The global energy landscape is undergoing a transformative shift towards sustainable and renewable sources. Amid this transformation, India, one of the world’s largest energy consumers and coal producers, faces complex challenges in balancing its energy needs with environmental concerns. In conversation with Dr. Anil Kumar Jain, former Secretary of the Ministry of Coal in India, we delve into the intricacies of India’s energy transition, addressing questions about the future of fossil fuels, Just Energy Transition Partnerships (JETP), and the nation’s role on the global stage.
The Gas Market and Profitability of Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs)
Our conversation begins with a discussion of India’s evolving gas market. Shreya Jai, the interviewer, raises a pertinent question about whether the recent changes in the gas sector have led to a reevaluation of the profitability of Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs). Anil Jain provides a nuanced response, highlighting that PSUs contribute significantly to government revenues through dividends and share sales. He emphasizes that higher gas prices for PSUs like ONGC are intended to support their expansion efforts rather than solely to boost profits. Jain also points out that, if profit-making were the primary motive, other PSUs like Coal India would have been allowed to raise coal prices, which has not been the case.
The Challenge of Reducing Fossil Fuel Dependence
As the conversation continues, the focus shifts to the pressing issue of reducing fossil fuel dependence, especially coal, in light of global pressures and climate change concerns. Jain recognizes the long-term need to phase out coal, given India’s abundant renewable energy potential. However, he underscores the complexity of this transition, citing low per capita electricity consumption and the challenges of rural electrification. Jain stresses the importance of striking a balance between reducing carbon emissions and ensuring energy security.
India’s Low-Carbon Long-Term Development Strategy
Shreya Jai probes further into India’s strategies for achieving a low-carbon future. Jain acknowledges the need for a long-term plan that aligns with India’s unique energy mix and socioeconomic factors. He cites Dr. Steven Chu’s perspective on developing low-carbon energy systems, emphasizing that it’s more cost-effective than retrofitting existing high-carbon systems. Jain underscores the importance of a customized approach for India, focusing on areas like electrification and technology development.
Dealing with International Pressure on India
Sandeep Pai raises the issue of international pressure on India to make commitments regarding coal reduction and Just Energy Transition Partnerships (JETP). Jain discusses the challenges of managing these international conversations, particularly with European counterparts. He highlights India’s commitment to a Net Zero timeline by 2070 as a significant development that necessitates discussions about coal reduction. Jain also discusses how India is cautiously engaging with JETP, ensuring that the partnerships align with India’s priorities and socioeconomic factors.
The Future of Just Transition in India
The conversation concludes with speculation about the future of Just Transition initiatives in India. Jain expresses confidence that the idea of Just Transition has gained momentum and is unlikely to be abandoned. He envisions further engagement between states, coal companies, and the government, citing the example of Jharkhand’s committee on Just Transition. Jain also emphasizes the importance of comprehensive mine closure frameworks and potential cost-sharing with the coal industry.
India’s energy transition is a complex and evolving journey, with numerous challenges and opportunities. Anil Jain’s insights shed light on the intricate interplay between domestic policies, international pressures, and the imperative to balance economic growth with environmental sustainability. As India continues to chart its energy future, the world watches closely, recognizing the nation’s pivotal role in the global energy landscape.
(Access the complete interview by tuning in to the TIEH podcast available on our website and other major podcast platforms.)