1. India’s energy policy is truly unique, motivated by historical circumstances. India’s long-term goal has always been to achieve a degree of independence in energy production.
To understand India’s energy policy, one has to look back to India’s past. India’s energy policy is focused on energy independence, or at least self-sufficiency in electricity generation. This belief that India must be self-sufficient in energy is also the result of India’s submission to foreign domination by the Umayyad and Mamluk dynasties and, to varying degrees, the British Empire.
Even today, India is still struggling to manoeuvre into the future a huge population with subsistence agriculture, which also attaches great importance to self-sufficiency. This is reflected at the national level. We also need to understand that the Indian government itself is taking a more nationalistic approach to solving energy problems, even though the Indian government wants a wide variety of energy sources to contribute to the country’s energy supply.
2. India is interested in biomass and biogas because they offer a low-cost alternative to local communities in poor areas of the country that are not connected to the grid and cannot afford other energy solutions.
India has long turned to biomass to solve its energy problems, including at the local level, and for good reason. Biogas and biomass have attracted the attention of the Indian government because they provide a simple solution for rural people to cook with biogas stoves, provide a regular uninterrupted supply of electricity, and provide intermittent power supply.
There are good reasons why the Indian government relies so much on biomass and biogas. This is partly a consequence of India’s geography. The Ganges river system provides fertile ground for the growth and nutrition of a huge population, but let’s not forget that agriculture is practiced all over the Indian subcontinent. The key is that agricultural production is concentrated in the northern part of India, where there is such an abundance of crops that energy production from biomass is a sensible idea. The same may not be a reasonable idea in the south or northwest of India along the Thar desert. We should not forget that agriculture is practiced throughout the Indian subcontinent.
India has invested heavily in this area, and most parts of India are on relatively simple means of generating electricity. Heat production is less pronounced due to climatic conditions. Since biomass is readily available on farms, it makes a lot of sense to use it. The problem is that the biomass could be used as fertilizer on the fields to make the soil more fertile. Over time, this could have a serious impact on agricultural production in India.
3. India needs to invest in advanced metering systems to monitor and direct the flow of electricity, as the power grid is not as well developed as the European power grid.
We must keep in mind that India has a bottleneck in its electricity infrastructure. It requires massive investment to get electricity to the consumer, as the entire grid infrastructure will have to be put in place, and the entire electricity infrastructure is currently not reliable enough to ensure a steady supply of electricity. This also explains why the Indian government is focusing so much on high-end solutions such as the smart grid and smart metering systems that will help direct the flow of electricity to where it is needed most.
4. India relies on nuclear power. India is in a position to use nuclear energy not only for civil but also for military purposes. Solar energy will become an important part of the electricity supply chain and will compete with nuclear energy for market share in the Indian electricity market.
On the other hand, India is investing heavily in advanced energy solutions. India already has 7 nuclear power plants and plans to build up to 18 new plants in the coming decades. But it is important to remember that India has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which means that it does not rule out the military use of nuclear energy.
India is a major nuclear power in its own right due to border disputes with Pakistan in Kashmir, a region that discharges water downstream into the Ganges river system. India hopes to fill the electricity gap by building more nuclear power plants in India. These facilities are for civilian use only. This is of course a long-term solution, not a short-term thinking.
Thus, India has embarked on an ambitious program to become a leader in the photovoltaic industry, and currently has some of the largest photovoltaic systems in the world, they have been put in place to fuel India’s economic development as a global powerhouse, providing a reliable and cost-effective energy supply for the industry.
Solar energy has achieved parity with conventional fuels in India, given the logistical costs associated with the installation of solar panels, which also explains why it is considered an alternative to conventional fuels and even nuclear power. Although most of India’s electricity is generated from coal and oil, India is experiencing strong growth in renewable energy, particularly wind and solar power.
5. The future prospects for India’s energy industry will focus more on solar energy and less on biofuels, as conventional fuels will still play a major role, given their current level in India’s electricity supply.
Biomass has not grown as fast as many had predicted in recent years, probably because biomass and biogas are mostly applicable to rural communities that simply cannot afford higher electricity prices, and because investments are comparatively low and it takes a long time to increase their production. In urban areas, solar panels are installed on the roofs of buildings to harness solar energy.
Rural commodities can be expected to benefit from biofuel stoves, although they can be polluting. It really depends on how the biogas is treated before being used for cooking. Solar energy is probably India’s long-term solution, because of the wide availability of land in places like Rajasthan where solar panels have ideal conditions for producing energy.
For India, the main issue is how to bring photovoltaic installations up to 10 GW in a short period of time. It will be a real challenge, but India has taken some steps to achieve this, having achieved solar energy parity with conventional fuels. One of the major problems with solar installations in India has always been the dust that covers the solar panels in desert climates such as Rajasthan, as India has yet to find a solution as it is drastically reducing its energy production.
Given that about 80% of India’s electricity supply comes from conventional energy sources, it will take 5 to 10 years for renewable energy to have a serious impact on India’s energy industry.
Le Monde, En Inde, des panneaux solaires pour tous, 2018: https://www.lemonde.fr/smart-cities/article/2018/07/10/en-inde-des-panneaux-solaires-pour-tous_5329201_4811534.html
Planète Énergies, L’Inde et le charbon: la difficile transition énergétique des pays en croissance, 2017: https://www.planete-energies.com/fr/medias/decryptages/l-inde-et-le-charbon-la-difficile-transition-energetique-des-pays-en-croissance
Planète Énergies, L’Inde et le solaire: une ambition qui vise à rassembler Nord et Sud, 2018: https://www.planete-energies.com/fr/medias/decryptages/l-inde-et-le-solaire-une-ambition-qui-vise-rassembler-nord-et-sud
Many thanks for the shared interest in the energy world!