India’s Energy Crisis – A “Nuclear” way out?

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 coal-powered plants.

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 region.

 

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.

Published On - Sep 21,2017

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