India's Looming Power Crisis and the Way Forward: An Ode to Sustainability

India's Looming Power Crisis and the Way Forward: An Ode to Sustainability

Sovik Mukherjee (Shri Shikshayatan College, Kolkata, India)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/ijsem.2017010104
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The quantum jumps in the size of energy demand and acute power shortage in India means that it is high time to tap the non-conventional sources like wind, solar, biomass energy, etc. In this backdrop, the objective of the paper is to construct a Power Generation Deprivation Index (PGDI) to bring to the surface the issue of the looming power crisis. Given the inter-state variability among the focus variables considered coupled with the multicollinearity issue, made the author to use Principal Component Analysis (PCA). Also, a theoretical framework has been designed to show how the power usage over time can be derived but the empirical estimation of this framework is not a part of this article and has been left for further research. The findings validate the existence of a looming power crisis in India and finally the policy implications based on sustainable management of non-conventional sources of power have been discussed.
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1. Introduction

“There is no Energy Crisis, Food Crisis or Environmental Crisis. There is only a Crisis of Ignorance.” — R. Buckminster Fuller

One of the critical components of infrastructure development crucial for the welfare of the nation is power. The continued development of adequate infrastructure is indispensable for the growth of the Indian economy. The wide-ranging diversification in India’s power sector makes it one of its kinds in the world at present. Electricity demand in the country has amplified speedily and if recent trends are something to go by, it is anticipated to rise further in the coming years. To meet this rising demand, power generation sources ranging from conventional sources such as coal, oil natural gas, oil, hydroelectric and nuclear power to feasible non-conventional sources like wind, solar, tidal and biomass energy are all on the cards. In the recent years, the question of power accessibility and availability has improved but demand still continues to outstrip supply and peak shortages have prevailed. This rising energy demand has several economic and environmental consequences which necessitate effective energy governance in India. Electricity shortage is not the only problem. Its availability and accessibility is an equally serious issue. The concept so far called for finding out the least expensive power generating source. This is economically justified, but other social, technological and environmental concerns have come back to haunt us. Thus, it becomes important to study the dynamics of the policy objectives from different dimensions.

The author has categorically highlighted three objectives in the context of the dynamics of the energy policy framework. Firstly, access to energy should be the primary aim as one-quarter of the Indian population lacks access to electricity. If adequate energy supply is ensured, then it implies that growing energy augmented by economic growth can be sustained. Next, the focus shifts to India’s heavy dependence on imported fuels. This exposes India to greater price fluctuations in the international market which can have severe repercussions in the domestic market but to meet India’s heavy energy demand there is no alternative way out. At last, India is devoted to the mitigation issue and environmental issues of climate change are accorded top priority. But, fulfilling all three objectives is a herculean task, as they stand in conflict with one another. This gives rise to some sort of an environmental ‘Impossible Trinity’ in Figure 1.

Figure 1.

Environmental ‘Impossible Trinity’ (Source: Created by the author)


For example, for the purpose of ensuring an adequate supply and access to low-cost energy fuels mainly coal, conflicts with the issue of mitigation and heavy dependence on imported fuels. India has almost tripled its imported coal volumes over the past five years, to meet 22 per cent of total coal consumption in 2014. India became the world’s largest coal importer by surpassing China, accounting for 20 per cent of all internationally traded coal. So, trying to fulfill one objective means going against the others. Moreover, in order to meet the increasing demand for electricity, mammoth addition to the installed generating capacity is the need of the hour. In this backdrop, this paper will try to throw light on how sustainably promoting the use of renewable energy resources can solve the ‘trilemma’. India ranks third, slightly behind USA and China, among 40 countries with strong renewable energy focus, on the back of extensive government support for the implementation of renewable energy projects in a time bound manner.

The paper provides a comprehensive overview of India’s current energy scenario and categorizes the challenges towards achieving the laid-out energy objectives. The paper has been organized as follows. The review of select literature pertaining to this topic has been carried out in Section 2. Section 3 looks at the different sources of power (both conventional and non-conventional sources) in India. This is followed by a theoretical discourse on the usage of power and the theoretical determination of the rate of extraction. Section 5 has empirically validated the existence of a power crisis followed by the construction of a power generation deficit index across states in India for 2015. In Section 7, the author puts forward the empirical results and the discussions thereof. It comes to a close by highlighting the policy implications and the future research possibilities in this regard.

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