India’s energy scenario & environment
India is the third largest energy consuming country in the world. Due to rise in incomes and improvement in standard of living of people, energy use has been increasing and has doubled in India since 2000. On a per capita basis, India’s energy use and emissions are less than half the world average. Further, due to Covid-19, the energy investment has fallen by about 15 percent in India in 2020. International Energy agency has recently brought out a special report called ‘The India Energy Outlook 2021’.
India’s electricity demand is set to increase much more rapidly than its overall energy demand. The key contribution comes from rapid growth in ownership of air-conditioning units. Energy efficiency measures (targeting both cooling appliances and buildings) reduce around a quarter of the potential growth in consumption, but electricity demand for cooling still is expected to increase six-fold by 2040 .On the supply side, output from renewables in some Indian states is set to exceed demand on a regular basis before 2030. At present, solar accounts for less than 4 percent of India’s electricity generation, while coal is close to 70 percent. The consumption of coal in India’s power sector is relatively reducing, with industry accounting for most of the increase in coal demand. The share of coal in overall energy mix is steadily declining.
Energy demand for road transport is also growing, mostly due to diesel–based freight transport. India is set for a huge expansion of transportation infrastructure – from highways, railways, metro lines to airports and ports. As a result, India’s oil demand is rising very fast. Construction is also responsible for high energy use. Due to fast urbanization, India is set to more than double its building space over the next two decades. This accelerates the change in residential energy use from solid biomass towards electricity and modern fuels like LPG and gas. Rising appliance ownership and demand for cooling further increase the demand for electricity.
The share of natural gas in India’s current energy mix is about 6 percent among the lowest in the world. It is increasing as gas use rises in the industrial sector and in gas distribution in the cities. Natural gas also helps to displace coal in power generation. As India builds out its gas infrastructure, natural gas can find multiple uses in India. This also helps in meeting air quality and emission goals. The continued reliance on imported oil and other fuels create vulnerabilities in price cycles as well as possible disruptions to supply. Energy security hazards could arise in India’s domestic market as well, notably in the electricity sector if the necessary flexibility in power system operation does not materialise. An additional threat to the reliability of electricity supply comes from the poor financial health of many electricity distribution companies. Improving the cost-effectiveness of tariffs, the efficiency of billing and collection, and reducing technical and commercial losses are the key to reforming this sector.
Renewables deployment has already been picking up pace in recent years, with the nation adding nearly five times as much solar capacity in 2019 as it did in 2015. As it stands, solar accounts for less than 4 percent of India’s electricity generation and coal stands at around 70 percent. India has the target to reach 450 GW of renewable capacity by 2030. Solar power is set for an explosive growth in India and is to grow 18-fold and become the dominant player in power sector by at least 2040. India is already a global leader in solar power and solar, combined with batteries, will play a massive part in India’s energy future. As we progress, new power lines and improving the efficiency of air-conditioners or shifting the operation of agricultural pumps to different parts of the day will play a much greater role. But battery storage is particularly well suited to the short-run flexibility that India needs to align its solar-led generation peak in the middle of the day with the country’s early evening peak in demand.
India is entering a “solar- powered revolution” that will see it edge out coal as the nation’s top electricity source, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Solar is set to overtake coal around 2040 with both technologies at around 30 percent of generation. India will add 900 GW of renewable capacity over the period to 2040. Wind will make up 200GW, nuclear power 25 GW and hydro power 50 GW. The IEA’s report highlights extraordinary cost-competitiveness of solar power projects. These offer cheapest electricity in history. As the solar power generation fluctuates with the changing levels of sun shine, flexible operation of coal plants and robust grids create a possibility for dealing with this. Wind power can also complement solar during the monsoon season when solar resources are relatively low. India is set to become the world’s largest market for batteries. There is also a plan of expanding India’s bio-energy sector, making use of the vast quantities of organic waste generated by the agricultural sector, in part to replace coal in some settings. Industry, transport, building, cooking and cooling are the sectors responsible for energy demand growth till 2040.
The remarkable rise of renewable energy production reduces the growth in India’s power sector emissions, although this still leaves the coal-fired power plants as major emitters of CO2. But the main sources of the increase in India’s CO2 emissions lie outside the power sector- in industry and transport. These two sectors are also responsible for a much larger share of air pollutants emissions than the power sector. A rising urban population means that more people are exposed to air pollution and suffer its ill effects. Within 20 years, the majority of India’s emissions will come from power plants, industrial facilities, buildings and vehicles that do not exist today. Task ahead is to put industrial sector on a new path through more widespread electrification, material, energy efficiency, technologies, and a switch to progressively lower-carbon fuels. In transport sector, electrification, efficiency and fuel switching are the main areas to work on. Determined government policies and actions are needed to build more sustainable transport infrastructure and shift more freight onto India’s soon-to-be-electrified railways.
India’s status as the world’s third largest emitter means cleaning up its energy supply will be essential for global climate targets to be met. India is already on its way to exceed the commitments made in its nationally determined contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement.