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Abhilasha Joshi

Consul General of India


Food and energy: our challenges

India and Brasil are wonderful countries, both are emerging nations in their regions, stable, with an incredible ethnic and cultural diversity. More than that, we now are in a phase of much growth, we are economies of trillions of dollars, and the similarities between us are really huge and help us unite in fora around the world. For a long time, we were separated by geography and also by the mutual understanding one of the other.

India has always been viewed as a mystical country, as the place of yoga, ancient cultural heritage, and dances. The image we had of Brazil until recently was that of the land of football, samba and carnival. I am pleased to say that these stereotype images are changing, and that the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are really growth drivers, whereas, unfortunately, the rest of the world suffers.

The trade balance between India and Brazil is growing. Our governments had established an objective – to reach a level of US$ 10 billion by 2010, although it doubled in the last two years, our trade achieved US$ 8 billion. Our bilateral trade lists include numerous commodities, of which one at the top is sugar. However we still focus on basic primary products, hoping that, in the future, we will achieve a very good level of political relations, and that such good relations may also develop in the trade area.

As for imports and exports, India’s main exports to Brazil are diesel oil, equipment for wind energy generation, coal, peat, cotton, polyester yarn, paint, chemical products, medical drugs, naphtha, parts for tractors and automobiles, vaccines for humans, etc.. Exports of Brazil to India encompass crude oil, concentrated copper sulfates, sugar, iron ore, soya oil, ethanol, asbestos, valves, engines, pumps, aircraft, etc..

Our countries share several specific investments and joint ventures. However, this is but the tip of the iceberg, because there are many paths to follow to increase the trade balance.

With respect to the agenda of this Forum – the energy of nations -, the government of India describes energy security as the ability to meet the demand for energy services in all industries, including household demands throughout the country, with convenient and safe energy, at the lowest possible cost, in technically efficient, economically viable, and environmentally sustainable, ways. This is an ideal scenario, but all governments would like to have this objective.  India’s energy policy is based on these parameters.

What does energy security mean for all countries? Usually, it means the production, supply and consumption of hydrocarbons. A country’s foreign policy is mainly based on energy security. Brazil, in this case, is also much blessed with its recently discovered deepwater oil reserves, to be exploited to their maximum potential, with Brazil becoming one of the biggest oil exporters in the future.

Why is it that all of a sudden we have this interest in developing renewable energy and clean fuels? Because not all countries have these hydrocarbon resources and they all must look for alternatives to assure their growth. We know that what we do today, we will leave for the future generations. Thus, each country has its own responsibilities with respect to the environment.

In the transportation industry we do not have many options, so oil continues to be the predominant fuel and it will remain as such for a long time. However, in the energy industry there are other alternatives. We have coal, gas, hydro, nuclear, solar, wind, and biomass energy.

If we look at the energy mix, 35% is concentrated in oil, 25% in coal and 21% in natural gas. We still rely on hydrocarbons. Renewable energy represents only 19% of this energy mix in the world. How does this affect India? India grew very quickly from 7% to 9% in the last three years and became the fifth largest energy consumer in the world.

Although we have large energy reserves, from coal to renewable energy, such as wind, solar, and hydro energy, our main energy sources are oil and gas. We must import 75% of our oil needs from abroad. Due to this, coal continues to be the backbone of the energy industry. We have reserves in the amount of 256 billion tons. However, to use coal efficiently, it is necessary to invest heavily in revamping and modernizing plants.

The government of India established a policy for partnerships between public and private institutions, for prospecting oil reserves on- and offshore, and this led to major discoveries in India, and we hope that in the long term they will benefit us. One of India’s advantages today is that it has the world’s fifth largest refinery. We export diesel oil to Brazil, although we import crude oil from Brazil.

In India, we have an installed capacity of 176,990 MW, of which 65.4% are thermal plants (54.7% run on coal, 10% on gas and 0.7% on oil), 21.5% are hydroelectric plants, 2.7% are nuclear power plants and 10.4% run on renewable energy. This contrasts with the energy matrix of Brazil. All energy sources are being researched, to develop new forms and ways.

We have 5 ministries in India associated with renewable energy. The importance of renewable energy has been acknowledged since the 1970’s, and the focus nowadays is on solar energy to increase energy efficiency, and on wind energy. In 2010, India had 12,000 MW of installed wind energy, ranking fourth in the world. Nowadays, we are the global leader in the equipment market for wind energy and we have a noticeable presence in Brazil.

Biofuels in India are derived from some plants that do not exist in Brazil, but mainly from sugarcane. As you know, we have a large population and food security is very important for our country. We cannot even use good land for biofuels, appropriate for agriculture, because we cannot dream of compromising food security of billions of people in our country and hence, we must use or look for sub-products to produce renewable energy.

There is strong pressure to use biofuels in transportation, because this is the most polluted industry in the world as it is ideal for such use, as is the case of Brazil, with its admirable flex fuel vehicle technology. It is our goal to mix 20% of biofuels to our other fuels by 2017.

We must modernize and innovate to be able to  reach those goals. Partnerships with countries such as Brazil are very useful and we could learn a lot from each other. We are growing at a rate of almost 9% per year and, in order to sustain this growth, we need more energy. The world will need more food, many other goods, but mainly more energy. We are aware of this fact and hence, this type of Forum is very important in the quest for solutions.

We must relieve millions of people living below the poverty line, and we must grow. We need to know, learn about, and look for all possible ways to produce energy. All types of energy generation will entail problems, some will require more investments, others, more land. We need to be careful and to know what land we can use for the production of biofuels and which to separate for the production of food.

There are many challenges ahead. We are in a transition phase between traditional ways of producing energy 
future. We want to participate, cooperate, and consolidate friendships and partnerships.