10 Oct 2022


India & Energy Politics: Global Issues

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The essential source of development for humanity is energy. This is due to the vital role energy plays in the lives of people throughout the world. Energy supply has to be in abundant and uninterrupted for people to live and work without any hindrances. It is also a major component of all the economic activities in a country. Nevertheless, one standing factor is that energy is politically contested topic. As it is seen, energy is a source of power. It matches what every politician looks forward in getting which is power and persuasion. As the importance of energy continues to increase in the society in terms of its economic and social growth, so does the political contest involving energy continue to grow. Politicians have for many years taken the side of businesses that deal with energy distribution primarily fossil fuels. As such, they have ended up making the energy issues to be masked by a fog of amplification, half-truth, faux pas and downright fibbing as seen in the case of India.

India is the fourth largest consumer of energy in the world and the third largest greenhouse gas emitter after China and the USA (Martin, 2015). As such the country is trying its best to reduce the amounts of carbon dioxide that are being emitted by its industries as well as to meet its energy demand for its citizens. Currently, about 300 million of the Indian citizens out of the total 1.3 billion were living without electricity (Martin, 2015). Another 250 million get access to spotty power which is supplied by the country's national grid which is only available for about four hours per day (Martin, 2015). This lack of lighting is not only affecting the people in the rural areas but also the urban areas including the companies thus slowing down the country's economic growth. So as to meet its energy demand, the country needs to add about 15 megawatts annually for the next thirty years (Martin, 2015).

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Currently, the primary energy sources in the country come from coal, little domestic oil production, and natural gas. The adverse nature of its power grid is evident from the 2012 power outage that hit the country and left more than 600 million Indians without power supply. The power outage resulted in more than $70 billion in terms of loss (Martin, 2015). As such, the country is forced to import more than 80% of its oil from foreign countries so that it meet the growing energy demand in the country (Martin, 2015). Another factor is that the major source of energy in the country is coal. India has the fifth largest coal reserves in the world after the USA, China, Russia and Australia (Martin, 2015). Regarding coal production and consumption, the country is ranked in the third position. Despite coal playing a role towards the manufacture of greenhouse gasses, the country is still adamant in relation to cutting down the coal production and consumption levels.

According to the Energy Minister Piyush Goyal, the country is will have to continue with the production of coal for its ambitious power plants and economic growth need a base load upon which they can attain maximum growth (Martin, 2015). The minister stated that the country does not have any gas or oil deposits; thus coal is the only base load they are going to use. The country is looking forward for an increase in its economic development; thus, no country is going to stop it from using coal to attain its goals. However, the country will only reduce its emission if the international community helps it in terms of financial and technological development. It is due to the fact that more than 60% of the country's electricity is generated from coal. Goyal further added that the countries in the West had developed their economies using the cheap source of energy- coal- for the last 150 years (Martin, 2015). This has seen the emission rise from 0.5 metric tons in the 1870s to more than 4.5 metric tons in the last few years (Martin, 2015).

Conversely, the USA has gained a lot of interest towards the looming energy crisis in the country including its plans on how it is going to help the country in mitigating climate change. The former USA President Barack Obama made a historic visit to India in January 2015 (Nath, 2016). There was much anticipation that the meeting would be a game changer towards the Indo-US relationships of which would bring about a shift in the global politics. This is due to the fact that the Chinese have been known for having stable relationships with India. The major topic in them meeting between the former USA President Obama and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi was based on looming energy crisis in the country (Nath, 2016). The two leaders discussed the looming nuclear energy agreement between the two countries that had earlier been signed back in 2008. The US was granted the rights to set up nuclear reactors in the country that would expand the USA-India cooperation in relation to energy and satellite technology (Nath,2016). In 2009, India allowed the USA to set up two nuclear reactors, but following a liability law that was passed in 2010 by the country, a rift was created between the two countries bringing an end to the agreement (Nath, 2016).

During the meeting, Obama and Modi came to an agreement that would require companies from the USA such as Westinghouse and GE to build nuclear reactors in India. The two leaders also agreed upon working together so that they could mitigate the effects of climate change and sustaining its increase. The President, Obama stated that India's voice towards climate change was imperative for all countries given that the country is the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gasses. The USA agreed to help India financially and technologically so as it meet its 100GW 2022 target using renewable energy (Shreya, 2016). The USA Deputy Secretary of the Department of Energy, Elizabeth Sherwood Randal in 2016 stated that the USA was ready to support India in adopting renewable energy sources. The USA was going to work on solar deployment and biofuels that would see the reduction in greenhouse gasses is achieved. The USA went ahead and placed a department of energy officer in its New Embassy. This was a huge step both for India and the USA because for the latter, it has quite a few such departments in other countries throughout the world. Such departments are placed in countries whereby the USA believes that a difference can be made. On factor that was to be understood according the Deputy Secretary was the fact that the US is not pushing India towards reducing coal usage. Rather, they are urging the country to work together with the USA in ensuring they use coal in amounts that will them meeting their climatic goals (the Office of International Affairs, 2016).

The factors that have contributed towards a looming energy crisis in the country include;

Dependability on Coal as the Key Energy Source 

Between 2013 and 2012, India produced more than 160 million metric tons of coal. Due to the ever increasing power industry needs in the country, a huge percentage of this coal was consumed locally (Sean, 2015). This is evident from the 60% reliability of the electricity production of coal (Sean, 2015). Electricity is very important in the running of the day-to-day lives of not only the people but industries too. Following the nationalizing of the coal industry, it has since reduced its production whereby private companies are also allowed to mine the mineral. By 2017, the country had aimed at mining more than 800 million metric tons of coal (Sean, 2015). However, the industry has been marred by various challenges such the summer heat, natural disasters and frequent labor strikes. As such, the country is facing challenges in meeting its demands for energy production. Another hindrance is the likelihood of coal imports by some of the private companies. This leaves the country having a short supply of coal yet it is the main staple energy source.

High Oil Consumption 

India is experiencing an accelerated growth in relation to its urban development and the middle-income class individuals. The country is highly depended on imports so that it can meet its demand for petroleum products making it the fourth largest importer of crude oil in the world. Most of the oil imports by the country came from the Middle East; however, the civil wars and political instability in most of the countries in the Middle East have greatly affected the country. India is now forced to start looking for other alternative oil producing nations such as the Caspian Sea, North and South America. On the other hand, with the ever dynamic crude oil market, the country is facing a huge setback in terms of meeting its petroleum product demands (Sean, 2015).

Poor Electrical Connections and Availability 

More than 60% of the electricity production in India is facilitated by non-renewable energy sources in this case coal (Sean, 2015). Nevertheless, the demand for electricity is overwhelming the supply, resulting in electrical shortages in the country. As such, most companies have ended up getting huge losses and decreased productivity. As a result, some have been forced to shut down their operations for days and even months (Sean, 2015). Poor infrastructure in the country is also contributing towards the electricity shortfalls which have continued to affect the overall economic growth of the country.

Most of the energy crisis in India is brought about by its dependability on coal. The coal is a fossil fuel that has adverse effects on the environment this there is a need for the country to reduce its dependability on the mineral. However, the country is marred by technological and financial need making it hard to adopt better and renewable energy sources of energy. As such, the USA has pledged to assist the nation in meeting its renewable energy goals. Despite the USA have the financial and technological capabilities of assisting India; it is also helping it in regards to its business interest. The USA is expected to set up two nuclear reactors of which the tenders have been given to its own companies. This is bound to grow the USA business interest which is good for its economic development and also for its citizens in terms of employment opportunities. The US will use expatriates in running its business operations in India. The nuclear reactor will also produce income for the USA as it generates energy for the Indian economy to use including its citizens. In terms of the solar panels, two of America's companies, Sun Power and First Solar have significant stakes in the Indian Market (Haufbauer et al., 2016).

For First Power, it was granted a 20-year contract for supplying solar panels to the Southern Sates of India (Haufbauer et al., 2016). This is evident that the USA has a great financial interest in the Indian market as it pushes the country towards adopting renewable sources of energy. With more than 300 million India having no access to electricity, the USA solar panel companies are bound to get huge profits from their business ventures in the country (Martin, 2015). Global warming is not an issue that is going to affect the Indian nation but the entire globe. A god example can be taken from China whereby, between 1980 -2010, its GDP grew to $4,514 up from $193 (Martin, 2015). However, its emissions in the same period increased to more than six metric tons a year up from 1.5 tons (Martin, 2015). Currently, China is the leading emitter of greenhouse gasses globally of which. Therefore, China is facing enormous challenges which do not only range from economic but also health. In 2014, India was emitting about 1.68 tons a year, and its population is bound to increase to about 1.8 billion in the next three decades (Martin, 2015).

As such, if it continues on the same path as China, in the same three decades, it will add more than 8 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere (Martin, 2015). However, basing on the current trend of the country following its adamancy in reducing its dependability on energy as per the Energy Minister's sentiments Mr. Puyish Goyal, it is evident that it will follow China's path. This is against the world's plans of reducing its annual carbon emissions of about 40 billion tons by about 70% by 2050 (Shreya, 2017). This implies that India risk suffering various natural disasters such as long droughts which may cause famine and death of animals. These natural disasters will also affect the food security of individuals throughout the world thus leading to increased malnutrition and hunger across various countries in the world especially in sub-Saharan Africa and other third world nations. Climatic changes also affect the health of most people. The fluctuation in the greenhouse gasses concentration in atmosphere brings a myriad of human health catastrophes. Climate change can also facilitate the spreading of diseases and also the toxic air pollutants which affect the children, elderly and people who might suffer from asthma (Goldman et al., 2013).

The importance of the inability to sustain carbon emissions by the India is important for the USA for it will be able to offer assistance to India in return building its interests in the country. As such, the USA will offer India loans and grant of which they will be paid back the country through monetary means or other means through which the USA is bound to benefit. This can include the USA getting lenient treatment in relation to its business operation in India whereby it has tough laws that affect foreign business operations. The USA is also setting up nuclear reactors and providing India with solar power panels that are helping it curb its dependability on coal as a source of energy. The solar power panels and the nuclear reactor provide a renewable source of energy which will help India meet its long-term goals in terms of being energy efficient at the same time offsetting its carbon emission burden on the environments (Abramsky, 2010).

The only means through which India will curb its looming energy crisis and at the same time reduce the amount of carbon emission is by adopting renewable energy sources. It is a type of energy that is replenished once it is used and does not release harmful substances into the atmosphere during its consumption. This can include sunlight, wind, geothermal, rain or tides. Countries like the USA and China have invested heavily in renewable energy sources, and this is due to the fact that they are the leading carbon emitters in the globe. As for India, it has intensified its efforts in adopting renewable energy by creating a new ministry the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. The ministry has the sole mandate of ensuring that it develops and deploys new and renewable energy sources so that it can supplement the country's energy requirements. In order to achieve its goal, the country has to add about 100GW of power using solar panels by 2022 according to the minister Piyush Goyal (Shreya, 2016).

This will mean that it will have to add about 130GW for the next about six years which translates to about 22GW annually (Shreya, 2016). India was also part of the Paris Agreement of 2015 whereby the countries came to an agreement of ensuring that the earth's temperature remained under two Degrees Celsius by 2100(Shreya, 2016).The country has started to source about 40% of its entire energy consumption from renewable energy sources come 2030 (Shreya, 2016).As of 2016, the country had about 15% of its entire electricity production coming from renewable energy sources which were up from 13% in 2015(Shreya, 2016). This is an indication that if the country continues with the same effort, it will attain its goals. India, China, USA, and Russia play a huge role towards carbon emission leading to global warming, as such, in case the country follows up on its plans and work with the other three nations, the entire globe will achieve its 2100 target (Shreya, 2016).

The USA is bound to benefit from this resolution in which India will start to work out on how to become energy sufficient. As for the USA, it will not only build its reputation and image in having fostered the climatic changes stand taken by India, but it is bound to have improvements in terms of its business interest. The USA will be watched and adored by the entire world for changing India's stand in regard to its previous stand of continued use of coal to sustain its energy needs. In terms of its business interest, the USA companies in India will have received a lot of revenue from the selling of wind-powered turbines, solar power panels and the nuclear reactors. Other nations that will need to change their energy into renewable will also depend on the USA which will allow it to expand its interests all over the globe. This is especially in countries that do not have the financial and technological resources for implementing such plans.

It is evident that energy is critical in the running of country's secondary including the living and working conditions of its people. Without energy, a country will not see any economic development which means that its people are bound to live in poverty. However, the means through which a state provides energy for its citizens will also determine its relationship with the international community. Following the continued need to reduce climatic changes, most nations are adopting renewable energy sources. As seen in the case of India, the country's political leaders have a huge influence on how the power distribution and consumption is being carried out in the country. As such, the country has been subjected to a looming energy crisis since it gained independence. However, the Indian relations with the USA are bound to bring about positive impacts on the energy situation in India which in return, the USA will benefit in the long-run.


Abramsky, K. (2010). Sparking a worldwide energy revolution: Social struggles in the transition to a post-petrol world . Oakland, CA: AK Press.

Goldman, C. R., Kumagai, M., & Robarts, R. D. (2013). Climatic Change and Global Warming of Inland Waters: Impacts and Mitigation for Ecosystems and Societies . Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Hufbauer, G. C., Meléndez-Ortiz, R., & Samans, R. (2016). The Law and Economics of a Sustainable Energy Trade Agreement . Cambridge University Press.

Martin, R. (2015, December 11). India Tries to Electrify without Creating an Emissions Disaster. Retrieved on 21 April 2017, from https://www.technologyreview.com/s/542091/indias-energy-crisis/.

Nath, R. (2016). Strategic Ladakh: A Historical Narrative 1951-53 and a Military Perspective . Delhi: Vij Books India Private Limited.

Office of International Affairs. (2016, September 2) Deputy Secretary Sherwood-Randall announces new bilateral energy and climate cooperation with India . Retrieved on 21 April 2017, from https://energy.gov/ia/articles/deputy-secretary-sherwood-randall-announces-new-bilateral-energy-and-climate-cooperation.

Saen D. (2015, November 7). 5 energy problems confronting India . Retrieved on 21 April 2017, from http://globalriskinsights.com/2014/03/5-energy-problems-confronting-india/.

Shreya. S. (2017, January 7). Why India might not achieve its 2020 renewable energy targets . Retrieved on 21 April 2017, from http://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/why-india-might-not-achieve-its-2020-renewable-energy-targets-117010700187_1.html.

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