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India's energy poverty challenge

India faces the challenge of reconciling its energy needs as the world’s fastest-growing economy with the realities of its commitment to reduce emissions intensity.

This was a key takeaway from last week's 16th International Energy Forum.

As the below article by Grace Gou in The DIplomat reports, India's Prime Minister Modi didn't hold back when it came to backing India's energy interests.

According to India’s Draft National Energy Policy, energy demand in 2040 will be 4.5 times greater than 2012 levels as India remains the biggest driver of global energy demand. While India relies heavily on imports for oil, the country sits on coal reserves ranking among the top five in the world. That helps explain why coal will still meet over 40 percent of Indian energy needs three decades from now.

Conversely, Grace notes;

While installed renewable capacity is growing rapidly, it has so far underperformed expectations. Neither wind nor solar can replace coal as a supplier of baseload power in the near future, especially while energy demand growth outpaces supply and battery storage remains prohibitively expensive.

The solution?

... a major component of India’s emissions reduction strategy centers around making sure coal combustion is as clean as possible...

The problem with that approach is the World Bank is refusing to fund black coal-based energy projects prompting criticism from Indian officials.

Chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian has described renewables-or-nothing policies as “carbon imperialism,” dooming people in India and other developing nations to a life without power while developed countries like the United States continue to rank among the largest consumers of coal.

Given the threat of global warming, it can be hard to fathom why India and other countries continue to expand their use of coal until you consider;

... it is difficult to overstate the negative impacts of energy poverty. Living without electricity drastically reduces children’s chances of getting a decent education and forces families to rely on dangerous kerosene for light. Many families without electricity cook food on wood or dung fires which emit toxic fumes, killing an estimated 1.3 million Indians a year.

Not that India isn't taking action. It's just that India is starting so far behind the West that it can't hope to reduce total emissions.

Here's the problem:

  • India is committed to reducing CO2 emissions 'intensity' by 35% from 2005 levels by 2030
  • This will see total CO2 emissions triple from 1.22Bn tonnes in 2005 to 3.66Bn tonnes in 2030
  • CO2 per capita in India will be only 2.3 tonnes a year, compared to Australia's 15 tonnes per year (assuming Australia meet its commitments)

There's no silver bullet.

The West's demands for emerging nations to shut down coal without the requisite financial support to pay for that course of action mean concerns over energy poverty supersede costly emissions reduction initiatives.

Grace concludes the article with a key message:

To meet emissions reduction targets and clear polluted skies, the Indian government needs to make a concerted effort to court investment in new technologies


What Modi Didn’t Say About India Energy Challenges

12 April 2018 | The Diplomat | Grace Guo

A closer look at a missing piece in the Indian premier’s address to the IEF Ministerial meeting in New Delhi.

Source: What Modi Didn’t Say About India Energy Challenges