US-India ties are on the cusp of a new threshold. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the US has already generated euphoria in both countries and his visit is likely to deepen the bi-lateral relationship between the two countries. In this context, the Fifth US-India Energy Partnership Summit, to take place in Washington DC from September 30 to October 1, 2014, will be a significant moment to strengthen various energy collaborations. The US is among the top producers of energy in the world. And by 2030, India will be the third largest consumer of energy in the world, after China and the US, when the country would double its primary energy demand.
Organized by The Energy and Resources Institute North America (TERI NA) and Yale University, the Summit has become a unique development platform, facilitated by a developing country in a developed country. The Summit has been a pioneer in providing an intellectual opportunity, as it envisioned the current and future energy challenges for the country many years ago. The Summit assumes significance as the United Nations is in the process of evolving the post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda, and there is a greater need for the country to look for clean energy options and meet global goals.
Energy gaps and growing demand
Over 300 million people in India do not have access to electricity. Moreover, several million households who have an electricity connection and ability to pay for services are deprived of reliable and continuous electricity supply. This directly impacts livelihoods and household welfare. Despite increase in availability, India faced an energy deficit of 8.7 per cent and a peak deficit of nine per cent in 2012-13. India’s energy consumption is only going to progressively increase in times to come.
Catching up will not be easy to say the least. Detailed analysis carried out by TERI indicates that under a Reference Scenario, India’stotal energy requirements would increase three folds from the current level by 2031, with coal and oil continuing to contribute a large part of this energy need. Import dependence in the case of oil was 76 per cent in 2011-12 and even coal is now being imported in substantial quantities. If the country continues on the path of energy consumption that represents business as usual, then oil imports alone would be around 10 million barrels per day by 2031-32, rising from around 2.5 million barrels per day in 2011-12. With the devaluation of the Rupee over the last four years, oil prices in effect have gone up by 50 per cent.
The need to forge new partnerships, especially in the Indian energy sector, emanates from the fact that India is heavily dependent on oil imports from the volatile Gulf region, and any new developments in the region will have a disastrous impact on the Indian economy.India’s net import bill was 41 per cent of the country’s export earnings in 2012/13. And in a scenario of rising and volatile energy prices, India’s vulnerability on account of high energy import bills could increase significantly in the future.
Energy security impacts poverty eradication
With a rank of 136 among 186 countries in terms of its human development index, India has a long way to go in developing adequate energy infrastructure and services to bring down poverty levels. What is worrying is that over 160 million households still use poor-quality biomass. Clean energy therefore needs to figure prominently at the core of India’s development agenda to ensure that adequate and affordable energy forms can be made available to fuel India’s growth path. In this context, the NDA government’s decision for 100 Smart Cities has provided new opportunities to build sustainable energy paradigms and clean habitats.
Clean energy, technologies and global commitments
Though India may have pulled out of crucial multilateral negotiations recently, there is a greater need for the country to look for clean energy options and curb its greenhouse gas emissions as the climate change has emerged as the greatest interface between development and environment. “SDGs cannot be truly relevant unless they take into account the goal of stabilizing the earth’s climate. The triangle between adaptation, mitigation and sustainable development is such that each reinforces the need for the other,” says Dr R K Pachauri, Director General, TERI NA. In its recent report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had presented a grim picture for India, predicting increasing climatic shifts affecting various sectors that are crucial to the growth and development of the country.
Therefore, both energy and climate are areas that demand international collaboration. Being growing economies and large energy consumers, the US and India are at the forefront of this effort. The two countries face unique yet related challenges, and there is potential for bilateral cooperation between them. As India strives to meet the energy needs of its large population while reducing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, it stands to benefit from its technology engagement with the US. This interaction offers vast business potential for energy industries in both countries. In the same vein, India and the US, both technology hubs in their own right, offer numerous opportunities for cooperation on technology development.
Rich experiences and solutions
In the past, the Summit has played host to a number of world leaders, including former US vice-President Al Gore and the Heads of State from various countries, along with top corporate and multi-lateral organizations. This year’s Summit speakers will include DrErnest Moniz, Secretary of Energy, United States Department of Energy, Ambassador Carlos Pascual, Former Special Envoy and Coordinator International Energy Affairs, Energy Resources Bureau, US Department of State, Mr Michael P Walsh, Chairman of the Board of Directors, International Council on Clean Transportation, Dr Richard Sandor, Chairman and CEO, Environmental Financial Products, LLC, Dr Rajiv J Shah, Administrator, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Mr Luis Alberto Moreno, President, Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and Ms Frances Beinecke, President, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
The Summit has consistently offered viable solutions on a range of issues drawing from the rich experiences from different stakeholders, including multi-lateral organizations, governments, corporate and think tanks. And the need to explore mutually-beneficial partnerships during the Summit holds promise for a better tomorrow.