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Ensuring India's Energy Security and Negative Carbon Emissions

Bhavya Khushwaha - Indraprastha College for Women , Delhi University

This model policy document is divided into two parts:

1. Energy security of India

2.Negative Carbon emissions.

Although both the topics are interdependent on each other, the division is for the sake

of clarity.

Energy Security of India - Current Status and Problems

The IEA (International Energy Agency) defines energy security as the uninterrupted availability of energy at an affordable price. Energy is one of the most fundamental driver of economic development and growth for any country as all the three sectors of economy- agriculture, industry and service sector require energy in some form or the other. This makes energy security a very important policy issue for any nation. Provision and access to electricity at a minimal price is basic in the 21st century. With population increasing exponentially along with consumerist behavior among the masses, the demand for energy has risen several fold exceeding the supply levels.



Gross electricity generation in India is 71.87% dependent on Coal and fossil fuels. The above tables also point out that our energy source is predominantly coal based. Coal as is non-renewable and an exhaustible resource, reserves of which are fast depleting and also being carbon-based lead to carbon emissions. The benefit of using coal is the ease with which it can be used and high amount of energy it produces. But its exhaustive nature as well as the multiplicity of its uses is the major bottleneck in continuing its use as the major energy source of the country. Since, aggregate demand is on the rising curve, our country’s coal reserves are insufficient in meeting national demand, due to which we have to and we do depend on imports from middle-east and other such countries which bring international strategic relations into picture and also increases our imports bill and disturbs the trade balance. Dependence on imports also leaves a country on the whims and wishes of the exporter and any conflict of interests may lead to stoppage of exports and our energy security can be hampered any time. Thus, dependence on imports must be reduced soon.

The World’s Energy Council’s Trilemma Index ranks 125 countries globally on three parameters of- Energy security, equity and environment sustainability. In 2019, India stood at 109th position, scoring 58/100 in security, 48/100 in equity and 42/100 in environment sustainability.

The two broad major problems associated with energy security are:

• Excess demand due to rising population and insufficient supplies.

• Over-reliance on imports.

• High dependence on Coal based energy which has multiple uses.

Carbon Emissions - Current Status and Problems

As the term suggests, Carbon emission is the emission of Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It is natural process as all living beings exhale carbon dioxide during respiration which gets absorbed by green plants during photosynthesis. Hence, this release and absorption maintain the level of this gas in nature. But in recent times, due to human activities like increased use of ACs and refrigerators, burning of fossil fuels for so many activities, transportation (cars, airplanes, trains, trucks, ships etc.), pollution from industrial regions, excessive population growth, deforestation so on and so forth have resulted in excess levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which can’t be compensated by natural processes.

Gases like methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons besides carbon dioxide lead to the greenhouse effect in the atmosphere resulting in increase in Earth’s average temperature finally culminating into the global phenomenon of global warming which can have catastrophic consequences like rising sea levels, submerging islands, melting ice caps, deluge, droughts etc. Hence, there is an urgent need to combat the same. India’s emissions of Carbon dioxide in 2019 were 1.9 metric tonnes, which as compared to China and the US

are low but not low enough. China is the largest emitter of carbon dioxide followed by US

and India. India has been signatory of many International climate agreements and tries to keep upto them like the Paris Agreement of 2015. But also has given up many half-way like the Rio Convention’s Pledge in 1990, revised Kyoto commitments of 1997 etc.

The balance of nature is acutely hampered due to human actions. Industrialization, urbanization and materialism has sent the nature in doldrums. In India, most of cars, trains etc. run on coal, electricity is predominantly coal-based, with rising living standards, demands for Chlorofluorocarbon-emitting appliances has increased tremendously, forest cover is losing out to residential, commercial, agricultural and industrial spaces reducing green cover. The air quality of many cities like New Delhi, is seriously affected which also takes a toll on health of the people. Rural India still uses the traditional firewood for cooking and heating purposes.

Nowadays, there is an ongoing debate on NET ZERO CHALLENGE, which means to release only that amount of carbon dioxide, which can be absorbed by the country’s flora. Whether India should sign such agreements or not so as to achieve the target within a stipulated time is a question.

The major problems with Carbon Emissions in India are:

  • Rising population with simultaneous rise in Carbon Footprint.

  • High reliance on Coal-based energy in transportation, industrial and power sector.

  • Declining forest cover or green cover in the country.


There is a need to ramp up supplies in order to ensure availability and access to energy to every Indian irrespective of whether one resides in rural or urban India. According to World Bank, 95.24% of Indians have access to electricity, which is still not cent percent. But this ramping up has to be sustainable. There is an urgent need to shift to renewable sources of energy like solar, wind, tidal, geothermal etc. as these sources are inexhaustible and will ensure security of energy. Coal based energy sources must only be used for back-up (in unforeseen circumstances, fossil fuels can be used or in those parts of India, where physio graphically, renewable resources can’t be provided or used ).

This will give us a sound system of energy provision and also will reduce our reliance on imports and related strategic tensions. India is a geographically blessed country with all the major relief features present, like the mountains, deserts, rich plains and plateaus, a long coastline etc., which we must exploit for safe and healthy future of the present and future generations. Denmark is one of the most energy secure countries and 80%(approx.) of its requirements are fulfilled by wind, solar and biomass energy. A good lesson can be learnt from Denmark’s practices. Swapping to green energy will have twin benefits of infinite supply and reduced carbon emissions and related pollution. For something as crucial as energy, heavy dependence on imports must be reduced at any cost and they should only be used in exigencies.

A generous investment must be made in R&D for renewable energy production to bring its cost down. Government should fund as many researches in this area as possible and make the production, delivery, affordability and usage of new technology as people and environment friendly as possible. Also, research on the feasibility of different forms of energy like geothermal, tidal, wave, biomass, nuclear etc. can support energy security. Rope in experts, form committees, conduct experiments, pilot projects, randomized Control Trials (A novel way of studying people’s behavior, devised by Nobel Laureate Couple- Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo) and bring out the best suited-policy. Encourage start-ups not just by saying but actually giving them some benefits as they can come up with out of the box ideas.

India has a potential of about 5000 trillion kWh of solar energy per year which is incident over its land area with most parts receiving 4-7 kWh per sq. m per day. Solar photovoltaics power can effectively be harnessed providing huge scalability in India. Such a huge potential must be immediately harnessed with research and quality infrastructure to produce solar power. States like Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka etc. all fall in the Torrid Zone of the Earth, receiving maximum sunlight.

These states must shift to solar power due to their geographic advantage. Problems with solar energy is that on sun-less days, there shall be no power which can be solved by rechargeable batteries. The power distributor can transmit and simultaneously store solar energy for cloudy days. Little research by experts can overcome this problem . The second problem that arises is the imports of constituent elements of solar cells and panels from China. Due to border skirmishes and tensed relation with it, surety of these imports gets ambiguous. Hence, we switch to countries like Taiwan for the same if India does not have a comparative cost advantage in this area. Solar energy gives advantage of installation of the apparatus at houses, here, nudge theory can be used to incentivize people to use solar energy off-grid until it is made available on-grid. Incentives can be in the form of rebates on electricity bills, discounts on solar batteries etc. All public spaces like malls, restaurants, showrooms etc. must make use of solar power and the government must make some arrangements to encourage them to use the same. Solar power can also reach inaccessible areas (as sun is accessible everywhere) like rural and remote areas which can ensure 100% electrification of the country.

Along with solar energy, the expansion of the wind industry has resulted in a strong ecosystem, project operation capabilities and manufacturing base of about 10,000 MW per annum. The country currently has the fourth highest wind installed capacity in the world with total installed capacity of 35.6 GW (as on 31st March 2019) and has generated around 52.66 Billion Units during 2017-18.(Ministry of Renewable Energy). Indian states like Gujarat , Rajasthan and all coastal areas also can harness wind energy and use the same. Solar and wind together can provide a solid security of energy. Research on how both these forms of energy transmit to areas where they can’t be installed can do wonders.

Bioethanol made of plant based sugar and biodiesel consisting of lipids are more energy efficient as well as more clean fuels that can be used along with some percentage of conventional petrol and diesel with proper technology. This can divert the use of coal to other areas and reduce considerable amount of emission.

One success story, Bhutan is the only carbon-negative country in the world. It moved from being carbon neutral to carbon negative. It made policies like not letting state forest area fall below 60% ( forest coverage is 72% for the country), it teamed up with Nissan Motors to distribute 100s of electric vehicles to reduce dependence on coal running automobiles, state distributed free electricity to villagers to prohibit their burning of firewoods, Bhutan also plans to go paperless soon. Although, Bhutan is a very small nation, but a lot can be learnt from its practices and implemented in India. Government needs to expend a lot in this area but that will be worth as cost of renewable energy falls with time and this investment will yield great results.

A shift from fossil fuels as the major energy producer to renewable and cleaner energy will significantly bring down the carbon emissions. Incentivize private firms to bring in innovative technology to replace fossil fuels with green energy. Let every industry in India undertake the ENVIRONMENT RESPONSIBILITY to pay for the opportunity cost of building a factory on a forest land with government backing. Development is important, one can’t shut factories manufacturing essential commodities and agricultural lands producing food to feed the population for the fear of emissions, emissions can be controlled by controlling reckless and carefree attitude and adopting environment conscious approach. More research in this area of cleaning the emissions of GHGs can transform the landscape of the country. Adopt the best practices of countries which have been able to control their carbon dioxide output.

Develop a well-connected public transport system to avoid the need of using personal vehicles, encourage the initiatives like car sharing, car-pooling. Develop technology on running trains using the science of electromagnetism (Maglev Trains). New Delhi adopted CNG, yet the pollution level is not satisfactory, launch Electric Vehicles (EV) throughout the country and subsidize the prices to encourage consumer demand and simultaneously build charging stations. Conglomerates like TATA , RELIANCE can be roped in for such ventures. TATAs, Hyundai and Morris Garages have already launched EVs in India, nudge the firm as well as people to replace their fuel based cars with EVs. Agriculture can also be done sustainably if proper guidance is made available to farmers making use of solar power for irrigation, using the crop residue for producing biomass energy.

Educate and spread awareness among people about the small and simple steps they may take and must take at individual level to cut down their Carbon footprint as people make a country and their small efforts can turn our country in one of the CARBON NEGATIVE COUNTRY. This may take time but is not impossible if India gird up its loins now. Compared to its 1.3 Billion large population, its carbon emissions are not that high as they could be, things can still be controlled. Afforestation and stopping deforestation, preserving our forests must be our priority.

Everything boils down to the fact that population is the root cause of all the major problems. Humans have crossed the carrying capacity of the planet. Excess demand of energy, housing, food, consumer goods etc. has taken a toll on the planet. The exponentially rising population is fatal to itself. India is expected to surpass China by 2025 in population growth. Population must be controlled in every possible manner by educating people of the cons of a large population, nudging them towards proper family planning, making contraceptives available at low prices and other incentives in the form of tax rebates, concessions etc.


All-India power demand to grow 7% in FY22: ICRA, population is already rising so Carbon emissions will eventually increase with passing time. But this increase in demand and emissions can be curbed if proper policies and their strict implementation is in place. India makes good policies but lacks in implementation. Energy sufficiency along with Efficiency must be the twin aim for the nation. Carbon emissions need to be brought down to net zero levels aiming negative emissions. Public Policies must also stress on as to how to motivate people to adopt a particular policy, hence psychologists must also be a part of policy making as they understand human behavior. Basically, switching to renewable forms of energy, increasing the green and forest cover for the entire country and a behavioral change in the mindset of population towards a greener and cleaner future can reap great results for the health of the environment as well as to the health of the economy. Environment and economy need not necessarily be mutually exclusive. With research and adoption of modern technology, we can achieve great strides.



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