India has to import a significant portion of its oil needs. During 1992-93, our import bill for petroleum and petroleum products was nearly Rs. 17,100 crores, which rose to a staggering Rs. 71,500 crores in 2000-01. In spite of the phenomenal growth in our petroleum industry, we have to import a huge quantity of crude oil and petroleum products from other countries. The industry has witnessed tremendous progress in the field of oil-exploration and production, refining and marketing petroleum products. Domestic crude oil production reached the peak level of 330 lakhs tones in 1990- 91. However, it came down to 303 lakhs tones during 1991- 92 but it raised again, after remedial measures, to approximately 327 lakhs tones in 1999-2000.
The constant increase in prices of oil in the international market since 1973 has worsened the energy crisis in India. It has put tremendous strain on our developing economy and there is an urgent need of energy- efficient machines and devices, particularly automobiles, because transport sector is the main consumer of petroleum products. In the context of energy crisis and the ever- increasing oil import bill, high priority should be given to conservation of oil and petroleum products in transport, industrial, agricultural and household sectors. Besides, efforts to increase the indigenous production of crude oil should be intensified and private and international oil companies should be involved.
Electricity is the most popular form of energy and its demand in the country has been growing at a faster rate than other forms of conventional energy. In spite of phenomenal growth of power generation in India during the last couple of years, there is an acute shortage. Electricity plays a very vital role in both industrial and agricultural sectors. The increasing consumption of power in the country reflects our growth and development. The per capita power consumption in India is very low in comparison to other countries. The total public sector Ninth Plan outlay for power was Rs. 223,050 crore. But this outlay was insufficient in the context of our energy needs and exploitation of our thermal and hydel power potential.
Power generation requires huge funds. Establishment of new power-plants and maintenance, renovation and modernisation of existing and old ones is not possible by the state-owned state electricity boards, etc. Moreover, the transmission and distribution of power also involves huge funds and risks. The government does not have sufficient resources to meet the challenge. Therefore, it is desirable that power sector should be thrown open for private participation. It is in the fitness of things that private companies have undertaken the task in some parts of the country. The position of power shortage in the coming years appears alarming and it needs huge resources to build up the additional capacities.
Not more than 20,000 MW worth capacity addition was expected by the end of the Eighth Plan, against the targeted 30,538 MW. The requirement of capacity addition in the Ninth Plan was 57,000 MW. Therefore, the private sector participation is one of the most realistic options for augmenting the power generating capacity. In 1999-2000 (April-November), 313.8 billion KW of power was generated but still power shortages continued due to gross mismanagement at all levels.
A study by the World Bank team rightly suggested the privatization of State Electricity Boards (SEBs) as the best way to strengthen the power sector in the country. The study report said that quick completion of planned corporatisation of generation, transmission and distribution was necessary as the first step to make the restructuring process successful.
There is vast scope and many opportunities in the emerging power sector for private companies. They should come forward and set up power projects and earn huge profits. It is in this background that as many as 114 MOUs with private sector power developers have been finalized by different states, reflecting an additional capacity of 52,000 MW and an investment of over Rs. 200,000 crores. A bulk of this will be in thermal plants, where equipment accounts for 60% of the cost.
Nuclear, solar, wind and bio-gas energy can be the alternative sources of our power needs. There are four atomic power stations in India. Generation of electricity from nuclear energy commenced in 1969, with the commissioning of Tarapur Atomic Power Station, consisting of two enriched uranium fuelled boiling water reactors of 210 MW capacities each. The Rajasthan Atomic Power Station, using natural uranium as fuel, attained criticality in December 1972. The Kalapakkam Atomic Power Station, Chennai started commercial production on 21st March, 1986. These were the first sectors to be indigenously designed and constructed. This was followed by two more sectors, one at Narora in Uttar Pradesh and another at Kakrapar, Gujarat. Further expansion in nuclear power generation capacity is also in progress. India’s commitment to use nuclear energy only for peaceful and economical developmental activities is well known. Thus, exploitation of nuclear energy offers an important supplement to our conventional sources of energy, in spite of considerable concern since the Chernobyl accident in the erstwhile U. S. S. R.
Modern science, technology, research and development have to play a vital role in creating and developing new and renewable sources of energy in the country. The use of non- conventional sources of energy, like wind, tidal waves, biogas and solar energy in India, are limited to non-commercial and small domestic purposes so far. But soon tidal waves, wind and solar energy may be exploited for commercial purposes as well. These renewable, non-conventional sources of energy hold out a major promise to overcome energy crisis in India. Since tidal wave resources are limited only to a few coastal regions, greater emphasis should be laid on harnessing wind power, solar energy and development of biogas and biomass projects. Biogas can be increasingly used as cooking fuel in villages and towns since it is cheap, clean and convenient. It can also be used for lighting and running small motors for providing power to cottage’ industries.
The slurry from biogas is also enriched manure. Solar energy in India holds great promise as a source of clean, convenient, cheap and renewable source of energy. It is estimated that total solar insulation falling on one square meter surface, horizontal to the sun, is quite high in the country. For a greater part of the year during the day, there is much and bright sunshine throughout the country. It can be used to our great advantage, to produce energy for domestic and industrial use. The day is not far away when India will be one of the leading nations of the world to tap solar energy to overcome the crisis in power generation.