Debating India

President calls for energy independence

Monday 15 August 2005, by ABDUL KALAM*A.P.J.

Special Correspondent

"Entrust the job to young leadership to achieve the objective in 25 years"

Need to minimise import of fossil fuel stressed Larger reliance on solar energy suggested

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FUEL SECURITY: President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam addresses the nation from the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi on Sunday. He pointed to the growing mismatch between demand and supply of fossil fuels. - Photo: PTI

NEW DELHI: On the eve of the 59th Independence Day, President Abdul J. Kalam exhorted the country to become alert to the need for "energy independence."

Calling for "a comprehensive renewable energy policy" within one year, the President asserted on Sunday that "India has knowledge and natural resources" and all that was needed was "planned integrated missions" to achieve the goal.

Technical theme

Like last Independence Day when the President devoted his entire customary address to the nation on the theme of "employment generation," this time Mr. Kalam has focussed on the highly technical theme of energy security and independence. Except for a brief note on the natural disasters in recent months, the President chose not to talk about any political, constitutional or economic issues facing the nation.

Pointing out that India has 17 per cent of the world’s population and only 0.8 per cent of the world’s known oil and natural gas resources, Mr. Kalam drew the nation’s attention to this gap between demand and resources as "energy and water demand will soon surely be a defining characteristic of our people’s life in the 21st Century."

As the President saw it: "Energy Independence has to be our nation’s first and highest priority. We must be determined to achieve this within the next 25 years, therefore by the year 2030.

This one major 25-year national mission must be formulated, funds guaranteed, and leadership entrusted without delay as a public-private partnerships to our younger generation, now in their 30s, as their lifetime mission in a renewed drive for nation-building."

Suggesting a shift in the structure of energy sources, the President stressed the need to minimise the imports of fossil fuel. The access to such imported supply would have to be ensured. Maximum hydro and nuclear power potential, thus, would need to be tapped. Above all, there has to be a shift from fossil to renewable energy.

He suggested a larger reliance on solar energy and added that new technologies would need to be explored in order to reduce the cost of harvesting solar energy for large-scale use in rural and urban areas.

Large reserve

Mr. Kalam noted that there would have to be a ten-fold increase in nuclear power generation in order to achieve a reasonable degree of energy self-sufficiency.

Hence, the focus should be on development of nuclear power using thorium as the country has a large reserve of this key source material.

In addition, "Nuclear Fusion research needs to be progressed with international cooperation to keep the option for meeting the large power requirement, at a time when fossil fuels get depleted."

As per his timetable, by 2020 India should achieve comprehensive energy security and by 2030 there should be energy independence.

Mr. Kalam concluded: "We need to evolve a comprehensive renewable energy policy for energy independence within a year.

This should address all issues relating to generation of energy through wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and ocean.

The nation should also work towards establishment of thorium-based reactors.

Research and technology development of thorium-based reactors is one of the immediate requirements for realising self-reliance in nuclear power generation and long-term energy security for the nation."

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