Reaching net zero emissions requires a radical transformation in India

Reaching net zero emissions requires a radical transformation in India

How can India achieve net zero emissions by 2070 in accordance with global commitments to do so by the middle of the century? 

In their recent report called “India Energy Transition Pathways 2070,” Wood Mackenzie highlights the importance of making big changes to India’s energy system. They suggest focusing on renewable energy, electrification, hydrogen use, and strategies to remove carbon from the environment, all of which can lead to a better and sustainable future.

India is the most populated nation in the world, and its energy environment is poised for a dramatic change as a result of predicted population growth of a quarter of a billion people by 2070 and GDP growth from US$3 trillion to almost US$27 trillion.

Roshna N, Research Analyst, Energy Transition Service for Wood Mackenzie, said: “Under Wood Mackenzie’s 2°C energy transition scenario, India’s energy demand will increase from 30 exajoules (EJ) in 2022 to 52 EJ by 2070. However, carbon dioxide CO2 emissions will decouple from GDP in the early 2030s and slowly decrease from 2037, resulting in 1.2 billion t by 2070. Using carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS), direct air capture (DAC), and nature-based solutions will be necessary to reduce residual emissions.”

Major changes for zero emissions

According to Wood Mackenzie’s analysis, India must switch from primarily using fossil fuels to zero-carbon fuels in order to attain net zero. By 2070, 73% of the primary energy supply must come from carbon-free sources in order to reach net zero emissions. It will be necessary to produce five times as much electricity as before, with 93% of it coming from non-fossil sources. Moreover, 11% of the energy required will be met by low-carbon hydrogen, and 12% of the non-fossil fuel energy will come from bioenergy.

In addition, by 2070, only 27% of final energy consumption should be met by fossil fuels, down from 72% currently. With a concentration primarily on industrial subsectors, coal demand reaches its peak by 2030 and declines to 25% of current levels by 2070. While natural gas will serve as a transition fuel, with demand rising until the 2040s – a 60% jump from current levels.

capturing carbon and hydrogen

Annual low-carbon hydrogen demand would have to reach 30 to 40 million t by 2050 and 85 to 90 million t by 2070 in order to attain net zero. According to Wood Mackenzie’s AET-2 scenario, CCUS will likewise be a prominent player, with an estimated annual capacity of 700–750 million t by 2070.

Furthermore, clean hydrogen has enormous potential as a flexible and portable power source. Using collected CO2 in the petrochemical and cement industries strengthens sustainability efforts.

“In the journey towards emissions reduction, low-carbon hydrogen and carbon capture play pivotal roles in decarbonizing hard-to-abate sectors like steel and cement. The recent Energy Conservation (Amendment) Act 2022, Carbon Credit Trading Scheme 2023, and subsidy schemes for low-carbon fuel production act as strong drivers, propelling the adoption of low-emission energy sources, notably low-carbon hydrogen. While there is progress, India needs to put the right policy frameworks, and consumption mandates for low-carbon hydrogen, and accelerate the development of CO2 storage projects,” Roshna added.

In addition, a long-term sink capacity of 200 million tpy can be obtained via nature-based solutions, mostly from forestry projects.

The materials transition and electric cars (EVs)

EVs will be essential to decarbonizing the economy, according to Wood Mackenzie’s AET-2 scenario, and will greatly expand the investment opportunities in the EV, battery, and renewable energy sectors. In the long run, a sizable fraction of installed EV batteries will probably be made up of iron-based cells. The massive lithium resources found in the Jammu and Kashmir regions, if commercially mined, will greatly increase India’s self-sufficiency in battery raw materials.

New industries and business models on the path to net zero

In order to achieve net zero, India will embrace niche and developing technologies, such as nuclear energy (in the form of small modular reactors, or SMRs), geothermal energy, and offshore wind. These technologies will eventually become significant contributors to India’s net zero goal.

Ensuring the energy security of India

“India is taking proactive steps to revise its energy security plan in light of recent global events, such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the unprecedented surge in coal and gas prices. The country is embracing low-carbon technology and bolstering local production while continuing to import oil and gas. Despite geopolitical shifts, India remains steadfast in its commitment to a resilient energy strategy,” said Roshna.

Roshna concluded: “India is moving towards achieving its net zero goal by 2070 by introducing the Net Zero Bill in parliament. As a major energy and commodity importer, India’s efforts to rapidly reduce carbon emissions have significant global implications. India needs to focus on low-carbon energy projects and revamp its energy landscape to achieve this.”