With the government continuously encouraging energy efficiency across all sectors, and the PM’s avowed intention to change the dialogue into action on climate change, Sashi Mukundan, Regional President of BP in India feels it's time for promoting gas as a bridge fuel
Date: 9 December 2015
Ask anyone in India - from the Minister down to the ‘aam aadmi’, the chorus of voices would say India needs affordable energy. It also needs plentiful energy. And with the climate pledge that India has taken at COP21 we also need clean energy. While meeting the burgeoning demand for energy it is also important for India to grow in a responsible manner. Our commitment and the PM’s avowed intention to change the dialogue into action on climate change will enforce this. The Government has been continuously encouraging energy efficiency across all sectors. India's grand national plan focuses on solar, which is expected to grow monumentally. The aim is to reach a capacity of 100 gigawatts by 2022, to be scaled up further in the future. The variability of power production in solar, like wind, poses unique challenges for the grid managers. The availability of solar power varies across the 24 hour cycle, and also across seasons. One necessarily needs a conventional power plant to fill up the gaps. In addition we need a fuel that we can use while the transition to renewable happens. So while we strike alliances for a solar convergence India could look at Gas as the bridge fuel in the energy mix. We step up the reduction in carbon intensity by accelerating renewables, and at the same time look at lo-carbonizing the Indian electricity system, with gas. By increased gas switching from liquid fuels, especially in transport and industry, we could address air quality issues such as SOx, NOx and particulates.
Reflect on this please - 1% switch from coal to gas in power generation reduces the same amount of emission as adding 11% of renewables. Increasing the share of gas in India’s energy mix will have a material emissions benefit; for example, if gas gains market share in India similar to the global average of 26%, switching away from both coal and oil, ‘greenhouse gas’ emissions would be 8-9% lower by 2035.
Compared to gas, coal has 3 times the emission of NOx and over 100 times the emission of SOx gases. These emissions as you are aware lead to smog, acid rain and haze. Gas fired power is approximately 1.2 times more expensive which presents a policy challenge, but may be offset by considerable air quality and health improvements. The encouraging thing of course is that India has ~15,000MW of already built power plants - awaiting fuel and buyers. Activating these will also substantially impact the NPA status of these power plants. To encourage Gas Switching in all sectors as part of the Government’s mission to set up smart cities, use of gas in homes, commercial establishments and transportation replacing LPG, petrol and diesel would significantly reduce carbon emissions. Use of gas as an industrial fuel will replace costlier liquid fuels (fuel oil, diesel or naphtha) across a wide variety of applications reducing emissions. A Gas Master Plan, with clear milestones, is the need of the hour. This will progress the required infrastructure to supply gas and promote its use. In the last century we have seen that advances in technology keeps energy supplies plentiful and affordable – enough to meet projected demand many times over -- and help paves the way to a lower carbon energy mix. All things remaining the same let us go for Gas in India as our preferred energy. As they say the ‘grass is always greener where you water it’. So it is time to grow greener policies and water Gas!