By Malcolm Cooper
India’s Energy Crisis – A “Nuclear” way out?
There is a common thread
between a nation’s capacity, capability and will to supply energy, industrial
growth and national security. Some may rightly question the latter; however,
history has shown that disputes are won by nations that have catered for a
surplus of energy production.
During World War II, Great Britain like other European nations relied heavily
on coal-powered plants to cater for their manufacturing. However, unknown to
many, Great Britain also had made great advances in enhancing gas and oil
powered plants to augment its power grid. This accounted for nearly 10% of its
power supply which was transferred to a grid to supply power to its remote
locations in the North. On the other hand, Germany and other European nations
were unable to match Britain’s manufacturing output due to their reliance on
In the 21st century, despite India’s economic boom, over 210 million Indians
today do not have access to electricity. The current government has mapped out
a plan to revamp and restructure India’s power sector. The current focus is on
providing an impetus on renewable sources of energy like solar energy and wind
turbine farms; however, there is also a focus on projecting to the world that
India is committed to reducing emissions from thermal, coal-fired power plants.
To keep up with the current demand India needs to add around 15 gigawatts each
year over the next 30 years.
It is imperative to keep in mind that the current road map of India is to
merely maintain the current rate of growth and there has been a minimal focus
on predicting and catering for future geopolitical road blocks such as
conflicts, break in critical infrastructure, commodity blockages and volatile
prices of fossil fuels. The country has already seen a massive power outage in
2012 that left 600 million without power and highlighted a disarrayed utility
sector, with an estimated $70 billion of accumulated debt. India also remains
dependent on coal for power generation. The nation consumes over 800 million
tons of coal annually and there is a plan to increase domestic production to
1.5 billion tons by 2020. This is, however, riddled by roadblocks such as
production hiatuses especially in coal beds that lie within the states facing
Left Wing Extremism. About 17 percent of the power comes from hydro-power –
most of which comes from dams in the north-eastern part of the country. This
region has also seen a spurt in incidents of unrest and the region’s proximity
to China also makes it strategically vulnerable.
A Westinghouse report states that by 2024 India wants to have 14.6 GW of
capacity online. There is also a potential to increase the capacity to 63 GW by
2032. The United States and India are focusing on getting six Westinghouse
Electric AP1000 nuclear reactors launched in Andhra Pradesh. A Canadian
company, Cameco and the Department of Atomic Energy of India have also signed a
partnership whereby India would buy 7.1 million pounds of uranium through 2020.
Unfortunately, nuclear power has been the subject of intense political debate
in India and several political parties have disjointed views on developing
atomic energy in India. Taking into consideration a comparative analysis
between coal powered thermal plants, hydro-power and renewable sources of
energy; nuclear power stands to have attributes of uninterrupted supply for a
long period of time, lesser emissions and a much higher energy output per
ton. It will also serve as a redundancy power source for long periods of
time in case of a crisis or dispute. Considering the higher standards of
nuclear waste management enforced by the International Atomic Energy Agency,
nuclear power has the potential of not only solving India’s energy crisis woes
but can also serve as a backbone for India’s Security stand in the South Asian
About the author
Malcolm Cooper is part of the Information
Services team of Mitkat Advisory. He is an ex Indian navy officer.
Disclaimer: Any views or opinions represented in this blog are of the author and do not represent those of MitKat. Any views or opinions are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, or individual.