India is doing poorly on the energy front in a way which is not commonly realised. The popular narrative is that it is misleading to look at the energy consumption and emissions of a country without taking into consideration its size (population) and per capita incomes. Hence India may be one of the largest polluters in the world but in terms of per capita energy consumption, income and emissions, it is way down in the global league table.
In fact, for a long time to come, as Indian incomes and energy consumption rise (one goes with the other) its emissions will also grow, without that in any way bringing it close to a country like the US whose citizens rank high in terms of per capita energy consumption and emissions. Thus in the foreseeable future, the country will not be guilty of being an irresponsible polluter powerfully contributing to global warming and climate change.
The foregoing is true but recent trends are disturbing, making the overall picture more complex. According to data between two five-year points (2005 and 2010), the energy intensity of India's income has risen as has the polluting nature of its growth. This is dangerous for a country which is in practice energy deficient (not counting what is there in the ground), requiring large imports of oil, coal and gas, seriously challenging its energy security. (ENERGY AND EMISSION)
First, the benchmarks. On energy consumption and emissions (pollution), we can divide the world in the following different ways. From an equity point of view, how much energy (million tonnes of oil equivalent) does a citizen of a country consume? Are they guzzlers or thrifty? This is measured by per capita total primary energy consumption or supply. Next, guzzler or not, how efficiently does a country use the energy that it consumes? This is indicated by the measure - energy supply per unit of income generated. Then comes the crucial issue of emissions. How much of emissions (carbon dioxide equivalent) does a country produce per unit of energy consumed and income generated. And lastly, how does a country figure in the league table of per capita emissions?
The accompanying chart carries data for two five-year points (to show the direction of movement) for countries relevant for India compiled by International Energy Agency of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), from two reports, "Key World Energy Statistics 2007" (incorporating data for 2005) and "Key World Energy Statistics 2012" (incorporating data for 2010). The world and OECD figures set the context. The US is a front rung energy consumer; Sweden is a key energy efficient country; Japan is unique in overcoming a natural disadvantage (seriously energy deficient) by achieving a high level of energy efficiency; Korea, also energy deficient, is an exemplar of sustained rapid growth; and the rest are BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) who constitute the emerging economies.
As the chart will show, for the world as a whole, the five year period 2005-10 was a mixed bag. Per capita energy consumption went up but so did energy efficiency - energy consumed per unit of GDP went down. Because of the latter, despite the rise in energy consumption emission per unit of energy consumed remained stagnant. In this scenario, there are two countries which stand out. One is a traditional leader Sweden which maintained its record. It both reduced its per capita energy consumption and improved its energy efficiency (lower energy consumed per unit of GDP) so that it was able to cut its per capita emission by a good 10 per cent. Also, emission per unit of income decreased.
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But the unlikely good boy has been the United States. Despite its unwillingness to ratify the Kyoto protocol requiring nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, it has made substantial progress in setting its own house in order. It has reduced its per capita energy consumption, improved its energy efficiency levels and brought about a 12 per cent improvement (that is reduction) in per capita emissions. Even more outstandingly, it has improved the pollution propensity of its economy - reduced emission per unit of GDP - by a high 23 per cent. According to Ralph Cavanagh, co-director of the US's Natural Resource Defence Council, in the New York Times, energy use in the US has been dropping since 2007 and last year (2012) it used less energy than in 1999 although during that period (1999-2012) the economy has grown by 25 per cent. Last year the US used less oil than it did in 1973 when the first oil shock had come.
In contrast, the main global bad boys have been China and India. China increased its energy consumption by a massive 37 per cent which resulted from its ability to achieve rapid growth per capita income. But, on the minus side it fell behind in energy efficiency, emission per unit of GDP going up by a massive 23 per cent. India is in the same boat. It has raise energy consumption, fallen behind in energy efficiency, seen a hike in per capita emissions and like China, recorded a massive 26 per cent rise in emission per unit of GDP. Brazil has also raised its energy consumption and per capita emissions with economic growth. But it has also improved its energy efficiency and achieved a 17 per cent cut in emission per unit of GDP. This is the path that China and India need to follow.
India had announced its national action plan for climate change in 2008 which contained eight missions, one of them being on enhanced energy efficiency. According to the Planning Commission, in one of the programmes under it, labelling has been introduced for 16 major energy consuming appliances like air conditioners, refrigerators, distribution transformers and tube lights so that consumers can easily compare the energy efficiency of alternative products. Under another programme, a national energy conservation building code (ECBC) has been proposed for designing of new commercial buildings and over 700 ECBC-compliant commercial buildings have been constructed. Two states have adopted the ECBC code as mandatory.
Further, nearly 500 industrial units from eight sectors accounting for 35 per cent of the country's total energy consumption have been declared dedicated consumers and given percentage targets for reducing energy consumption by 2014-15. Those which can beat these targets will receive tradable energy saving certificates. Additionally, the Bachat Lamp Yojana has been introduced to provide compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs
) to households at the cost of ordinary bulbs. Those selling these CFLs can earn carbon credits from lower energy use. Twenty million CFLs have been distributed under a pilot project. For agriculture, a pilot project has been launched to replace energy inefficient pumpsets with efficient ones.
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The government claims that in the first four years of the eleventh plan, that is till 2009-10, these programmes have resulted in energy savings equal to 7,500 MW of capacity. (During the plan as a whole the country added around 50,000 MW of grid-connected capacity.) Going by the way power consumption has grown at a lower rate than GDP through the '90s, the government assessed that to keep achieving the 9 per cent growth that was clocked in a part of the last decade, consumption of grid connected power would have to grow by a lower 6 per cent. Based on this the government has projected a 20-25 per cent reduction in emission intensity of GDP from 2005 levels by 2020. But in the first five years of the period (as shown in the accompanying chart) it has actually gone up by 26 per cent. So achieving that target by 2020 has become that much difficult. As things stand, during the period 2010-20, emission intensity has to go down by 37 per cent to meet the original 2020 target.
One reason for this poor performance is the mindset, contained in the national action plan on climate change, which says that "poverty is the worst polluter" and "poverty eradication will be the best form of adaptation to climate change". The reality is that fighting climate change by cutting greenhouse gas emissions has to go hand in hand with growth and eradication of poverty. There are enormous environmental and health costs to rising emission intensity. Rising pollution is cities where large numbers of people are migrating in search of jobs to take advantage of rapid growth will impose a higher health cost burden on them, partially negating their additional incomes.
Besides, inability to check the energy or emission intensity of the economy, revealed by the rising level of carbon dioxide per unit of GDP will take the country further away from energy security as it is heavily dependent on energy imports. So policy must address energy saving on grounds of both health, poverty reduction and security.