Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), the nation's largest fuel retailer, has renewed its focus on green energy and sustainability initiatives, having firmed up a mega clean energy drive that includes plans to invest Rs 1,820 crore in setting up green energy generation capacity, pushing bio-fuel blending in petroleum products and adopting measures to cut down its carbon footprint.
"The contentious issue of climate change ranks high on the global agenda today as the world looks towards the climate negotiations at COP-21 (21st Conference of Parties). As an integral part of the global oil and gas industry, we are actively engaged to tackle climate change issues and are implementing a number of sustainable development initiatives including climate change mitigation activities," IOC chairman and managing director B Ashok stated on the coming COP-21 meet, on the company's website.
According to another senior company executive, the proposal to set up 261 megawatt (Mw) of green power capacity with an investment of Rs 1,820 crore phased over the next five years forms a major part of the long-term plan. The company currently operates two wind-power projects including a 21-Mw plant at Kutch in Gujarat and another 48-Mw project at Vajrakarur and Gandikota in Andhra Pradesh. At the end of August, the cumulative generation from the projects stood at 569 gigawatt hours (GWh). This corresponds to emission reduction to the extent of 455,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. The overall aim is to reduce the carbon footprint by 18 per cent through energy conservation, energy efficiency, renewable energy and tree plantations by 2019-20, with 2012-13 as the base year.
In addition, a grid-connected solar photo voltaic project of 5 Mw is operational at Rawra in Rajasthan. The cumulative generation from this project has crossed 27 GWh resulting in carbon emission reduction of 22 tmt of CO2. Also, a 4-Mw solar PV plant is under commissioning at Narimanam in Tamil Nadu, which will supply green power to 12 captive locations in the state.
In addition, IOC is running around 3,000 of its retail outlets including Kisan Seva Kendras (rural outlets) across the country on solar PV generation systems to reduce diesel use in power generation sets.
"In response to the call for 10 per cent reduction in energy imports, IOC has planned to further improve its operational efficiency and energy conservation performance besides generation of renewable energy to bridge the gap," said Ashok. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said in Urja Sangam 2015, an energy sector-specific industry event, than India must aim for 10 per cent reduction in its energy import bill through 2022 by ramping up domestic production and promoting energy efficiency measures. The country currently meets 80 per cent of its oil requirement through imports of 189 million tonnes (mt) at a cost of $112 billion.
To cut its carbon footprint, IOC is rapidly expanding its natural gas business. In the last financial year, the company registered 1.81 mt of natural gas sales. Lifecycle green-house gas emissions from natural gas-based power plants is up to 43 per cent less than coal, according to a study by the World Nuclear Association.
Last financial year, IOC procured 187,000 kilolitres of ethanol for blending, 1.7 per cent of its total petrol sales. Blending of ethanol with petrol reduces carbon monoxide levels and carbon emissions and also brings down petroleum import bill. Ethanol has an emission factor of 1.88 kg CO2 per kg compared to 3.09 kg CO2 per kg for petrol.
IOC is also carrying out large-scale plantation of Jatropha for the development of bio-diesel. The company has so far completed about 8,000 hectares of plantations in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Uttar Pradesh. The jatropha plantation drive is being carried out through two joint ventures formed for this purpose, IOC-CREDA Bio-fuels in Chhattisgarh and IndianOil Ruchi Bio-fuels in Uttar Pradesh.
Ashok says the negative impact of climate change on ecosystems, economies and communities around the world is a "grim reality" with erratic temperature and weather patterns coupled with rising sea levels, posing a grave threat to biodiversity.
Experts say the focus on green energy makes sense for conventional energy firms such as IOC. "Focus on developing environment-friendly and sustainable initiatives can help IOC develop and build its green brand. It will go a long way in image makeover," said Debasish Mishra, senior director at Deloitte.
How green are India's energy firms? In the run-up to the climate change talks in Paris from Nov 30, a 5-part series seeks to answer the question by analysing initiatives of some leading firms