The Ukrainian crisis has provoked policymakers all over the world into thinking seriously about energy security. India has successfully deflected hypocritical sermons from the West about buying discounted oil from Russia, but that cannot be a long-term solution to our economic issues. With oil import dependence having crossed 85%, and increasingly hot summers ahead of us, we need to focus on generating electricity from our solar and wind power installations. However, only becoming energy-sufficient is not enough. The energy generated also has to be clean, with a reliable supply, and affordable to the masses. Meeting all three criteria necessitates an innovative mix of technologies and methods, customized at both a national and local level, rather than relying on a one-size-fits-all approach.
Energy is at the heart of almost all modern economic activity, providing the raw material needed to ensure the functioning of global trade and commerce. The national goal should be to shape a new, more resilient and inclusive energy system. Ideally, it should be one that reestablishes a level of global cohesion based on cost-effectiveness and sustainability that the world has not seen for a long time now.
Paradoxically, the Covid pandemic brought home the importance of energy security. As the virus spread globally, especially in the developing world, one of the most used preventative measures was a luxury which not all countries could afford. Social distancing and work-from-home measures adopted by many countries worldwide are based on the important premise that citizens have access to reliable and affordable electricity to stay connected and to establish communication with public services and also with each other remotely. Without adequate energy security, this cannot materialize.
India's energy potential remains largely underutilized due to policy inadequacy and a lop-sided system of fiscal incentives, rather than a lack of technical expertise. And the preference for sourcing it from abroad cannot be a permanent solution. Not only would it cost us billions of dollars a year, but it would also compromise national security in unacceptable ways. We need to take heed of the shifting global winds to chart a new policy trajectory.
Investing in energy security will be a key factor in our ability to sustain our socioeconomic growth and ensure a certain minimum quality of life to all our citizens. Our neighbor, Sri Lanka, has learnt the hard way that the inability to purchase essential fuel imports can lead to political instability. We cannot risk following that path. We also cannot produce the four million barrels of oil we now import daily, or replace it immediately with renewable alternatives. But we can incentivize increased oil production through rationalizing taxes, rapidly approving development plans for fields once discovered, and implementing enhanced oil recoveries by minimizing policy bottlenecks that arise.
Without adequate policy support, the development of national energy security risks remaining a dream. India needs to explore affordable energy solutions that can facilitate its economic revival in the post-Covid world. This would allow us to recover holistically and also create a unified approach to ensure universal energy access. The public and private sectors should join hands and rapidly find cost-effective solutions to provide energy access to all Indians. Sustainable economic growth necessitates achieving a level of energy security that makes a meaningful difference to the daily lives of the masses.