea as India is abundant with sunlight for the most part of the year. At present, a variety of schemes such as solar parks, ultra mega solar power projects, canal top solar projects and 100,000 solar pumps for farmers have been planned and are at different stages of implementation. The Indian government is also promoting solarisation of all the 55,000 petrol pumps across the country out of which about 3,135 petrol pumps have already been solarised (World Resources Institute, 2015).

According to the Central Electricity Authority (September 2016), wind energy has been the predominant contributor to the renewable energy growth in India accounting for 28 GW of the renewable installed capacity, making India the 5th largest wind power producer in the world (Central Electricity Authority, 2016). With a potential of more than 100 GW, the aim is to achieve a target of 60 GW of wind power installed capacity by 2022 (World Resources Institute, 2015).

Biomass energy constitutes about 18 per cent of total primary energy use in the country and more than 70 per cent of the country’s population depends on it (ibid).However, it is currently used in an inefficient manner with high levels of indoor pollution. A number of programs have been initiated for the promotion of its cleaner and more efficient use including biomass-based electricity generation. It is envisaged to increase biomass installed capacity to 10 GW by 2022 from the current capacity of 4.4 GW (ibid). However, India has practically taken no step to convert municipal waste to electricity/gas generation even though most of the landfill sites for dumping garbage in metros/cities are overflowing or operating near full capacity. Incidentally, in Sweden, almost the entire garbage is converted into renewable energy and a small proportion goes to landfill sites. By contrast, probably 90 per cent of municipal waste in urban India goes to a landfill site! In the process, India is paying a heavy price by foregoing an important source of energy generation as well as land in the cities. Incidentally, India has recently allocated special funds for hundred cities/metros designated as smart cities. However, government’s definition of smart cities does not factor into account smart garbage disposal. Consequently, energy generation from municipal waste is not getting due importance in India’s nomenclature.

Hydropower contributes about 46.1 GW to current (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 2015) portfolio of installed capacity, of which 4.1 GW is small hydro (up to 25 MW) and 41.99 GW is large hydro (more than 25 MW). To ensure energy security, India is now aggressively pursuing development of country’s vast hydro potential amounting to 100 GW. The focus is now on small and mini hydel projects (stand alone as well as grid connected), new and efficient designs of water mills for electrification of remote villages.

A resource poor country like India probably cannot afford to ignore nuclear power as a safe, environmentally benign and economically viable source to meet the increasing electricity needs of the country. With a 1.9 per cent share in current installed capacity, total installed capacity of nuclear power in operation is 5780 MW (World Resources Institute, 2015). Additionally, six reactors with an installed capacity of 4300 MW are at different stages of commissioning and construction. Efforts are being made to achieve 63 GW installed capacity by the year 2032.

India has performed measurably in ensuring energy security for the citizens in the liquid transportation fuels sector which faces two basic challenges, i.e. rising energy demand in the face of limited reserves and higher dependence on increasingly costlier imported crude oil. With more than 95 per cent of India’s surface transport dependent on petroleum products, the demand for transportation fuels is accelerating significantly concomitant with India’s high economic growth profile. To circumvent the problem, India launched biofuel programs a decade ago so that the country can meet 20 per cent blending target by 2017. However, this is still a dream which would take many more years to fulfill. The supply of feedstock for biofuel is so low that India could hardly meet 1 per cent blending target at present. The present government seems to show little interest in implementing this target under mission energy security.


Central Electricity Authority (CEA). 2016. All India Installed Capacity (in Mw) of Power Stations

The World Bank. 2014. Energy use (kg of oil equivalent per capita)

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). 2015. India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution: Working Towards Climate Justice

World Resources Institute (WRI). 2015. Assessing the Post-2020 Clean Energy Landscape

The author is Senior Fellow, National Council of Applied Economic Research, New Delhi. spohit@ncaer.org, spohit@gmail.com


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