Essay in NBR Special Report 105
Going Green in India
Balancing Energy Security and the Energy Transition
This essay examines India’s energy security in the short and medium term and finds that development needs will drive the country’s energy policy, which balances energy security with the energy transition.
India’s current energy policy comprises parallel strategies of aggressively going green while continuing to harness traditional fossil fuels. In light of trends in 2022, where energy security was paramount worldwide and Europe fell back on increased coal use as Russian natural gas supplies were cut off, India is even less apologetic for its strategic use of coal, which, though polluting, is accessible and tightly intertwined with its economy. India has ambitious renewable energy (RE) plans. Its 2030 targets require almost 40 gigawatts per year of additional capacity of wind and solar. This is just under 10% of present installed total capacity in the country, for the fourth-largest grid in the world (behind China, the U.S., and the European Union). Increasing the share of RE in the grid strengthens domestic, low- carbon energy security to the extent that it reduces reliance on alternative fossil fuels, such as coal. However, it does not ensure overall energy security due to RE’s inherent variability and the reality that the required energy storage technologies to address this variability are still not cost-effective at scale.
- India’s 2070 deadline for net-zero emissions, combined with the fact that its emissions today are already half the world average, means that energy use and carbon emissions will grow for some time before they can peak.
- Achieving its RE targets will require India to leverage private sector capital as well as financing from the international community. In particular, storage technologies are needed to handle the intermittency of RE, which is currently expensive and is expected to remain so in the near term.
- India is eager to reduce its reliance on imported fossil fuels, but this is a long-term ambition. The country still lacks secure and inexpensive domestic natural gas and thus faces ongoing challenges in expanding the use of natural gas.
Rahul Tongia is a Senior Fellow with the Centre for Social and Economic Progress in New Delhi. Dr. Tongia’s work focuses on technology and policy, especially for sustainable development.