September 26, 2018

Speaking at World Energy Policy Summit: New World, New Opportunities, in New Delhi

..in 5 states very soon, and I am on my way immediately after this to Jaipur for a programme commemorating the place where the ideologue of my party, Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya, spent his childhood. And happy coincidence for me that the ideologue Pandit Deendayal Upadhyayaji, somebody who really nurtured my party into the world’s largest political party today, spent most of his childhood at railway stations. And it’s one of the railway stations near Jaipur where he spent his very early formative years, where I am proceeding after this programme.

But I was delighted to see the extent and span of discussions that the Conference today, the World Energy Policy Summit, hopes to cover during the course of the day. I believe the world today is conscious about the challenges before the energy sector. We probably got into a little bit of laxity over the last three or four years, since memory is short and we forgot what had happened in the 2011 to 2014 period, particularly, the spike up in energy prices.

But a good wake up call for the country to reassess our own energy mix, energy basket to look at how we can improve our own production and dependence on indigenous output. And to couple our energy objectives with the environmental goals that we have set for ourselves and very ambitious goals at that.

I believe being an import-dependent economy from the perspective of oil and natural gas, it’s important for us to assess how we will going forward on the one hand increase our production, particularly, of natural gas, being a relatively cleaner fuel. B) Reduce the demand for oil and oil-related products so that we can move to alternate sources of energy. C) Address the challenges of climate change despite some of the countries not really participating in the global effort to face these issues. India stands committed to our climate objectives, to our objectives to reduce carbon emissions from India, and we stand committed towards a greener and a cleaner planet going forward.

So for us, reduce dependence on fossil fuels, is going to remain one of the prime focus of government policy and government initiatives. Over the last four years, this government has made a conscious effort to bring down consumption of fossil fuel to see where we can replace fossil fuel with cleaner fuel. And a couple of immediate examples of that is the thrust that we are giving to renewable energy. India has embarked on possibly one of the world’s largest programmes to promote renewable energy.

In solar, particularly, our quantum leap from about 2.5 GW in 2014-15 to nearly a 100 GW that we are planning by 2022 in a short span of 7 years – a 40x kind of growth. And we are well on track to achieve that at prices which are actually giving us a huge benefit even economically. The price of solar power today in India is lower than the cost of fossil-based energy or coal-based power.

So, clearly that’s one area where we have made significant progress and will continue to focus our energies. Another area where the country has made rapid progress is moving towards electrification wherever we could replace diesel or furnace oil with electricity. Railways is one stark example, we have very recently approved in the cabinet a proposal to convert the entire Indian railway network and this will probably be the world’s first large network which will be 100% electrified.

And only yesterday, in fact, late last night, it was almost midnight when this issue was being discussed in my office in the Railway Ministry, where we were planning how we can take this project up in mission mode, speed up the efforts to electrify the complete Indian railway, so that as we embark on our 75th year of independence in 2022, we can also try and make the entire Indian railway clean, green and produce enough electricity through alternate and renewable forms of energy, so that net-net the railways becomes close to zero emission in terms of our energy needs.

So only yesterday, we were seeing whether we could ramp up our solar power generation, particularly looking at the large volumes of land that the Indian railways already owns across the country. And since for us, power consumption is not peaking in any way in the night, it’s almost through the day, 24 hours, will be a natural candidate to consume that solar energy during the hours that we can get that.

We are also looking at alternate fuels in terms of bio-fuel, in terms of ethanol, and the blending of petrol and diesel wherever possible with these bio-fuels. In fact, I believe some of the countries particularly in South America have been very successful, some of the automobile companies have been very successful in blending of ethanol and other products with petroleum products, so that the carbon output can also come down.

That will also help the country address concerns of large amounts of import into the country. Another area where we hope to make rapid strides going forward and which is a focus of this government is to promote electric vehicles. We stand committed to expanding and ramping up quickly the network of charging infrastructure across the country, which we believe will be the enabler for ensuring a rapid ramp-up and usage of electric vehicles.

Generally, battery costs are coming down, may not be as fast as one would like it, but they are on the downward trajectory. And I believe that looking at the low operating costs of electric vehicles a little bit extra paid on the capital side in the current period would not really be a deterrent to the ramp-up of electric vehicles. Prime Minister Modi personally is very committed to e-mobility.

We just completed a Summit, where world leaders from the automobile sectors had assembled at New Delhi to discuss ways and means to ramp-up our electric vehicle programme. I still recall, about two-two and a half years ago in a programme, just like this where I was giving away awards to performers in the automobile sector – the Overdrive Award – where I just casually made a comment, unplanned, not government policy at that point of time. Where I had just thrown a possible target to our country and to the automobile sector whether by 2030 every new vehicle that we sell can be an electric vehicle. And to my mind, I wouldn’t be surprised if we not only achieve that, but we possibly advance that date and are able to truly ramp-up the sale and use of electric vehicles very rapidly in this country.

The government has a programme for faster adoption and manufacturing of electric vehicles in the country and we will continue to support efforts towards reducing consumption of petroleum and diesel products in the country. I don’t know for your Energy Summit, I don’t know whether I am giving good news or bad news. I know some of the participants in this room who would not be very happy with all that I am saying. But that is the way forward for India. We have a natural advantage when it comes to promoting e-mobility. Being a country where we have a large section of society, a large population which has not yet brought its first vehicle.

So we will have an opportunity to ensure that the first vehicle a person buys is an electric vehicle, and keeping operating cost down with electricity being significantly low-priced in the country I believe we will leapfrog into the new age of transport or mobility, rather than face the challenges which some of the European or American countries have where everybody probably already owns a fuel guzzling vehicle and will have to know replace that with an electric vehicle.

So I think in that sense, India has a natural advantage to be able to move towards e-mobility faster than any other country. It also dovetails very well with our solar push, because then we are able to actually generate power in large quantity through solar generation during the day, which will become the fuel or which will be stored in batteries in the automobiles, which get charged maybe while at your work in your workplace or in your car park or in the various charging stations or fast charging stations that we are planning to set up across the length and breadth of the country.

I believe that solar power generated during the day stored in the batteries of these electric vehicles will also provide a lot of grid stability to the country and become a natural storage for large quantities of solar power which will then help us ramp our solar initiative from 100 GW to possibly 500 GW in the next stage and actually convert the entire mobility in the country over the next decade or two towards green energy powered electric vehicles, which will hopefully, significantly reduce our dependence on imported fuel.

While at the same time we are also ramping up through various policies of the government of India the HELP, and the NELP and various initiatives that the government has taken to rapidly support efforts to increase production of natural gas or crude oil in the country. And I am quite confident that the efforts that Prime Minister Modi has initiated to bring down our import bill on import of hydrocarbons or petroleum products will bear fruit in the days and years to come.

India has also taken a leap forward in our effort to move our farming also to solar power farming. Government will soon be coming out with a very robust policy which will encourage more and more farmers to use energy-efficient pumps for the water requirement in the farms, which will also have an element of solar power to help generate electricity not only for the pump but also to provide electricity to the grid and power the homes of the people of India.

And I believe by now, most of you would be aware that in the four years of this government, we have given a huge thrust to reach power to the people, to reach electricity to the people who have remained without electricity for now seven decades of independent India. And by end of this year or early next year, this country would have taken power to every household, every willing consumer in this country through the Soubhagya Scheme, in which the government is providing a free electricity connection to every person in this country, rich or poor, who does not have electricity. The effort being to ensure that there is no unelectrified household, no child in this country deprived of energy access anywhere in the length and breadth of this country.

It has been possibly the fastest ramp-up to provide electricity to nearly 300 million citizens over the last four and a half years. And I believe that in this 5-year period, India would have along with many other very significant programmes, and successful programmes, also successfully ensured energy access, electricity access to every single citizen of this country, irrespective of location. And, in some sense, beaten the Sustainable Development Goals by nearly 11 years – the SDGs had planned that we should ensure electricity access to every citizen of the world by 2030.

We believe, and this government is completely convinced that unless we take electricity to every household, our aspiration of becoming a poverty-free country, completely eliminating poverty, would remain unfinished. And, therefore, we have prioritized two or three programmes, which will ensure that our efforts to completely eliminate poverty in this country will bear fruit in a very fast, in a very mission mode manner. I believe taking electricity to every home, once electricity come in it gives us an opportunity to provide clean drinking water to every home. Once we have electricity we can ensure access or connectivity to the internet, to every home so that every child can have the benefit of knowing what’s happening in the world, participating in international emerging technologies.

And, therefore, our effort that by 2022, when India becomes or completes 75 years of independence, we should ensure that every citizen of this country has a roof on his head, owns a home, a home which has 24 hours of electricity, a home which has clean drinking water, a home which has a toilet, a home which is connected by a good road, both to the village and to the homes, quality healthcare, quality education to every citizen of this country and truly empower the citizens of India to lead a rich, happy life, complete in all respects to encourage higher productivity in their farms, to provide opportunities for our citizens across the country to become entrepreneurs, to become job creators, to become self-reliant and not dependent on only government to support their lives.

I think this effort towards a sustainable economic growth and a sustainable future for the citizens of India dovetails very well with the plans or with the discussions that you would have during the course of the day, where in this Energy Policy Summit I hope you come up with an actionable agenda that can help India plan a sustainable energy future for the country and truly provide energy justice – as Mr Taneja often coins it – truly provide energy justice to every citizen of India, rich or poor.

I am sure the deliberations in this Conference will come out with newer ideas, which can help us reach our goals not only of 100% energy access, not only of less dependence on imports, not only on ensuring lower costs for the people of India, not only to ensure sustainable development of India, but to look at it from a holistic perspective and prepare a plan or a policy, which can help us achieve all of these goals and comprehensively in the days ahead.

My best wishes to the World Energy Policy Summit. Thank you very much.

I just hope that what I said does not give the impression that as if we are going to be able to completely eliminate oil or gas. Since you mentioned that I thought I will just clarify. Very clearly, we are moving away wherever possible from wasteful consumption of oil and natural gas. But for example, our programme on cooking, we have ramped it up massively. We have added another 55 million consumers who have already got a free gas connection, an LPG connection, and that’s going to be ramped up to 80 million. And then possibly we will, by another two years from now, have every household either connected with piped gas or with a LPG connection, so that all cooking can be done on gas.

Similarly, with the kind of economic growth that India has seen – 8% plus – hopefully, moving in the double-digit level going forward, given the huge framework that has been strengthened or created over the last four years, I believe industrial uses, uses for other petrochemical sectors and other sectors, utilization of oil and natural gas cannot come down. It will possibly continue to grow. But whether that growth should go to add to climate challenges in the country, I believe no. It should go towards meeting the industrial needs of the country. It should continue to grow, which would be an important element of our overall economic growth that will be our challenge.

And, therefore, we want to promote exploration and production of natural gas and oil in a big measure, so that all our efforts of bringing out crude oil from the oil wells, the large mining, refining capacity that we are setting up, all of that will necessarily be a part of the overall energy scenario. But what I spoke about was more my areas where I am more focused or knowledgeable about. I am sure other speakers will speak about the importance of oil and natural gas.

Thank you.

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