Are India’s current initiatives sufficient?

Are India’s current initiatives sufficient?

Concern towards India’s increasing energy requirements and the challenge of fulfilling these needs in a sustainable manner is not a new issue. 

Moreover, increasing energy requirements in the context of a country like India should also not be viewed with apprehension. Rather, it needs to be understood and appreciated in the context of development. Despite efforts to enhance generation capacities and distribution, energy shortages continue to prevail, resulting in frequent outages.  Commercial energy use in per capita terms continues to remain a fraction of that of the developed world and less than a third of the world average. Nearly 300 million people in India still do not have access to electricity and modern energy forms for fulfilling even basic needs such as cooking and lighting in rural India. The Government has accordingly planned to pursue a high and inclusive growth in order to advance social and economic development.

While energy consumption in the country has inevitably increased in magnitude terms, it is important to note that energy intensity has decreased continuously over the last two decades as a result of various policies, plans and measures geared towards energy conservation and energy efficiency. TERI’s estimates of energy requirements under a reference case indicate that India’s energy requirements by 2031 could increase by around 6 times that of 2001 levels, if past trends were to continue. Such a trend of rapid growth in energy requirements is definitely not sustainable for the country, especially with a continuation of the current energy mix which is largely based on conventional fossil fuels. Apart from increasing pressures in terms of paying for energy imports, concerns are also related to the availability of fuel resources, the adequacy of supporting infrastructure for handling and movement of the requisite energy forms, and the increasing levels of environmental implications associated with such a scenario.

The need then is obviously to move away from such a scenario towards a more sustainable one. While there is no single silver bullet to wish away the issues facing India’s energy future, the broad solutions that could contribute towards a more sustainable path are reasonably well known, well understood and some steps in the right direction have also been initiated across sectors.

“Energy efficiency” is clearly seen as a low hanging fruit that can bring in benefits across several areas. While several of the large industry units have progressively moved to state of the art technologies and improved efficiencies post liberalization, the more recent Perform Achieve and Trade (PAT) scheme within the National Mission on Enhanced Energy Efficiency is an innovative means that could contribute towards further energy savings across the industry sector.

Renewables are once again well recognised as an important bullet that could contribute to a more sustainable energy future for the country. The Solar Mission has in fact been accorded the highest priority among the eight Missions within the National Action Plan on Climate Change. Apart from wind and hydro, the Government plans to pursue solar energy vigorously with the intent of enhancing the share of renewable based energy in the future. 

About the author

Dr Ritu Mathur is currently the Associate Director of the Green Growth and Development Division at TERI. She is an economist by training and has a Ph.D. in Energy Science from Kyoto University, Japan.   

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