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India to be largest source of energy demand over next 20 years, report says

09 February 2021

A new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) has said that India is set to see the largest increase in energy demand of any country over the next 20 years. The IEA’s India Energy Outlook 2021, released on February 9, reports that India’s energy consumption will almost double by 2040 as its gross domestic product (GDP) expands to an estimated $8.6 trillion under current national policy.

Announcing the report, the IEA said India’s ability to ensure affordable, clean and reliable energy for its growing population will be vital for the future development of its economy, but avoiding the kind of carbon-intensive path previously followed by other countries will require strong policies, technological leaps and a surge in clean energy investment.

The India Energy Outlook 2021 examines the opportunities and challenges faced by the planet’s third-largest energy consuming country as it seeks to recover from the Covid-19 crisis. India is set to experience the largest increase in energy demand of any country worldwide over the next 20 years as its economy continues to develop and bring greater prosperity to its citizens. The combination of a growing and industrialising economy and an expanding and increasingly urban population will drive energy use higher, raising the question of how best to meet that swelling demand without exacerbating issues like costly energy imports, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

The rapid expansion of solar power combined with smart policy-making are transforming India’s electricity sector, enabling it to provide clean, affordable and reliable power to a growing number of households and businesses, the report finds. However, as is the case in economies around the world, the transport and industrial sectors – areas like road freight, steel and cement – will prove far more challenging to develop in a sustainable manner.

More than that of any other major economy, India’s energy future depends on buildings and factories that are yet to be built, and vehicles and appliances that are yet to be bought. Based on India’s current policy settings, nearly 60% of its CO2 emissions in the late 2030s will be coming from infrastructure and machines that do not exist today. This represents a huge opening for policies to steer India onto a more secure and sustainable course, the IEA says.

India Energy Outlook 2021 explains that if India goes down this path, it would need to address the critical challenge of the industrial sector through efforts like more widespread electrification of processes, greater material and energy efficiency, the use of technologies like carbon capture, and a switch to progressively lower-carbon fuels. Electrification, efficiency and fuel switching are also the main tools for the transport sector, alongside a determined move to build more sustainable infrastructure and shift more freight onto India’s soon-to-be-electrified railways.

These transformations – on a scale no country has achieved in history – require huge advances in innovation, strong partnerships and vast amounts of capital. The additional funding for clean energy technologies required to put India on a sustainable path over the next 20 years is $1.4 trillion, or 70%, higher than in a scenario based on its current policy settings. But the benefits are huge, including savings of the same magnitude on oil import bills.

India faces a range of evolving energy security challenges. Based on today’s policy settings, India’s combined import bill for fossil fuels is projected to triple over the next two decades, with oil by far the largest component. Domestic production of oil and gas continues to fall behind consumption trends and net dependence on imported oil rises above 90% by 2040, up from 75% today. This continued reliance on imported fuels creates vulnerabilities to price cycles and volatility, as well as possible disruptions to supply. Energy security hazards could arise in India’s domestic market as well, notably in the electricity sector in the absence of significant increases in system flexibility, improvements to the financial health of many electricity distribution companies, and other reform efforts.

Click here to read the report in full.


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