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Asserting that India is set to become the new epicenter of the global energy map, Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas and Steel Dharmendra Pradhan said the government is committed to end the energy poverty of the country. Mr Pradhan was speaking at a special session of the global conference CERAWeek 2021 by IHS Markit on 3 March 2021. He exhorted oil producing countries to resume the production halted due to the lack of demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan speaking at CERAWeek 2021
Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan speaking at CERAWeek 2021

The session ‘Special Dialogue with Dharmendra Pradhan’, held on the second day of the five-day CERAWeek, was moderated by IHS Markit Vice Chairman and ‘The New Map’ author Dr Daniel Yergin. Several deliberations have been held during the conference, being organized during 1-5 March 2021, on issues pertaining to the E&P Sector.

The Petroleum Minister, through the platform, exhorted producing countries, especially OPEC, to resume oil production as usual. He recalled that demands had collapsed in May 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and added that countries like India and public policy in-charges, had supported the production cut in those days. However, he said that the demand is back now and advocated for the OPEC to resume normal oil production.

“There is a demand normalcy in the globe, especially in Asia. When there is a lack of proper supply while there is a demand in a developing and emerging economy, there is a price rise. In emerging countries like India, when our fiscal scope is challenging and we have to spend more on developmental projects, create jobs and circulate economy. At that point of time, we need a reasonable price of energy. If somebody pushes me, I will look towards alternative energy. I am a great advocate of price stabilization. Today, we expect the producing countries, especially OPEC and its friend countries, to do business as usual as they had promised,” said Mr Pradhan.

Speaking about the reforms in India, Mr Pradhan said that India is going to be the new epicenter of the energy map of the globe. “Energy is a global commodity. Unless we reform continuously, invite and create ease of doing business, none of the major global players will participate in our energy business,” he said.

A visual from the Special Dialogue session
A visual from the Special Dialogue session

The Minister said that India is committed to end the energy poverty of our country. “Energy is the socio-economic catalyst of change and one of the enabler of national growth,” he said. Mr Pradhan noted that the Prime Minister had organized one of the biggest reforms during this COVID-19 time in the name of Aatmanirbhar Bharat.

“We want to utilize our natural resources, agricultural potential and use our talent pool. For that, we need reforms. More market friendliness, more openness, more ease of doing business -- these are the hallmark of our reformist agenda,” he noted.

Dr Daniel Yergin noted that reforms that encourage investment in the energy sector to support economic growth are one of the things the Indian government has put great emphasis on. He asked Mr Pradhan about what international investors should look forwards to in terms of reforms.

Dr Daniel Yergin speaking during the session
Dr Daniel Yergin speaking during the session

The Petroleum Minister responded that the Government is spending largely on energy infrastructure including energy terminals, domestic gas production, pipelines, CGD networks, fertilizer plant revival, refineries, etc. He said we know that fossil fuel is going to be there for the next few decades, especially in countries like India. He asserted that major global players are interested and are scouting possibilities in India. “I am confident, looking into the energy growth in our country, policy clarity and decisiveness of our leadership, global investors are interested to be part of this journey.”

Talking about the energy demand post COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Pradhan said that the Indian economy is back on track now. “The journey of Aatmanirbhar Bharat has already started. A few weeks back, India’s electric energy production was at its peak of around 185 GW.” He said the figures are also similar in other energy sources. The Minister said that all indicators and many global agencies have predicted that India is moving towards a double digit growth in the next two years.

Dr Yergin also asked the Petroleum Minister about the role of energy in overall US-India relations. To this, Mr Pradhan responded by saying there should not be any problem between two natural friend. He said that the two countries have a Strategic Energy Partnership and highlighted that the energy business between the country has increased in the last few years. USD 9 billion energy transaction has increased from our side, he said asserting that the energy bonding between US and India is already established and is on sound footing.

Mr Pradhan said that India needs all kinds of energy and added that it should be affordable, accessible and sustainable. He shared the government’s ambition to put LNG in use as a transportation fuel. He said, “Ethanol procurement has increased in the past few years, compressed biogas initiative is a big step and India has become one of the leading players in solar energy. In this budget, the government has also announced an ambitious National Hydrogen Mission.” He added that green hydrogen is one of the priorities for the government.

Petroleum Minister speaking during the session
Petroleum Minister speaking during the session

Asked about the commitment to the United National Climate Change Conference, the Petroleum Minister said India is committed to the COP protocol. “India, as a responsible global player, will follow in letter and in spirit whatever the Prime Minister committed in COP21 and we will continue that in COP26 as well.”

Mr Pradhan also shared that 10 million new cooking connections are being distributed to the poorest of the poor households in the country. Speaking about the new initiatives for clean fuel for cooking, he said PM has given permission for this. He also highlighted that PM had used this cooking gas network to give free LPG connections to poorest of the poor households and 140 million free LPG cylinders were distributed during this pandemic.

The session was aimed at exploring the country’s energy outlook and the road ahead for India in the new map of energy and climate through the narration of the Petroleum Minister.

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