Originally Published 2006-09-01 00:00:00 Published on Sep 01, 2006
The First Energy Ministry of India was constituted under interesting circumstances. The former Energy Minister of India, Shri K. C. Pant delivered a talk at ORF on July 14, 2006 presenting his views on the fifty years of India's energy policy
Fifty Years of India's Energy Policy
The first Energy Ministry of India was constituted under interesting circumstances. There has been no single Ministry with responsibility for and authority over the entire energy spectrum. The need of the hour is an institutional arrangement to provide a rolling master plan for the energy sector as a whole with an indicative 20-year Plan, a firmer 10-Plan, and a Five-year Plan with firm targets for each sub-sector.
As the demand and supply of commercial energy, like coal, oil or gas have grown with the economy, the population and rising incomes, the weight-age of noncommercial sources in the energy mix has kept going down. However, that should not obscure their importance as an energy source for millions, who continue to depend on firewood, agriculture waste and animal waste for cooking.
Within the broad trend of the ever-increasing volume of commercial energy fl owing into industry, commerce, agriculture, transport and households, two features are to be noted, which are a welcome step-up in the share of agriculture and the growing importance of natural gas for power generation, fertiliser manufacture and domestic cooking.
Animal power is an ignored sector, but due note should be taken of the energy it provides for agricultural operations, for the transport of agricultural produce and sometimes for lifting water for irrigation. At the micro level, the irreducible requirement of energy for everyone is for cooking, lighting and transportation.
In India, energy planning has to provide for the evergrowing demands of an economy on the move, as well as the needs of every household. At the micro level again, full use has to be made of non-conventional, non-commercial and renewal resources. This calls for area-wise planning. At the macro level, it involves the optimum use of the sources of energy in the country, along with unavoidable imports, to establish an efficient supply network of commercial energy all over the country. The macro and micro pictures need to be integrated at the local level, so that a balanced, functional mix of energy sources can meet the demands of the economy and the households.
Even while short-term plans can only be based on established patterns of energy demand and supply, the depleting nature of hydro carbons, environmental concerns and the search for viable alternative sources of energy have to be taken into account in formulating long-term plans. Just as the macro and micro plans have to be integrated, short-term tactics have to be integrated with long-term strategy.
The aim of energy policy, in my view, should be to maximise self-reliance. This would entail effecting changes in the energy demand and supply pattern and the energy source structure. For this, it is necessary to explore the possibility of inter-changeability among various sources of energy supply. A touch of urgency has been added to this exercise by the spurt in oil prices. Countries that have to import oil would do well to assume that oil prices are not likely to decline in the short or medium term.
It is interesting to recall that one of the fallouts of the spurt in oil prices in 1973-74 and later in 1979, was increased focus and investment on measures for the conservation of energy and development of alternatives to oil, like fuel cells and bio-fuels. Unfortunately, the support for these efforts slackened when the effect of the oil shock wore off, but interest has revived with the latest spurt in oil prices.
The story of ‘renewables’ is not very different. However, the development of renewable sources of energy like solar, wind, bio-mass and bio-gas has received a fillip from the growing international concern about environmental pollution, and the issue has been highlighted by the adoption of renewables by the Greens in Europe as a part of their political programme. While this positive trend deserves every encouragement, as of now, the contribution of renewables to total energy supply is little more than marginal.
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