G20 Focus on Energy Transformation: Natural Gas Pathway to A Greener Economy

Anil Trigunayat

With the successful implementation of more LNG Terminals and pipelines, India is working towards delivering natural gas to every corner of India, making it available to a variety of domestic industries. In doing so, we are ensuring that a cleaner and more economically viable energy source can support our country’s energy needs.

G20 Discussion on Energy Transition

India will close around 30 coal mines over the next three to four years to pave the way for forests or water bodies, said Amrit Lal Meena, union secretary for coal, on the sidelines of the three-day G20 energy transition working group meeting in Mumbai. This announcement, coupled with the government’s recent approval of large-scale incentives to motivate investment in green hydrogen technology, reflects India’s commitment to reduce emissions in key sectors of our economy. 

In terms of the transition to cleaner energy sources, India is often seen as a country that is still a long way off. Emissions per person in India are, in fact, far lower than the global average, signifying the prevalence of a largely sustainable lifestyle in the Indian population. Guaranteeing the needs and aspirations of 1.4 billion people through sustained economic growth on the governmental level, however, is a task that requires compromises to be made on fossil fuel usage to guarantee energy security in a vital transitional period. 

The development and expansion of renewable energy sources have played an important role in striking the right balance between decarbonization and economic growth. Over the last eight years, India has increased its renewable capacity by 290 percent, while our installed capacity for wind and solar stands at 4th position in the world. 

But solar and wind power sources cannot generate power around the clock, and this intermittency can create instability in a power grid that so many rely on. Large battery storage can help in supplying electricity when solar/ wind sources are not generating, but such requirements are cost-intensive and often unsustainable. 

Natural gas, which is responsible for 50 percent less emissions than coal, is a key part of the puzzle. Poised to become our primary transitional fuel as we move towards net-zero, natural gas has emerged as a critical low-emission solution to ongoing global energy insecurity. India has embraced this potential, and we are developing world-class infrastructure to accommodate imported natural gas through our numerous LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) terminals and pipelines. As of now, around 20,000 km of gas pipelines were operational, with another 14,000 km of pipeline expected to be completed in the next 2-3 years following an expected investment of Rs 120,000 crore by the Indian government. 

With the successful implementation of more LNG Terminals and pipelines, India is working towards delivering natural gas to every corner of India, making it available to a variety of domestic industries. In doing so, we are ensuring that a cleaner and more economically viable energy source can support our country’s energy needs as we prepare the necessary green infrastructure and technologies vital to our ultimate climate goals.

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New Delhi has also been examining the possibility of importing gas through pipelines from the Middle East and Central Asia which could not move forward due to hostile relationships with Pakistan like the IPI( Iran Pakistan, India ) and TAPI ( Turkmenistan- Afghanistan -Pakistan and -India) since natural gas would be far more preferable and expedient for climate mitigation. New ideas and routes are being vetted to avoid these difficult and unstable countries i.e. via Oman and UAE. India has recently raised the issue of the safety of undersea cabling after the sabotage of Nord stream pipelines which should stay out of the geopolitics between nations.

In the face of rising economic and population growth rates, India has elected to use very tool in its arsenal to cut down on high-emission energy sources like coal, India’s government could easily have chosen to maximise industrialization efficiency and take the simpler path by adopting the same coal-intensive approach as other rapidly modernising nations. Instead, we are opting for a far more balanced approach, utilising low-emission resources such as LNG in tandem with a wider package of renewable energy, green hydrogen, and biofuels. 

This is unprecedented for a country of such scale, and India is charting a new path for developing countries, especially for larger economies whose quick pace of industrialization implies vast energy demands.

Adopting a similar approach to India within the developing world will allow countries to thrive and prosper during their respective transitions. A report commissioned by the High-Level Policy Commission on Getting Asia to Net-Zero has found that achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2070 could boost India’s economy by as much as 4.7 percent above the projected baseline growth in GDP terms by 2036 — worth a total of $371 billion — and allow for the creation of as many as 15 million new jobs by 2047. But sometimes ideal modeling might not yield the desired outcomes. However, the energy transition has become a compulsion than a choice.

As the G20 host this year, India has a responsibility to strike the right balance in its approach to the net zero transition and successfully bring prosperity to its 1.4 billion people through low-carbon development. Through India’s success with natural gas and LNG, we will show our friends and partners in the Global South that such an approach is preferable, as no country so far has solely relied on renewable energy to build its industrial capacity. This year’s Gastech conference in Singapore  (September 5-8), aims to focus on Asia’s position in the global energy landscape, offering the ideal platform for industry and energy leaders to contribute and chart the critical role of natural gas and LNG in the energy transition.

The article was first published in CNBC TV 18 as “G20 energy transition meet— the critical role of natural gas in India’s adaptation” on May 29, 2023

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  • Anil Trigunayat

    Former Indian Ambassador to Jordan, Libya, and Malta; Distinguished Fellow and Head of the West Asia Experts Group at the Vivekananda International Foundation.

  • Bhanvi