Low-carbon energy: The next strategic pillar in US-India partnership
Updated: Apr 09, 2021 12:29 PM
America’s relationship with India continues toascendin the Biden administration. The productive engagement by Prime Minister Modi and President Biden at the first Quad Summit was followed by a successful visit by U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III to India.
India must provide low-cost energy access to millions to break the cycle of poverty and support long-term growth.
By Dr. Mukesh Aghi
America’s relationship with India continues to ascend in the Biden administration. The productive engagement by Prime Minister Modi and President Biden at the first Quad Summit was followed by a successful visit by U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III to India. Even as White House occupants change and new priorities emerge, the U.S.-India relationship, built on common interests, shared values and wide spread linkages, continues to deepen and broaden to new areas of cooperation.
This week Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry will meet with senior officials in New Delhi prior to President Biden’s Leaders Summit on Climate, which Prime Minister Modi and 39 other leaders will attend. Since Mr. Kerry’s last official visit to India as Secretary of State in 2016, India has worked hard to achieve its Paris climate commitments. It is on track to decrease the carbon intensity of its economy by 33-35 percent from 2005 levels to 2030 through adoption of renewables and natural gas, forest restoration and conservation and incentives to encourage the sale of electric vehicles, among other efforts. India’s energy consumption per capita is only a third of the global average, but as it approaches a $5 trillion economy, rising energy usage will drive up emissions unless more aggressive abatement measures are implemented.
India must provide low-cost energy access to millions to break the cycle of poverty and support long-term growth. If Washington accepts this imperative, low-carbon energy can be the next strategic pillar in the U.S.-India partnership. India’s energy choices must be affordable and accessible so more Indians can benefit. They must also be sustainable to protect India’s environment and the planet and scalable to meet the rising needs of 1.5 billion Indians by 2030. Achieving these conditions will require international dialogue, government support and active industry involvement.
Three opportunities are particularly promising:
continuing the impressive deployment of renewables;
increasing natural gas usage;and
introducing new technologies to develop India’s own sources of fossil fuels and then to abate their emissions.
India has made major strides in deploying renewables, with 136 GW of installed renewables capacity now representing 38 percent its installed electricity generation. India intends to expand its renewable energy capacity to 450 GW by 2030. Launched in 2009, the U.S.-India Partnership to Advance Clean Energy (PACE) was expanded by Prime Minister Modi and former President Barack Obama and will become a cornerstone of the strategic energy partnership between Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan and U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.
Recognizing the value of natural gas in Indian homes, transportation and industry, Prime Minister Modi has committed to nearly triple India’s use of natural gas by 2030. The United States enables India’s quest for cleaner energy with supplies of liquefied natural gas (LNG)that have climbed from zero in 2015 to more than 124,000 million cubic feet last year. And under the auspices of the U.S.-India Gas Task Force, American and Indian companies are innovating to get cleaner burning fuel to otherwise stranded Indian businesses. For example, ExxonMobil is partnering with Indian Oil Corporation and Chart Industries to create virtual pipelines to deliver LNG on intermodal containers by road, rail and waterways not connected by physical pipelines to demand centers that otherwise must rely on more costly energy sources with higher emissions. The result will be more Indian manufacturing, more Indian jobs and lower Indian emissions.
The United States also can supply advanced technology to help meet India’s dual challenge of obtaining more affordable and reliable energy while reducing environmental impacts. India now relies heavily on crude imports that drain foreign currency reserves and create security vulnerabilities. But India may have abundant oil and gas reserves in its vast maritime territory. With governmental support, India should be able to attract international companies with proven expertise in deep-sea and ultra-deep-sea exploration. American firms also can help India implement carbon capture and storage (CCS), the process of capturing CO2 that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere and injecting it into deep geologic formations for safe and secure storage. CCS is a promising way to abate emissions in industrial sectors such as chemicals, cement and steel. Hydrogen is another option to reduce emissions in hard-to-mitigate industrial and transportation applications. Hydrogen is a versatile fuel that can be made from renewables, gas and coal.
In each of these areas, U.S. companies will be essential to drive the U.S.-India partnership to new heights. By making low-carbon energy a strategic pillar of the bilateral relationship, India and the United States can transform their common challenges into shared opportunities.
(The author is President and CEO, U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Forum. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)