Following is the text
of the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh’s inaugural address at the
International Seminar on Energy Access in New Delhi today:
“I am very pleased to be here today to inaugurate the International
Seminar on Energy Access. India is privileged to host this important
seminar during the ‘International Year of Sustainable Energy for All’. I
extend a very warm welcome to all the participants of this seminar, who
have come from all over the world. I trust you would enjoy our
hospitality and have a comfortable and productive stay in our country.
One of the principal development challenges confronting humankind today
is to ensure that each person has affordable access to energy. Lack of
access to energy deprives millions of people of a basic minimum living
standard. The problem is particularly acute for people living below the
poverty line. The figures are quite staggering. Over 1.3 billion people
in the world today lack access to reliable electricity.
Further, around 3 billion people rely entirely, or very substantially,
on traditional biomass for their cooking energy needs. Women in 80% of
rural households in our country and many other developing countries use
firewood, agricultural waste and dung cakes to cook in poorly ventilated
The World Health Organisation, among others, has studied the adverse
effects of indoor air pollution caused by these traditional fuels.
Thousands of premature deaths of women and children in rural areas are
attributed to indoor air pollution apart from the incidence of eye
infections and respiratory ailments.
Another important social aspect of the problem is the time and effort
rural women spend in collecting and carrying these fuels. According to
one survey, Indian women spend nearly 30 billion hours a year in such
activities. Not only does this excessive load carrying lead to problems
of health but it also prevents girls from doing other productive work,
including attending school.
The links between access to energy and the various Millennium
Development Goals are now well established and they are well documented.
Meeting these goals that are fundamental to an existence of minimum
dignity and well being all over the world requires access to affordable
In our planning processes in India, we consider access to energy
services as vital to inducing rapid development, reducing inequality and
making economic growth processes more inclusive.
Under the ongoing Rajiv Gandhi Rural Electrification Scheme, our goal is
to electrify all the 600,000 villages of India. As a result of our
efforts, more than 100,000 villages have been provided with electricity
connections in recent years.
Now, only a few thousand villages in the country remain un-electrified.
Besides, one million households in India are now using decentralized
solar energy to meet their lighting energy needs. The Government of
India aims to provide 24x7 electricity to all households in the country
and affordable access to electricity in the next 5 years.
We aim to provide every individual household with clean cooking fuel.
This is a huge task but it is not unattainable. It is something we must
do on a priority basis.
Most urban households cook with LPG. We have tried to introduce LPG for
cooking in rural areas as well.
Around 12 percent of around 190 million rural households today use LPG
to meet their cooking energy needs. Giving all the 240 million
households in the country an entitlement of six LPG cylinders per year
will require only around 25 million tonnes of LPG. This should be
manageable for our country. But, extending distribution network to all
villages may take time. To reduce the burden on women, fuel wood
plantations within a kilometer of all inhabitations could be set up.
Over one million households meet their cooking energy needs from biogas
plants. Programmes that give incentives for use of renewable energies,
therefore, have to be expanded.
We recognize that the rural poor will need some subsidy to afford
electricity and LPG. The issue is to target the subsidy as best as
possible. We have launched an ambitious project to give every Indian
resident a unique identification number that will facilitate targeting
of subsidies under various welfare schemes. For example, in one pilot
scheme in Mysore district of Karnataka, 27,000 deliveries of subsidized
cylinders have been made by delivery boys after successful biometric
authentication of any family member present at home. In the next phase
it is planned to transfer the subsidy amount directly to the bank
accounts of bona fide beneficiaries.
Renewable energy technologies provide probably the most sustainable and
economic options for energy access. At present renewable power
represents about 12 per cent of the total installed generating capacity
in India. The Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission, launched under
the aegis of India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change aims to
install 20 Gigawatt of grid connected solar power by 2022. We hope to
light up around 20 million rural households with solar home lighting by
2022. Overall, we aim at accelerating the overall deployment of
renewable energy in India to achieve around 55 GigaWatt of renewable
power by the year 2017.
Universalizing access to energy will require innovative institutions,
national and local enabling mechanisms, and targeted policies, including
appropriate subsidies and financing arrangement. The necessary
technologies to mitigate the problem are fortunately, available. These
technologies need to be viewed as global public goods. Governments and
industry need to be encouraged to engage in international cooperation in
this area on an enlarged scale and work for enhancing the technological
capability of developing countries. The Intellectual Property Regimes
applied to energy access technologies should balance rewards for
innovators with the need to promote the common good of humankind.
Suitable mechanisms need to be found that will provide incentives for
developing new technologies while also facilitating their deployment in
developing countries at affordable cost.
Providing affordable energy access to the poorer sections of the globe
is a challenge that will severely test the capability of the global
community, especially the developing countries to forge a common and
effective path forward. It will require tremendous creativity and
resourcefulness and also new ways of thinking and understanding. To this
end, India is fully conscious of its responsibilities and our
We are also conscious that south-south cooperation is vital to achieving
universal energy access. In this context, we have been vigorously
supporting capacity building in other developing countries. Our experts
have helped set up energy access projects in many developing countries.
We are delighted to share our experience in policy-making, technological
development and implementation by creating a global platform for
information and experience sharing.
The fact that representatives of such a large number of countries have
congregated here today, kindles our hopes and aspirations for a more
prosperous and better future for all of us. Together we can drive out
the pessimism about the future of those who are “energy poor”.
This would require global cooperation on a gigantic scale for financing
as well as implementing viable projects in energy-deficient areas. The
path ahead is difficult but we have to persevere. I wish therefore, this
important seminar all success. Have a pleasant stay in our country, and
once again, a very warm welcome to each one of the distinguished
delegates attending this seminar.”
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