The unusual heat waves in 2022 have led to a severe energy shortage (mainly coal, which is the primary energy provider), impacting the speed of economic recovery required after the COVID upheaval. According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the number of heatwaves in India has increased from 413 in 1981-1990 to 600 in 2011-2020. Ratul Puri believes that the increase in temperatures is due to climate change.
According to reports, large parts of India were affected by heatwaves, which led to the maximum all-India power demand crossing a record 216 gigawatt (GW) mark in June, 2022. With more than 1.3 billion population, International Energy Agency (IEA) states that India’s energy demand will be more than other nations in the coming two decades.
Today, thermal plants fulfil nearly 70% of India’s power needs. Ratul Puri states that India is second after China in terms of coal imports. He believes that the invasion of Ukraine, international price fluctuations, and the increase in manufacturing after the lockdowns have led to a rise in coal prices, impacting India’s coal imports. Central Electricity Authority (CEA) reported that the coal stockpiles have dropped to the lowest since November 2017. Even the utilities sector is facing a hard time managing coal supplies. Ratul Puri shares that India had failed to fulfill domestic coal supply targets to utilities in April due to the shortage of delivery trains.
Ratul Puri believes that the entire scenario has put the spotlight on energy security. Even though the world is witnessing a gradual momentum to adopt clean energy, developing countries rely on coal due to its abundance and reasonable prices compared to other energy sources. As a matter of fact, six out of the world’s ten largest coal consumers hail from the Asia-Pacific region.
It’s clear that there will be some difficulties ahead. While it is good news for a developing economy to have energy demand, its shortage signifies robust decision-making on its part to build back the economy. In order to solve the problem, Ratul Puri believes that we require sufficient energy to fulfill our demands- clean energy to tackle global warming and strengthen the grid network with superior storage capacities. India has vowed to fulfill 50% of its energy needs from non-fossil sources and install 500 GW of renewable energy by 2030. The present scenario depicts that we urgently need to get our act in order to avoid future energy shortages that hamper economic growth and streamline pathways for clean energy.
Making a move to green alternatives
According to a study conducted by IEA and the Council on Energy Environment and Water (CEEW), India saw a rise in acquisitions of renewable energy projects by 300% to $6 billion in the first ten months of 2021 (from $1.5 billion recorded in 2020), reflecting investors’ interest in going green. He added that India showcased extraordinary prescience in ramping steady growth and met the 100GW target of installed renewable energy capacity despite the pandemic’s ill effects. To explore green hydrogen, the centre announced the National Hydrogen Mission in 2021. Recent estimates show India has over 1050 GW of renewable solar and wind energy potential.
Given the problem of the intermittency of renewables and the high chances of extreme weather conditions in the future, adequate power reserves are required for grid resilience. Presently, hydro contributes to approximately 11% of total power generation, followed by wind and solar energy, which jointly contribute to about 8%. As the share of renewables rises, Ratul Puri believes that transmission networks and grid flexibility will also evolve. Recycling wind turbine blades, solar panels and batteries will make sure that renewable energy remains clean from the start.
Lastly, the move to adopt clean energy should also take into consideration the rehabilitation of communities dependent on coal, particularly in the coal belt of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha. Fortunately, India’s renewable energy sector has the greatest potential to recruit around one million people by 2030, as per a study conducted by CEEW, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Skill Council for Green Jobs (SCGJ). This means there’s hope for the green energy transition, which will serve the economy and climate goals.