India’s Energy Security: Perspective AD 2050! Part-I (Current scenario)


(Brig (retd) GB Reddi)

The study of various reports on “Energy Security AD 2050” makes an interesting exercise. Many varied requirements and generation targets have been suggested by different agencies.

The significance of energy security needs no elucidation. Lenin’s quote “Communism—the power of the Soviets plus Electricity” highlights the significance of electricity from all human dimensions particularly the true state of nations growth and quest for power.

Experts and various reports differ on “Demand’ requirements and “Projected Targets.” An attempt has been made to understand the road map ahead – challenges and opportunities.

Some experts predict 8-9% GDP growth rate after the GST implementation. Current figure is 6.1% in the last quarter of 2016-2017. But, it is fair to assume average GDP growth rate between 5.5 to 6% over extended period up to AD 2050 since a higher or double digit growth cannot be sustainable in a long term context.

If so, India’s energy supply would need to grow at the rate of 6-7 per cent per annum in short term context. This is based on the assumption that elasticity of GDP in relation to supply of energy would be less than 1. Whether energy growth rate may reduce or increase depends on three key factors – technology breakthroughs, availability of exploitable reserves and finance.

Common sense dictates that a three to four times increase in generating capacities is an imperative if the per capita consumption is to be trebled from the existing low level of 1075 kWh to 5000 kWh for population level of 1.85 billion by AD 2050.

For example, as per current projection, the requirement would be 700 GWe total installed capacities by 2032. By 2050 AD, India must “ADD” between 600 GW to 1,200 GW of additional new power generation capacity (almost over three times increase), as per the International Energy Agency estimates.

What does it imply to achieve the above estimates/targets? Of course, the basic step is to adopt a “Flexible Optimal Energy Mix” based on projected availability of advanced technologies in all fields, finances, trained personnel, raw material resources and high tech ancillary industries.

Let me highlight the fundamentals to determine targets for both AD 2050 (long term) and AD 2032 (end of 15th Plan).  As per May 2017 data, India is the world’s third largest producer and fourth largest consumer of electricity with 16%  the world’s population, occupying 2 per cent of the world’s land mass. As per estimates, India’s population is likely to increase to 1.85 billion (or 2 billion).

And, India’s average energy per capita per year is at a dismal low with 1,075 kWh (per annum) with average power per capita per year at 87 Watts. As per targets planned, it is to double to 2,000 by AD 2030.  India needs to attain 5,000 kWh per capita by AD 2050; but yet will lag behind China.

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In contrast, per capita energy consumption is very insignificant when compared to China (4310 kWh), USA (12,077 kWh), EU (5391 kWh), Russia (7481 kWh), Canada (14930 kWh), Germany (6602 kWh) and Japan (7371 kWh). So, any claim of India surpassing China, which is the largest producer (1646 GWe in 2016), even by AD 2050 is a mirage.

Where does India stand with regard to generation of electricity? As per official data on 30 April 2017, the total installed power generation capacity is nearly 329,206 MWs (32.9 GWe) to include: Coal –  194,402.88 MW (59.1%); Large Hydro – 44,594.42 MW (13.5%);  Small Hydro – 4,379.86 MW (1.3%);  Wind Power – 32,279.77 MW (9.8%);  Solar Power – 12,288.83 MW (3.7%); Biomass: 8,311.78 MW (2.5%); Nuclear: 6,780 MW (2.1%); Gas – 25,329.38 MW (7.7%); and Diesel – 837.63 MW (0.3%).

Undeniably, the current ‘Energy Mix”, is skewed towards “Thermal (60%)”, mostly coal”, which is not sustainable. To mitigate the effects of ‘Climate Change”, inadequate high grade coal reserves and unaffordable oil and gas (fossil fuel) import bill, it is an imperative to plan and execute strategic shift in the ‘energy mix through ‘Clean Energy” sources to meet projected energy demand by AD 2050.

As per current projections, thermal contribution may remain around 60 per cent up to AD 2020. Gradually, it may decline to 50 per cent by AD 2040 and around 40 per cent by AD 2050. India is committed to 40% by AD 2030, which implies increase from current 19.4 GWe to around 280 GWe only.

But the ‘Hydro’ power potential is only 100 GWe with maximum output restricted to 60 GWe. Even the “Biomass” power potential is estimated at 35 GWe as per 2010 Report. So also, the “Geothermal” power estimated potential is 10 GWe (current generation of 1.6 GWe). That is, a total of 105 GWe at the maximum level of exploitation.

Thus, the need to increase the share of ‘clean energy’ by additional 315 GWe generating capacity (over 45% of generating capacity by 2030) – Solar, Wind and Nuclear sources.

As per current plans, “Solar” is to generate 175 GWe power by 2022 (currently 52 GWe) due to abundant availability – an average of 250–300 clear sunny days and 2300–3200 hours of sun shine per year. The World Bank Group (WBG) is helping India deliver on its plans of solar power with more than $1 billion in lending over FY 2017.

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The WBG is also backing the India-led International Solar Alliance (31 Member countries) which aims to promote solar use globally by mobilizing $1 trillion in investments by 2030. International agencies such as IEA, IRENA, ISGAN, WEF etc. have further strengthened the programme. Community of Mission Innovation has now enlarged to 23 countries and includes European Union.

Add to it, the ‘Wind” power potential estimated between 50 to 302 GWe with plans to generate 60 GWe by 2022.

Considering targets determined for “Solar and Wind” power by AD 2022 are successfully achieved, consolidated and advanced, and then the shortfall to be met by “Nuclear Power” generation would be marginal only.

The current nuclear generating capacity is only 6.780 GWe from 22 nuclear reactors. In addition, there are 7 reactors under construction (PHWRs – 2; PFBR -1; and VVERs -2) with generating capacity of 5.3 GWe with probable date of completion in 2023 – 12.080 GWe by 2023.

With 41 reactors under planning stage, one may add 41.2 GWe.  However, specific time frames cannot be projected for 24 reactors in collaboration with foreign vendors to include: 6 x 1650 EPR; 12x AP 1000; and 6 x 1000 VVERs). So, additional nuclear generating capacity can only be assumed from 14 x 700 PHWRs,  2 x 600 FBRs and 1 x 300 AHWR (11.3 GWe only) by 2032.

Furthermore, there are two different estimates of availability of “Shale gas’ reserves: 527 trillion cubic feet of gas, of which 50%, or over 260 tcf recoverable; and 500 to 2,000 trillion cubic meter of recoverable shale gas).

For shale gas (reserves expected to last for 200 years), companies including Reliance Industries Limited (E&P), RNRL, Vikas WSP Limited have expressed interest in exploring in India. Reliance Industries paid a reported US$ 1.7 bn for a 40% share in Atlas Energy’s leasehold in the Marcellus shale gas play in the eastern US.

Lack of state-of-the-art technologies is a major constraint with regard to maximum exploitation of not only “Shale Gas” reserves but also “Nuclear” and “Wind power” potential. Also, financial constraints are yet another key factor besides availability adequate material supplies.

Thus, the shortfall to meet the projected demand of 700 GWe by 2030 is likely to be marginal only that may be made up with a boost in solar and wind power generating capacity or even by other means.

Be that as it may, to meet the additional requirements by AD 2050 amounting to over 1200 GWe, it is inescapable to achieve higher generating targets not only in the nuclear sector, but also shale gas exploitation.

To sum up, the quest of “Energy  Security by AD 2050” makes it an imperative to make a deliberate shift from coal based power generation to “clean energy” – renewable, nuclear and shale gas sources. Even among the ‘clean energy’ resources, there are tradeoffs that need to be carefully reviewed and determined based on progressively advanced technology breakthroughs, raw material availability, costs, technical manpower resources and domestic capabilities. Security

In Part 2, the current state of “Nuclear Energy” will be reviewed to provide an insight into exciting opportunities and challenges that need to be exploited to consolidate and advance “Energy Security by AD 2050 to much higher levels than envisaged until now. (To be concluded)