Millions of Indians still Lack Modern Sources of Energy

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Seven hundred million Indians still do not have access to modern and commercial sources of energy and 220,000 villages are yet to be electrified, said Mr Surya P Sethi, Principal Advisor (Energy), Planning Commission, while chairing a seminar on “Energy conservation and Renewable Energy.”

India has been growing at a rate of 8% but its energy consumption has grown by only 4%. Although the country has 70% of the world’s population it only contributes 4% of the world’s CO2 emission and also consumes only 3% of the energy consumed in the developed countries. These were some of the findings in the third edition of the bimonthly seminar series organized by The Oceanic Group in collaboration with the India Habitat Centre on October 8.

“This is because India uses lesser energy for food, space conditioning and transport,” said Mr Sethi.”Moreover, India also has the highest recycling rate and the opening up of steel and cement industries have sparked competition resulting in better energy use efficiency.”

Indians are also charged the highest taxes for energy.
“But the most startling fact behind these favourable figures is the fact that 700 million Indians still do not have access to modern sources of energy. Since most have no access, energy consumption also seems favourable compared to other countries.” Mr Sethi said. These 700 million Indians are dependent on one form of bio-mass or the other for their energy requirements, he added.

VK Bhargava, Director, Petroleum Conservation Research Association,who was the main speaker said in his address that there is an acute need for conservation for economic, environmental and social reasons. “Conservation has two aspects-energy security and behavioural aspect. Delhi itself reportedly loses rupees 994 crores at the traffic stoppages. So until and unless people are motivated towards conservation, the goal cannot be reached,” he said.

“Although India’s CO2 emission seems to be quite less, it is still the world’s fifth largest emitter”, he said. “Renewable energy seems to be the answer for enhancing energy efficiency, but they also have some inherent drawbacks. Bio-fuels are land and water intensive enterprises, the technology for solar energy is still not available and, cellulose and ethanol are not sustainable sources of energy” he added.

Conservation is a key to enhance energy efficiency. But there are also many barriers to this.”Inadequate financing, emphasis on lowest first cost, lack of information, geographical diversity and government policies are certain factors that come in the way of conservation,” Mr. Bhargava said.

Adding to that Mr Sethi said that conservation should not just be confined to demand side management (DSM). “Energy can be conserved at the extraction level, in transport and in conversion”, he said. “We also cannot ignore the non-commercial energy sources that constitute 35% of our energy mix.”

Mr Bhargava said that for energy conservation emphasis should not be put on a single tool only but on a well balanced combination of sources with effective tools for conservation. Energy audits in industries and developing a passion among the employees and embedding conservation principles in government policies will go a long way in enabling energy efficiency. Moreover research should be promoted to develop varieties of more sustainable and less land and water effective bio-fuels in the country.

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Source: One World South Asia (link opens in a new window)