Before we delve deeper into the Energy Future of India and how India shifted its focus, it is pertinent to understand the term “Energy Transition” first. Speaking, as per Wikipedia, Energy Transition is a significant structural change in the Energy System driven by the demand for and availability of different fuels and result from the depletion of energy sources. In other words, a systematic shift from a specific or existing energy supply to another pattern of the energy system.
The International Renewable Energy Agency, IRENA, defines it as “a pathway toward the transformation of the global energy sector from fossil-based to zero-carbon by the second half of this century.” If we turn the pages of history, we can see how societies have gradually transitioned away from one energy source like from wood to coal, coal to electricity, gas & fossil fuels. Over a couple of decades back when international science authorities linked global warming to carbon emissions from fossil fuels, countries across the globe have been gradually changing focus to zero-carbon energy from clean energy sources like wind, solar, and hydro otherwise known as renewable energy.
NOW, WHY ENERGY TRANSITION IS IMPORTANT?
Plainly speaking, our Earth’s surface consists of 75% water & 25% land. A huge proportion of Water content is spread across continents in the solid form of Ice. With the gradual rise of the earth’s surface temperature over the years (or global warming), the ice is melting continuously, and landmasses are being washed off. Global natural calamities like rising sea levels, cyclones, floods, droughts, forest fires, etc, are also caused due to these geological changes both in the surface & atmosphere of the earth. If we do not check ourselves now, then there won’t be anything left to sustain for our future generations, hence the need. The UN body Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that global warming from pre-industrial levels must not exceed 1.5°C to avoid irreparable damage to the planet. As per the data of IPCC, around 25% of C02 emissions come from electricity & heat production. Another 24% comes from agriculture, forestry, and other land use. While the Industrial sector accounts for 21% and transportation 14%, it is surprising to note that about 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions are from fossil fuels.
Considering the seriousness of the above, 196 countries joined together in 2015 with a pledge to slow down global warming by cutting emissions and other steps by signing the Paris Agreement, the world’s first comprehensive climate change agreement. The agreement's goal is to keep the global average temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to take steps to keep it below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
THE INDIAN SCENARIO
If we look at the South-East Asian region, major industrial players like China aiming for Carbon neutrality by 2060 & South Korea and Japan pledged towards carbon neutrality by 2050 through the energy transition. Well, India another key industrial powerhouse is nonetheless far behind with its energy transition progress and climate policies.
With a population of over 130 crores and one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, as per the IEA 2020 report, India is the third-largest global carbon emitter. Even though not fully in sync with the long-term temperature goal of 1.5°C of the Paris Agreement, India has managed to put forth policies that neither major player like China, Japan or Korea, and even the EU have been able to put in motion. Thanks to a visionary Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, who has a penchant for both industrial and economic development while adhering to the Sustainable Development Goals and safeguarding the country's natural environment. “While policies that promote the use of natural gas and renewables in power generation are important to reducing global carbon emissions, it will take a collective change in behavior to reverse the effects of climate change,” said PM Modi during the CERA Week on March 5th, 2021. He has stressed India’s goal to boost the share of gas in its fuel mix to 15% from the current 6% by 2030 and to reach Paris Agreement climate targets much before it. He is quite optimistic about the role of gas in India's energy future. Presently in India, while LNG is used as fuel, there has been a sharp increase in India of non-fossil fuels and renewables in the share of its energy consumption, clearly stating India’s stand on Energy Transition.
While speaking at the joint conferences of the 11th World PetroCoal Congress and World Future Fuel Summit on February 16, 2021, Union Minister of Petroleum & Natural Gas Shri Dharmendra Pradhan, who is guiding India's Energy Transition drive, and keeping in motion the visions of his leader Prime Minister Modi, said that India's energy demand will increase in the future, and it has taken steps to meet it. To create a global model of energy justice, India is on a path to balance between Affordability & Accessibility.
Considering Prime Minister Modi’s roadmap for energy justice resting on five key enablers: energy availability and accessibility to all, energy affordability to the poorest of the poor, energy efficiency, energy sustainability, and energy security, there are certain action plans charted out for energy transition as was indicated by Shri Pradhan:
1. Accelerating efforts to move towards a gas-based economy
2. Cleaner use of fossil fuels, particularly petroleum and coal
3. Greater reliance on domestic sources to drive bio-fuels
4. Achieving the renewables target of 450 GW by 2030
5. Increasing the contribution of electricity to de-carbonize mobility
6. Moving into the emerging fuels, including hydrogen
7. Digital innovations across all energy systems.
Shri Pradhan, who is recognized for his go-getter attitude and results-oriented accomplishments, is optimistic that India will chart a responsible route and would be a vital role in the global energy revolution.
Another big move India has done so far is the use of bio-fuel to cut down on the import of crude oil. Ethanol blending has come a big way since Minster Pradhan talked about it two years back at CERA Week meet. Ethanol (Ethyl Alcohol or drinking alcohol) is made from molasses, grains, and farm waste, and it is environmentally friendly. During this CORONA epidemic, it has worked well as sanitizers, and recently a historic movement was made when PM Modi launched the Ethanol blending pilot project in 3 petrol pumps in Pune out of the E100 plan across India. Now with 20% ethanol blending with petrol, India will save $5 billion (Rs.30,000Cr) in imports. As PM Modi says, “Ecology & Economy can go together”, India’s green future looks promising.
On other fronts, India’s Solar Capacity Increased by 13 times in the last six years, 37 Cr LED bulbs under the UJALA scheme & more than 1 Cr smart LED street light reduced around 43 million tons of carbon emission annually. According to Shri Pradhan, the plan is to achieve 40% electricity generation from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources by 2030. The “One Sun One World One Grid” is another ambitious initiative that will connect 140 countries through a common grid, which will be used to transfer solar power.
Off late, some international experts are skeptical about India’s Energy Transition owing to the management of the COVID-crisis, post-COVID economic recovery, and its ability to rely on its manufacturing base amidst disruption of renewable supply chains, reorientation of energy and climate policy, Indo-US relations amid a new Biden administration.
However, the solid action plan, ongoing policies, and result-driven approach of the Government and execution at the ground level will certainly prove India’s mettle in Global Energy Transition. While India ranks 87th on the World Economic Forum's Global Energy Transition Index (ETI-2021), it still has a long way to go. However, Minister Shri Pradhan's words that "India will chart its course in Energy Transition" are justified, as India has come a long way to meet global expectations shortly, not to mention the financial benefits India will reap, including an increase in employment.
As PM Modi says, "Now is the time to think logically and ecologically, after all, this is not about me or you, it is about our planet's future."
(Mr. Prabin Kumar Padhy is an IT & Management Consultant from Bhubaneswar, Odisha)
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