In a recent World Energy Outlook report from the International Energy Agency (IEA), India’s incredible progress in the energy sector has taken the spotlight. The report highlights India’s impressive achievements in power generation, refining capacity, energy access, and supply security. Since the beginning of this century, India has brought electricity to a staggering 810 million people, a number greater than the combined populations of the European Union and the United States. Additionally, 655 million individuals now have access to clean cooking facilities, although 430 million still rely on traditional biomass for cooking. Notably, solar photovoltaic (PV) technology has played a significant role in adding new generation capacity, making up nearly 60% of the new additions.
One striking accomplishment is India’s extensive adoption of energy-efficient light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Through the UJALA scheme, around 370 million LEDs will be distributed by 2023, marking the largest LED adoption initiative globally. India’s ability to achieve self-sufficiency in petroleum refining, despite being a net crude oil importer, demonstrates its commitment to energy security. Nevertheless, the country continues to import specific petroleum products.
India is now entering an exciting new phase in its energy development, marked by a long-term commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2070. This phase is characterized by increased regulatory sophistication, a strong focus on clean energy deployment, and the development of domestic clean energy technology supply chains. To make this transition, substantial investments in clean energy are crucial, as indicated in the IEA report. These investments need to almost triple by the end of the decade to align with India’s net-zero emissions goal.
The report predicts that India will experience the most significant growth in energy demand globally over the next 30 years. Although population growth is slowing, urbanization is on the rise, and per capita income is set to triple by 2050. This growth will lead to a surge in the demand for oil and natural gas by nearly 70% between 2022 and 2050. Even with the increasing role of solar PV in electricity generation, coal demand is expected to rise by 10%. Consequently, India’s annual CO2 emissions are projected to increase by nearly 30% by 2050.
However, the IEA report presents an alternative scenario called the “Accelerated Policy Scenario” (APS), which paints a more optimistic picture of India’s clean energy transition. In this scenario, increased investments in clean energy will lead to over 50% of total power generation coming from non-fossil fuels by 2050. The APS also fuels growth in electromobility, low-emissions hydrogen, grid expansions, and other clean energy infrastructure. This results in a remarkable reduction of over 40% in India’s annual CO2 emissions by 2050, even as the country’s GDP quadruples.
Key policies underpinning India’s clean energy transformation include the commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2070, a goal to have 50% of power generation capacity fueled by non-fossil sources by 2030, and a target of 500 GW of non-fossil capacity by the same year. The Green Energy Corridor project aims to enhance transmission capacity to integrate a rising share of variable renewable power. Subsidies are also provided to boost the manufacturing of solar PV modules and modern batteries. India is also targeting low-emissions hydrogen production and has passed legislation to create the Indian Carbon Market, a carbon credit trading scheme.
The report delves into the significant challenges posed by rising temperatures in India. Over 700 heatwave events have led to more than 17,000 casualties. The increasing ownership of air conditioners, driven by rising incomes, has significantly impacted electricity consumption. Household air conditioner ownership is expected to multiply ninefold by 2050, leading to a substantial increase in residential electricity demand. However, the APS envisions reduced electricity demand for air conditioners through energy-efficient measures, mitigating the impact on peak electricity demand and helping to integrate renewables more cost-effectively.
The report also highlights India’s transition from being a net importer of fossil fuels to an importer of clean energy technologies as it scales up solar and wind power generation capacity. Recognizing this import dependence, the government launched the Production Linked Incentives (PLI) program to support domestic manufacturing in critical sectors, including the production of solar PV modules. This initiative is expected to transform India into a reliable exporter of clean energy technologies.
India’s journey toward a clean energy future and its ambitious net-zero emissions target represent a significant step in addressing the global climate crisis. While challenges persist, the IEA report underscores the potential for India to lead the way in clean energy adoption, significantly reducing carbon emissions while driving economic growth and energy security.
Please view the report here for more details.