Excellencies and distinguished delegates to the BIMSTEC countries Energy Ministers’ Conference.
I feel privileged to address this conference and share our experiences and vision for development of energy sector. I welcome you on behalf of the Government of India, our Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singhji and UPA Chairperson Ms. Sonia Gandhiji.
1. Energy is one of the critical inputs for economic development and achievement of Millennium Development Goal. Be it - poverty reduction, improving social services like education and health to name a few.
2. India has made significant progress since its independence in energy sector as well. Per capita consumption of electricity has grown from about 15 units in 1947, the year of our independence to 592 units now. At the time of independence only about 1300 villages out of the total 6,00,000 villages were electrified. Now eighty-one percent of the villages have been covered. Installed capacity has increased from just 1362 MW to 1,22,000 MW. Our commercial energy supply has grown more than 12 times in last fifty years.
3. Still lot more is required to be done. About 56% of our rural households still do not have access to electricity. As per 2001 Census, 74% of our population was dependent on traditional fuels for cooking like fire wood, crop residue, cow dung cakes etc.
4. We have put in place a robust policy framework to address these issues. India has set a goal of making available electricity to every household in next five years. An ambitious programme, Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana, has been launched by the Government of India for attainment of this goal. The scheme provides 90% capital subsidy for creation of Rural Electricity Distribution Backbone and Household Electrification Infrastructure. It provides for 100% grant for electrification of households living below poverty line. Our national policy makes a provision to supply electricity to these households at lower tariffs.
5. Our energy needs will grow as our economic growth accelerate, coverage of households is targeted to grow rapidly and we also aim to increase per capita consumption of electricity to 1000 units by year 2012. It is estimated that by 2020, our requirement will be of the order of 400,000 MW.
6. Our priority is for developing full hydro potential. All hydro power projects, regardless of their size are renewable sources of energy. Gradually, acceptance has emerged world over for this definition of renewable sources of energy. There is a need to optimally utilize the hydro power potential planned for each river basin. We have recently launched a 50,000 MW hydro initiative, which aims at exploiting the available hydro potential of the country rapidly.
7. We have made good progress in promoting non-conventional energy sources also. Generation capacity of over 3,700 MW based on these sources has already been installed. To give focused attention, we have a separate Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources. India has fifth largest installed capacity for generating wind energy in the world.
8. Our Electricity law has a specific provision, mandating purchase of such percentage of energy from these sources as may be specified by the Regulatory Commissions. There is urgent need to step up efforts in research and development in these technologies aiming at reducing capital costs to make these sources more and more affordable.
9. We are also attempting to provide clean and efficient fuel for cooking purposes to all our households in next 10 to 15 years. Efficient and clean bio mass based de-centralised generation is envisaged to be core of this endeavour.
10. To meet our growing energy needs, nuclear energy is also being harnessed.
11. Fossil fuels are going to be dominant source of energy in India for medium to long-term in order to fulfil our energy needs. We have prescribed standards and norms for different environmental related parameters which are comparable to international standards.
12. The issue of climate change is raised often in the context of use of fossil fuel. Per capita emission of carbon dioxide is highest in developed countries. According to the published statistics, carbon dioxide emission per capita in the region is around 1 tonne against 19 tonnes in case of some developed countries. Development needs of developing countries have been recognized globally which will necessitate consumption of higher levels of energy. It will be equitous to ask developing countries to accept responsibilities which entail higher costs or constrain their economic development only after the per capita emissions converge with those of the developed world which is some decades away in the future. Efforts should be to achieve a unit of human welfare with least possible energy consumption. This brings us to the importance of energy efficiency and energy conservation.
13. India enacted its Energy Conservation Act in 2001. The Bureau of Energy Efficiency is the national level nodal agency for initiating and coordinating energy conservation activities in various sectors.
14. India has made significant progress in improving plant load factor of power plants. All India PLF of thermal plants has improved from 52% in 1985 to 75% in year 2004. We are also implementing a major programme for reducing the transmission and distribution losses. We are trying that best practices for energy conservation measures are put in place as early as possible.
15. As per assessment made by the International Energy Agency, India has achieved a unique distinction in terms of energy efficiency. During 1991 to 2003, energy intensity of India has declined appreciably by over 34%.
16. Since the challenges being faced by the countries of this region are similar, we can achieve better results through regional cooperation. It will facilitate optimal utilization of the resources of the region and also enhance our capacity to face the challenges through exchange of experiences and adoption of best practices. BIMSTEC, as a regional grouping for mutual cooperation, has a special importance in this context. It has already been agreed that energy is going to be a focus area for cooperation under BIMSTEC. Some ground work has already been done.
17. The Task Force on Non-Conventional and Renewable Sources of Energy has been working for last few years. We have organized a number of training programmes in this area. A demonstration bio-mass gasifier set up by India has been functioning in Myanmar successfully. It is proposed to expand this project further.
18. Exploitation of our hydro carbon and hydro power resources holds good potential for furthering cooperation in the area of energy. This would facilitate integration of the sources of energy with markets.
19. Developing electric grid connectivity is an essential step forward for exploitation of hydro power resources. We would suggest the approach of developing country to country grid interconnections as building blocks for making feasible flow of electricity across the region. We need to pursue it as a prionty area. In India, we had different electricity regions few years ago which have been now interconnected. This has been a win-win situation for all the players.
Such grid interconnections would be viable only if electricity surpluses become available at affordable prices as the ultimate cost is to be born by the consumers. Furthermore, we would need to move forward on harmonization of various technical details.
20. We also agree that developing a Trans- BIMSTEC Gas Pipeline would help in furthering gas sector cooperation between the participating countries. At the same time, it needs to be acknowledged that such network would emerge on the basis of sound techno-commercial considerations. We would need to select the best option available to further our regional cooperation.
21. Our experts in the area of non-conventional energy resources have recently met in New Delhi and a common consensus has emerged for utilizing renewable energy resources to supplement energy supplies. Capacity building has been identified as an important area for cooperation. India will be happy to support whole heartedly capacity building exercise and also to coordinate activities related to resource assessment of these sources of energy.
22. India possesses about 8.6% of the total recoverable coal reserves of the world and contributes about 7.5% of the total world coal production. Over the years, we have acquired and adopted technologies suiting to various geo¬ mining conditions. We would be happy to share our experiences in coal exploration and mining with other member countries. Our efforts should be to develop coal sector to globally competitive levels through introduction of mining and beneficiation technologies of higher productivity and capacity building in all facets of industry.
23. One of the major objectives for cooperation in energy sector has to be increasing access to commercial energy to all our population as this would lead to improvements in living standards and also in raising productivity of our human resource. Various innovative models have been tried in the BIMSTEC region for supplying electricity to rural areas. I have earlier elaborated on the ambitious programmes which India has launched for covering all the remaining households by electrification in next five years. I would recommend that BIMSTEC countries should pay special attention on sharing experience of these different models and related best practices so that population of this region could get the fruits of this development at the earliest.
24. All BIMSTEC countries stand to gain from increased interaction and sharing of experiences in other areas also like technical and operational grid standards, cost effective technologies for developing non-conventional energy sources, best practices for energy efficiency, audit and conservation.
25. I am sure that our coming together in this conference would be an important step forward to realize our vision of a prosperous and developed BIMSTEC region.