India ranks as the world’s seventh largest energy producing country and fifth largest energy consuming country. India is also the fifth largest oil and seventh largest gas importer in the world. Due to increasing gaps between domestic energy demand and supply (table 1), India’s incremental energy demand for the next decade is projected to be among the highest in the world. According to the Planning Commission, energy requirements of the country are expected to grow at 5.6-6.4% per annum over the next few years. The share of imports of oil is also expected to increase to 90-93% of demand by 2030 from the current level of 73%. Thus there is a need to look at various options available to reduce the dependency on foreign supplies of crude oil.

Table 1 : Trends in Demand and Supply of Primary Energy in India

(Figures in Million tonne of oil equivalent (Mtoe))

1980-81 1990-91 2000-01 2006-07

Domestic Production of commercial energy (includes coal, lignite, oil, natural gas, hydro power, nuclear power and wind power) 75.19 150.01 207.08 259.56
Net imports (include coal, oil and LNG imports) 24.63 31.07 89.03 131.97
Total commercial energy 99.82 181.08 296.11 391.53
Non-commercial energy (include the traditional fuels � wood, cow dung, crop residue and biogas) 108.48 122.07 136.64 147.56
Total Primary energy demand 208.30 303.15 432.75 539.09
Source : Integrated Energy Policy Report, Planning Commission
Fortunately, India is blessed with a variety of environmental friendly alternatives – renewable energy- sources such as biomass, solar energy, wind energy and small hydro power. The country ranks fourth for installed wind power capacity, second for biogas generation, seventh in solar photovoltaic (PV) cell production and ninth in solar thermal systems in the world. Investment in renewable energy is rising. With an increasingly favorable regulatory and policy environment along with a growing number of entrepreneurs and project developers, as per the Ernst and Young Country Attractiveness Indices 2008, India ranks as the third most attractive country to invest in renewable energy, after the USA and Germany. As the only country in the world with a separate ministry for renewable energy development- India has 13.2 GW of renewable energy � excluding large hydro � representing about 8% of total electricity capacity. However, renewable excluding hydroelectricity will contribute only 5-6% in India’s energy mix by 2031-32 (Planning Commission).
India has an enormous potential for renewable energy across the various sources and greater reliance on renewable energy sources offers enormous economic, social, and environmental benefits. Since a large number of small hydro projects exists in hilly areas, development of small hydropower for decentralized power generation will lead to rural electrification and local area development. Solar thermal technologies have a very high potential for applications in solar water heating systems for industrial and domestic applications and for solar cooking in the domestic sector. This could be made financially viable with government tax incentives and rebates. Power projects based on biomass plantations have the potential to offer new avenues of employment through collection, storage, handling and utilization of biomass materials especially in rural areas, and in promoting rural industries and generating rural employment.
Table 2 : Renewable Energy in India at a glance
(Figures in Megawatt)
Estimated Potential Mid-Term (2032)
Cumulative Installed Capacity (30.9.2008)
Wind Power
Small Hydro Power (up to 25 MW)
Bagasse Cogeneration
Biomass Power
Waste-to- Energy
Solar Power
Source : Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, GoI
Energy plantations can become the means for restoring deforested and degraded lands in tropical and subtropical regions. Countries such as Canada, the US and the UK are already focusing on the use of hydrogen as an alternative fuel, therefore, India can collaborate with these countries for technology-transfer and R&D. In the near future, due to expected high growth, this sector will give an opportunity to educational and training institutions to introduce new course curricula and training for students to work in this emerging area.