Energy in India 2035: Whats required on the technology front
A look at the technology areas that are expected to shape the next phase of energy infrastructure in India and need for technology cooperation to build off the priorities set by other nations
India is at cross-roads of determining the direction and nature of growth that needs to be shaped up in the coming decades. Given the growth required in the country to architect the development needs of its teeming millions, it is evident that the country’s requirements for energy and supporting infrastructure would increase rapidly as well.
Direct investment in excess of USD 1 trillion is required during the next 2 decades to roll out the energy projects needed to maintain the country’s growth targets. Bulk of this investment (almost 75%) is likely to flow to building the requisite energy infrastructure (distribution, transmission and power plants) with the balance 25% accruing to the coal, oil and gas sectors.
As the Policy makers grapple with potential ways to reduce the energy demand and supply gap in an environmental friendly fashion, choice of right technologies is absolutely crucial to building a Green India.
Drivers such as the availability and prices of resources, need for ecological balance, growing environmental consciousness amongst the Indian consumers, as also climate change related imperatives are going to be strong influences on the kind of technologies that gain acceptance in the country.
Here is a look at some of the technology areas that are expected to help shape the next phase of energy infrastructure in India as also are getting significant traction in other regions of the world.
Emerging Energy Supply Technologies
Non-linear thinking and methods are required to shape a smarter, sustainable India. A comprehensive review of the various policy pronouncements, country’s integrated energy plan and the 12th five year plan reveals the dependence and need for technological advancement in the following areas:
- CCS / CCT technologies
- Development of solar grade materials, both in the area of solar thermal and photovoltaic
- Green technologies like bio engines with gas, liquid and solid
- Smart grid for integrating several sources of energy
- Energy storage devices
- Low wind speed turbines
- Hybrid and Electric vehicles
- Hydrogen based energy systems including Fuel cells
- Green building design and materials
- New innovations in the power system design
Already the Government has initiated several measures to shape technology access and deployment in these fields.
On the conventional energy front, as indicated in the recently launched 12th Five Year Plan, the focus is on the development of energy efficient supercritical thermal capacities as also establishment of new nuclear power capacities accompanied with the development of fast breeder reactor technologies.
Technology innovation is expected to play a large role in shaping a much desired improvement in the fuel efficiency of automobiles. With a mandate on fuel efficiency norms expected in near term, the focus on fuel efficiency would force auto companies and their suppliers to seek newer technologies as a differentiating factor in an increasingly competitive market.
Similar developments are foreseen in mass rapid rail transport systems for enabling ease of movement of passenger traffic as also catalyze significant shift of goods transportation from surface roads to rail infrastructure.
With the launch of JNNSM, the solar sector has already received a major fillip and the industry is set to play a major role in the coming decades. Significant R & D initiatives are underway to help catalyze a more competitive and accessible industry.
As India contemplates its options for charting a sustainable path to address its growth needs, it is important to establish a fresh approach to enable technology transfer in context of low carbon innovation and development. The investments being made by other nations accord an opportunity for developing nations such as India to leverage the same, with local adaptations as required.
International Initiatives and opportunity for technology collaboration
Several countries have initiated strategic steps for enabling efficient energy use and conversion as also accelerated deployment of renewable energies. Countries such as Germany are making special efforts to weed out nuclear energy over the next decade or so and yet build a 50% share of renewable in the energy mix by 2050. Germany is focusing significantly on increasing combined heat & power installations.
Overall EU has emerged as a global thought leader in the solar domain. Several advancements are being attempted in areas such as solar-thermal power plant technology, solar chemistry and heat storage. Other areas where significant investment is being undertaken include low- and high temperature fuel cell technologies.
Japan has also initiated several measures to introduce turbo machinery, combustion chambers, and heat exchangers for efficient, environmentally compatible fossil power plants.
Need for a low carbon global order provides a unique opportunity for nations to collaborate and shape long term technology cooperation in many of the fields highlighted above. Already Germany and India are working closely on several fronts to shape low carbon roadmap for India. Japan and India also have a robust technology cooperation framework in place under which projects such as Coke Dry Quenching for the steel sector have been successfully deployed in India.
Such cooperation is essential to create access to the latest technologies for the Indian players and in turn, the Indian market represents a strategic opportunity for any serious organization. In order to take this cooperation to the next level and allow for a mass access of technologies, a comprehensive technology transfer environment needs to be established. In its absence, several of the key technology advancements required to realize India’s energy goals and vision for 2035 will remain a distant dream.
The author, Upendra Bhatt is Managing Director at a sustainability consulting firm cKinetics.