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Road to Decarbonisation After the Russia-Ukraine Conflict

Context

The Ukraine conflict has disrupted the international energy market, and India will have to navigate the difficult situations of a volatile petroleum market without deviating from the “green” path toward clean energy.

Relevance:

GS Paper-3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation

Mains Question

India must shift its energy compass needle toward short-term energy security and long-term decarbonization. Examine. (150 words)


Why Should India Shift Its Energy Compass Needle Towards Short-Term Energy Security And Long-Term Decarbonization?

  • The energy market has fragmented, and energy nationalism is driving policy.
  • Even if the Ukraine conflict is resolved, Russia will be denied access to western markets for as long as President Putin is in charge, resulting in a tightening energy embrace between Russia and China.
  • OPEC plus one, Saudi Arabia, as well as Russia, have stepped outside the Western orbit. Saudi Arabia has stated that it intends to pursue a “Saudi first,” non-aligned approach to international relations, including relations with the United States.
  • New energy power centres are emerging around countries that have a large share of the metals, minerals, and components needed for clean energy, with China currently dominating.

Do you have any idea?

  • Decarbonisation o Decarbonisation is the process of reducing the amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere, primarily carbon dioxide (CO2). Its goal is to achieve a low-emission global economy in order to achieve climate neutrality through the energy transition.
  • Net-zero Emissions:
    • Net-zero, also known as carbon-neutrality, does not imply that a country’s emissions would be zero. That would be gross-zero, which means reaching a state with no emissions at all, a difficult scenario to comprehend.
    • As a result, net-zero refers to a state in which a country’s emissions are offset by absorption.

Is it possible for India to completely phase out coal?

  • Coal will continue to be the backbone of India’s energy system for decades.
  • It is without a doubt the dirtiest of fuels, but it remains one of, if not the, cheapest sources of energy.
  • Furthermore, lakhs of people rely on the coal ecosystem for a living, so phasing out coal, while environmentally appealing, is not yet a macroeconomic or social possibility.

Managing the Current Energy Crisis:

  • Securing a sustainable energy source: o While discounted Russian crude is an opportunistic panacea, it does not provide a long-term solution to our needs.
    • In order to secure such a cover, the government must increase the productivity of its existing producing fields and allocate additional resources to access relevant enhanced oil recovery technologies.
  • Establishing a long-term supply relationship: India should use its market potential to establish a long-term supply relationship with Saudi Arabia as well as an equity partnership with Iran.
  • Increased strategic petroleum reserves: Strategic petroleum reserves should be increased to cover at least 30 days of consumption.
  • Facilitating a smooth market mechanism: Unnecessary obstacles for public sector petroleum companies created by vigilant bodies such as CBI/CVC/CAG should be avoided so that their traders can profit from market volatility without fear.
  • Pan-India gas pipeline grid: The construction of a pan-India gas pipeline grid should be accelerated.

Interim Steps Required For Balancing Livelihoods And Moving The Green Agenda Forward:

  • increased R&D spending on coal gasification and carbon capture and sequestration technologies; and
  • implementation of a carbon tax.
  • The establishment of regulatory and monitoring mechanisms for measuring industrial carbon emissions.
  • The closure of inefficient and old plants, as well as the refusal to approve any new ones.
  • In the meantime, Niti Aayog, in collaboration with a group of economists and energy experts, must assess the competitiveness of coal versus solar on a full-cost basis, as energy security cannot be achieved by focusing solely on the supply and distribution sides of the equation.

Other Measures to be Included on the Policy Agenda This Year:

  • Transmission grid network upgrade:
    • Allocation of funds for transmission grid network upgrade to make it resilient enough to absorb “clean” electrons on an intermittent basis.
  • Addressing the underlying structural issues impeding renewables scaling up:
    • The repair of state distribution companies’ (discoms’) balance sheets, easing land acquisition procedures, and removing regulatory and contract uncertainties are critical.
    • Failure to sort out discoms’ finances will erode trust in the power purchasing agreements (PAAs) signed between them and renewable companies.
  • Mineral and chip diplomacy facilitation:
    • Harnessing indigenous resources of critical metals and minerals for clean energy and developing a domestic chip industry will take decades.
    • In the meantime, diplomats should secure diverse supply sources to reduce the country’s vulnerability.
  • Promoting third-generation clean energy technologies:
    • Promoting the development and commercialization of third-generation clean energy technologies such as hydrogen, biofuels, and modular nuclear reactors.

Conclusion

  • Although India is not to blame for global warming, it will be among the worst affected.
  • Millions of people live along its coastline. Rising sea levels will threaten their livelihoods. Melting glaciers and extreme temperatures will also affect millions.
  • So, whoever is to blame, India must continue on the path of decarbonization. It cannot afford to develop first and then clean up.

February 2023
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