India far cry from energy independence, spends $160 billion on energy imports

Countries like the USA, China and Russia are already making headway toward becoming self-reliant

By Seema Prasad
Published: Tuesday 08 November 2022

Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to make India an energy independent country by 2047 during his Independence Day address August 15 this year. But the country spends $160 billion on energy imports and is far from self-sufficiency, according to a new study.

India needs $300 billion in investments by 2030 to generate 500 gigawatts power from non-fossil-fuel sources, as it has laid out in its updated Nationally Determined Contributions towards addressing global warming.

Countries like the United States, China and Russia are already making headway toward becoming self-reliant.

Also read: India coal power capacity static for 6 months

“A dramatic transformation across the entire energy value chain is needed to realise India’s dream of energy independence,” underscored the study titled India’s Energy Vision 2030, published November 7, 2022.

The study was conducted by management consultants Arthur D Little.

India will be able to reach 2.02 trillion units of power generation by 2030, considering the current rate of electricity generation. Therefore, falling short of the consumption requirements is expected to grow to 2.3 trillion units that year.

India will need to increase its pace of shifting to clean energy to meet this gap. The country should collaborate with private and government players and devise required policies. This can be implemented by maximising new technologies, particularly for green hydrogen, the report suggested.

Also read: Wind sector in India needs an overhaul — here's why

There are problems with scaling up solar power, too, the researchers noted.

Renewable energy output can be scaled up by — introducing reforms to improve investors’ confidence, removing entry barriers such as difficulty in land acquisition, boosting domestic manufacturing of Photo Voltaic cells and wind equipments and incentivising the adoption of roof-top solar, the report suggested

“India needs to produce excess energy and generate it through sustainable methods and conserve it by minimising losses during transmission, distribution and consumption,” the study noted.

The debt incurred by power distribution companies (DISCOMS) is a problematic aspect of the supply chain in terms of its finance. The DISCOMS are characterised by negative net worth and debt amounting to Rs 36,7932 crore and Rs 589,000 crore, respectively.

Electricity theft and technical losses can be reduced by — shifting towards high voltage direct current transmission lines for long-distance transmission, imposing stricter penalties for transmission network developers upon default and expediting the development of inter-state transmission lines, the report suggested.

Another way to achieve this is by establishing a smart grid, the researchers noted. Smart grids can increase grid reliability, reduce transmission and distribution losses, optimise demand side management, support renewable integration, improve self-healing capacity and ensure optimal grid usage, the report added.

“India’s decaying transmission network and ever-worsening financial situation of most state DISCOMs have plagued development in the power sector over the last decade,” said Brajesh Singh, head of Arthur D Little India’s Energy and Utilities Practice, said in the press release.

A phase-wise approach with tactical capacity augmentation projects and financial assistance to private distributors through tax rebates and conducive loan structures could revive the power sector,” he added.

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