According to a report by a top US research institute, India can achieve energy independence by 2047 through clean technology. The report highlights Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Atmanirbhar Bharat push, which ranges from massive renewable capacity addition to electric mobility, saving billions of dollars in imports. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a federally funded research and development centre in the United States, and The India Energy and Climate Center (IECC) at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy published a report, ‘Pathways to Atmanirbhar Bharat,’ that highlights India’s progress towards clean energy adoption.
India relies on imports for 80-85% of its oil and coal needs. The recent price and supply volatility in global energy markets has strained India’s foreign exchange reserves, resulting in economy-wide inflation.
However, recent dramatic drops in clean energy costs provide India with an opportunity to reduce energy imports through investment in renewable energy, battery storage, electric vehicles, and green hydrogen, according to the report.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already set a target of 500 GW (gigatonnes) of renewable energy capacity installed by 2030. The government intends to increase EV sales in India so that they account for 30% of private cars, 70% of commercial vehicles, and 80% of two- and three-wheelers by 2030. It also plans to produce 5 million tonnes of green hydrogen by splitting water with renewable electricity.
This will be aided by abundant solar energy and local technology, as well as a reduction in carbon emissions. All of this is aimed at creating Atmanirbhar Bharat, or a self-sufficient India that does not rely on imports to meet its energy needs.
According to the report, investing in renewables, electric vehicles, and green hydrogen – generating electricity from solar and wind energy – will help move away from coal-based generation while using electricity-charged batteries to reduce reliance on liquid fuels such as gasoline and diesel. Zero-carbon hydrogen will help the Indian industry decarbonize, lowering emissions and reducing reliance on imported fuel.
“This would involve installing more than 500 GW of non-fossil electricity generation capacity by 2030, an 80% clean grid by 2040, and 90% by 2047,” it said. “Nearly 100% of new vehicle sales could be electric by 2035. Heavy industrial production shifts primarily to green hydrogen and electrification: 90% of iron and steel, 90% of cement, and 100% of fertilizers by 2047.”
This could contribute to India achieving energy independence through clean technology by 2047.
By 2047, the transition to electric vehicles could save more than 90% of crude oil imports (or USD 240 billion), while green hydrogen-based and electrified industrial production could save 95% of industrial coal imports. The lithium required for new electric vehicles and grid-scale battery storage systems (approximately 2 million tonnes between 2023 and 2040) could be produced domestically using newly discovered reserves.
“Energy independence is economically advantageous,” it said. “Clean energy will reduce and inflation-proof India’s energy expenditure as renewables, EV batteries, and hydrogen infrastructure are capital assets with rapidly falling costs. A shift to electric transportation will create USD 2.5 trillion in net consumer savings by 2047.”
To remain globally competitive, the Indian industry must transition to clean technologies such as green steel manufacturing, as major export markets (such as the EU) commit to carbon neutrality, according to the report, which also stated that the clean energy transition would have little impact on tax revenues.
Taxes, duties, and royalties on fossil fuels account for about 12% of state and federal government revenue.
Despite aggressive clean energy transitions, it is estimated that fossil fuel consumption and associated tax revenues will not fall below 2020 levels until the mid-2030s.
“Because of transport, industrial electrification, and green hydrogen production, electricity demand could increase nearly five-fold – from 1,300 TWh/year to over 6,600 TWh/year by 2050. This would require a massive scale-up of renewable energy deployment to 40 GW a year through 2030, ramping up to about 100 GW a year between 2030 and 2050.”
Clean energy deployment will be more capital-intensive, necessitating a net additional investment of USD 1.5-2 trillion between 2023 and 2047 over business-as-usual.
Obtaining energy independence could provide environmental and public health benefits while not jeopardising economic growth. Between 2023 and 2047, an aggressive clean energy transition could prevent over 4 million premature deaths from air pollution. CO2 emissions in India will peak in the early 2030s before falling to 800 million tonnes per year by 2047.
Managing the clean energy transition would necessitate substantial policy support. Five pillars must be present in the policy ecosystem: deployment mandates for commercial/cost-effective clean technologies that provide economies of scale, financial support for emerging technologies, long-term infrastructure planning, accelerating/scaling domestic manufacturing, and planning for a just transition.