India has the potential to achieve energy independence by 2047 with significant economic and environmental benefits, according to a new study released this week by the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

India could reduce fossil fuel import expenditure by 90%, or $240bn (Rs19.87trn) per year by 2047, save consumers $2.5trn, enhance its global industrial competitiveness and meet its net-zero commitment ahead of schedule, say the researchers.

“The case for clean energy has never been stronger,” said Nikit Abhyankar, Berkeley Lab scientist and the lead author of the study, in a press statement. “India has achieved the world’s lowest renewable energy prices and has found some of the world’s largest lithium reserves. This can propel India towards cost-effective energy independence in a way that is economically and environmentally advantageous.”

India’s energy infrastructure requires $3tn of investment in the coming decades, the study estimates. It concludes that prioritising cost-effective, clean new energy assets is crucial for the country’s long-term financial sustainability.

India is the third-largest energy consumer in the world and its energy demand is expected to quadruple in the coming decades. Currently, it must import 90% of the oil, 80% of the industrial coal and 40% of the natural gas it consumes.

The researchers suggest that the pathway to energy independence entails installing more than 500GW of non-fossil electricity generation capacity by 2030 – already a government goal – followed by an 80% clean grid by 2040 and 90% by 2047. In this scenario, nearly 100% of new vehicle sales could be electric by 2035, say the researchers, and heavy industrial production would shift primarily to green hydrogen and electrification.

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Most of the lithium needed – an estimated two million tonnes by 2040 – for manufacturing new electric vehicles and grid-scale battery storage systems could be produced domestically using newly discovered reserves, the research suggests.

The study, ‘Pathways to Atmanirbhar Bharat‘ (‘self-reliant India’), concludes that the country has a major energy transition opportunity since the bulk of its energy infrastructure has yet to be built. However, it will require significant government support, including deployment mandates for clean technologies, financial and policy support for emerging technologies such as green hydrogen, and investment in domestic manufacturing capacity.

The study emphasises that the transition must be done in concert with the most affected communities, ensuring an equitable transition for the country’s workforce.