Natural Gas Can be India’s Alternative Road to Clean Energy

Synopsis: India should not solely focus on the end goal of decarbonisation. First it must try to ‘green’ its fossil fuel energy bag by increasing the share of natural gas.

Introduction 
  • Policymakers, climate diplomats, academicians, corporates, and NGOs are currently focussed on the concept of net-zero carbon emissions. Also, they are looking for the suitable target year for achieving it. 
  • However, the book “The Next Stop: Natural Gas and India’s journey towards a Clean Energy Future” suggests that India must first green its fossil fuel energy bag. This can be done by increasing the share of natural gas. 
  • This is a practical view because increasing natural gas will avoid negative impacts that shutting down coal mines might produce. 
  • Also, It allows the government to meet its aim of giving affordable energy to everyone without harming the environment. It can be done through executive order. 
What policy changes in the natural gas supply chain are required to green its fossil fuel energy bag?

To explain the scale of the answers, here are four key policy suggestions:

  1. Firstly, the experts must highlight the significance of natural gas. They must identify its usefulness. It is a competitive fuel and is amply available in and within the Asian/ME subcontinent. It has multiple uses, and it is the greenest of all fossil fuels.
  2. Secondly, the authorities must correct the present deterrent policy biases. The taxation system is regressive. The tax rates increase as the gas flows from one zone to another. This means that consumers situated at a distance from the source of gas pay a higher price than those closer to the source. Gas is not under GST.
    • The price of natural gas is complex as there are multiple price formulae. 
      • One for gas produced from domestic fields by the public sector companies.
      • One for gas produced by private companies.
      • Furthermore, one for production from deep waters offshore under high temperature etc. 
  3. Thirdly, the authorities should refurbish the arrangement of the industry. The Gas Authority of India Ltd (GAIL) is engaged in the production, transportation, and marketing of gas. This allows GAIL to influence its rights of the gas pipelines. 
    • They deny their competitors access to the market. There is a requirement of assured and common access to all marketers. 
    • Most countries have separated the production/import and marketing interests from transportation. GAIL’s business activities must limit to pipeline construction and transportation.
  4. Lastly, an institutional apparatus should be created to allow better coordination between the central and state governments. The Center and state have clashed over issues like land attainment, pipeline routing; and royalty payments. This is why India has not yet made a national pipeline grid.
    • Center-state alterations have also delayed the construction of import facilities and the creation of gas markets. The Centre and state should resolve these issues through an integrated decision-making process.
Conclusion
  • Every participant will come to COP26 later this year with hard evidence to back their longer-term commitments. Participants must also focus on other important alternatives to net-zero. 

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