India is investing over $60 billion in developing natural supply and distribution infrastructure as it chases the target of more than doubling the share of natural gas in its energy base to 15 percent by 2030, Oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan said on Sunday.
Natural gas currently constitutes 6.2 percent of all energy consumption in the country. Stating that the government has laid emphasis on developing a gas-based economy, he said natural gas is gradually becoming a bridging fuel for low carbon economy in India.
The government is giving special impetus to develop gas infrastructure across the length and breadth of the country connecting north to south and east to west parts of India, he said.
"I am happy to inform you that as we speak, an estimated investment of $60 billion is underway in building gas pipeline and terminal infrastructure that are nearing or in advanced stages of completion," he said in his opening remarks at the third International Think Tank Meeting (ITT) in New Delhi.
City gas distribution network will soon cover 70 percent of India's population, he said. "Our government is exploring strategic partnerships for overall development of oil and gas sector. The role of private sector - both domestic and from abroad, for bringing in investments with necessary innovations for future energy landscape in the country, will remain crucial".
CEOs of energy firms at the meeting stated that India will continue to increase consumption of fossil fuels in its energy mix, and there is an urgent need for an integrated energy policy cutting across all forms of energy.
Pradhan said energy is integral to achieving the target of early doubling the size of Indian economy to $5 trillion by 2024. Talking of key challenges confronting the energy sector, he said: "The foremost challenge of our time is the Energy Trilemma. It is about providing sustainably, securely, and affordably-sufficient energy to our growing population".
Secondly, in recent times, significant uncertainty and challenge were witnessed in the global energy markets. "We have seen the most disruptive developments. US sanctions on Iran and Venezuela, attacks on Saudi oil processing units, volatile conditions in Strait of Hormuz, unrest in the Middle-East, and US-China trade war, to name a few," he said.
"These developments have an enormous impact on India's energy security and also on our economic, budgetary and investment dimensions," he said, adding India's import dependency on crude oil and LNG continues to rise unabated. Import dependence is now over 84 percent for crude and 45 percent for natural gas.
"Going forward, it is expected to increase further. Such excessive import dependency does make us vulnerable to external developments more than ever before," he said.
"The emerging era is going to be complex as each country will search for an optimal energy mix, without causing serious disruptions to their overall economic growth".
Indian companies have to develop a more strategic mindset by deploying latest technologies, Pradhan said, adding India will continue to depend on hydrocarbon and rely on clean and more efficient technologies, alongside robust producer-consumer relations as trade volumes grow.
"I am very clear that no single form of energy can meet the growing energy demand in India given India's development imperative that aims to ensure energy justice to all. Mixing all exploitable energy sources is the only feasible way forward in our context," he said."We need a balanced and realistic approach to develop a sustainable energy future".