India faces the difficult challenge of balancing its need to provide all its citizens with clean, modern energy services with highly limited natural resources, increasing environmental problems and constraints imposed by climate change.
As of 2011, about 400 million of the country’s 1.2 billion people do not have access to electricity. Many of those with electricity connections have poor service. Similarly, over 70% of the country uses bio-mass or other solid fuels for cooking, with attendant problems of indoor air pollution, health impacts, gender inequities and reduced quality of life. There is also significant inequity in consumption of modern energy across different income classes and across different sectors of the economy.
India is also not rich in natural resources, particularly fossil fuels. In 2011-12, India imported over 80% of its oil requirements, and even about 20% of its coal requirements in spite of impressive increases in installed capacity of renewable energy. Moreover, its energy imports – particularly coal imports – have been increasing sharply in the last few years.
The social and environmental impacts of energy production and fossil fuel extraction, transportation and consumption are well known. Examples include impacts on land and water use; land, air and water pollution and insufficient relief and rehabilitation measures for displaced populations. These often result in the country’s poor bearing the worst of the impacts. On the other hand, energy use plays a significant role in poverty alleviation and enabling productive lives. Hence, India has a difficult task in international climate negotiations as it should strive for an ambitious global climate regime without sacrificing its own developmental interests.
Even the most optimistic projections in the growth of renewable energy sources suggest that fossil fuels will play a significant part in the country’s energy basket for the near to medium term. Therefore, devising policies and institutions to effectively manage and utilize these resources to maximise public interest is an important challenge. These policies and institutions need to be transparent and accountable to citizens, thus enhancing their credibility and effectiveness. This becomes all the more important given the perception that these sectors face significant governance challenges.
Given these competing pressures and challenges, India’s approach towards energy planning, security and resource planning and development will be of critical importance in the coming years. PEG has analysed some of these issues, published various reports and undertaken advocacy efforts. It has published reports on topics such as the responsibility of the Indian government to provide clean, modern energy services to all and address internal inequities; the neglect of key aspects of the country’s energy security; an appropriate framework for the country’s climate policy; an approach towards addressing regional imbalances due to thermal power projects; and the reasons behind India’s coal shortages. It will continue to focus its efforts on ensuring that rational, participative, inclusive planning is undertaken for the country’s energy and resources to maximize its public interest.
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