India’s Energy Security
16th Sep, 2022
Energy security is a multidisciplinary field that overlaps with almost every field of study. It has inbuilt dimensions such as sustainability, energy efficiency, mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, accessibility of energy services (energy poverty), etc. This connects energy security with other aspects of developmental processes.
What is Energy Security?
- Energy Security is an attempt to overcome the vulnerability of vital energy systems. It is about reducing the exposure risks to an external factor, thereby ensuring our energy needs. We can also define energy security as the uninterrupted availability of energy sources at an affordable price.
- Recently, Prime Minister has also called for “Energy Atmanirbharta” by 2040, which is about “energy security”, touching upon our “strategic autonomy”.
How can we accomplish the goal of ‘strategic autonomy’ in energy?
- Prioritize Access to fossil fuels: Although there are perks of renewable energy, due to the lower rate of installation of renewable energy infrastructures, the transition to a green energy system will take a long.
- So, we must continue to emphasize affordable and secure access to oil and gas. This could be achieved by intensifying domestic exploration.
- Nuclear Power: Nuclear power is produced from radioactive fuels like uranium. However, we have very limited deposits of uranium within the country. The alternative is to convert thorium into uranium and then use it for the generation of nuclear power.
- India has the world’s third-largest reserves of thorium and it can be converted into its usable “fissile” form after a series of reactions.
- Ethanol Blending: It is a step ahead towards energy security and self-sufficiency measures. The government of India has advanced the target for 20 per cent ethanol blending in petrol (also called E20) to 2025 from 2030.
- Removing the obstacles to domestic mining: India has some resources such as cobalt, nickel, copper, and heavy rare earth metals but we have done little to expedite their mining and processing. They are essential raw materials when it comes to building EVs, solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries.
Note: 38 percent of copper is produced in Chile and Peru. These countries have left-wing governments unreceptive to private-sector mining. Further, China controls 47 percent of copper smelting and 42 percent of copper refining.
- Infrastructure Development: Infrastructure development is crucial to attaining strategic autonomy in energy.
- We must expand our strategic petroleum reserves to cover at least 30 days of consumption.
- We must upgrade the transmission grid and battery storage systems to scale up renewables and smoothen its supplies.
- Developing Innovative financing mechanisms: To fund green infrastructure projects we must work out financing mechanisms.
- Green Incentives: The government’s production-linked incentive scheme (PLI) offers benefits for investment in green energy. The investor response has so far been encouraging.
- Energy Diplomacy: Because of our dependence on the international energy supply chains, our diplomats should include more arrows of energy diplomacy in their arsenals.
- Holistic Governance. The age-old structures of energy governance are obsolete in the present times. Institutions should be created to facilitate integrated energy planning and implementation.
Focus on non-fossil Fuels:
- Solar Energy: It supports the government agenda of sustainable growth, while, emerging as an integral part of the solution to meet the nation’s energy needs and an essential player for energy security.
About 5,000 trillion kWh per year of energy is incident over India's land area with most parts receiving 4-7 kWh per sq. m per day. Solar photovoltaic power can effectively be harnessed providing huge scalability in India.
- Green Hydrogen: We import 85 percent of our oil and 53 percent of our gas. A shift to large-scale use of hydrogen fuel can help bolster India’s geopolitical heft and bolster energy security.
- Wind Power: In India, the wind and solar generation profiles complement each other, and an adequate mix is essential to achieve sustainability targets in a cost-competitive manner. This can potentially satisfy our quest for energy security to some extent.
Threats to Energy Security:
- Political Instability of Several Energy-Producing Countries
- Manipulation of Energy Supplies
- Competition over Energy Sources
- Attacks/Accidents on supply infrastructure
- Natural Disasters
- Reliance on Foreign Countries for Oil
India faces an energy and environmental problem that is acknowledged by everyone. India has to carve out an independent energy policy capturing all the aspects of the sector posing as a stumbling block in the passage of becoming self-reliant.
India has set a net zero target, at the Glasgow summit to cut emissions to net zero by 2070. This target would be impossible to achieve without securing our energy needs first. Only then we shall be in a position to be called a “strategically autonomic” country in terms of energy security and shall be a step closer to “Energy Atmanirbharta”.