Energy security is a function of the
ability of a nation to satisfy energy needs of current and future
generations of all citizens in an affordable manner without adverse
impact on the environment and sustainability.
Such an energy policy must be centered on a wide mix of renewable
energy options -- solar, wind, small-hydel, biomass and others.
Given the fast declining costs of such technologies globally, diverse
resource base of
to support them, and their suitability for integration with
decentralized community-managed systems, they fit the bill.
Conventional large-scale options like nuclear and large hydro plants
have failed to provide energy security almost everywhere in the world
thanks to high capital costs and unresolved impacts on the local
communities, environment and safety.
Systems based on clean coal and natural gas, given their current
domestic availability and low capital cost respectively, can play
stopgap role in the transitory phase until production and delivery
infrastructure based on renewable is put in place.
Besides establishing such an infrastructure, major institutional
changes will be required to replace the centralized, fuel
reserve-driven notion of energy security with a supply chain resource-
driven, people-centered and sustainable one.
Since the trend of rising international oil prices and speculations of
depleting oil reserves began, the concern for energy security has been
on the top of the policy agenda in most countries. This article
revisits the notion of 'energy security' and assesses India's energy
policy against its backdrop.
Broadly understood, energy security connotes the capacity of a nation
to satisfy energy needs of the current and future generations of its
Various programmes that a government undertakes with explicit aim of
making accessible useful energy carriers to all citizens in adequate
quantity and quality and affordable cost over a long period of time
without imposing heavy burdens of any kind can be said to enhance that
nation's energy security.
It is important to emphasize accessibility to 'all citizens' for the
obvious reason that a nation can be said to be energy secure only if
all sections of its population are so. Thus enhancement of energy
security demands an appropriate choice not just of technologies and
energy carriers, but also of institutional structures and delivery
systems that ensure access to even the poorest sections of population.
Another aspect that needs emphasis is that 'no heavy burdens of any
kind' must be imposed. Heavy social or environmental burdens, even if
they are not directly reflected in short-term costs of energy
services, are likely to erode competitiveness of an energy strategy in
the long run, and hence, diminish energy security.
Finally, it needs to be realized that in a world with increasing
economic inter-connectedness, the factors that enhance energy security
are different than those in the old world.
For instance, mere domestic availability of a particular fuel may not
boost energy security. A nation requires a range of resources in the
entire energy supply chains -- primary energy, financial capital,
material and human capabilities for development and manufacture of
relevant technological systems, and logistical infrastructure for
delivery -- to make available useful energy carriers to its citizens
at affordable costs over a long period of time.
In a globalizing world, being at the frontier of technological
development based on energy carriers with growing markets can give a
nation greater energy security than possessing vast domestic reserves
of a carrier whose competitiveness is declining globally.
Dr Rahul Pandey is a former faculty member
at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)
Bombay and Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Lucknow, and is
currently a member of a start-up venture that develops mathematical
models for planning and policy analysis. His doctoral and
post-doctoral research work was related to energy and environment
policy and climate change.