IEA calls for overhaul of energy mix for zero emissions by 2060

Updated on Feb 10, 2021 12:12 AM IST

To achieve net zero emissions by the 2060s, India’s energy sector will need “profound transformation,” the India Energy Outlook said.

Several countries including the United States, China and members of the European Union have already announced plans to achieve net zero emissions in the coming decades.(Representative Photo)
Several countries including the United States, China and members of the European Union have already announced plans to achieve net zero emissions in the coming decades.(Representative Photo)
ByJayashree Nandi, New Delhi

India needs to adopt transformational changes in its energy mix to be able to transition to net zero emissions by the mid-2060s, according to the India Energy Outlook report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) on Tuesday.

Net zero emissions mean that any new greenhouse gas emissions are balanced by absorbing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere. Several countries including the United States, China and members of the European Union have already announced plans to achieve net zero emissions in the coming decades.

To achieve net zero emissions by the 2060s, India’s energy sector will need “profound transformation,” the India Energy Outlook said. India is the fourth largest global energy consumer now after China, the United States and the European Union.

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At current rates of growth, India will overtake the European Union by 2030 to move up to third position. India’s rate of gross domestic product (GDP) growth will add the equivalent of another Japan to the world economy by 2040, IEA said.

For India to achieve net zero emissions, energy demand in 2040 should fall nearly 30% below the projected level, based on current policies, with a complete switch from traditionalbiomass-based energy. India will have to shift away from coal, and solar photovoltaic cells will have to take up coal’s share of electricity generation a full decade ahead of what current policies envisage, the IEA report explained.

“As the report highlights, India needs to work towards a climate resilient and low carbon development strategy. This can be achieved by looking at sectoral transitions (particularly in energy, transport and industry sectors). We are seeing that energy efficiency continues to increase, largely driven by energy-intensity reduction across sectors. Further, electrification of fossil fuel use (e.g., in transport) will accelerate – especially as system-wide cost-effectiveness increases. Green hydrogen and biomass-based fuels will predominate in applications where electrification is not viable,” said Abhishek Kaushik, Associate Fellow and Area Convener, Centre for Global Environment Research, The Energy and Resources Institute.

In addition, oil demand will have to plateau by the end of the 2020s while the share of alternative fuels in road transport – electricity, gas and bioenergy -- will have to rise. Together these alternative fuels will have to meet 35% of road transport demand by 2040.

Fossil fuels will have to account for less than 60% of primary energy demand by 2040 and use of traditional biomass falls need to drop to zero by 2030, as clean cooking goals are fully achieved, the report said. spelling out the changes India needs to make.

India’s energy consumption has at least doubled since 2000, propelled by a growing population and rapid economic growth. Over 900 million citizens have gained an electrical connection in less than two decades according to the report. But at least 80% of India’s energy needs are still primarily met by three fuels: coal, oil and solid biomass.

Oil consumption and imports have grown rapidly due to rising vehicle ownership and road transport use. Despite expanding coverage of liquified petroleum gas (LPG) in rural areas, 660 million Indians have not fully switched to clean cooking fuels, the report said.

On the brighter side, the report said solar power is set for explosive growth in India, matching coal’s share in the Indian power generation mix within two decades.

Presently, solar energy accounts for less than 4% of India’s electricity generation, and coal close to 70%. By 2040, they are likely to converge in the 30%s driven by India’s target to reach 450 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2030. Solar is also likely to out-compete existing coal-fired plants in terms of cost. Coal’s hold over India’s power sector is already loosening, according to IEA.

IEA said India will overachieve one of its nationally determined contributions (NDC) under the Paris climate change agreement of reducing the emission intensity of GDP by 33 to 35% compared to 2005 levels. India is likely to achieve this under current policies “with a CO2 emissions intensity reduction of over 40% by 2030,” the report said.

It has warned that India’s combined import bill for fossil fuels. especially oil, is likely to triple over the next two decades. “Domestic production of oil and gas continues to fall behind consumption trends and net dependence on imported oil rises above 90% by 2040, up from 75% today. This continued reliance on imported fuels creates vulnerabilities to price cycles and volatility as well as possible disruptions to supply,” it said.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to fall of about 5% in the country’s energy demand in 2020 due to lockdowns with coal and oil use suffering the biggest falls. The pandemic also hit investment in the energy sector, which fell by an estimated 15% in 2020.

“IEA’s India Energy Outlook 2021 once again highlights that emerging economies such as India are at the forefront of the global energy transition. In 2010, India had less than 20 megawatts (MW) of solar. Today, India offers one of the largest renewable energy markets operating on market principles,” said Arunabha Ghosh, CEO of the Council on Energy, Environment and Water

“ Transitions in energy efficiency, sustainable mobility and sustainable cooling are also underway. India now needs to focus on reducing the cost of finance for clean energy projects, providing access to capital to finance distributed clean energy systems, driving capital to help small and medium industries become energy-efficient, and exploring innovative financing models for R&D {research and development} for disruptive technologies like green hydrogen to further accelerate the energy transition,” Ghosh added.


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