Considered one of the high-performing ministers in the Narendra Modi-led government, energy minister Piyush Goyal met ministers and investors, and toured parts of Britain’s energy infrastructure in a busy two-day visit to London last week. Amid new focus on solar energy, Goyal believes coal will remain an imperative for India for the foreseeable future. He spoke on a range of energy issues during an interview with HT. Excerpts:
You recently said that you wanted to eliminate thermal coal imports altogether within two or three years — can you elaborate how that will be possible?
Our production of coal is increasing rapidly. Coal India Ltd increased production in our first year of government by 6.9%; second year by 8.6%. This kind of growth in coal production was never witnessed before. Today, the country has surplus coal.
What are the implications?
India is going to expand its energy consumption to four times of what it is today in the next 15 years. Western countries can cut down coal and replace it by renewables; I will need more coal. I can’t tell my people that you will get power only from 6 am to 5 pm, and after that we live in darkness. You need 24-hour power, you need a base load; and that base load for India is coal.
We are looking at clean coal technologies. But the West has put an embargo on financing coal-based power plants. I want to replace my old plants with new super-efficient coal-based plants, but because of this embargo I don’t get enough capital.
There is no other country whose commitment to climate change is comparable to India’s… the developed world was supposed to put $100 billion for clean energy financing, but we don’t see a single dollar out of that as yet.
Can you say something on India’s plans for nuclear power?
We are working to secure uranium supplies, we are talking to firms on technology options. Some plants are under expansion. Jaitapur is under consideration; it is at advanced stage of discussion.
How are you addressing fuel shortage of gas-based plants?
For two years, we were importing gas and helping to make plants operational. Right now the prices are very low, so the plants are quite feasible to operate even with market purchases. Going forward, I am looking at tying up long-term contracts.
Will the large-scale of demand for LED bulbs create the enabling environment to manufacture in India, or will the demand be met through imports?
Even now, except for the chips, everything is manufactured in India. People are now starting to manufacture end-to-end in India. Earlier, it was a small programme; now one government company alone is selling 700,000 bulbs a day. We closed March 2016 by selling 90 million bulbs by that company. The prices have come down by 83% in the last 18 months.
That’s the power of numbers that India offers to the world; that is what I have been talking to investors here: a billion plus people aspiring for a better quality of life — it is the world’s largest energy market going forward.