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Energy security is an imperative

Energy security is an imperative

Energy security in its widest connotation is the continuous and sustainable availability of energy in its varied forms in sufficient quantities at reasonable prices. India’s Integrated Energy Policy Report of 2006 made the definition more onerous by extending it to an obligation to supply lifeline energy to all our citizens irrespective of their ability to pay for it, as well as meet their effective demand for safe and convenient energy to satisfy their various needs at competitive prices, at all times and with a prescribed confidence level considering shocks and disruption that can be reasonably expected. The required administrative and commercial arrangements to meet this obligation are obviously daunting, to say the least.

In the foreseeable future, till 2031-32, if we are to eradicate poverty, the economy has to grow between 8% and 10%. The availability and access to energy are the catalysts for inclusive growth and are major instruments for the eradication of poverty. To attain the projected level of growth and to meet the prescribed lifeline needs of providing 30 units of electricity and 6kg of liquefied petroleum gas or equivalent kerosene through a system of smart cards, we need to increase our primary energy supply three-four times, and the electricity generation and supply capacity five-six times above the 2003-4 levels. This growth ideally should be attained in a sustainable manner while addressing climate change concerns.

It can be safely said that at the moment we are far from securing our energy requirements. We need a change in mindset. Energy security cannot be ensured by the Central energy ministry. It needs the full backing of the ministries of finance, environment and forests, labour and human resource development. If India is to attain its possible and rightful place in the vanguard of the comity of nations, we must rekindle the spirit of unified action and resonance that was witnessed soon after independence. Resources are scarce and time is not on our side.

Our energy security needs the highest priority for energy efficiency. The National Mission on Energy Efficiency with tradable efficiency certificates, accompanied by strong energy-labelling norms for generating equipment, appliances including automobiles, building codes and manufacturing processes should improve our existing impressive energy intensity.

The manpower requirements for the energy sector are colossal, besides the need to reorient and train the existing manpower to meet the needs of an information technology-enabled smart grid of the future. The existing technical manpower in the power sector is around 750,000. This needs to be increased by nearly 500,000 by the 12th Plan.

The attainment of energy security will require a milestone-based road map, with a green channel and minimum road blocks. Project management has to be much tighter, as well as ruthless. In the overall context, we need to replace inspectors with investors, deficiency with efficiency, and renovation with innovation.

Security comes at a price.

Anil Razdan is a former Union power secretary and also served in the petroleum ministry as additional and special secretary.

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