The link between rising prosperity and increasing climate change is a real one. This is because increasing living standards for expanding populations worldwide means dependence on reliable modern energy for lighting homes, making new things, e-commerce and more, which in turn leads to carbon emissions. By 2040, global GDP will likely double, and world population is expected to reach 9.2 billion people, up from 7.4 billion today. Asia will add the most people with a significant number moving out of poverty and therefore adding to additional energy demand.
India’s growth and energy story is also likely to follow a similar path. The big question is, “How can India grow and at the same time protect the environment?” says Bill Davis CEO South Asia of ExxonMobil. As per ExxonMobil’s own Energy Outlook India’s current energy mix is approximately 46% coal, 23% oil, 1% nuclear energy, 1% wind and solar, 23% other renewables (including traditional bio-mass) and 6% natural gas. India is expected to follow the worldwide trend of increasing energy efficiency and a move towards renewables to help manage emissions. As electricity use rises, the types of fuels used to generate electricity will include growing contributions from wind, solar, and natural gas.”
ExxonMobil forecasts global energy-related CO2 emissions are likely to peak by 2040 at about 10 percent above 2016 levels. Among the most rapidly expanding energy supplies will be electricity from solar and wind together growing about 400 per cent. The combined share of solar and wind to global electricity supplies is likely to triple by 2040, helping the CO2 intensity of delivered electricity to fall more than 30 per cent. What’s worth noting is that the shift in sources of energy is expected to be aided not just by renewables, but also by natural gas. Globally natural gas, which is cleaner than coal or oil, is expected to be used increasingly more than any other energy source, with about half its growth for electricity generation. Natural gas, when it’s cooled to -260°F, condenses and is referred to as liquefied natural gas, or LNG. In the form of LNG, natural gas can be efficiently transported over great distances to places like India, where a significant part of the gas consumption is expected to be imported to supplement limited local production.
Bill believes that to combat climate change, India needs a balanced blend of growth with low emissions. He says, “We look at India and its goal to double GDP and also to drive manufacturing through its “Make in India” program as an opportunity to drive growth through clean energy. We believe that natural gas can be an important part of driving this ambition. Clean energy is the need of the hour for the industry, for transportation for the residential sector and most importantly for the power sector for three main reasons. Firstly, natural gas resources are geographically and geologically diverse, abundant, reliable and versatile in use (power generation; residential, commercial, industrial heating and cooking; and even transportation). That makes natural gas both reliable and scalable. Scalability is key in India — a nation with rapidly rising energy demand. Secondly, as renewable power continues to grow as a source of electricity, natural gas-fired power generation stands out as a strong complement to renewables to ensure a reliable and resilient power grid. This efficient, flexible power source is ready to supplement dips in renewable energy at night and on cloudy and windless days. Thirdly, and most importantly, natural gas emits significantly fewer pollutants than coal power generation, including NOx, SOx, particulates, mercury, and up to 60 percent fewer GHGs.”
Bill says that decision making around energy needs to factor in long term gains which can only be achieved by doing the “hard math”. That means sitting down and counting all things that happen when you choose a particular energy source. It’s not just the cost per unit of energy – it’s about the value created in terms of a cleaner environment, more reliable power, and a strengthened economy. “Because at the end of the day what really matters is how this improves the lives of Indians,” he added. He further adds, “For this to work, it’s going to take a long-term view, investment in infrastructure, regulatory stability and sound policies to get gas to consumers in a cost-effective and timely way. Now is the time for India to shape its own energy and what’s clear is that natural gas can be part of the solution.”
(Based on a conversation with Bill Davis, Chief Executive Officer and Lead Country Manager, South Asia for ExxonMobil Gas India Pvt. Ltd.)
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