India’s ‘energy transition’ minister talks net zero goals, green energy investments

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Earlier this month, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced plans at COP26 to reach net-zero carbon emissions in 2070 and boost the share of renewables in India’s energy mix from about 38 percent last year to 50 percent by 2030.

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“When India turns around and says it is not just net zero by 2070, but in 2030, 50 percent will come from renewables or that we move up from 450 GW to 500 GW and you know the implications of that. India means what it says. We are the largest democracy in the world, when the prime minister makes a statement, it sets the template. Now clearly, we have a transition to achieve. Now that transition means you have to manage from where you are today first to 2030 then to 2040 then to 2070,” India’s Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Hardeep Singh Puri told Al Arabiya.

“I may be called a minister of petroleum and natural gas but I am actually the minister for energy transition,” Puri said in an interview with Al Arabiya Senior Presenter Naser El Tibi.

For now, coal remains a dominant energy source in India, accounting for 70 percent of its electricity output.

After China, India is the world’s second-largest coal producer at about 730 million tons annually – yet also imports coal to meet the power needs of its domestic industries, according to the government.

Puri said India is already doing a lot.

“When Mr. Modi became a prime minister, one percent of biofuel blending used to take a place, ethanol from sugar. Today, we are already at 8.5 percent, we had a 20 percent blending target by 2030 but we brought that forward to 2025,” the minister said, adding that the country is expecting 60 billion dollars of investment into gas pipelines.

“We started in 2014 when he [Narendra Modi] became prime minister at 14 thousand kilometers. Today, we are 18.5 thousand kilometers, [and in the] next four months we will get another four thousand to [achieve] 22.5 thousand kilometers and we will take that up to 34 thousand kilometers to have the whole country be covered by gas pipelines. I could go on!”

“In renewables, we were one of the founders of the Solar Alliance,” he noted.

India has a “massive program” on green hydrogen, according to Puri.

“We are going to be very big [in green hydrogen], we will be pioneers in that. But we need to bring the price down. [We] need to provide power at a particular price then be able to have electrolizers… we are on that journey,” the minister told Al Arabiya.

“I think Glasgow is what? 10 days old, we are already on drawing board with people to see how we can accelerate some of these things. There is a massive program going on, our traditional oil marketing companies are into electric vehicles. I think we announced that in the next few years we will have 22 thousand petrol stations [which] will have electric charging as well, which in turn gives a fillip to our electric car manufacturers.”

“Equally when you move to 20 percent biofuel mixing, E 20 [20 percent blended petrol ethanol] is going to be available in the pumps from a very short period time. I think in 2022, 2023 we will [offer] 20 percent blended fuel there.”

In reference to Modi’s announcement to achieve net zero emissions by 2070, he noted that while it was an ambitious goal, India has a track record of hitting their green targets.

Strategic reserves

When asked about a deal that India struck with Abu Dhabi’s ADNOC for strategic oil reserves, Puri said that the country has been replenishing its reserves to cater to any kind of emergency such as earthquakes or geopolitical events.

“We have been replenishing out strategic reserves and I think the agreement you are referring to… we are in the process of augmenting our reserves to take it to the global prescribed levels by the international energy agency,” India’s minister said.

“I think we are at 86 days of consumption and the consumption is going up also. We need to go a little farther to make it at 100 days. We are in the process of doing that.”
“I am a student of the energy situation and evolving energy situation I have been oil and natural gas minister- or now I call myself minister of energy transition- for 3 months or so, no country is ever only a consuming country, especially when you are dealing with a big economy,” Puri told Al Arabiya.

“We import crude, our companies refine and export out, we make investments in other countries, in the previous government in the year 2001 we invested in a facility in Sakhalin in Russia’s far east, it has done very well. Investments in Sudan they did well.”

India and the GCC

India and the Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) states have been working together, investing in each other’s countries across a variety of sectors.

“Indian entities are making investments in the gulf as you mentioned, our friends in the gulf cooperation council are making investments in India both upstream and downstream. This is what I call a healthy economic energy cooperation matrix,” said Puri.

“I have many people I talk to including His Excellency the UAE [energy] minister and the [energy] minister from Saudi Arabia, they also want to cooperate with us, not only in traditional energy, but also in green energy. This is an evolving situation and I think it is in one sense a reflection of the maturity of the relationship. That the transactions and investments are going in both directions,” he added.

Last week at Dubai’s megaevent Expo 2020, India invited the GCC member countries to invest in the sustainable energy sectors in the country.

India expects to attract foreign investments of up to $120-160 billion annually, according to a statement released at the India-GCC Business Conference at Expo 2020 last week, which added that Gulf countries are best placed to capitalize on such opportunities given their ties with India.

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