Why energy needs a big picture view

Feb 03 2014, 02:09 IST
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SummaryIntroduce a comprehensive bill in Parliament and create a separate facilitating department under the PMO

The word “energy” is missing from the executive and legislative vocabulary. It is, of course, liberally used, and issues like “energy independence” and “energy security” are part of any official statement on economic policy. But it has not been officially defined. There is no national policy on energy endorsed or supported by Parliament. Nor is there an official body authorised and accountable for overseeing the country's energy policy. So here are two proposals that the various political parties should consider as they run up to the elections.

First, the introduction of a bill in parliament on energy responsibility and security, a la the fiscal responsibility act and the food security act. This bill should define the inter-linkages between energy, food, water, environment, technology, infrastructure, conservation and efficiency, and lay out the road-map to achieve energy independence, energy security and energy sustainability. It should define measurable metrics for progress towards these objectives and make explicit India’s global obligations and commitments.

Second, the creation of a department of energy resources and security in the prime minister’s office. This department should supplement and not replace the existing five core ministries engaged with energy (viz petroleum, coal, power, non-conventional and atomic ). It would be too difficult and time-consuming to undertake a radical institutional overhaul. It should be headed by a person of cabinet rank and supported by a multidisciplinary cadre of specialists in finance, technology, energy, and environment. Its mandate should be to deal with the issues that fall into the cracks between the five ministries. There are five such issues:

One, the formulation and implementation of an integrated energy policy and the development of clear, transparent and measurable monitoring and evaluation systems. No executive body currently has this mandate.

Two, the development of an international energy strategy. The department should be the focal point for ensuring that all initiatives by the companies involved with international matters—viz OVL for upstream petroleum assets, IOC for downstream oil supply deals, GAIL for LNG contracts, ICV for coal supplies—operate within an agreed strategic framework, and that as and when required, the resources of “India Energy Inc” are leveraged to maximise international competitiveness.

Three, the creation and implementation of an integrated energy R&D strategy. Energy companies currently spend too little on R&D and what is spent is often misdirected. This department should identify areas of research, develop relevant partnerships, incubate new ideas and ensure that resources are sensibly allocated. It should act

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