The key sectors to realise India’s successful transition to cleaner energy sources won’t be easy. These include leveraging clean coal technologies, carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), hydrogen, biofuels, nuclear energy, mobility and energy storage, a leading energy expert has said.
“The country’s energy demand has tripled over the last three decades and is marked by a falling share of traditional biomass leaving coal and oil in a dominant position,” scientist and member of government think tank NITI Aayog, Dr. Vijay Kumar Saraswat stated Tuesday.
Dr. Saraswat was speaking at the 11th Subir Raha Memorial lecture in New Delhi organised by the Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC), organised to honour the memory of one of its most successful CEOs.
Giving future guidance on the spiraling electricity demand, he added that under a business-as-usual scenario, it is expected to reach 5,651-terawatt hour (TWh) by 2047, before significantly spiking to 18,900-22,300 TWh per year by 2070.
Interestingly, coal energy will continue to play a dominant role with its share in primary energy to rise to 50 per cent by 2047. “The conventional ways of utilisation of fossil fuels will see a complete paradigm shift, towards increased efficiency and cleaner approaches,” observed Dr. Saraswat. He said India’s path towards achieving net zero emissions would include factoring in line of sight as well as accelerated scenarios.
The line of sight would include implementing the country’s nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and existing and currently announced policies, adoption of technology advancements as per the current trajectory, and shifting demand to sustainable alternatives in areas such as electric vehicles (EVs).
Fast-tracking energy transition
The accelerated scenario would include the adoption of new policies such as carbon pricing, technology breakthroughs, and an accelerated shift to sustainable consumption such as EVs, alternative materials, coarse grains (millets), and green storage.
However, the world’s largest transition to greener sources of energy wouldn’t come about without its share of challenges, cautioned Dr. Saraswat.
The production of green hydrogen had to contend with the greening of 90 per cent of green power as well as the high cost of electrolysers and import dependency. Commercial, technological and infrastructure barriers, acceleration of investments made with government support, and cost reductions need to be factored in for CCUs. In mobility, high battery imports and low rates of clean electricity in the country’s electrification strategy needed to be addressed.
Similarly, the proposal for the introduction of small-medium reactors required changes to the law. “Amendments to Indian Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) norms and nuclear fuel cycle based on indigenous capability are required,” said Dr. Saraswat.
As a remedy, he said that priority needed to be accorded to building a low-carbon economy culture. “Success of strategies hinges heavily on the availability of finances, technology collaboration and developing inclusive carbon pricing and taxing policies and other financial interventions that encourage the use of alternative resources and dissuade the use of fossil fuels.”
He also recommended building public support for carbon law-compatible financial instruments, enhancing investments in segments such as hydrogen, CCUs, and biomass, the greening of agricultural subsidies representing 1 per cent of India’s GDP, and demanding green procurement of food grains.