PM’s I Day Speech-Is India Hurting Itself By Thinking Too Far Ahead?

Highlights :

  • 25 year targets, as seen for Green Hydrogen sound fine, but require much work beforehand
  • India’s success in renewable energy has by no means been easy, and requires much more support to enable the rest of the pieces in energy independence to fall in place.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has a somewhat well earned reputation for making momentous announcements on days when he is the focus of attention, did not disappoint when it came to his Independence day speech. Calling for the country to be free of energy imports by 2047, he went on to announce a National Hydrogen Mission. The idea being to make the country a hub of green hydrogen manufacturing, that can potentially make it an energy exporter, rather than spend the Rs 12 lakh crore it does currently on energy imports.

Keep in mind that early in March 2015, Mr Modi had set the country a target of reducing its oil imports dependence from 77 percent of consumption to 67 percent by 2022, ie, next year. We have however, moved to over 80 percent dependence currently.

What the country has achieved in the meantime is a milestone of 100 GW of renewable energy. Perhaps it is time for the government to focus more on this creditable achievement and maintaining momentum, rather than long term plans on Hydrogen, which will go through the full cycle of tech innovation, disruptions  and more, before we see projections for a 3/4th share of Hydrogen produced globally being green hydrogen.

A higher share of renewable energy will actually create the conditions necessary for an easier green hydrogen focus, when the time is right.

We have highlighted in a detailed story in June about how only 3 stories are worth tracking, when it comes to tracking India’s progress on the energy front. India’s progress on its ethanol blending plans, the massive CBG (Compressed Bio Gas) initiative, and its progress on building quality solar energy capacity. These three initiatives will matter and make an impact well before 2047, 2030 in fact, by all estimates. Progress on all three is currently lagging, with solar probably doing the best for now. Both CBG and Ethanol ramp ups will help cut down the fossil fuel bill for the country, while the ramp up on solar will create opportunities both for lower emissions and a viable transition to electricity backed transportation. Mr Modi himself highlighted yesterday on how Indian Railways is leading the drive towards electrification. The same day that Ola Electric announced the launch of its Electric scooter formally, and promised to launch a car by 2023.

The EV transition will only be half done if the share of renewables in the grid is under 50 percent by 2030. As it is currently projected to be. Even counting nuclear power in this as an emissions free option does not move the needle much, as nuclear growth in India remains slow, and stuck with the same fears and red tapism as in most parts of the developed world.

The takeaway? Announce the  big Hydrogen initiatives by all means, but at this stage, allow the existing players, be it private sector Reliance Industries or the Public sector energy firms to track and act. The government should be focused on clearing the pathways for what has actually worked in the past 5 years, solar and wind energy (and nuclear possibly for the next decade, as new technologies promise an unprecedented level of safety and more). The targets here are by no means in control. CBG and Ethanol are also immediate  goals that need support to get back on schedule. Do that, and by 2025, we might actually be a step closer to the goal set in 2015, of reducing our oil import bill to 67 percent of consumption.

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Prasanna Singh

Prasanna has been a media professional for over 20 years. He is the Group Editor of Saur Energy International

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