GS 3, MAINS: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.
As the Indian economy continues to grow at a rapid pace, one of the foremost challenges for the Government has been to ensure that supply of energy is sufficient to meet the steadily rising demand.
As in other developing economies, access to affordable, stable and sustainable energy supply, is essential for maintaining a high growth trajectory.
Energy access also enables the fruits of economic growth to trickle down to the bottom of the pyramid - transforming lives of the disadvantaged sections of society.
For these reasons, the criticality of the energy sector, especially for a developing economy like India cannot be over-emphasised.
NEED FOR A ROBUST ENERGY SECTOR:
India is the sixth largest economy in the world and is poised to become the second largest economy by 2030. It is also the third largest consumer of energy in the world, with demand rising by five percent annually. With energy demand set to double by 2040, India needs a robust and healthy energy sector.
Consequently, the Government has rightly accorded top priority to the energy sector, recognizing the transformational impact that energy access can have the country's socio-economic on fabric.
There is empirical evidence links energy consumption to rise in the Human Development Index, showcasing energy's role in influencing the many factors, well- which human which encompass being.
UN Sustainable Development Goal 7 pertaining to Access to Clean and Affordable Energy, has undeniable positive spill-overs in the achievement of other SDGs, including those pertaining to gender equality, poverty elimination, clean water and sanitation, and most importantly, environmental sustainability.
COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY:
Energy access is essential for commerce and industry- to thrive and create income-generating opportunities and satisfy the huge number of job seekers.
In the manufacturing sector, it enables capital investments in machinery and advanced technology, which exponentially increases operational capacity and output. Even on a micro- level, firms with energy access have higher labour productivity due to reasons of efficiency, comfort and resource optimization.
Improved energy access will inject necessary momentum into the Government's flagship schemes like Make In India, which was launched to boost domestic manufacturing. In India, where a large part of the population is engaged in agriculture, energy access can also help realize the Government's goal of augmenting farmer income through better irrigation, mechanized ploughing and harvesting and by ensuring a wider market for their output.
ENERGY ACCESS FOR WOMEN EMPOWERMENT:
As in other parts of the world, women in India also have to bear the brunt of energy poverty. Energy access has the potential to positively influence women's health, education, finance, and access to information, especially n backward regions.
The landmark Ujjwala Yojana under which 7 crore households benefitted with access to clean cooking gas was a game changer for women ensuring them a smoke free healthy lifestyle, reduced drudgery and more time to pursue alternate livelihood opportunities.
A steady growth in renewable energy has opened up a lot of avenues for women entrepreneurship especially in rural India. Off-grid solutions and decentralized RE systems have enabled women to get trained in installing, operating and maintaining these units, providing them with much needed income, which translates into enhanced self-esteem and social standing.
Steady access to energy also allows women to run their business more profitably and for longer durations, resulting in enhanced incomes.
Energy access can catalyse a more gender equal society, where women are well-integrated into the economic mainstream, thus resulting in holistic and inclusive growth.
Solar energy powered schools in rural India have given young girls the opportunity to pursue quality modern education (ICT enabled), turn digitally literate and brighten their career prospects. Further, children can now return home in the safety of solar powered street lights and continue to study at their homes which are now electrified.
ENERGY ACCESS FOR CLEAN WATER AND SANITATION:
Energy is essential for water extraction, water treatment and water distribution.
The amount of energy used in the water sector is projected to double by 2040. With water demand set to rise with increasing population, there will be a growing need to treat the wastewater for industrial, agricultural and domestic purposes.
The treatment of this water through energy, and then using energy to transport the water illustrates the critical water-energy nexus.
ENERGY ACCESS FOR HEALTH SECTOR:
Most hospitals require energy for lighting, water, temperature control, ventilation and a host of clinical processes.
Sporadic access to energy can lead to vaccine Spoilage, interruptions in the use of medical and diagnostic devices and lack of lighting and communications can be extremely detrimental in the provision of emergency services.
Decentralized, clean energy solutions can greatly enhance the efficiency of primary health services delivery to the marginalized, low income sections of the population residing in remote corners of the country.
As the healthcare ecosystem in India gets increasingly digitized, energy access will accelerate the growth of tech enabled services like telemedicine and mobile health applications, and bring quality healthcare to the doorstep of the common man.
CONCLUSION AND WAY FORWARD:
One cannot simply talk about energy propelling socioeconomic growth in India without referring to the upsurge in renewable energy capacity, on the back of a conducive policy environment.
A strong renewable energy sector has set in motion an energy transition that is set to change the paradigm of energy access. A more diverse energy supply with rising share of renewables contributes to a cleaner, healthier planet for the future, by helping reduce dependence on fossil fuels that emit harmful greenhouse gases.
More than just safeguarding the environment, it induces perceptible improvements in socio-economic parameters like education, health, employment opportunities, and gender equality, among others, thus playing a pivotal role in poverty alleviation and improving quality of life.
No country has traversed its development journey without providing access to energy in line with people's needs and requirements. Sustainable energy available in the right amount, at the right time, at the right place, and affordable for the entire society, can yield major socio-economic benefits, as enlisted above.
PREVIOUS YEARS UPSC MAINS QUESTIONS:
“Access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy is a sine qua non to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs).” Comment on the progress made in India in this regard. (2018)
To what factors can be the recent dramatic fall in equipment cost and tariff of solar energy be attributed? What implications does the trend have for thermal power producers and related industry? (2015)
Should the pursuit of carbon credits and clean development mechanisms set up under UNFCCC be maintained even though there has been a massive slide in the value of a carbon credit? Discuss with respect to India’s energy needs for economic growth. (2014)
Write a note on India’s green energy corridor to alleviate the problem of conventional energy. (2013)