Podcast Details


Fulbright US-India Series: Siddharth Singh | Lead India Analyst, International Energy Agency

2022-08-17
In this episode, we speak with Siddharth Singh, author of the “Great Smog of India” and co-lead author of India Energy Outlook 2021 for the International Energy Agency. We have a wide-ranging conversation that dives into this Comprehensive report and touch on topics including renewable energy growth and electricity demand
projections, as well as some of the key factors will have a drastic impact these projections. Hope you enjoy this conversation!
Topics Include: 1. How much time is spent collecting data vs. analyzing vs. writing vs. connecting with people when compiling the India Energy Outlook 2021
2. A high-level overview of how the energy sector is structured and the different sub-sets within
3. In the IEA India Energy Outlook 2021, one of the concluding headlines was titled “all roads to successful global clean energy transitions go via India.” Mr. Singh provides some background, for those who haven’t read the report, on why this is
4. Main obstacles that would prevent India from becoming a global leader in the clean energy space 5. Why electricity demand is set to increase much more rapidly than India’s overall energy demand
5. Mr. Singh's overarching thoughts on India's development moving forward.

Transcript: 


00:06 Karan Takhar
Hello everyone. This is Karan Takhar, and welcome to the Zenergy podcast. Over the past decade, India has done an impressive job of integrating renewable energy into its energy mix. For this Fullbrights podcast series, I sought to investigate the enabling factors and potential of India's global leadership in renewable energy, with the focus on solar. This Fulbright series is broken down into Four Seasons. This season, we look at the next set of key technologies and regulations integral for unlocking India's continued renewable energy success at the system level. It includes conversations with leading regulators and thought leaders across energy management. Storage, transmission, and distribution.
In this episode, we will be speaking with Siddharth Singh, who was the lead India analyst and coordinator at the International Energy Agency and was a Co-lead author of the India Energy Outlook 2021. We have a wide-ranging conversation that dives into the Comprehensive India Energy outlook and touches on topics including renewable energy growth, electricity demand growth projections as well as Some of the key variables which Mr. Singh believes would impact these projections. I hope you enjoy this insightful conversation.
Hi Siddharth. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today. I really appreciate it and have been looking forward to this conversation and prior to diving in into the IEA India Energy outlook and all of like the great material that that report covers, I would just like to ask you if you could give us a brief background on yourself so those listeners who may not be familiar can get some understanding Of what you do like how you got interested in the energy space, and you could provide a brief background, really appreciate that.

02:29 Siddharth Singh
Sure. Thank you, Karan. Firstly, thanks very much for having me here. I think, in general, you have done a very good job with these series of discussions. So very happy to be a part of this initiative of yours. I think you know we'll obviously be touching on several interesting topics today. So, so I look forward to the rest of the conversation. But yes, you know, Just to kind of introduce myself to your listeners, I am an Energy and climate policy researcher, and I'm currently working with the International Energy Agency, the IEA. As a lead country analyst and coordinator for India, so I work on in this intersection of energy issues, including, you know, on the questions of the transition. Of course, with a bit of focus on sectors such as mobility, fossil fuels, buildings, infrastructure, of course now, you know, being in the role that I am, I really have to keep track of all the sectors, so I would say that I cast my net quite wide And you know, I'm not able to I guess go into the depths of one particular sector, but luckily we have such a huge team for me to kind of learn from and expand my understanding of different sectors. I've also written the book The Great Smog of India, which is which is published by Penguin in 2018. This is a book on India's air pollution crisis. Which, again, kind of tries to bring the research together in a more palatable form for the general reader, and in the past, I have studied the Energiewende or the energy transition in Germany as a German Chancellor fellow based in Berlin and the vocal institute. I've also looked at, you know, natural resource management in Norway and energy security issues at Terry in New Delhi. So it really is a bunch of experience. You know, in India and abroad on the general issues of energy. Questions. Now how I got into this. I mean, I guess that's a long story, but just to cut it short, I, you know, studied economics and international relations, and as you can imagine, the energy world is at the intersection of both economics and international relations. It's a world that is, you know, help me understand various aspects of human life, including conflict of peace, of economic development, monopolies, competition, environmental degradation. So there's a lot going on here, and I think energy really helps me understand all of that.

04:48 Karan Takhar
I see. That makes a lot of sense. Thank you for providing that background, and yeah, I actually did not know that you wrote the great smog of India, and I would just like to like ask you about like how that process came about. Did you, were you always planning on writing a book and. Like, how long did you have to Plan for writing a book like that, and did you find, like, after you released the book, that was kind of an Inflexion point in your career? Just personally curious, to be honest. 

05:20 Siddharth Singh
Yeah, so actually, I had no intention of writing this book. I, in fact, wanted to read a book on India's air pollution crisis because I should read headlines back in the day that, you know, a million or so people are dying every year due to air pollution, which is a huge number. If you think about, it's far more than the number of deaths due to COVID in India, right? So these are the numbers Of people dying every year due to air pollution. There's, of course, you know, a lot of economic issues that go along with it, and it has its roots in energy. So I really wanted to read a book to understand what is happening, but in this process, I realise that firstly, India has not seen a mainstream book on this on this topic, and secondly, there's a lot of research out there by scholars who have written, you know, extremely dense. Work which the average reader cannot understand. So I realized, you know, soon into my kind of research into the topic, that in fact, I should be the one writing this book, because clearly people, you'll need to know about what I'm learning and I think You know, I really wanted to share it With the world and I By chance, at the same time, Penguin got in touch with me because Penguin, I had to write, you know, articles for some of the newspapers in India and then one of their editors got in touch saying that we need you to kind of write on something related to energy and I just found the perfect kind of intersection Between energy and air pollution, and well, two years later, the book was ready. So, that's how it came about, and of course, I mean, I think the book has really helped me kind of meet a lot of interesting people, go to a lot of places. I did not imagine I would, for example, I the opportunity to go to Pakistan to talk about air pollution, which I would not have got if I had not written the book. So I'm kind of grateful at least that I could do that.

07:04 Karan Takhar
Well, did you, by any chance, present this book at the Japor lit fest?

07:10 Siddharth Singh
I also did that. Yes,  I did speak little French. Bleugh. 

07:16 Karan Takhar
Yes, OK. Right. Yeah,  I went there while I was in India, and amazing event and some. Yeah. Thank you for just expanding on that And yeah, what I'm, I'm very curious, like, in terms of your role at the IEA as a lead India analyst and Also, like, when you write a report like the IEA India Energy Outlook.
Like what exactly Does your role look like in terms of like how much time are you spending collecting data like how much of it is about connecting with experts in this space and getting primary research through those Connections, or just like curious about like how their research process looks that's wrong.

08:10 Siddharth Singh
Oh, sure. So, you know, just to begin, you know, firstly, it takes a village to really come out with a report like the India Energy Outlook. In fact, any IEA report has had multiple sets of people contributing with their expertise from around the world and of different sectors, so that way, it's not really the work of any one person. So even though I was one of the two lead authors of this report, and of course, we have had the, you know, the main, the lead kind of scholar for the report who was Tim Gould, who's been heading the supply side of the world. Uh, energy outlook for the past many years. So, you know, under his leadership and along with my colleague Peter Zaniewski, we kind of conceptualized this study, and then we had, you know, a bunch of people about, you know, 10 to 15 people who kind of contributed with their, with their analysis in the report. But then it takes a lot more than just that, so you know, just to kind of run you through the process of coming out with something like this in the IA. Now in the idea, there are, you know, there's an excellent team that's that has a job of collecting data and processing it. 24/7, so that's all  I will look at. In fact, they have a wide and deep network in governments and the private sector just to collect data. So they're really the experts in kind of bringing this information into the IES domain in The first place. OK, then there's an excellent modeling team which kind of has its ears on the ground. It talks to the experts that talk to the analyst within the IA. It talks to literally everyone who can provide inputs on what the future of energy could look like Like and therefore use that information to kind of analyze through their own methodologies, through their own software, how these various sectors will interact with each other, and you know and as the result of this, what the potential scenarios for the future could be like, so you know using these modeling numbers. Then there's a team of analysts who kind of help interpret this data. Try to, you know. If I try to find the story, try to find the headlines from within these, from within these data to kind of present to the reader to what are the key takeaways What are the key issues that we should be worried about where the key opportunities that lie in this space, that's what the analysts kind of do, of course, in many cases. The modelers are also the analysts, and the analysts can also do, you know, quantitative research, as we often do. So firstly, now I, as an analyst, contribute to the writing and also partly the quantitative analysis in reports such as this. So I would say that at least half my job is basically research in writing. The other half includes, you know, talking to people, talking to the experts from various industries, trying to understand their concerns, and also, of course. Building a relationship with various stakeholders in India. This includes the government. This includes non-governmental organizations and, you know, just basically pushing the agenda on transitions on energy security and So on and so. I would say it's about a 50-50 for me personally, but for a lot of the other people in the eye, it could even be in 90-10 or a, you know, 30-70, depending on their focus areas.

11:22 Karan Takhar
I see. OK, that provides a lot of clarity. Thank you for expanding on that. How like big Is the India team within IEA?

11:31 Siddharth Singh
So then, of course, now that's a very good question because the India team exists in different forms. So we have one India team which is focused on the diplomatic side of the engagement. So this is the India desk, which kind of looks at the overarching India relationship. But then there are A bunch of researchers across different teams which focused on different areas, including, for example, on natural gas, on renewables, on flexible power integration, on solar roof talks And each of these teams have experts who also do, you know, work on India. So it's hard to kind of put a number honestly keep changing depending on the on the subject or the question that we have on at hand. But in my personal experience, I have interacted with at least, you know, maybe 15 to 20 experts. On India, on issues related to India, and they, you know, know a lot more than I do and I kind of learn from them. So I would say that at least 15 to 20 Indian specialists, but then there are probably much many.

12:36 Karan Takhar
OK. That makes a lot of sense. Yeah. I'm just curious because I'm also just starting a guest my career. I mean, I was a Fulbright researcher. So I just found the research process to be like in itself very interesting to learn about in terms of, like, how do you approach research? Like, how do you get that primary Uhm, information and for me, like recently, I found that actually having the network is very helpful? Then you can go directly to those people and ask for their reports and like many times. Days Googling versus one e-mail to someone who likes has the material is like it's not even comparable, so I was just curious from that angle and.

13:24 Siddharth Singh
Absolutely. and just to add to that, Karen, I think in addition to knowing people even, and this is just like information to anyone out there who's listening and who also wants to get into this field, I feel following people on, you know, social media such as Twitch And so on has really helped break the barriers for me personally, where I've been able to, you know, follow the thoughts and the latest research of some of the experts from around the world who I respect and who I look up to. So you know, we kind of, we can have consistent engagement with them. So I kind of learn a lot, you know, from their papers and their thoughts that they put out On social media as well.

13:59 Karan Takhar
Well, I need to start. Being becoming more active on that front, I think that's a great tip and dumb. Moving on, in terms of like actually how that Indian energy structure or system is structured? So like, as someone who kind of focused in on renewable energy up front and then is now trying to zoom out, you mentioned that you cover like the whole energy system. So it's kind of difficult to go in deep into one space, but Could you help us like understand how the energy sector is structured?

14:39 Siddharth Singh
In India's case, India does not have a single ministry or law that governs the entire energy sector, right? And of course, this has its advantages and disadvantages as well as you can imagine. But just to kind of run over, run through, you know how the Indian energy sector is governed. Firstly, there are ministry specific two different aspects of energy. So we have ministries for coal, for power, for renewable energy, for oil and gas, and in addition to this, there are also ministries for, say, in the industrial sector, for transport, for railways, and so on. So in many ways, you know, the governance of the Indian energy sector is a little Spread out. Then, on the other hand, as far as the new as far as nuclear energy is concerned, it is directly kind of placed under the Office of the Prime Minister. No,  it does, so it does not have a dedicated Ministry per say And for any inter-ministerial kind of issues that crop up and for anything that requires coordination across ministries, it is usually Niti-Aayog mandates So Niti-Aayog is India's energy think tank which sorry not energy think tank, it's just in India as governmental think tank which also looks at energy as you you must. Be aware already, But this institution is in charge of all inter-ministerial issues, so you know before something becomes. Before a new topic is kind of assigned to a ministry, you know. As an example, take the case of hydrogen. So hydrogen does not have a home in any Indian ministry at the moment. You know it may likely go to the Indian Ministry of New and renewable energy, right? But before that happens, usually some of the Conversations around it, especially as far as policies and so on, go. Nityam is one of the institutions that takes a lead on such kind of issues. They've also helped draught the national energy policy, which remains in the draft stage. But it is an initiative to kind of bring together energy policymaking now. The advantages, advantages of having so many ministries is that some sectors, you know, in particular, for example, renewable energy, having a dedicated ministry. Has really helped it get the attention that it needs. It has also helped grow expertise within the government itself, right But the disadvantage, as you can imagine, at the ministerial level, is that, you know, sometimes objectives across ministries may either overlap, or sometimes they may differ, and that kind of creates coordination issues as well. But then the good news also is that India has been able to create a bunch of really good regulatory institutions in energy. This includes the Directory General of hydrocarbons, includes KV, which is a downstream petroleum regulator. There is the Atomic Energy Commission. There is the Bureau of Energy Efficiency which has done a phenomenal job with energy. You know, improving the energy efficiency across the world. Yes, economy in general and the CRC, the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission, and so on. So there's a bunch of expertise that has been created, and these institutions, while they are not fully independent, they also, you know, have an arm's length distance from the government. So in a way, you know, You know, it helps kind of. It helps the sector run a little more smoothly, and of course, you know, just to say that in general. Historically, it's the public sector companies that have monopolized and dominated most energy sectors, but since the 1990s, in particular, these sectors have been opened up. So now there's a lot more private sector involvement. So, in general, I would say that, you know, while there are many ministries, you know, hopefully.
They're able to kind of coordinate with each other and present policies and more coherent manner, you know, moving into the future, and they have a lot of great institutions to help them do that.

18:30 Karan Takhar
And in terms of like how the energy is consumed, could you provide an overview of like the different Sectors which Are dominant in the consumption of energy, for example?

18:46 Siddharth Singh
Sure, of course. So from the consumption side, you know, as far as governance goes, you know, there are it's completely divided between the center, the central government, as well as state governments, municipal corporations, and so on, but in terms of the sectors. You know power generation is a major sector as far as you know, energy demand goes and of course, electricity itself is a constituent of the final consumption of energy, right? So in a way it's, it kind of transforms energy to into a different form which is useful, especially in households and so on. In addition to power generation, this transport again the Indian transport is primarily based on roads, but then India also has a very extensive network of railways and a rapidly growing airline sector in recent years. In addition to this, you have the building sector. The building sector is gaining prominence over time. These buildings include not only the homes that we live in, but these include also commercial establishments and you know, you know, cold storage and so on. So basically, buildings includes other forms of consumption, such as through Cooking so in in in India. Uh, even today, you know, in the year 2021, there are hundreds of millions of people still reliant on biomass or biofuels for cooking, which is which, of course, creates a lot of problems in terms of, you know, health and this is also where air pollution comes in because Nearly half of India's premature deaths due to air pollution actually happened through the use of biomass. This falls under the category of buildings. In addition to this, there's the industrial sector. So industries again, you know is, is kind of it has a growing share in India energy demand India, of course, has, you know, a big, you know, steel manufacturing in India has become a hub of small car manufacturing So there are multiple sources of Energy demand from the industrial sector that have been emerging in recent years, and I would say these are the major baskets of, you know, energy demand in India and they're really governed by a plethora of institutions at both the central and the state level.

21:09 Karan Takhar
Understood, understood, and my last question on this topic Like direct electrification versus indirect electrification?

21:23 Siddharth Singh
So the question really is to what extent is there an electrification of India's economy happening, right? So this kind of falls into the larger, you know, trend that we are seeing where electricity demand is growing faster than overall Energy demand in India, and this is, of course, you know, renewable energy is a subset of this, and this creates a big opportunity for us, which I'll just, you know, get to in a couple of minutes. But just to talk about this, this trend of electrification and what this means. So I would say that firstly if you think about it, it is quite intuitive. You know, over the years, there have been growing electrification because of the spurt in the use of appliances. You know this is one of the kind of main reasons. Well, back in the day, households, or you know, were largely had. So households largely had only light bulbs and fans. But now, in addition to this, the televisions have become quite common. Refrigerators have become, you know, are being increasingly purchased. Air conditioning demand is kind of skyrocketing, and on the other hand, the use of, you know, biofuels, sorry, biomass in cooking is reducing.
So it is being replaced with LPG while it's not electricity,  it is it's leading to, you know, more efficient use of energy now using, you know, going to all these kind of trends. We see that the share of electricity in the final energy consumption of the country has risen from 7% in 1990 to 17% today. So of the energy being used, 17% of it is electricity today, you know, so it's almost doubled in this time. In fact, more than doubled in this in the last 30 years, and according to IEA analysis according to the India Energy Outlook under the stated Policy scenario, this electrification of the economy could rise to as much as 25%, so 25% of the final energy consumption in India could be serviced by electricity. This, you know, creates an opportunity in the sense that as you said, as you rightly pointed out, with the greater use of renewable energy, with the greater, you know, capacity additions and generation from solar and wind and then Eventually, even the use of batteries and other forms of clean energy, we will be able to decarbonize this system, and we'll be able to indeed decarbonize the entire economy if we are able to successfully invest into these kinds of technologies.

24:04 Karan Takhar
I see. Did you say 25%?

24:08 Siddharth Singh
Yeah, but by the year 2040, and this is under the stated policy scenario. So again, I mean just to kind of, you know, Go over this very quickly. The IEA does not look at, you know, the future of India as one future. There are multiple potential futures. One of the potential futures could you know is in the form of the stated policy scenario where we analyze the impact of the government's stated ambitions and stated policies in the in the in kind of foreseeable horizon to see what kind of You know technologies will be adopted in India. You know what the potential is for demand to increase across different sectors and so on, and then, we look at another scenario called the Sustainable development scenario, the SDS. The SDS is a scenario that is more compliant with the aims of the Paris Agreement targets, and you know to basically reduce over overall, you know, global temperature rises to, you know, less than well less than two degrees Celsius, so under this scenario, We are more likely to see faster electrification and a faster transition towards renewables because under this scenario we, you know, we kind of target the reduction of emissions along of course along with growth, you know, alongside this.

25:35 Karan Takhar
I see. Interesting. So If under the stated policy scenario, the IEA outlook projects that 25% of the Indian, I guess energy profile will be electrified, where what like what are the major components of the remaining 75% according to the stated scenarios?

26:00 Siddharth Singh
Of course. So the rest of this is divided by, you know, some of the other forms of energy which are harder to displace from the system. This includes the use of oil in transport. So, you know, despite electrification, despite, you know, growing purchases Of electric wave. Uh, we still find that because, you know, you can't just. Uh, quickly retire the old stock it. It's like for a country like India, it's harder to kind of, you know, get rid of the old inefficient stuff. So some of that will still remain on Indian roads. In addition to that, the freight sector we're talking about, you know, big. Big trucks, long haul trucks, even medium trucks, they're less likely. To be quickly Electrified or we are less likely to go towards, you know, hydrogen trucks and so on. So under the stated policy scenario.
Uh, oil demand will still increase significantly because of the transport sector. Secondly, we also find that coal will be increasingly used not in the power sector because the power sector is doing well because of, you know, the Because the falling costs of solar and wind, but coal still increases in the industrial sector, unless you're able to decarbonize that as well So again like I said, we're talking about the stated policy scenario. So this is, you know, one of our more conservative scenarios given, you know, India's current trajectory, but Under the sustainable development scenario, that could potentially change as well, and finally, just one last point on this, the use of natural gas also increases in both the stated policy scenario as well as the sustainable development scenario.
Because we see natural gas as a way of replacing coal in, and you know it is, it is, of course, it emits much less Than coal, so This kind of help displace coal in some industries where it makes sense in terms of costs. So. So that's the kind of profile of energy use that we see moving forward.

28:15 Karan Takhar
I see. Did the outlook kind of give Any percentage chance is in terms of like which scenarios more likely to matriculate over time, or was it just listing the two different scenarios and just saying here, here's how the different sectors will evolve according to Each scenario? Like was there any like percentage chance that one scenario is more likely to come about than the other?

28:47 Siddharth Singh
No, and honestly, you know, something like that would enter the territory of betting in betting to the future, you know? And that's not something the IE likes to do. What you know our colleagues have basically worked on is, is a set of scenarios based on the choices that we make today. But it's not just the choices in addition to the choices. Also, you know, the way the economy kind of progress is moving. Forward and what I did not tell you the last time, I kind of you Know discussed the scenarios. Is that we have more than these two scenarios? In fact, we have 1/3 scenario called the delayed response scenario, which is basically a post-covert scenario where we assume that you know the that COVID keeps coming in Waves and the economy is not able to fully recover, and this could impact the recovery after COVID, and finally, there's another scenario called the Indiavision case, the IVC, the division. The case looks at what would happen if India were to really turn around very quickly after COVID to bring back high, you know, GDP growth rates that we saw a few years ago and basically be able to transform itself economically and therefore use this newfound economic power to also invest in clean energy. So, in reality, we do have about four scenarios which look at a range Of GDP growth rates that look at a range of other kinds of Functions. So we are not betting into the future. We are basically saying that if there are decisions that are taken today, it would have an impact on the future, And depending on these decisions, we will kind of know which trajectory that we that we eventually kind of embark upon.

30:27 Karan Takhar
Understood, and yeah, even in the stated policy scenario, the market outlook for clean energy in India seems to be so much opportunity, and it's an interesting statistic That I found was one in every $7.00 spent worldwide on these types of equipment, meaning solar PV, wind turbines and lithium-ion batteries.
It will be spent in India. I mean, that was in the stated policy scenario, correct?

31:00 Siddharth Singh
That's correct, yes.

31:02 Karan Takhar
Well, what do you believe are the main obstacles that would prevent India from becoming a global leader in this specific, like clean energy space?

31:15 Siddharth Singh
Sure. So you know, you kind of, you know, picked up one of the most important kind of takeaways from our analysis. You know, indeed, falling costs and greater investments can scale up a clean energy deployment in India very rapidly, making one of making I1 of the world's largest markets for Renewable energy and batteries in particular, right? But there are several obstacles that could, you know, get in the way and, uh, you know, my list is now not exhaustive, but I would say some of the main risks are, you know, first and foremost, I would say the economy Itself because if the economy, if an economic activity does not keep pace and there isn't, there is an inadequate demand in growth of electricity. This could kind of derail India's renewable energy ambitions. So India has ambitions to provide for 450 gigabytes Of renewable energy capacity by the year 2030. But if economic growth does not keep pace, India would in like Indians would buy fewer ACS, they would buy fewer electric vehicles. There would be less variable renewable energy, which means solar and wind and So on, and because of all of these, you know reasons, even battery demand would be impacted. So, in general, I would say that The you know this, the way the economic outlook looks is one of the major determinants, and therefore if India loses its way as far as the economy is concerned, as far as the GDP growth rate is concerned, that could form one of the biggest. Obstacles now. Secondly, India's fossil fuel sector has also been locked into internal energy economy, you know, by the way of contracts, agreements, you know, old networks, regulations, even subsidies. So if Ari projects, renewable energy projects, do not find themselves on equal footing, You know, in the marketplace, then this could impact their growth. So I would say that this is another obstacle that India needs to Welcome. Thirdly, there is still policy uncertainty of various kinds. So the most prominent one of them, and the example that I really like giving you know, often is that is that of rooftop solar. So my parents got, you know, rooftop solar installed in the city of Jaipur in Rajasthan. Rajasthan gets a lot of sunshine. Yeah, right, they got solar rooftops. Now their solar rooftop generates more electricity than they than they need in the year. So you know, in general, they are in the surplus about 10 or 15% over and above that Needs. But Despite that, due to poor policymaking, what this means is that number one, they have to actually supply this electricity to the disc distribution company, or the disc, comma, as we call it, and then they have to repurchase their own electricity from the Discom Now this makes no sense 'cause they've already paid for The you know, for the for the rooftop solar, and they're not getting money, you know, from the discount Self Discom is accepting their electricity freely and then reselling it to our to the household for a bit of money. Of course, this is less money than you would pay for. You know, electricity from the grid. But it is Still, you know. It still does not make rooftop solar as attractive at  As it once used to be. In addition to this because it's connected to the grid. Even, uh, you know, for example, even at 2:00 PM on a clear sunny day when electricity is being generated on their own rooftops, if the grid has a power cut, my parents have a power cut also, which makes no sense. You know, you've kind of you've thought that you have electricity generating on your rooftop and you'll be able to use it all the time. It's not happening, so this like this form of policy uncertainty and this form of market design is definitely a major obstacle in, you know, The scaling up of renewables and batteries in particular, and fourthly, and this is perhaps you know, one of the most important after the economy itself, is the status of the distribution company finances itself Right You know, I would say that discounts are the mother ship through which all electricity sector reforms in India run. You know, if they are able to improve their finances, if they're able to, you know, improve the status of their books, they will be able to better pay the renewable energy generation companies on time. They will be able to invest into the grid. They'll be able to invest into smart metering, so the and, obviously, battery storage. As well and 50 in general, you know, renewable energy and battery projects have, you know, high costs of financing compared to many other countries, and there are many other risks you know associated with it including the risks of land acquisition, of exchange rates, interest rates, and so on. So that's another kind of major obstacle that that kind of Would prevent India from seeing those seeing that kind of progress.

36:23 Karan Takhar
On the battery side, the IEA outlook projected that 140 gigawatts of battery capacity will be present in the stated policy scenario and then 200 gigawatts. In the sustainable development scenario in India in 2040, which would be the largest of any country on both scenarios And I'm just curious because, from my understanding, the battery ecosystem in India is still kind of in the early nascent stage, but I know India, the Indian Government Recently released some like really important schemes to help incentivize more investment in this space, but I'm curious like to hear your perspective on what? Partnerships or maybe arrangements or policies additionally that you think need to materialize for India to really become a leader? On the battery front.

37:26 Siddharth Singh
Sure. So you know, in general, what we just discussed a couple of minutes ago would, I think, form the prerequisites in, in the, in the Some of, you know, economic growth in the form of policy certainty because, you know, as you know, going back to the rooftop solar example, if there was a bit more clarity and consistency in policy making than people like my parents and like many other families who have rooftop solar, they'd also be able to invest into battery packs for their own home. You know, as just as an example And then you also need kind of policy certainty to ensure that distribution companies are able to, you know, purchase them at the level of your neighborhood or, you know, or wherever else they think it is most appropriate, right So in addition to that kind of policy certainty, I think we need three more things to make in India. Battery dreams a reality, and they are finance, finance, and finance. I think, in general, the availability of money of capital to help. Various actors scale up their activities is going to prove to be one of the keys, you know, tools in making sure that India's battery dreams come true. We need, you know, capital in the form of, you know, generated generation companies and distribution companies who want to invest into. You know, at their level, we need capital to ensure that, you know, the domestic manufacturing of batteries is able to happen. We need capital to incentivize commercial establishments and even households to take up batteries to make sure that, you know, there are high initial costs. But there is a, you know, if good financing is available, they'll be able to kind of invest into it and kind of reap benefits for the next decade or so and in addition to, you know, obviously all these financing needs. India needs partnerships and partnerships of various kinds. So firstly, India needs its companies, both public sector and the private sector, to create and leverage networks to secure raw mineral supplies. You know, clean energy minerals will form like the basis of whether India is able to kind of enable domestic. Manufacturing on this front or not, we also need international partnerships for clean energy financing, and I think, you know, the US-India Partnership on this front is going to prove to be very, very useful for a country like India. In fact, you know, emissions saved anywhere in the world, you know, benefit the whole globe, right So you get more bang for the buck by investing into countries like India, and hopefully, you know, the US-India Partnership is able to unlock those kinds of investments into this space And finally, of course, we need innovation, we need R&D, and we need commercialization of new, you know, innovation. So this cannot, of course, happen in a vacuum. We need. Indian institutions to kind of work along with their international counterparts to work with scientific networks to ensure that these advancements are happening in India as well.

40:36 Karan Takhar
Understood, and we did touch upon this earlier. But also just curious to hear from. Maybe you expand on why the electricity demand in India is projected to Increase more than the overall energy demand, of course. India's energy demands. I think I read in the out. Look, over the next 20 years is like the growth in India. Energy demand is expected to make up 1/4 of the global growth in energy demand, but addition in addition to that. Please correct me if I'm wrong on that statistic, but in addition to that, electricity demand in India is expected to make up a major component of that energy demand growth is that because of The electrification of transport and buildings. Can you expand slightly on this?

41:36 Siddharth Singh
Yes, indeed. No, that's spot on. You know, as we just discussed a while back this, this whole growing trend of electrification whereas we see, you know, just to kind of repeat the numbers, but from electricity forming 7% of the final energy consumption Is increasing to 25% by 2040 under the stated policy scenario is a major lead. This shows that you know, obviously, say if the share of something in a pie is growing, that means that that that component of the pie is growing faster than the whole pie itself, right? So, so basically, indeed, due to this electrification. Due to the fact that you know, just to throw about another number, as per our model, India's air conditioning stock goes from 30 million, you know, last year to about 670,000,000 by 2040. So that's a 20 fold Both in air conditioning alone, right? And the and the result of this is that India's electricity demand from air conditioning will be equal to the entire electricity demand of all sectors in Germany today, right? So Germany's total electricity demand will Be is equal to Our estimates of what cooling demand in the year 2040 could look like in India under the stated policy scenario. So there's, of course, a lot of room for, you know, growth as far as households go, as far as household consumption and of various kinds of electronic goods of, you know, washing machines, of microwave ovens, of refrigerators. So these kinds of things are growing rapidly. In fact, there's another component of it which is commercial cold storage. So India is investing heavily into this. We find that you know, in India, the amount of food that is wasted. Uh, per capita is equal to the amount of food that is wasted in the United States, but for completely different reasons. In the US, it's it. It's happening at the level of the Comes to the plate, you know, for For different reasons, this food kind of. There is a certain wastage of this food. In India's case, it's not the level of the plate. It's the level it's in the part of the process itself when the food, when food items are, you know, kind of Processed at the level of the farm after that due to the lack of cold storage. With the lack of cold transport, a lot of food gets wasted and therefore thrown. So there's a major thrust coming in that sector as well. So there are, there's electrification happening in various other forms in terms of industrial processes. As well where you know a lot of heating applications and so on are kind of being transferred to electricity rather than. Rather than coal. But you know, in all of this, despite all of this, very interestingly, even in India in recent history. India's electricity side problems have not been a supply-side problem per SE. So when India has wanted capacity growth to increase supply, that capacity growth has come the issue has been at the, you know, in the in the middle section of this transaction between the consumer and the producer. You know the Discoms and the grid networks. This is where the problem lies. This is where we need more investments. This is where we need kind of reforms of the distribution companies that will ensure that the generation that is coming on board is actually able to serve as the demand of the people and the economy in general. 

45:33 Karan Takhar
I see, and yeah, just wrapping it up now. Thank you so much for taking the time. I mean, I feel like I could just ask you questions all day, and I definitely went off script because I there's just so many curiosities that were coming through my head while you're speaking, and I'm grateful that you dressed, you dressed them, and my last question to you is so the IEA outlook, very succinctly put that All roads Successful global clean energy transition go via India. Another line that really stuck out to me was that India can be the model for the world by showing that economic expansion And sustainable development can be fully compatible in all. I'm just very curious to hear your thoughts on whether you were optimistic about India's development moving forward.

46:49 Siddharth Singh
So yeah, I mean kind of just to elaborate further on the all roads to successful global energy clean engine transitions go by India. You know, just to kind of dwell on that a little bit, our analysis shows that over the next 20 years, India will form the largest component of Global energy demand growth, more than any other country in the world, more than China, more than Southeast Asia, you know, Africa as a whole. So. So given that energy demand is going to rise so rapidly in India, given that we still have a lot of economic growth ahead of us, it really presents a major opportunity for India to make the right investments, to do the right kind of innovation, to implement the right kind of policies, which in turn Can have a major impact in showing the world that we are able to grow, we are able to develop, we are able to bring prosperity to the  People, you know, alongside cutting carbon emissions, so this is possible, and I think if maybe if we make the right choices, we will be able to achieve it I have always been an eternal optimist, but of course, I fully understand the risks here. You know many of the risks, including the lack of economic growth and, you know. Not being able to act on inequity in India. Not being able to be, you know, ambitious enough on the climate front or not being able to bring forward policy reforms, these are, of course, some of the major challenges or the major stumbling blocks that can occur. But in general, I'm an optimist, and hopefully, India will be able to make the right investments and, you know, put money where their mouth is and be able to actually do something about the issue and show the world that it is indeed possible to bring prosperity to the people while still acting on the environmental front.

48:41 Karan Takhar
I hope you enjoyed that episode, and do check out the show notes For more information on my guest. See you next time.

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