HTLS 2021: India’s energy growth from scarcity to justice to security
Institutions created by human beings necessarily reflect the preoccupation of their time. Like other epochal moments that have led to tectonic shifts in the geopolitical landscape, we will now look back at the world as “pre-Covid” and “post-Covid”. The COP26 summit in Glasgow confirmed what many had predicted in 2020 — the Covid-19 pandemic would comprehensively alter global affairs.
India is in a unique position to define the contours of the global economy for the 21st century rather than merely being a participant in it. India’s determined and proactive interventions against Covid-19 as well as our leadership in the COP26 summit have shown the world that we are ready to anchor sustainability at the global level. Our Prime Minister’s Panchamrit action plan — India’s ambitious commitment to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2070 — only reaffirms India’s rising graph in the emerging global order.
For years, climate geopolitics was premised on the approach that developed economies must bear the lion’s share of mitigating climate crisis as they are primarily responsible for the present levels of emissions. It was considered unfeasible to impose the same burden on developing economies. India has reshaped that understanding of climate commitments fundamentally — we have shifted the global balance of power by showing that developing countries can lead the way in pledging comprehensive climate targets while also successfully meeting their socioeconomic objectives.
This transition from an adhering developing nation to a leading global power has been seven years in the making under Modi’s leadership. The pandemic tipped the scales when the world looked for a “China +1” alternative in the wake of supply shortages in global economic value chains. India united under a “whole of government” approach by rolling out historic reforms under the Atmanirbhar Bharat vision. We knocked down silos, streamlined governance, and leveraged India’s innate cooperative federalism to promote greater synergies in realising our development goals in a sustainable manner.
Nowhere is this truer than in the economics of energy. Despite the fact that our per capita energy demand increased by over 60% in the past two decades, India’s energy use and emissions are less than a third of the global average.
India will soon become the world’s most populous country. We will need an additional energy generation capacity equivalent to that of the European Union to meet our energy demands in the next three decades, particularly for our growing urban footprint.
India is aptly positioned to maximise its energy production from all available resources. We have already made concrete progress. Even as the oil and gas sector, led by many central public sector enterprises (CPSEs), continues to meet the bulk of India’s energy needs, it is also spearheading our transition towards non-fossil fuels. We will double the share of natural gas — which is much less polluting than other fossil fuels — in our energy mix with an investment of $60 billion by 2024.
PM Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) is a global case study for not just energy justice but also access to clean energy. More than 91 million beneficiaries have received LPG connections under PMUY and its second iteration, PM Ujjwala Yojana 2.0. The carbon footprint of LPG is 50% lower than firewood, thus reducing our emissions significantly.
On our 75th Independence Day, the PM secured India’s future energy needs by announcing the National Hydrogen Mission for the production of Green Hydrogen. Oil marketing companies (OMCs) refineries are creating an ecosystem for the production of Green Hydrogen on a “1-1-1” cost trajectory, i.e., 1 USD for 1kg of Hydrogen in 1 decade.
Despite the breakout of the pandemic, India adopted BS-VI emission standards, which are equivalent to the Euro-VI norms from April 1, 2020. We have increased ethanol blending in petrol from 0.67% in 2012 to 8.5% in 2021, and will ramp it up further to 20% by 2024-25. We know that biodiesel produces up to 78% lesser emissions than diesel, while ethanol blending can reduce emissions by up to 48% compared to petrol. Thanks to our aggressive biofuels policy, we have been able to lower emissions by more than 19.2 million tons in the past seven years.
The savings accrued by reducing imports of crude oil due to this substitution by biofuels are being used to subsidise and fund other renewable energy interventions, such as incentives under the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India (FAME) policy; electrification of Indian Railways; development of metro rails in Tier-2 Indian cities; and the setting up of 5,000 compressed biogas (CBG) plants under the Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT) scheme. Earlier this month, OMCs committed to installing 22,000 electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at their retail outlets (petrol pumps) across the country.
In the years to come, a new chapter in the history of global energy value chains will be written. Our nation, which has progressed from energy scarcity to energy justice and is now aiming towards energy security, will lead the world’s climate efforts in the new world order.
Hardeep Singh Puri is Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas and Housing and Urban Affairs
The views expressed are personal