In a public speech on Monday, Niti Aayog Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Amitabh Kant shared a perspective on the future of India’s energy sector and prescribed a few radical reforms for the country to leapfrog to a 9-10 percent growth rate. Edited excerpts..
Urbanization a challenge
If India has to grow at 9-10 percent in the coming three decades, it is not possible without energy. The critical challenge will be the challenge of urbanization. If you look at various studies, in the next four to five decades, India will see close to 700 million people shifting towards urbanization. Every minute there are 30 Indians getting into the process of urbanization.
When America and Europe urbanized, land, gas, and water were cheaply available and therefore the American economy could create cities like Atlanta where 99.7 percent of the population travel by cars, nobody cycles, nobody walks and the American car companies bought over railway companies and destroyed them so that cars could sell.
When the process of urbanization is happening in India, land, gas, and water are all scarce commodities and therefore the challenge for India is to do innovative and sustainable urbanization on the back of sustainable energy. This will be the key challenge for India.
Electric mobility and energy storage
The country needs energy transformation and we need to look at four objectives -- access to energy at rational prices, improved security and independence, greater sustainability and economic growth.
Our energy imports are pre-dominantly fossil fuel-based and there is a huge need for the reduction in imports and emissions. It is very clear that we can do this only by pushing consumption of renewables. The country needs to lay a huge focus on renewables. This is the way the world is going too.
India has a great ability to get into sunset industries rather than sunrise industries and the future belongs to only two things and the country needs to put its entire scientific community behind two aspects -- storage and batteries. Without storage and batteries, India has no future.
Secondly, the future lies in electric mobility. This is going to happen worldwide and if India is able to take the lead in these two things it will take lead globally. In every other sector, we have got in too late in the game but in these two sectors, we are exactly where the world is. People may say whatever but we are exactly where the world is.
If we are able to make technological breakthroughs in the areas of storage and batteries, if we can make a massive break-through in electric mobility, India will leap-frog the world.
Also, if you look at these areas, India does not have legacy issues. Unlike America where you have 985 cars per 1000 people and Europe where you have 886 per 1000 people, India has only 20 cars per 1000 people and yet we have 14 of the most polluting cities in India.
Whether you like it or not we owe it to the citizens to clean up our cities and if we need to clean up these cities we need to move away from a fossil fuel-based economy to a renewable-based economy.
Renewable Energy, India’s biggest asset
India’s biggest asset is its sun and its renewable energy but this renewable energy cannot be tapped fully without storage and without a huge and massive break-through in our ability to link it with transmission and distribution and make massive improvements.
We need to make the cost of production, transmission and distribution of renewable energy fall radically to a level which the world has not seen and deliver it to customers at a price much lower than fossil fuels.
Electric Mobility, different facets
India is a different economy because in India unlike the rest of the world 70 per cent of our vehicles are two-wheelers, 67 per cent of the energy consumed are by two-wheelers, 30 per cent of the emissions are by two-wheelers and therefore the first and foremost challenge is to link batteries with two-wheelers. We currently do not have adequate research in this regard.
The challenge is not electric mobility in four-wheelers. It is two-wheelers and we need to find a solution to providing batteries to two-wheelers. If we are able to do retro-fitting in our two-wheelers it will be a massive break-through.
The future will be not about purchase of vehicles but about per kilometre usage of vehicles and this transformation will happen much quicker.
We recently did a study with Rocky mountain institute which said that irrespective of the fact that we import lithium, nickel and cobalt, almost 85 to 86 per cent of value addition can be done in India. There is a huge potential among young people and oil companies to foray into batteries.
The second key challenge is in three-wheelers. Around 10 per cent of total vehicles are three-wheelers and they contribute a very substantial amount of pollution in India, about 30 per cent. In this segment, there is a huge possibility today in storage batteries as well as swapping batteries. Work in being done in this segment but we need to push the limit on this.
Focus needs to be on public transportation, inter-city as well as from city-to-city. Almost 78 per cent of the goods are moved by lorries and railways transports only 22 per cent of the goods. Buses and lorries within the city require CNG and for city-to-city needs we need LNG. Work needs to be done for using CNG within the city and LNG for travelling city-to-city, which is not being done.
We need to completely re-frame our oil policy to look at this. If we need to clean up India and provide better life for our citizens, we need to focus on these areas.
On electric-mobility for four-wheelers, the latest Morgan Stanley study shows that between 2030 and 2050 every second car that will be sold will be in India and the country will be the biggest driver of electric mobility between 2030-2050.
The Rocky Mountain study show that India has the potential to set-up 20 Gigafactories in India. Why are none of our oil companies thinking along these lines -- 20 Gigafactories for batteries and energy storage?
The future belongs to storage and batteries and both the world of energy and transportation converge at the point of storage. That is where the future of India lies.
Source- ET Energyworld