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Clean Energy to Propel Economy

Published in General Friday, 06 April 2018 15:23

Having a formidable stature as a regional economic powerhouse, India is fast emerging as a global major player, with a GDP growth rate that is among the highest in the world and its economy has shown resilience amid global slowdown. There are several factors that are driving this phenomenon.

India has a large middle-class population that generates robust domestic demand and thus forms the backbone of the economy. Almost two-thirds of India’s population of 1.27 billion people is below the age of 35, and the current demographic trend is going to make India even younger in the coming years. Incidentally in the year 2020, the average age of an Indian is expected to be 29 years, compared to 37 for China and 48 for Japan.

This demographic sweep towards a younger, well-educated India is a huge force that will drive the Indian economy by providing greater opportunities to increase international cooperation for further expansion and modernization of manufacturing in India, with focus on greater and faster access to emerging technologies. This means immense potential for India to emerge as a manufacturing hub of global scale. This could not only increase India’s participating in the global economy by leaps and bounds, but also generate ample of jobs in the economy – the very essence of ‘Make in India’.

The single-most crucial ingredient to fuel this ambitious dream is the availability of power. India needs to increase its power generation at a matching speed because it is only with assured electricity supplies that global players would make large-scale, longer-term commitments. Indeed, to ‘Make in India’ we need to ‘Make More Electricity’ – clean and faster.

o make this dream turn into reality, we need to have a look at the present availability of energy resources. We have modest reserves of fossil fuels, and we have to import most of our hydrocarbons. Major share of India’s electricity generation is based on burning domestically available coal, supplemented with imported coal. Over the period of time, we have to steadily reduce our dependence on coal for power generation because of growing concerns related to global warming and detrimental effects of pollution on human health. At the recently concluded global environmental summit, COP23, there was a further backlash against the world’s dependence on fossil fuels, especially coal.

India has the third-largest power generation portfolio worldwide with a power generation capacity of 334.39 GWas of January 2018. Out of this, the share of thermal is 219.8 GW, hydro is 44.9 GWand nuclear is just 6.78 GW, which shows there is tremendous potential in nuclear power to grow and propel the economic growth, increasing prosperity, and to raise per capita energy consumption that will bridge the gap between demand and supply for energy in the country. However, India is the third-largest importer of oil and is also among major importers of petroleum products and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) globally. However, the increased use of indigenous renewable resources and vision for nuclear powerare the key factors to reduce India’s dependence on expensive imported fossil fuels. As India has also environmental goals that can be met only through continual reduction in the use of fossil fuels. The challenge is to be able to fuel a fast-growing economy with decreased use of traditional fuel sources. The trend of the future is clean and sustainable energy.

Among the clean energy options that India has is nuclear power. Nuclear power has served India for more than 48 years, with an impeccable safety record ever since the beginning of commercial power generation in India since 1969 at Tarapur Atomic Power Station in Maharashtra. Having mastered the PHWR technology, to increase the generation of clean electricity from nuclear energy, India is adding many more indigenous Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) in the coming years, coupled with technology based on Light Water Reactors (LWRs) with global partners under international cooperation. This additional effort is meant to supplement the nuclear power generation from indigenous reactors, which will thus raise the installed nuclear power capacity in the countrymanifold in the next 2-3 decades. Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project, a fruition of Indo-Russian cooperation, is the first in this series.

The focus of the Indian government is on accelerating power generation in the country, especially to first bridge the current deficit in demand and supply, and then to increase electricity production further. In this endeavor, India has been forging alliances with several nations for increased international cooperation for peaceful use of nuclear energy, especially for power generation.

In May 2017, the Union Cabinet had cleared a proposal to indigenously build 10 atomic reactors, the largest-ever approval granted for such facilities in one go. Once completed, the 10 reactors of 700 MW each will give the much-needed fillip to the domestic nuclear industry. Needless to say that the expansion in nuclear capacity will open up areas of manufacturing for the domestic and private sector as well in the years to come.

These mega projects will not only propel the efforts to achieve economic prosperity in India, but also support India’s commitment to sustainable development, energy self-sufficiency and bolsters global efforts to combat climate change.

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Business Diges March April 2018

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