February 15, 2018

Speaking at 8th PetroCoal Congress, in New Delhi

At the outset, let me congratulate all the award winners for the well-deserved recognition for their contribution to this sector over decades and decades of service, but for all that all our illustrious predecessors have done in terms of the promoting efficient and affordable sources of energy, probably, the world would not have reached the levels of development that we see across the frontiers today. Each one of them have excelled in their chosen field, most particularly, I would like to mention about the effort of our two professors from Italy, who have worked on skill development and bringing in better quality of technical expertise, which to my mind is a subject that India has now accepted as probably one of the most critical aspects to our development journey, to the future of India’s youth, to better prosperity for the country.

And I am delighted that the World PetroCoal Congress chose to give the special award to both our illustrious professors. This is a sector which over the years has contributed to the problems of the world, has been the catalyst of the reason for all the successes of the world. We could not have had this level of development and quality of life but for affordable energy, but affordability also had its own concurrent costs. And the world today is grappling with the issue of climate change, is grappling with concerns about what would happen 20 years-30 years-40 years down the road. Probably, we are actually grappling with the problem every single day today.

When you switch on the television yesterday and you see hail storms having affected farmers’ crops in different parts of the country in the last two days, it certainly sets the mind thinking that we didn’t have this level of erratic behavior of the weather until a few years ago. And, clearly, something has gone wrong, something is amiss from the good old days. Most scientists are agreed, all politicians are not, but at least fortunately, the repository of knowledge in this world is still with the scientists and not with the politicians. But certainly, all scientists are agreed that this is an issue we cannot put on the backburner anymore, we will have to address it upfront. We will have to proactive measures to resolve this.

And I am delighted that the entire technical community was able to bring around the world leadership in Paris to agree on the COP21 declaration, the Paris agreement. Our Secretary Coal, Sushil Kumar, is one of the chief negotiators at the Paris discussions. He spent months in India preparing and a month in Paris, trying to get all different viewpoints on the table to align themselves with the shared prosperity of the world in a very-very fractured scenario. Something which was also the theme of Davos this year at World Economic Forum, and Paris in that sense is a great reflection of how the entire world can come together when it comes to addressing the challenges facing the entire humanity.

Of course, we had a few issues that cropped up subsequently, but I am sure they are temporary in nature and wiser sense will prevail, even in those countries which are relooking at their commitments in Paris. India for one stands committed, very-very committed that what we promised, our Intended Nationally Determined Contribution is not merely a contribution, but is a commitment. And in that sense, I am delighted that the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi leads from the front, he does not take these commitments, these contributions lightly. He regularly reviews and assesses how we can do better than what we had committed, how the nation can progress towards the path of a greener and cleaner future.

And in that sense, this Congress today deliberating on how petroleum, coal and gas sectors can work in this new age of technology, in this new world where clean energy is getting centre focus, and with better-better technologies coming in how this can be made affordable, so that the entire world can be persuaded to work with cleaner energy truly address this big challenge that we are all facing.

At an earlier interaction, I don’t recall what was the occasion, I had flagged off an idea which while I was seeing the subject of your deliberations over the next three days, maybe something that may be of some interest to the delegates who are deliberating on these various subjects. While we are all agreed that in the current context of falling prices of renewable energy, there is scope for rapid expansion and scale up of clean energy and we will have newer sources coming in from, let’s say tidal energy. We will have more and more efficient wind energy being installed across the coastline or into the water, with the Plant Load Factor of solar energy improving day by day, if we can literally look at a possibility that the PLF can increase to 40 or 50%, which is being talked about now, it could actually make it far more viable even with 20-22% we have got prices down to abysmally low levels, in fact, lower than the grid parity today with coal and gas, much lower. Which really strengthens the resolve that the world should look at solar energy in a bigger way, but with better PLF, the transmission cost also will fall. Since, otherwise, we have to use a lot of the transmission lines for very small volumes of energy, I think better Plant Load Factors on solar will be a very important factor going forward.

We have newer forms of energy that are being seriously looked at in terms of processing waste, which India is also taking forward very actively. And, of course, as this Congress will deliberate, we are looking at clean coal. Dr Razdan was just telling me what we can do to further accelerate the pace of coal gasification should be a key focus area of the government and the private sector to see if we can convert our coal reserves and we are blessed with abundant reserves, more and more into cleaner gas as a fuel so that the effect of thermal power, thermal plants is reduced in the system.

But one of the critical elements of injecting more and more renewable power into the system has been the fact that the base load is required to be able to inject renewable energy. And countries like India, which are not blessed with gas are facing this severe crisis of the base load, what can be done to have better means of creating a base load which will ensure that power flows 24 hours a day and renewables get injected into that, solar during the day, wind whenever it comes it.

And which is where I think this Congress may like to deliberate that how can a country like India, which does not have gas, which is at a nascent stage of converting coal to gas, provide for more efficient means of clean energy working for longer hours of the day, so that that base load that is required, the requirement of base load can be further reduced and we can seriously look at cutting down the coal-based power generation in the future and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions.

Of course, wind in the sea, in the oceans, and possibly going a little deeper into the oceans, can be a source which may give more longer hours or more certain hours of power supply – wind being quite uncertain on land and restricted to 2 or 3 states in the country. I don’t know whether thermal solar, which was at one point of time touted as a possible 24-hour solution, what is the latest status of technical developments on that. Battery storage is something we are all eagerly awaiting to see prices fall in battery storage that will help us actually go towards lesser and lesser dependence on polluting forms of energy and possibly roll-up or expand the renewable footprint and store power in the batteries.

And as Mr Shrivastava rightly said, we are seriously look at electric vehicles in a big way in this country, which would also provide us a large pool of battery which we hope will act as a natural hedge storing power in the battery during the day, a vehicle battery and allowing it to be consumed in the later parts of the day, in the evening, early morning. So that our cities can begin to see lesser pollution, and the electric vehicle end-to-end is a cleaner solution, the power also being generated through renewable power during day hours, stored in batteries in a large pool of electric vehicles, and then going forward to power these vehicles in other hours of the day.

Similarly, I had suggested that we should look at places like Leh, Ladakh where once upon a time there was a plan to have large 30-40 GW of solar, but transmission cost was becoming a deterrent. But with better plant load output coming out of these deeply sunny regions and with cost of solar equipment becoming cheaper, we should relook at what would be the effective cost of power coming in from these solar-rich areas transmitted long distances into the grid. And we may actually find that also to be quite an effective alternative.

So newer forms of base load, better and more efficient affordable battery storage, alternate forms of storage through solar, thermal or any other newer technologies that may emerge in the days to come, better Plant Load Factors, more reliable forecasting and scheduling of renewable energy. When we put together all of these factors, my own sense is we can seriously look at becoming less and less dependent on coal. Until such time, as we can really find a viable and affordable solution to process coal, to convert coal to gas, possibly capture the carbon out of coal-based power plants and utilize it in a cost-effective manner. Currently, the costing of any such CCU initiative is totally prohibited, specially, for a country like India, and of course, technologies are very nascent.

We do hear people talk about storage of carbon capture, but I don’t think any country in the world as yet has come forward to offer to store such carbon, particularly, since its detrimental effects are totally unknown to all of us. Certainly, India would not like to store carbon capture in this fashion.

So, all in all, it’s a very relevant subject that you are all going to deliberate over the next two or three days. It’s a subject that I hope will help us or enlighten us to think differently, will give us some ideas, some initial leads on which policymakers from the Niti Ayog, within the Ministries, (Inaudible) Ministries, and the private sector academicians can all work together and hopefully make sure that our generation leaves behind a better world for all our young children in this room and outside, so that they never have to feel ungrateful to their forefathers and we don’t leave behind a planet which is not a nice place to live in for the next generation.

So, let’s dedicate this World PetroCoal Congress to our young boys and girls, friends from the next generation.

Thank you.

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