India’s Energy Security Scenarios (2047)

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In the previous article I talked about what is energy security and why it is important not just for India but for any country. In this article I will talk about energy security scenarios of India for the year 2047.

The erstwhile Planning Commission of India – now called NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog – developed a tool for predicting energy scenarios of India in 2047. It is a fairly complex tool that takes into account various sectors on the demand as well as the supply side, and is available for free on the website

The demand and supply sectors considered are listed in the table below:

Demand SectorsSupply Sectors
1. Lighting & appliances (domestic as well as commercial)
2. Industry
3. Transport (road, rail, & domestic aviation)
4. Green building design & envelope savings
5. Telecom
6. Cooking (household & commercial)
1. Coal
2. Oil
3. Gas
4. Nuclear
5. Hydro
6. Solar
7. Wind
8. Bioenergy

Four pathways are considered:

1.Least Effort Pathway: In this pessimistic pathway, it is assumed that Indian policies fail miserably, both on the demand as well as the supply side. Technologies fail to achieve breakthrough or are not adopted, exploration activities for fossil fuels achieve minimum success, and there is insignificant change in the demand behaviour of the consumer, leading to poor implementation of both the industrial and vehicular efficiency programs. The growth in the personal vehicles, particularly two-wheelers, is at an exponential rate, due to poor shift to public transport. This is what one might call a “business as usual” scenario, and there is little or no effort to achieve energy security.

2.High Energy Security Pathway: In this pathway, there is expected implementation of the Indian government’s policies on the demand side, and the supply mix is chosen in such a way that the overall import dependence is brought down to a low level in 2047. Hence, in this pathway, there is a determined effort on the demand side, and a combination of low and determined effort on the supply side, such that import dependence is minimized. This will entail massive increase in the domestic fossil fuel production, maximizing biofuel supply, and aggressive deployment of the renewable energy technologies.

3.Maximum Energy Security Pathway: This pathway calls for massive demand reduction by heroic efforts on the demand side, including pricing & market reforms, technology breakthroughs, and policy innovation to implement energy efficiency programs. Hence, this pathway offers the least demand situation. The supply side reacts to these programs in such a way that least import dependence of 21%, and therefore maximum energy security, is achieved. This pathway will entail accelerating the production of domestic fossil fuel production and maximizing biofuel supply and a very aggressive approach on renewable energy (RE).

4.Minimum Emissions Pathway: In this pathway, every sector contributes to both energy security and environment sustainability. Due to heroic efforts on the demand side, the demand is the minimum possible in 2047. As far as the supply side is concerned, it is so calibrated that emissions are at their minimum as well. Therefore, in this pathway, CO2 emissions rise moderately from 1.4 tons/capita to 2.66 tons/capita by 2047, in spite of the fact that population increases to 1.7 billion and the per capita triples. Theoretically, this pathway is also the one with the maximum energy security, because it involves abandoning all coal and petroleum denominated consumption by electrifying demand – which means negligible fossil fuel imports – and then supplying it by RE. However, this is a theoretical prescription as large coal based capacities under construction cannot be expected to be switched off in 2047. This pathway is a modified version of the ‘Very High Energy Security Pathway’ where all the supply options are those which prompt lowest CO2 emissions. Hence, not only would this be a highly cost-intensive pathway, it would also require the storage and balancing technologies to be adopted in a ‘heroic’ manner, which seems unlikely as of today. However, this exercise is useful to see which sectors offer maximum scope for reduction in emissions.

Now that I have explained what the four pathways are, let me tell you what the results are.


Pathway 1

Demand Pathway 1

Pathway 2

Pathway 1 	Pathway 2  Pathway 3 	Pathway 4

Pathway 3

Demand Pathway 3

Pathway 4

Demand Pathway 4

India’s demand, which was 4,905 TWh in 2012, increases to 24,016 TWh, 19,089 TWh, 14,785 TWh, and 14,785 TWh in the four pathways respectively. This works out to multiples of 4.89, 3.89, 3.01, and 3.01 respectively.

Energy Supply

Pathway 1

Energy Pathway 1

Pathway 2

Energy Pathway 2

Pathway 3

Energy Pathway 3

Pathway 4

Energy Pathway 4

The electricity supply is dominated by coal and oil in pathway 1, while renewable energy sources and bioenergy contribute close to nothing. But their share increases as we go pathway 1 towards pathway 4.

Electrification of Demand Sectors

Pathway 1

Electrification Pathway 1

Pathway 2

Electrification Pathway 2

Pathway 3

Electrification Pathway 3

Pathway 4

Electrification Pathway 4

The electrification of demand sectors – for pretty much all of them – increases as we go from pathway 1 to pathway 4. In the absence of electrification, the demand has to be met by diesel in most cases. Therefore, more electrification means more energy security because it means less import of oil and more use of renewable energy, whose contribution to electricity increases as we go from pathway 1 to pathway 4. Biofuels in transport, which will be key to increasing energy security and reducing emissions, contribute 1%, 40%, 66%, and 66% in the four pathways respectively.

Import Dependence

Pathway 1

Import Pathway 1

Pathway 2

Import Pathway 2

Pathway 3

Import Pathway 3

Pathway 4

Import Pathway 4

Import dependence, expectedly, decreases as we go from pathway 1 to pathway 4. It is at a staggering 81% in pathway 1 thus badly exposing India to the whims and fancies of its suppliers, whereas it is at a very minimal 13.7% in pathway 4. Even pathway 3 will respectably reduce India’s import dependence from 31% in 2012 to 21.2% in 2047.


Pathway 1

Emission Pathway 1

Pathway 2

Emission Pathway 2

Pathway 3

Emission Pathway 3

Pathway 4

Emission Pathway 4

The scary thing about these figures is that even in pathway 4, which is almost impossible to achieve, India’s emissions will be 2.6 times of its 2012 emission levels. Although India’s per capita emission is quite low today, it is 3rd highest in the world in absolute terms. So even in pathway 4, India will be the highest or the second highest polluter in the world. And God forbid, if India does nothing to reduce its emissions, they will be more than 7.5 times today’s levels, which will push the world to a brink without a shred of doubt!

China went into hyper-growth mode three decades ago with growth rates averaging 10% over that entire period! If that is not a jaw-dropping statistic, then I don’t know what is! China relied heavily on coal to support their growth plans, for which they have been heavily criticized by the entire world. However, China didn’t really have other energy options, to be fair to them. But they have taken this criticism to heart and have vowed to mend their ways. And remember, what China decides, it usually does! Renewable energy sources will contribute a lot more to their energy mix going forward. I will talk a lot more about this later in the series, but since I am on the topic I will say that China installed 10 GW (or 10,000 MW) of solar PV last year! To give you a little bit of a perspective, that is more than three times the total solar PV installations that India has done till date! China is also going to focus greatly on e-mobility going forward.

Like I already stated earlier, China didn’t really have an option of renewable energy sources to support their growth. But renewable energy sources are so much more affordable today than they were three decades ago, or even a decade ago for that matter; solar PV prices have dropped by almost 80% in the last decade! So even if it wanted to, the world won’t be able to forgive India if it adopts a coal-heavy approach! India has to remember that!

But I have no doubts in my mind that pathway 1 will not play out in India because solar will achieve grid parity before the end of this decade. Post that, solar costs will continue to reduce while coal will continue to get expensive since it is a scare resource. So even if Government of India sits on its backside and does absolutely nothing to encourage solar, people will still adopt it because it will make economic sense to do it.

Also, products that dramatically improve energy efficiency and sustainability will get invented in the years to come. I, for one, have a product idea whose time hasn’t quite come yet. But when it does, rest assured that I will leave everything else, work on it, and give it everything I have got. Similarly, there will be many other people who will come up with bright ideas (pun intended 🙂 ), productize them, and make them successful purely based on their economics, without needing the crutches of government subsidy.

Sustainably yours,

Prashant Karhade.
Writer, Publisher, Entrepreneur

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