NITI, NIAS, TIFAC experts discuss India’s fossil fuels, renewables, energy future

New Delhi: The panel of experts that came together for a discussion organised on the occasion of 33rd Foundation Day of the Technology Information Forecasting and Assessment Council (TIFAC) deliberated on the clean energy resource options that are available for the country and are expected to dominate the energy sector in future and strategies to migrate to a non-fossil fuel-based economy.

V K Saraswat, General Council, Chairman, TIFAC, and Member, NITI Aayog, pointed out that as far as non-fossil fuels are concerned, coal is the main ingredient for energy. He added that clean coal technology will need to be developed if coal is going to be the main energy source. 

The discussions were inspired by the Technology Vision 2035, which has identified ‘Making Indian Economy Non-Fossil Fuel Based’ as a grand challenge. 

A study by NITI Aayog and Institute of Energy Economics (IEE), Japan, estimates that coal will have a share of 42%-50% in India’s energy mix, even in 2047. Currently, 62.8% of India’s electric power generation is from thermal power plants that mainly use coal and other fuels such as lignite, gas, and diesel to some extent.

While the contribution of renewable energy sources has grown to 23.1%, the share of hydropower is only 12.4%, and that of nuclear power is even less at 1.9%. 

As for the overall commercial energy mix, the total energy consumption in the year 2015-16 was 28,337 petajoules, with the source wise break-up being – coal at 12,660 petajoules, lignite at 480 petajoules, crude petroleum at 9,750 petajoules, natural gas – 1,843 petajoules and electricity at 3,604 petajoules.

Saraswat highlighted other sources of energy and said that bioenergy is emerging in a big way because India is a large biomass producer.

India also has huge geothermal resources, particularly in the Himalayan region. The current use of this resource in India very low, but institutes and industry are working on this technology.

“Hydrogen economy will also come up, but we have to solve the problems of technology in hydrogen storage, transportation, and production economically,” he added.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) declared 2019 as a critical year for hydrogen and further stated that it has a key role in clean, secure, and affordable energy.  

Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, Department of Science and Technology said that India has coal, but it does not have other resources such as petroleum and gas and hence we need to figure out how to improve use of coal in terms of emission, pollution control, power generation efficiency, advanced ultra-supercritical technology, gasification of coal and such forward-looking solutions.

“The other options are fusion technologies which will be the ultimate problem solvers. There is already a big fusion reactor in our solar system, the sun. So, we can make use of solar energy in all different forms,” Sharma pointed out.

Sharma also mentioned that in the future, the major issue in renewable would be storage, and we need to work on it. He also said that we don’t have lithium, so we should work on storage without dependency on lithium.

On the issue of the hydrogen economy, Sharma said that hydrogen should really be the choice for the future, but the easier way is to get it from methanol. He added that if hydrogen technology works out, it would really be a good optimal solution for energy needs. 

Saraswat suggested that as far as storage is concerned, other than lithium, other alternatives are coming up, and one of them is zinc-bromine.

PS Goel, Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) emphasised that which technology is an enabler is very difficult to decide, every option has some issues. “Need of the hour is a very larger policy for energy research, funding, and engagement, as well as participation,” he added.

YS Rajan, Former Executive Director, TIFAC, said that it is impossible to replace fossil fuel, but it needs to be made more efficient and clean. He also discussed solar energy, storage problems, and associated Intellectual Property Rights.

The panelists also highlighted the role of the research community and the ways in which the industry can accelerate this evolution. They underlined the need for preparing a vision for a non-fossil fuel-based economy to ensure coordinated actions among all stakeholders enabling the transition to a sustainable future.


This information was provided by the Communications Team at the Dept. of Science & Technology, Ministry of Science & Technology.


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