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India’s agreement with the International Energy Agency is expected to further the cause of clean energy transition and allow freer flow of knowledge and innovation

Power demand is expected to surge in India (Photo by Michael Schwarzenberger/Pixabay)

Power demand is expected to surge in India (Photo by Michael Schwarzenberger/Pixabay)

India has entered into a strategic partnership with the International Energy Agency (IEA) to boost energy security and freer exchange of knowledge and expertise from the world’s top energy watchdog.

The country became an associate member of IEA in 2017. The new strategic partnership is seen as a step towards full membership in the future.

“India will have a critical role in shaping the world’s energy and climate future,” said Fatih Birol, executive director of IEA. “As the leading global authority on clean energy transitions, the IEA is the perfect partner to support India as it expands and improves its energy system for the benefit of its 1.4 billion citizens.”

“We hope this partnership leads to an extensive exchange of knowledge and can be a stepping stone towards India becoming a full member of the IEA,” said India’s power secretary Sanjiv Nandan Sahai, who signed the partnership agreement with Birol.

India is vital for the future of the global energy markets and now has the institutional framework it needs to attract more investment for its growing energy needs, the International Energy Agency had said in a special report on the South Asian country last year.

“Ensuring Indian citizens have access to electricity and clean cooking has been at the top of the country’s political agenda,” the world’s top energy watchdog said in the report released in January 2020. “Around 750 million people in India gained access to electricity between 2000 and 2019, reflecting strong and effective policy implementation.”

India and the IEA already cooperate on a wide variety of topics, including the expansion of renewables, energy efficiency, the energy-environment nexus, oil stocks and emergency preparedness, data, investment and innovation. The IEA, whose annual World Energy Outlook projects how the global energy system is likely to look in the years to come, also regularly provides detailed analysis of India’s energy sector.

Energy warning

Its flagship report in 2020 predicted that the planet is headed toward global warming higher than the 2015 Paris Agreement’s limit of 2 degrees Celsius compared with pre-industrial times.

To get fossil fuels out of the energy system would require investments that are 25% more than what has already been planned by 2040, IEA said.

The Paris-based organisation, which is largely funded by wealthy nations and advises countries on energy policy, has faced recent criticism that it marginalises climate goals in its research and underplays the speed at which the world could switch to renewable sources of energy.

The agency has reacted by focussing more on energy transition. “We are very determined to make the IEA the agency for the global clean-energy transition,” Birol had said in October last year around the launch of its annual outlook report.

Global capacity addition of renewable energy will achieve new records in 2020 and 2021, even as fossil fuel capacity falls due to the economic slowdown brought on by the Covid 19 pandemic, the IEA said in its Renewables 2020 report in November.

In India, Covid-19 disruptions will cause a significant slowdown in 2020 photovoltaic deployment, but a strong rebound is expected in 2021 and 2022, the watchdog said.

See: India to lead renewable energy surge after pandemic disruption

Renewables will capture 80% of the market for new power generation by 2030, the World Energy Outlook 2020 estimated, basing its prediction on the so-called Stated Policies Scenario, which looked at announced policy intentions and targets, and assumed that by early 2023 global energy demand will rebound to levels seen before the pandemic.

Coal’s share in global power supply could fall to 28% in 2030 from 37% in 2019, the IEA said. The slump can be steeper if governments start taking more action to decarbonise economies.

See: Sunny outlook for solar power, coal goes into terminal decline

Opening doors

Starting in 2015, the IEA has been opening its doors to major emerging economies. Eight countries have joined the IEA’s Association programme since then: Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Morocco, Singapore, South Africa and Thailand.

Along with the IEA’s 30 members, this expanded list now represents 75% of global energy demand, up from 40% in 2015.

“The agreement between the IEA and India to pursue a strategic partnership is a major step towards building a sustainable, secure and prosperous energy future globally,” said Peter Altmaier, Germany’s minister for economic affairs and energy. “By joining forces even closer with India in addressing the energy and climate challenges of the future, we also tap into a great potential for innovation and sustainable growth for all partners involved.”

“As one of the world’s largest energy consumers with the outlook for unparalleled growth, India’s addition to the IEA family will further reinforce the stature and influence of the IEA, while extending the reach of many aspects of its work, including on energy security, electricity access and natural gas markets,” said Seamus O’Regan, Canada’s minister of natural resources.

“Under the framework of this newly formed alliance, we will establish with the IEA the key steps for enhancing energy security and substantive cooperation across the full spectrum of IEA activities,” said Sahai, India’s top energy bureaucrat.

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