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Power - The Final Frontier

Author: Peter A. Garretson, International Affairs Fellow in India
May 22, 2009
Sakal Times


By around 2015, more Indians will live in cities than in rural areas, and the trend will continue till 2030, by when more than 60 per cent of Indians will be living in cities. Cities need reliable power. By 2050, India will have gone from 1.2 billion to 1.5 billion people, adding almost as many additional citizens as it had at Independence. To meet developmental goals by 2050, the government plans installed power generation capacity to grow 11-fold, from 121 giga watts to 1350 gw, a 5.5% rate of growth (actual growth in 2006 was 7%). Fully, 50% of current and future power supply is projected to come from coal. At 5.5% annual growth, India will completely exhaust its domestic coal supplies by 2063.

The global situation is equally challenging. By 2030 the world will have added another two billion people and total energy demand will have doubled (15 terra watts to 30 tw). Demand is likely to go as high as 55 tw between 2050 and 2100. An energy system based on combustion of fossil fuels creates huge amounts of greenhouse gasses, particularly carbon dioxide. Leaders committed to stemming climate change would have to add 16 tw of carbon-neutral energy to stabilize CO2 at four times preindustrial levels, and 40 tw to stabilize at twice pre-industrial levels. That is a lot of green energy! Also, and more worrying to some, sometime before the middle of this century, fi rst oil, then gas, and then coal will all peak in production. Unable to keep up with demand, traditional sources will fi rst plateau, and then begin a steady decrease in global production. What will fill the gap?

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