In India, Starving for Energy

Indian coal miners push a trolley laden with coal inside an underground tunnel of a mine at Godavarikhani, July 27, 2007. (NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)
MUMBAI, May 11, 2007 - While India's economy has been growing at around 9% a year, energy production has managed only 5% annual growth, said Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, the Asia Society's 2007 Bernard Schwartz Fellow, at the Society's Mumbai Center. India is faced with a serious policy challenge as a result of this discrepancy, and a recent report issued by India's Integrated Energy Committee warned that the country needs to produce five to seven times more energy than present levels to satisfy future demand.

Much of the discussion in the media has focused on India's external energy policy, such as with the nuclear deal it has been negotiating with the United States. Chaudhuri stressed, however, that progress on domestic reforms is much more important in terms of meeting India's growing energy needs. Coal, for example, makes up more than half of India's energy production, but the coal industry in India, Chaudhuri warned, is corrupt and inefficient. New exploration for coal deposits in India hasn't taken place since the end of British colonial rule, leading to an extraordinary amount of coal being stolen. Without improvements in governance in the coal industry and more technological progress in this sector, India will continue to be a net importer of coal -- despite sitting on the fourth largest coal reserves in the world. Chaudhuri also evaluated India's energy security policy in the context of China's own strategy for securing energy.

R. K. Batra, Distinguished Fellow at TERI, moderated this discussion.