April 12, 2017

Speaking at Mail Today Energy Conclave : Forum for Future of Energy, New Delhi

Thank you Raj, ladies and gentlemen, actually I was supposed to do the valedictory but as Dharmendraji said we have the cabinet meeting at 3 o’clock so I won’t be able to join you, my apologies for that. But I have actually encroached upon his time and I thank him very much for accommodating me in his section. In one way, if one was to describe the work that Dharmendraji has done and if you recall this sector was going through a lot of difficulties in 2014, lot of uncertainty, lot of questions were being raised in the petroleum and particularly natural gas sector. But he did not fear any difficulties. He was not deterred by the challenges. His approach was, I don’t need easy, I just need possible.

And I think what Dharmendraji did over the last 3 years was take those possibilities, expand on those possibilities, and I think what has been achieved in the petroleum sector, as was rightly pointed out by Raj, this huge impact of Ujala, this Ujjwala scheme has actually reached already 2 crore, expected to go up to 5 crore BPL homes, those who could otherwise never afford LPG cylinders. And the ambitious target to make India 100% gas-based cooking economy will truly transform the lives of millions of poor in the country. And I must congratulate him for a number of, host of initiatives, reigniting the gas exploration business through help, getting back the animal instincts in a sector which people had almost given up hope on must have been quite a challenge. His negotiating skills with international suppliers of gas have particularly benefited the country hugely.

I don’t know how many people are aware that we are saving nearly $2 billion a year only because of the renegotiation of gas prices, going beyond what was contracted by earlier governments has helped the country save nearly $2 billion a year, which is why we are able to make sure that gas reaches the poor of the country in an affordable way. My compliments to you, Dharmendraji.

When I was invited for this conference, I was told this forum is going to discuss the future of availability and, in some sense, can the need of the nation meet the availability in the nation. And that is something which both Dharmendraji and I have been focusing on. In some sense, it’s very hard to believe that barely 200 years ago, our main source of energy was wood. Who had imagined that so much change will happen in a short span of time? Now we have, of course, a wealth of energy sources to choose from. There is growing sources, be it oil and petroleum products, be it natural gas, be it electricity, as he rightly said, nuclear energy, and in the days to come renewable energy is taking centre stage – solar, wind, biomass being converted to energy. But if one was to look at India’s energy future, there are five global trends that are going to shape India’s energy future. One is clearly the population growth. One can imagine a 9 billion plus population by 2050, which means expanded need. And as the world is becoming more and more prosperous, obviously, it also means expanded desire and greed in some sense.

So one will have to plan for nearly 9 billion plus population and what stress that will create on the available planetary resources. The other, of course, is the impact of climate change. The concerns that global greenhouse gases, gas emissions, has on the very existence of mankind. And, therefore, the Paris Agreement has great importance for all our planning of India’s energy future. Technological innovations is the third global trend, so many things are happening, I mean, the most recent of those would be probably wireless transmission of electricity is being explored. And, by the way, once we have wireless transmission of electricity, we could actually even imagine what a Japanese researcher is talking about, that space has 24 hours sunlight. It is only on earth that we have sunlight moving from time zone to time zone. But in space, there is 24 hour sunlight. Can you just let your mind wander and imagine technological innovations overtaking us, and solar energy being produced in space giving round the clock energy and being transmitted through wireless transmission into the earth can actually change the very way the world works.

Now, all of these things are realms of possibilities which the world is working on, experts and scientists are delving, letting their mind wander into newer technological innovations and that is certainly going to shape the future of energy. Of course, as nations progress, as economies do better, particularly, as India moves up the development curve, I am sure higher standards of living will also impact global trends on the future of energy. And, clearly, the higher GDP in India too is going to become the determinant of more need for energy leading to much higher energy consumption being the fifth global trend, being witnessed worldwide, particularly, in the less developed or underdeveloped countries, in India, in the far east, in Africa, possibly even South America.

Now these trends put together are impacting India’s energy triangle. On the one side of the triangle, the energy system must give access to safe and secure and reliable energy for the people of the country. The second part of the triangle deals with affordability which my colleague Dharmendraji talked about. And the third side of the triangle is sustainability, making sure that the environmental impact is carefully considered and the concerns of environment are addressed when we address the future of energy in this country. Towards that end, if one was to see our own plans and that’s a plan where both these Ministries dovetail with each other – the focus to expand the use of natural gas in the Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry, the focus to expand the renewable energy consumption of electricity in the Power and Renewable Energy Ministry – both dovetail into a larger agenda to leave behind for the next generation a better planet than the one we have inherited.

In fact, the Sustainable Development Goals talk about five ‘P’s when it talks about the world’s energy needs – People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnership. And in some sense, these 5 ‘P’s could also very well be the hallmark of the Modi government. In every respect, it’s a people-first government. A government that works to ensure availability of affordable, adequate, round the clock, uninterrupted, quality energy sources for the people of India, be it for cooking needs, be it for vehicular needs, be it for electricity in the homes, every form of energy that helps power the economy, it’s always a people-first approach.

Of course, as I said, we are giving a big thrust to natural gas. We are also giving a big thrust to renewable energy. Our target on solar alone has been expanded 5-fold from the one that was set some 5 years ago. So our National Solar Mission instead of 20,000 MW by 2022, today, is planning for a 100,000 MW by 2022. So if you look at it in perspective, what was 2,500 MW in 2014 is sought to be expanded to a 100,000 MW – 40 times in a span of 7 years. Similarly, we are giving a big boost to the hydro sector, wind energy is being given a thrust. In fact, last year has been a record of sorts, we have added about 5,400 MW of wind energy, which is the highest ever in India’s history. We have added about 5,600 MW of solar power, which is also a record of sorts. In fact, the growth in the last 3 years, cumulative growth, in solar power installed capacity is 370%. Now I would grant that the base was low, but it’s unless you plan big, unless you are willing to be bold in your target setting as well as in your plans and your ambitions, you will never be able to make a game changing impact to the planet.

And, therefore, I am very confident that under Prime Minister Modi’s leadership, India will clearly demonstrate that sustainability is something that India is very passionate about, that Indians are very passionate about. For us, the environment is not a matter of what is decided in Paris or what another leader in another large country decides one way or the other. For Mr Modi personally, for his government and for the people of India, concerns about the environment are an article of faith. It’s something we are very passionate about. It’s something we deeply believe in, and it’s something we will do irrespective of what the global trends are.

In fact, I often get very amazed when I see that India has become such an import dependent economy, particularly, in a thing like coal where we had such abundant reserves, in natural gas where there were opportunities but, unfortunately, got into the quagmire of bad politics and bad economics for over a decade. It’s only now that we are seeing the reigniting of the excitement to invest in India. We have had record FDI flowing in in the last 3 years. And I am sure, this mindset of negativity, this mindset where we could never imagine that the country will be surplus in coal, surplus in power, it will translate to other sectors in the economy. In fact, it can be very infectious, once you set your ambitions high and you work towards very challenging and daunting goals, it can actually be very infectious. It can excite the people of the country towards more and more aspiration and efforts towards meeting those aspirations.

I am delighted that we have moved from a situation of no coal to more coal, and now are targeting better coal. I am glad that we are moving to a situation where transmission capacity in the country has grown by nearly 33% in barely 3 years. So what the country did in years and years up to 2014, we have been able to add about 26% transmission lines and about 36% transmission capacity in barely 3 years. Of course, the installed capacity for power also has grown by about 25-26% in three years. Now, put together, all of this is helping the energy security of the country, is helping adequate amounts of energy being available round the clock across the country. We are moving towards one nation, one grid, where we can move electricity seamlessly, wherever required, to ensure that prices remain affordable, energy needs of the people are met. And at no point of time do the people have to worry about their children not getting power to study at night, about a hospital running out of power or having a power outage where a patient’s life may be in danger, no risk about the safety and security of our people should power go off from the streetlights in a city.

And I think that’s the kind of India that we are working towards. As Raj said, we are looking to make sure that India is 24×7 power-secure across the country for all citizens of this country, irrespective of caste, creed, religion, economic status. The effort is to make sure the rich, the poor, the factory worker, the farm labourer, everybody, can enjoy the fruits of a basic amenity like power. We are working to make sure that that happens before India turns 75 in 2022. Of course, on a personal level I do believe we can do it much faster. Our effort is to do it much earlier. Because I think every single day, that that young student in the village does not get power to study is one day lost in the life of India, one day lost in the future of India.

I hope I will continue to receive the support of all of you. And I do hope the Modi government, Dharmendraji, I and all of us working under the dynamic and visionary leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Mod will succeed in our endeavours with the collective efforts and the collective confidence that this nation has that we can achieve supernatural results and we shall achieve the requirements that this country needs to meet the growing and very very genuine aspirations of the people of India.

Thank you very much.

Question and Answer

Q: Piyushji, you had mentioned, and very rightly, the priority must be to ensure 24/7 power supply to our people, 75 years after independence, we can do it earlier. You know, we would will be delighted and congratulate you for it. What are the difficulties you are facing while dealing with this thing, particularly, DISCOMs, what are the kind of innovative solutions are you trying to ensure that we do that?
A: Frankly, it’s not impossible. There will always be challenges in any activity. I think the DISCOMs are now recognizing that they will have to stand on their own feet. I am fairly confident by ’19 most of them and the last one or two by 2020 will be turning profits, and we will make sure that all the DISCOMs in this country will come into profits. If at all the one challenge that is there before the nation, it’s that politics may not overtake economics. But I am glad that people of India are now recognizing that good economics also makes for good politics and they are voting in governments that perform, that deliver results on the ground, and voting out governments which have failed to deliver. UP being a very very recent example, and a verdict like Uttar Pradesh very clearly demonstrates that you can’t survive a government which is full of allegations of corruption, which has discriminated between different sections of society and kept people all the time under fear and yet expect that the people will vote you back again, just because close to an election you try to make some nice slogans or talk about one highway that you created.

I think the people’s expectations are of holistic development and that’s what Prime Minister Modi is doing. You know, just the other day, couple of days back, there was a spontaneous requirement to list out what are the achievements of this government, what are the focus areas. We reached about 27-28 items just in a jiffy and then we said ok, stop, there is not enough time to speak anymore than that. And while in the car, we were discussing that, you know, oh, we have left out that, we have left out that. It’s amazing how Prime Minister Modi through his hard work and vision has been able to get action initiated on so many fronts, in some sense, reflecting what Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay had articulated more than 50 years ago that no human being can be happy, can be truly satisfied, no human being can really live a full life unless you look at his comprehensive and holistic development of every aspect of a person’s life. And I think energy which both of us are required to provide in abundant and affordable measure is just one cog in that larger wheel where he’s looking for good education, good healthcare, all of that. And I can assure you that there are no difficulties in that. It’s all in the mind, in the action there is no great difficulty.

Q: Piyushji, the fact that President Trump has come and America seems to be turning its back on the Paris Climate Change Agreement. How much does that affect India’s plans and, particularly, you had mentioned we are going to 100 GW, we are expanding our solar capacity enormously. What does this do? Does this slow us down? And how does it affect the world approach towards climate change?
A: First of all, just that I am not looking at any messages, I was looking at the latest number. Just to share with you, that the focus on implementation and that is Prime Minister Modi’s style is so deep that today is the 12th April, I have a figure here of how many households have got electricity. Today, and this must be a figure of the last 2-3 hours, say 9-10 if they started. Until now, and I was seeing the figure of today’s electrification, I will just share with you in a moment. As of this morning, the number of households which have received electricity was about 2,666, from today morning until whenever they last posted the electricity. So it’s a continuous monitoring how we can get electricity right down to the households. Earlier, it was just take it to the village and that’s the end of the chapter. But Prime Minister Modi does not get satisfied with just small targets. He wants to make sure the 4.61 crore homes which was 4.7 crore until last month, also get electricity very quickly in their homes.

Fortunately, we now have a very good government in Uttar Pradesh. Yogi Adityanathji, the honorable Chief Minister has had almost 11 conversations with me already on a subject like electricity alone, 11 conversations, until yesterday it was 10, this morning was the 11th. And he is so focused how can we get every home electricity, so I just thought I will share with you because I was looking at the latest figure just now.

As regards President Trump, as I said earlier, we are committed to our climate goals. We are committed to make India a decent and good place to live in and we will be a responsible global citizen, despite the fact that we are not responsible for that mess up there. India has contributed only 3% of the global emissions so far, despite supporting 17% of the world population. But Prime Minister Modi has not shied away from being a part of the global effort for a better future for the world. We also understand that our own people also cannot suffer from pollution beyond a point. For example, all of us in Delhi know, that when the rice husk is burnt in Punjab and Haryana, Western UP, the impact that Delhi has between the months of October and December. Now all of these things are challenges which we are working with the state governments to address. We are trying to find alternate methods to reduce the pollution levels.

Very often, that pollution is blamed for the wrong reasons. After all, if the reason was vehicular traffic or the power plants we should have had it round the year. But that particular period is a bad period. But apart from that, we are also working to see how we can encourage electric vehicles. He has just introduced BS-4 Standards for all vehicles. We are looking at supercritical and ultra-supercritical power plants. So we are working on different ways to bring down environment pollution in the country irrespective of what other countries do, India will save and protect the environment.

Q: One in terms of the electricity prices that is there in UP I am told is also waiving off some of the prices that is there to supply it across. How does this begin to impact the economics of generation and your DISCOMs going to the same vicious cycle of it?
A: I think I am very clear about it. The poor and the farmers are sections of society which deserve to get cheaper, lower cost power. I don’t see any big stress. If you look at the average price of power purchase across the country, it’s still quite low. NTPC is under Rs 3 a unit, across the country. So it’s not as if the power cost per se is high, it’s more the AT&C losses, power theft. The new government is working to address these issues. We cannot pass on our inefficiency to the consumer, and a little bit of cross-subsidy with industry will help us solve that conundrum. I am sure we can both give affordable power supply and run our DISCOMs profitably if we run our system efficiently and effectively.


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