Reframing energy security policy
Paris climate accord gives a new dimension to reframing energy security of various nations. In recent developments, many countries have adopted new energy policies to cope with climate change. Energy security has to be understood from an instance of security in general, and thus any concept of it should address three questions: "Security for whom?", "Security for which values?" and "Security from what threats?" The feasibility of an influential approach is to be examined while taking into account the 'four A's of energy security' - Availability, Accessibility, Affordability, and Acceptability whereas India's policymakers are still fond of only three As: Availability, Accessibility, and Affordability related to energy security. In the recent past, policies show that these questions are not being addressed and the sector is facing four formidable barriers: energy subsidies, systemic management efficiencies, competition from competitive neighbour China and coping with climate change.
In India, these obstacles become even worse because of misplaced debate over the ownership of resources raised by social groups, which cripple the country's ability to frame long-term developmental policies to help harness its energy potential. However, recent policy development in the energy sector and a report published on 10-year energy blueprint by Ministry of Power, predicts that 57 per cent of India's total electricity capacity will come from non-fossil fuel sources by 2027. The Paris climate accord target was 40 per cent by 2030. Also, according to the report, it reflects more private investment in Indian renewable energy project sector.
According to the new draft national electricity plan, it is indicated that till 2017, no new coal-fired power stations are likely to be required to meet with Indian energy needs. Moreover, it creates further doubts over the viability of Indian mining investments overseas, such as the energy company Adani's Carmichael mine in Queensland, the largest coal mine planned to be built in Australia.
Significant increase in foreign investment in energy sector made this sector more prominent in last 12 months. The increase in investment is with an influx of capital of overseas private sectors in the past 12 months.
Asian investment in Indian renewable sector has grown significantly as Japan's Softbank has committed to invest $20bn (£16.2bn), in conjunction with Taiwanese company Foxconn and Indian business group Bharti Enterprises.
Recently, in September, EDF, the largely French state-owned energy company, had announced an investment of $2bn in Indian renewable energy projects, citing the country's enormous projected demand and "fantastic" potential of its wind and solar radiation. In the Southern part of India, one of India's leading energy groups Adani also opened the world's largest solar plant in Tamil Nadu earlier this year. Also, in October the energy conglomerate Tata had announced that it would aim to generate as much as 40 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025.
In recent ten years blue print, it forecasts that India aims to generate 275 GW of total renewable energy, in addition to 72GW of hydro-energy and 15GW of nuclear energy by 2027. Nearly 100GW would come from "other zero emission" sources, with advancements in energy efficiency expected to reduce the need for capacity addition by 40GW over 10 years.
Amid an escalation of increase in renewable energy in India, the neighbour country Pakistan is experiencing crippling energy crisis and slow economic development. To accelerate the economic growth and slowdown unemployment, Pakistan is looking for investments in energy sector especially in coal sector by China. Recently, under "One Belt, One Road" initiative, Chinese President Xi Jinping had agreed to invest US$ 28 Billion in sectors like road, railways, pipelines and power plants in Pakistan.
Also, Chinese companies are investing in many controversial hydropower projects in the Indus basin, despite the fact that claims dams will exacerbate floods in Pakistan, including the catastrophic floods of 2010 that affected 20 million people. Amid impacts of climate change on glacier-fed rivers, Pakistan's reluctant efforts of investments in hydropower sector have made it economically unviable in the long term, thus, possessing an environmental threat to the region.
Plans for a 720-MW hydro project on a tributary of the Indus River, to be built by China's Three Gorges Corp, the Beijing-based developer of the world's largest dam, is the first investment out of the US$40 billion Silk Road fund. Pakistan-China had also proposed to invest in the more massive 4,500-megawatt Diamer Bhasha dam on the Indus which lies in an area of disputed Pakistan-occupied Kashmir which posed yet another security threat to regional peace.
India's dynamic and ever changing energy policy under the previous regimes is now not only heading on the path of sustainability but is also taking the lead in inspiring the ASEAN nations to follow suit. Immense economic competition, by China, in the region is challenging the regional security and peace in the Indian Ocean Region as well as South East Asia. In such times of turmoil, India's self-efficient energy system will be the guiding light for others in the region.
(Authors are Senior Research Fellows at India Foundation, New Delhi. Views are strictly personal.)