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A good PR effort

India offers an inspiring example for many countries around the world with an impressive track record of expanding access to electricity and clean cooking for its citizens, implementing a range of energy market reforms. – IEA

It is gratifying to receive such high praise from the International Energy Agency (IEA) in its recent report on India’s energy policy. It was released in the presence of India’s senior policymakers.

IEA conducts in-depth energy studies for its member countries and researches on aspects of world energy and climate change. Its monthly Oil Market Report and annual World Energy Outlook are sources of rich, credible information on the energy sector. The IEA report is a goldmine of information on India’s energy sector. The agency has given an excellent grade to India’s energy policy. I feel India deserves just a pass grade at best in comparison to most developed countries and an above-average grade in comparison to most developing countries. It looks as though IEA was influenced by diplomacies and PR.


Between 2000-2019, around 750 million Indians gained access to electricity. This is definitely impressive. However, while electricity is available in all the Indian villages today, the availability of uninterrupted power on a round-the-clock basis is still a distant dream even in large cities. IEA’s high praise on the priority to give round-the-clock electricity to all is true. IEA praises the working of Energy Regulatory Commissions. But the continuing losses suffered by distribution companies (DISCOM) and their impact on the health of the power sector, hasn’t been discussed in detail. Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana is certainly a much-needed initiative of the Central government to improve the finances of financially struggling DISCOMs of most states. But at best it is a band-aid. Because of the political gains of giving free electricity’ to some sectors, the financial woes of DISCOMs haven’t been solved.

The importance of coal to the energy sector is recognised by IEA. The agency doesn’t provide any innovative ideas to transform the coal sector. Likewise, IEA has no creative solutions to improve the operations of the oil and gas sectors. Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP) has been praised. But the reasons for such praise are missing. There has been little interest shown by large MNCs to invest in India’s oil exploration. IEA supports the policy decision of increasing the gas share to 15 per cent in the energy mix by 2030 from the current level of 6 per cent. But it has not suggested new strategies to increase gas supplies through domestic gas production or by gas imports from outside.


IEA has high praise for India’s efforts to increase power production from renewables. In December 2019, India had 84 GW of grid-connected renewable electricity capacity, and by 2022, she plans to have 175 GW. IEA should have discussed the needed efforts to achieve this ambitious target. IEA has some kind words for the yet-to-be-completed National Energy Policy (NEP) by NITI Aayog, which is in the developmental stage for over three years.

IEA is satisfied with India’s efforts to contribute to reducing global warming. India’s per capita emissions today are 1.6 tonnes of CO2, well below the global average of 4.4 tonnes. During the last decade, energy and emission intensities of India’s GDP have declined by 20 per cent – a commendable progress. The world has already begun work on the energy transition by de-carbonizing the energy sector. IEA could have helped India by suggesting how to leapfrog to renewables avoiding large fossil fuel-oriented investments. Remember, in the telecom sector, India leapfrogged to mobile telephony, avoiding huge investments in expensive, fixed-line telephony. India could do the same in the energy sector.

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