• Harshita Chaarag

Securing India's Energy - Sources of Energy

The article was originally written by the author and posted on the Army Institute of Law Blog.


Securing energy is the biggest job of any government. In a country like India which has a booming manufacturing sector, it becomes more important than ever to ensure energy security. Just as it is important, it is also difficult to ensure. India has relied on imports for securing its energy needs.


India’s primary energy consumption is the third-largest falling short of only the USA and China with a 5.5% global share in 2016. The capacity for producing energy in India is also derived primarily from fossil fuels; 70% of electricity is produced by fossil fuels.


Sources of Energy in India

Sources of energy in India can be broadly classified into renewable and non-renewable resources. Non-renewable resources mainly consist of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas. Renewable energy includes hydroelectricity, solar power, etc. It basically uses naturally and abundantly available resources like water, wind and sunlight to create energy.


In recent years, India has also seen the development and a rise in the use of nuclear energy. Given below are the sources of energy in India:


1. Coal: Coal makes for approximately 70% of the supply of energy in India, making it the main source of energy. Coal counts for nearly 60% of the commercial power requirement in India today. It is used as a raw material in even households to light fires and burns stoves. Coal reserves in India are located in Bihar, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Coalfields in India include Raniganj, East Bokaro, Jharia, Singrauh, Chanda-Wardha, Talchar and the Godavari Valley. The coal available in India is mostly low quality in terms of capacity to produce heat. It is used in to be converted into electricity in super-thermal power. In developing countries like India, we still rely on coal significantly; however, developed nations have transitioned to using oil and gas.


Thermal plants based on coal tend to produce the environment significantly since they emit a lot of SO₂, other oxides of nitrogen, etc. These cause acid rain and pollute the soil and aquatic life, often making them unfit for use. They also contribute to smog and fly ash in the air.


2. Mineral Oil: Mineral oil is also a fossil fuel, found in deposits of sedimentary rocks. Like most minerals, it is unevenly spread over the surface of the Earth; it is most abundantly found in Mexico, Iraq, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Iran, Saudi Arabia, USA and parts of former USSR (Central Asian Region).

In India, mineral oil deposits can be found in the Ganga-Brahmaputra Valley, Plains of Gujarat, the Coastal strips, some areas around the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the off-shore continental Self by the name of Bombay High. Before Independence, drilling for mineral oil was only done in Assam, started in the Lakhimpur district at Digboi. The other areas were discovered after independence and the latest to be added to the list of mineral oil reserves are deltas along the rivers Krishna, Mahanadi, Kauveri and Godavari. Bombay High, located at a continental shelf 115 km off of the western coast is the richest oil field in the country.


3. Natural Gas: Natural Gas reserves are found usually corresponding to or close to mineral oil reserves. However, exclusive reserves of natural gas are found in Rajasthan, Tripura and almost all the offshore oil fields of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa (Source). In India, natural gas is used for both industrial uses as well as vehicles. CNG kits are often fitted into vehicles to use this gas as a vehicle. In many cities around the country, such as Delhi and Mumbai, public transportation such as autorickshaws and buses are also run mostly on CNG.


Natural gas is also used in fertilizer plants. The gas extracted from Gujarat and Bombay is transported to Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh through Pipelines.


4. Thermal Power Plants: These use coal, natural gas and petroleum to produce electricity. The process of producing electricity through thermal plants is also polluting and non-renewable sources of energy since it uses fossil fuels. Electricity produced through thermal power plants is fed into regional grids and thereafter distributed for public use. There are several small and big thermal power stations located across the country.


5. Firewood: Households in rural areas still depend on firewood as a source of energy for lighting fires in the houses. In fact, 70% of the demand for firewood as an energy source comes from rural areas. Firewood for use as energy is obtained from forests as well as plantations. If the land is to be used for cultivation of plants for this purpose, it would require the inclusion of non-agricultural land, wasteland, permanent pastures, degraded forest land and grazing lands. However, it must be noted that it would be difficult to bring anything more than 50% of such land under cultivation due to increasing demand for land for commercial and residential purposes.


6. Hydro Power: Hydropower is the most popular renewable source of energy in India. The flow of water and water falling from heights is used most commonly to produce electricity. The Northern states of India (Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir) have an intricate web of dams and hydroelectricity production plants. In these areas, waterfalls from heights naturally and therefore it is easier to produce electricity. At the same time, other northern states such as Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh also have a strong network of hydro-electric plants.


Electricity produced through this cannot be stored and used at a point in future, therefore such plants are constructed as per market and demand. This electricity is transported across the country through a network of cables. Though hydro-electricity is the most popular means of renewable energy, it also causes significant environmental damage. The accumulation and collection of water at a point leads to disbalance as well as degradation of the soil through erosion. These also affect aquatic life in the area.


7. Nuclear Power/Atomic Energy: In times when non-renewable and fossil fuels are depleting at a rapid pace, nuclear energy is the next best option to be utilized. This is an efficient form of energy production since small amounts of radioactive material can be used to produce huge amounts of energy. Nuclear reactors are used to create energy, and the heat produced in them is used for chemical and food processing.

There are few countries that have made use of nuclear energy, and India is one of them. India currently has 22 functional nuclear reactors, functional at 7 sites (Source). Uranium deposits are found in India at Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan and Monazite deposits are found in Karnataka, Bihar and Kerala.


8. Solar Energy: A renewable resource, solar energy is being used more commonly. The abundantly present sunlight becomes a valuable source of energy. Solar panels are used to trap and produce energy which is used for heating, cooking and even electrifying. Estimates say that India can generate up to 20MW solar power per square km of land area (Source).


In various cities around the country, solar panels are used for producing electricity in the street lights. For example, in cantonment areas street lights are fitted with a solar panel on the top which produces and stores electricity throughout the day; in the night, this energy is used by the street lights. To encourage the use of solar energy, the Government of India offers attractive subsidies on the installation of solar power, especially for domestic usage.


9. Wind Power: As of July 2017 the installed wind power capacity of India stood at 32.56 GW (Source). The levelised tariff of wind power reached a record low of ₹3.46 (5.4¢ US) per kWh (without any direct or indirect subsidies) during auctions for wind projects in February 2017 (Source). The first wind farms in India were set up in Ratnagiri (Maharashtra), Tirunelveli (Tamil Nadu) and Okha (Gujarat).

In the year 2016-17, the targeted wind power was 4,000 MW, however, India exceeded it to add 5,400 MW (Source).


10. Biomass: Biomass is a carbon-neutral fuel, which provides energy and has the potential to provide employment to the rural sector in the process of creating electricity. 70% of the country depends on biomass for their energy needs and 32% of the total primary energy in use is derived from it. Biomass power in India comprises of 4,946 MW through grid-connected plants and 994MW through off-grid power plants, therefore making the total 5,940.87 MW (Source).

The next segment of the article will focus on recommendations for securing India's energy needs. This will be posted next week.

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