India's energy security is at risk if it fails to embrace the opportunity to develop low-carbon solutions, with its power demands set to surge over the coming years, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned.
"Current trends will drive up imports of fossil fuels, local pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and put energy security at risk," according to a new report by the IEA, presented at the Clean Energy Ministerial conference in New Delhi yesterday.
"India faces formidable energy challenges. It relies heavily on fossil fuels and its energy demand is set to grow more than fourfold over the coming decades."
The IEA also said that progress globally of the development of green energy solutions was too slow to limit global warming to the desired extent.
Still, India is in a position to solve some of its own problems.
"India is well placed to take advantage of new clean energy technologies that could head off these dangers, with a solid engineering base and a strong, innovative private sector that has consistently surprised the world with pioneering and affordable technology solutions," the report added.
Hundreds of millions of Indians in rural areas do not have access to electricity. There are frequent outages in many parts of the country and coal shortages, expensive fuel imports and government subsidies are all weighing heavily on the economy, which is expected to have hit a decade low in terms of growth in the past financial year.
Manmohan Singh, India's prime minister, said steps were being taken to develop clean energy sources including solar and wind power, as well as biomass.
"It is proposed to double the renewable energy capacity in our country from 25,000 megawatts in 2012 to 55,000 MW by the year 2017," Mr Singh said, speaking at the same event yesterday. "The pace at which we can expand our reliance on these new energy sources is constrained by the fact that they are more expensive than conventional energy. However, costs are falling. The cost of solar energy, for example, has nearly halved over the last two years, though it remains higher than the cost of fossil fuel-based electricity."
Developing countries make up 82 per cent of the world's population and use 55 per cent of the available global energy supply, he added.
"They must aim at faster growth of their GDP to improve the living standards of their populations and this will entail an expanded demand for energy," Mr Singh said. "If they follow the industrialised countries in meeting their energy requirements through fossil fuel based energy, we know that the impact on the global climate would be simply unsustainable."
Mr Singh added that "industrialised countries have to bear a large share of the burden" involved in controlling emissions.