India faces a significant challenge to transition to a low carbon energy future. The world’s second most populous country and sixth largest economy is still dependent on fossil fuels for more than 88% of its primary energy needs. India is projected to become the world’s most populous country in 2023 and its energy consumption is forecast to nearly double by 2040. The steep growth curve reflects a continued rise in energy needs per capita as wealth grows with development. Currently, India’s per capita energy needs are less than one third of the global average.
The country has the world’s fifth largest reserves of coal which continues to dominate the country’s primary energy mix (51%), mainly used for power generation. Oil provides about 30% of the mix, mostly imported and used principally for transport and industry. Natural gas at nearly 8% is primarily used for power generation and by industry. Half the gas volumes come from rapidly growing imports of LNG and the rest from domestic production. Biomass is used for residential heating and cooking in villages.
India used the occasion of COP 26 in 2021 to publicly step up its climate ambition, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi announcing a Five Point Action Plan that went beyond the country’s existing National Energy Plan (NEP). He announced India would achieve net zero emissions by 2070 and set four goals to be met by 2030:
- Half its energy requirements would be met by renewable energy – subsequently clarified by an updated National Determined Contribution (NDC) published in August 2022 that outlined a goal for “about 50 percent cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources by 2030.”
- Cut carbon intensity to less than 45% of 2005. Previous commitments from 2015 under the Paris Agreement were for a 33-35% reduction over the same period.
- Cut another 1 billion tonnes of carbon emissions from the current total projected emissions by 2030. This was not contained in the updated NDC.
- Increase its non-fossil capacity to 500 GW by 2030, a 50GW increase on the previous target of 450GW. Likewise, this was not contained in the updated NDC.
The new NDC did, however, state an ambition to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by 2030.