Nuclear power should be an integral part of India’s clean energy transition


Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement at the Glasgow summit that India will meet the goal of net zero emissions by 2070 underscored India’s commitment to tackle the climate crisis. The speech underscored India’s development imperative. He also aligned India’s position with a goal widely accepted by the international community.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has called on countries to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. India needs a longer transition period. We need to combine growth and emission reduction. The choice is easier for countries which have already reached a high level of industrialization.

It is striking that the climate debate is taking place against a backdrop of sharply rising electricity prices in Europe and a shortage of coal in China and India.

The slowdown in the winds over the North Sea in early September, combined with the rise in gas prices, led to a sharp increase in electricity prices in Europe. The decline in wind power led to an increase in demand for gas at a time when the supply situation was tight. Wind power represented 24% and 23.7% respectively of electricity production in the United Kingdom (United Kingdom) and Germany in 2020. Renewable energies are an intermittent source of energy. But this needs to be backed up by an alternative energy source when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing. This “balancing” power is supplied by gas in Europe. Even before the current crisis erupted, Germany had the highest electricity tariff in the world. According to Bloomberg, the cost of renewable energy for German consumers reached $ 38 billion in 2020.

The IEA report suggested that there is no new investment in oil and gas production or new coal mines. The problems caused by the temporary shortage of coal in China and India show how difficult this task is. Coal accounts for 71% of India’s electricity production. While developed countries insist on the need to phase out coal, they have retained fossil fuels as a major source of their energy basket. The share of fossil fuels in Germany and the UK is 40.5% and 37.7%. The percentage of gas in the German energy basket will increase with the commissioning of the Nordstrom II gas pipeline. Germany will keep coal (lignite) in its energy basket until 2037. According to a Financial Time report citing official U.S. figures, United States (US) coal consumption for power generation will increase by 20% this year. China is the world’s largest coal-consuming country and has authorized 37 GW of new coal-fired power plants in 2020.

A 2018 MIT study pointed out that without the contribution of nuclear power, “the cost of meeting deep decarbonization goals increases dramatically.” The nuclear energy tariff of ??3.47 per unit in 2019 already compares favorably to the cost of renewable energies with storage solutions that exceed ??4 per unit.

India needs a diverse energy basket, one of the pillars of which must be nuclear power. Nuclear power is part of the United States Clean Energy Standard. New Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told Parliament: “It is crucial that we restart nuclear power plants. The share of nuclear power in electricity generation in India (3%) lags far behind that of other major economies – the United States (20%) and the European Union (20%). China proposes to increase its share of nuclear power to 10%. The growth of nuclear power will require strong government support. Nuclear power should be included in India’s clean energy matrix and given “must do” status.

DP Srivastava is a former Ambassador and Coordinator of VIF’s Energy Transition Working Group in India

Opinions expressed are personal

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