India’s Energy Policies and the Paris Agreement Commitments: Economic Growth and Environmental Constraints

From RealClear Energy

By Tilak K. Doshi & C. S. Krishnadev
August 25, 2021

As we approach the UN climate body’s Conference of Parties (COP26), to be held in Glasgow in November, the drive by the UN’s climate body to push the world’s major developing countries to adopt increasingly ambitious “decarbonization” policies as part of the Paris Agreement has intensified. U.S. climate envoy John Kerry called on China—the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHGs), by far—to do more. Referring to China’s “staggering amount of fossil fuel use,” China’s Nationally Determined Commitments (NDC) to peak its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2030 under the Paris Agreement and its more recent promise of “carbon neutrality” by 2060 are not enough, according to Kerry.

As the world’s third-largest emitter of GHGs, India is under similar diplomatic and political pressure in international forums dominated by the EU, as well as the U.S. Biden administration, which have made climate policy a centerpiece in their international relations. Despite having the sixth-largest economy in the world—with a burgeoning middle class and world-leading industries, ranging from software services to pharmaceuticals—India still remains a poor country.

With a gross national income per capita of $1,900 in 2020, India is in the group of countries ranked as “lower middle income.” For comparison, the world average is $11,550; China’s is somewhat lower than the world average, at $10,610; and the high-income countries earned a per-capita GNI of $46,040. India’s per-capita consumption of electricity was estimated at just over 850 KWh at the beginning of 2020, or just 7.3% of U.S. per-capita consumption and 20% of China’s average. A recent survey found that 13% of India’s households lack access to grid electricity.

India’s economy is heavily dependent on fossil fuels—particularly coal. In 2020, fossil fuels accounted for almost 90% of the country’s primary energy consumption, and coal alone accounted for almost 55%. Coal is the mainstay of India’s power sector, accounting for just over 72% of total power generation in 2020. Renewable energy (which includes solar, wind, and modern biofuels but excludes hydro) accounted for less than 10%.

Wind and solar power generation have grown rapidly but from small bases. Solar generation grew in during 2009–19 by an impressive 90% compound annual rate, with an absolute increase of 46 terawatt hours (TWh). Wind grew by almost 15% annually, with an increase of 44 TWh over the same period; coal, accounting for the bulk of power generation, as already noted, grew by an annual 6.3%. Given the size of its contribution to total power generation, however, it accounted for an increase of 514 TWh. Unsurprisingly, coal will continue to play a major role in India’s rapid electrification to support robust economic growth. Indeed, while India plans significant renewable energy investments, its mainstay will include a major push in coal, oil, and natural gas utilization to support continued economic growth ambitions.

India’s ambitions for expanding the role of renewable energy have been a staple in the mass media, and recent headlines hailed the country’s achievement in having reached renewable energy capacity of 100 GW, making it the world’s fourth-largest in installed “green” capacity. On India’s 75th Independence Day (August 15), Prime Minister Modi tweeted in caps: “INDIA HAS SET THE GOAL OF 450 GW OF RENEWABLE ENERGY FOR 2030. OUT OF THIS, WE HAVE ALREADY ACHIEVED 100 GW TARGET WELL WITHIN SCHEDULE.” Big business in India also announced plans for large investments in the sector. Reliance Industries pledged to invest ₹75,000 crore (approximately US$10 billion) in “clean energy,” becoming the latest Indian oil company to announce a major push into renewable projects, including solar cells, hydrogen, fuel cells, and battery grids.

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AGW is Not Science
August 27, 2021 10:19 am

I thought they were smarter than that. They shouldn’t invest so much as a the equivalent of a wooden nickel in worse-than useless wind, solar, hydrogen, or battery grids. A country that poor has no money to waste on virtue signalling.

Richard Page
Reply to  AGW is Not Science
August 27, 2021 11:39 am

India has been remarkably adept at securing foreign investment in the renewable energy sector. If it keeps the likes of USA and EU happy, and keeps more money flowing into the country, it might be worth it. I’m not sure of the exact figures but I’d guess that India’s investment in renewables has been minimal, just enough to keep foreign investors interested.

Reply to  AGW is Not Science
August 27, 2021 11:40 am

The problem is that pretending to virtue signal is the most effective way to get foreign governments to invest massive amounts in bribes.

Climate believer
Reply to  AGW is Not Science
August 27, 2021 1:09 pm

India has the sixth largest economy in the world, it’s not that poor, it’s people are though.

They have massive problems with their electricity generation and distribution networks, they had a huge grid failure back in 2012 affecting the North mainly but still leaving about 400 million people in the dark. Integration of unreliables into the system will be a nightmare.

But, in my opinion, they’ve been given a much more pressing problem than CO², by walk away Biden, as a new Islamic State rises to the West of Delhi.

Richard Page
Reply to  Climate believer
August 28, 2021 12:23 pm

Nah, they’ve lived with Pakistan for years now.

Ron Long
August 27, 2021 10:22 am

I think I will set a goal of paying my credit cards by 2030. How will that work out? Consequences? How about if India and China put up (something) or shut up? Biden?

Devils Tower
August 27, 2021 10:28 am

India has no open land. Driving thru central Illinois with an engineering associate from India years back. I was left with a impressionable moment that has lasted.

He was stunned(beside himself) with the amount of wide open farmland….

Reply to  Devils Tower
August 27, 2021 10:41 am

It makes you wonder why they can’t give incentives to settle in Kashmir and stabilize the place against invaders.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Devils Tower
August 27, 2021 10:51 am

If he wanted to feel at home instead, you should have driven him through New Jersey.

NJ population density: 1,215.4/sq mi
India population density: 1,202/sq mi

And you are exaggerating. NJ has a lot of open space, therefore I’m sure India does as well.

Bill Toland
Reply to  D. J. Hawkins
August 27, 2021 11:18 am

The United States is 83% urbanised whilst India is only 35% urbanised. This is why there is very little open space in India.

Reply to  D. J. Hawkins
August 27, 2021 11:44 am

There is no comparison between the open space in Illinois and the open spaces in New Jersey.
Yes, here and there you can find a few square miles of open space in New Jersey.
On the other hand Illinois has open spaces that are bigger than New Jersey.

Reply to  MarkW
August 27, 2021 1:57 pm

Try driving through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, it gives a whole new meaning to “open spaces’…

Reply to  Yooper
August 27, 2021 4:05 pm

Or Montana, or Kansas, etc.

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  MarkW
August 29, 2021 8:15 am

Don’t forget us here in canada, we have nothing but open space

Just look between the ears of our Prime Minister if you don’t believe me

August 27, 2021 10:37 am

Meanwhile young people in the U.S. are being steered into environmental studies instead of real work professions with a future. As wealth slowly leaks out of the middle class hobbled by low skills, India and China can take their place if they aren’t hobbled by global jihad wars.

Reply to  ResourceGuy
August 27, 2021 12:38 pm

Amen to that! When I was in school, the only degree with the word “environment” in it was environmental engineering, at the time basically wastewater engineering. Today, every junior college, community college, liberal arts college and university offers one or more “environmental studies “ degrees. About as useful or productive as a degree in philosophy, art, or psychology. Trouble is, environment doesn’t drive the parade from behind. We’re just here to clean up the horse manure. We don’t really make anything useful, we just help do it cleaner. So-called “green jobs” are an oxymoron.

Reply to  Pflashgordon
August 27, 2021 12:58 pm

Every city council in Australia is stacked with environmental studies graduates “working” on local development plans, and, mostly, placing ever increasing burdens on the ratepayers who have no control of any of councils’ policies. Not democratic at all.

Reply to  ResourceGuy
August 27, 2021 4:16 pm

Environmental Studies is the ‘Arts Degree’ of science.

Mickey Reno
Reply to  Raven
August 29, 2021 5:42 am

Exactly right. If the teachers of this course of study were like Jim Steele, the students would actually be learning about how nature works. But I fear the vast majority of them are simply being brainwashed and indoctrinated, and like the psychology and sociology majors, taking on huge debts to make themselves unemployable in their field. The only place they could work is at the university that trained them and these institutions are going to be contracting and shrinking as the west twigs to the notion that “every child needs a college education” has been a disaster of a meme.

August 27, 2021 10:56 am

COP to the nth won’t convince countries to abandon their economies. No one, no one, is willing to revert to the 19th century whether or not others are doing it …. or especially if all others do it because then they’ll gain the manufacturing edge like China. All the wind and solar projects are going to end up like the amusement park in Pripyat.

Reply to  markl
August 27, 2021 1:36 pm

Gee, the EU, the US, Canada, NZ and Oz seem to be abandoning their economies voluntarily. The CoPs are working just as planned.

August 27, 2021 10:57 am

If the British Empire taught India anything, it’s how to tell people to ‘bog-off’.

R Taylor
August 27, 2021 11:08 am

The BEEB reports that COP26 has achieved the distinction of “Purveyors of Voodoo, By Appointment to HM The Queen”

August 27, 2021 11:50 am

India needs to be responsible and competitive instead of copying bad public policy. They need to money for weapons to fight off the crazy neighbors and stop buying junk from the Russians.

Reply to  ResourceGuy
August 27, 2021 1:44 pm

Russian weaponry is not junk, have you heard of:
AK-47 Kalashnikov world renown favoured by guerrillas and terrorists
T-34 thank that made it from Stalingrad to Hitler’s bunker in Berlin
Katyusha the deadliest rocket artillery weapon in history of warfare
Mig-15 jet that first appeared in Korean war
RPG-7 anti-tank rocket, etc.  

Richard Page
Reply to  ResourceGuy
August 28, 2021 12:04 am

Things have moved on somewhat since India was reliant on Russian weapons for defence. They now produce their own rather effective tanks and warships, produced in India and to Indian designs.

August 27, 2021 1:03 pm

India as many less developed countries are forced into adapting resources they have to move forward. In 1938 started building of, at that time one of the most impressive European bridges, over the gorge of river Tara in my homeland of Monte Negro. The bridge has five arches the biggest with span of 116m (380ft) and at the height of 170m (560ft) above the river. Steel was an expensive commodity so Swiss project engineer designed wooden scaffolding. The model is still held at ETH Zurich,comment image
This is model that worked extremely well, and is featured in presentation ‘Bridge Design Lectures 19 Apr 2021, Arch bridges. (Bogenbrücken). ETH Zürich Chair of Concrete Structures and Bridge Design’ -(google it), page14/200 
If you ever get there the best view is from a zip line, if you don’t mind heights.

Reply to  Vuk
August 27, 2021 2:03 pm

That’s one hell of a bridge.

Dave Fair
Reply to  Yooper
August 27, 2021 2:57 pm

The termites love it.

Reply to  Dave Fair
August 27, 2021 3:27 pm

It is a concrete bridge, only the temporary construction scaffolding was wood.

August 27, 2021 1:47 pm

“A recent survey found that 13% of India’s households lack access to grid electricity.”

13%x1.3B suggests 170M people without grid electricity. -WHOA

Reply to  Waza
August 27, 2021 2:07 pm

Doesn’t that work out to half the population of the United States: California, Oregon, Washington, New York, New Jersey, Mass.,Texas…..all trying to get to the same place…….

August 27, 2021 2:28 pm

Coal consumption by country: China 50.5%, India 11%, USA 8.5%, Germany 3%, Russia, Japan, Sth Africa 2-3%, Sth Korea, Poland, Australia, Turkey, Indonesia 1-2%.

Reply to  Robber
August 27, 2021 9:39 pm

So India use 400% less coal than China. Why keep clubbing them in the same category?

Richard Page
Reply to  AntonyIndia
August 28, 2021 12:08 am

More importantly, only 2.5% more than USA – the difference being that USA is a developed country whilst China and India are developing countries, which is why India is lumped in with China and not USA.

August 27, 2021 4:16 pm

In 2010 P. J O’Rourke wrote a short chapter in a book on climate change. It is probably the most accurate prediction ever done. Since then, China and India massively increased emissions. O’Rourke’s chapter below:

“Climate change: There’s not a damn thing you can do about it. Maybe climate change is a threat, and maybe climate change has been tarted up by climatologists trolling for research grant cash. It doesn’t matter. There are 1.3 billion people in China, and they all want a Buick.
Actually, if you go more than a mile or two outside China’s big cities, the wants are more basic. People want a hot plate, and a piece of methane-emitting cow to cook on it. They want a carbon-belching moped, and some CO2 disgorging heat in their houses in the winter. And air conditioning wouldn’t be considered an imposition if you’ve ever been to China in the summer.

Now, I want you to dress yourself in sturdy clothing, and arm yourself however you like – a stiff shot of gin would be my recommendation – and I want you to go tell 1.3 billion Chinese that they can never have a Buick. Then, assuming the Sierra Club helicopter has rescued you in time, I want you to go tell a billion people in India the same thing.”

Reply to  Taphonomic
August 27, 2021 5:58 pm

YES! I grew up in Calcutta and all this carbon neutral stuff is BS. The rural people stll, 60 years later, don’t have grid power.

August 27, 2021 7:25 pm

What a sad waste of money and resources. That money would have been better spent on water projects or sanitation projects. That would directly improve the lives of many millions in India.

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