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India’s influence on global energy trends in the next 25 years will be significant

By Dr Anthony Horton

According to a recently published International Energy Agency report titled “India Energy Outlook” approximately 20% of the world’s population calls India home and it is expected that the country will be responsible for the largest percentage (25%) of the projected rise in global energy demand between now and 2040. Given that energy use in many developed countries is decreasing and China is fuelling its development with lower energy intensity, India will significantly influence global trends.

India’s energy needs will be heavily influenced by the additional 315 million people that will live in cities by 2040. Such an increase is likely to accelerate the switch to modern fuels, the increase in vehicle and appliance ownership and the demand for construction materials. The residential construction sector in particular will transition from solid biomass (66% of the current total) to electricity and oil which are projected to constitute 45% and 15% of the 2040 total respectively.

Given the sheer volume of building construction needed to house 315 million more people by 2040, India has a fantastic opportunity to expand and tighten energy efficiency standards and ensure that future needs (particularly cooling) are met without unduly stressing energy supply infrastructure. The ‘Smart Cities’ program which was launched this year emphasises integrated planning and the provision of urban services (eg. power, water, waste, public transport) although it has to confront the reality of delivery across a variety of branches and levels of Government if it is to be successful.

The need for new infrastructure in India will underpin strong demand for goods that are largely energy intensive, and the rise in vehicle ownership will ensure that the demand for transport continues to increase rapidly. Industry is predicted to be the heaviest user of energy in India by 2040, consuming more than half of the total energy use in India as a result of the growth in construction materials including steel, cement and bricks. While an innovative energy efficiency certification program can decrease the growth of energy intensive industries, raising awareness and financing improvements in other sectors such as the brick industry (which currently consists of in excess of 100,000 small producers) is a significant challenge.

Adding more than 250 million passenger vehicles, 185 million two and three-wheelers and 30 million trucks and vans to the Indian vehicle fleet by 2040 will account for an anticipated 66% increase in oil demand. Policy challenges with respect to transport include improving road infrastructure while still encouraging rail transport (via dedicated freight corridors) and providing effective public transport systems (such as Delhi’s metro rail system).

By 2040 India’s power infrastructure will need to virtually quadruple to keep pace with electricity demand that is increasing by approximately 5% each year. The current financial standing of many distribution companies in India as a result of low average end user tariffs, technical losses in the network and frequent non-payment for electricity is a significant structural weakness. This has created uncertainty for generators and resulted in much needed investment in network infrastructure being withheld. Regular load shedding in many parts of India results in those individuals and families that can afford back up options having to invest in them, whilst those who can’t afford such options are subjected to poor levels of service. Over the next 25 years, it is anticipated that approximately 600 million more people will consume electricity in India.

More than half of the new electricity generation capacity in India by 2040 will be sourced from renewables and nuclear energy. To keep pace with electricity demand, nearly 900 GW of additional capacity will be required, and there will be a strong reliance on solar and wind power (representing 340 GW in total) on the basis of uncertainty regarding the pace at which large dams or nuclear plants can be built. Decentralised rooftop solar and off grid projects area anticipated to account for another 90 GW.

By 2040 India is expected to be the world’s second largest coal producer, however within 5 years India will become the world’s largest coal importer. Coal production growth in India is constrained by a number of issues including land use and permitting and infrastructure bottlenecks. Coal demand by 2040 in India is expected to grow by 250% from 2015 levels, and this is expected to be the main reason that energy related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will rise to 5 Gigatonnes within 25 years. However, relative to the size of the Indian economy, CO2 emissions from energy usage will align with India’s INDC pledge to reduce its emissions intensity by 33-35% below 2005 levels by 2030. On a per capita basis, India’s emissions are anticipated to be 20% below the world average by 2040.

rWdMeee6_pe About the author: Anthony Horton holds a PhD in Environmental Science, a Bachelor of Environmental Science with Honours and a Diploma of Carbon Management. He has a track record of delivering customised solutions in Academia, Government, the Mining Industry and Consulting based on the latest wisdom and his scientific background and experience in Climate/Atmospheric Science and Air Quality. Anthony’s work has been published in internationally recognised scientific journals and presented at international and national conferences, and he is currently on the Editorial Board of the Journal Nature Environment and Pollution Technology. Anthony also blogs on his own site, The Climate Change Guy.


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  1. Sen Nearly Ile

    the waste of the 12 years of howard will be remembered not just for his WoMD, children overboard, asset stripping and profligate spending but for his lack of foresight in funding the CSIRO, a world class instituition leading in the science of renewables and energy storage.
    The lure of energy for the subcontinent and china, even at a $1 a head, should have set the pollies salivating But bugger all. A verbal spurt from the lemon “greatest moral, economic and environmental challenges of our age” but too gutless to go to an election then the greens/abbott 2009 alliance to kill carbon price and another 6 years wasted.
    Now India leads the world to china’s billions whilst we still underfund the CSIRO???? Why???

  2. Chris

    Hmmm that was a bit like reading wikipedia or a government brochure……..was there an opinion in there somewhere ?

    This video about serious issues with the carbon trading systems is probably much more worthwhile. It relates to things we actually have some input into.

    COP21 – The Carbon Market and the Unenforceable Agreement

    What do people think about that ?
    It adds weight to the Greens rejection of a poorly designed emissions trading scheme and makes a flat rate carbon tax sound like a superior system overall.

  3. Miriam English

    There is a big problem with forecasts of energy use. They generally use past trends to project into the future. But things change. Note for instance the massive error made by all Australia’s energy producers in thinking our energy use would continue to rise, and their utter incredulity when it fell (and their reliance upon the government to save them from their mirstake). As conserving energy became not only a great way to save money, but socially cool, we’ve quickly opted for low energy solutions where we could. There’s a lot more we could do, and probably will do, to bring that energy use down still further in the near future.

    I have a feeling we will see similar changes occurring in India. They have the advantage that the West and China will have already lowered the initial costs for things like LED lights, solar panels, super-low-power consumer electronics, and light-weight electric vehicles. If the Indian authorities require sensible building methods, such as insulation, solar heating and passive cooling then their energy costs and consumption will both plummet.

    There seems to be great and growing interest in India in smart building design, not only for residential buildings, but for business and industry. As the savings become more obvious we can expect commercial buildings to jump to low energy use in a big way. As the middle class grows we can hope that residential buildings will follow.

    It will be very interesting to see India’s path into the future. Will they be ruled by corruption and Big Energy? Or will they use modern energy-saving technology to slingshot past the West in ways we never could?

  4. totaram

    “however within 5 years India will become the world’s largest coal importer. ”

    Sorry, that does not compute with the energy minister of India being on record as ending coal imports in two years. Maybe things are not as simple as the author makes out?

    Talking of India’s “future” trends in carbon pollution is nice, but as the Indians like to point out, not much of the excess CO2 in the atmosphere was put there by them, and the rich countries have grown rich precisely by indulging in carbon pollution on a grand scale for two centuries. So suddenly telling the Indians that they must not pollute any more seems a bit “rich” (pun intended). They can get the energy from other sources, but it will be more expensive, and no one wants to stump up the money to help them. That’s the real problem.

  5. Chris

    totarum ..”and no one wants to stump up the money to help them. That’s the real problem.” With all our talk of nuclear power here, if it was actually about global warming, it would make (some) more sense paying for one in India. Although there are probably as many renewable possibilities there too…

    Did anyone watch the interview with Chris Williams and Amy Miller from the Real News Network I linked ?
    Anyone have an opinion ?

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