Skip to main content

India’s energy sector choices—options and implications of ambitious mitigation efforts


This article examines the choices that might be needed for India’s energy sector under alternative mitigation scenarios. The article draws on the CD-LINKS study—a collaborative EU project under which seven pathways based on different combinations of carbon budget (high and low) and policy implementation (early and late) were developed and examined. This study uses the MARKAL energy system model to develop these scenarios. The three broad strategies that emerge for India include decarbonisation of electricity, electrification of end-uses and improvement in energy efficiency. We conclude that by undertaking early action, India can potentially prevent carbon lock-in and leapfrog to renewables from coal in the power sector. However, early action scenarios exhibit higher cost than their delayed action counterparts. Several other barriers and challenges also need to be addressed in order to enable large-scale uptake of low-carbon technologies. India may need to come up with innovative mechanisms to ensure a smooth and just transition for the economy.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6


  1. 1.

    The details of the project can be found at

  2. 2.

    The current version of the model was developed with inputs from Ms. Aayushi Awasthy, Ms. Sugandha Chauhan, Mr. Kabir Sharma, Ms. Kamna W Mahendra and Mr. Aman Agrawal.

  3. 3.

    The time horizon of the model in TERI (2006) extended from 2001 to 2031. However, the overall structure of the model is similar to that in this study.

  4. 4.

    World Population Prospects, 2019 estimates India’s population to range between 1.49 billion (low fertility) and 1.79 billion (high fertility) in 2050 (UNDESA 2019).

  5. 5.

    OECD forecasts India’s GDP growth at 5.1% between 2016 and 2051 (OECD 2018).

  6. 6.

    The global models assume GDP growth rate based on SSP2 “Middle-of-the-Road” Scenario (Mathur and Shekhar 2019).

  7. 7.

    The relatively higher share of emission reduction on the supply side is partly attributed to the emission accounting methodology of the model. Emissions from electricity are accounted on the supply side, while the end-use electricity-based technology is considered to be carbon neutral. Consequently, emission savings from demand sectors due to electrification are accounted on the supply side.

  8. 8.

    Electric pumps for irrigation are 1.8 times more efficient than their diesel counterparts; appliances used for electric cooking are 6–7 times more efficient than traditional biomass-based cookstoves.

  9. 9.

    We do not consider coal-based power plants with CCS in this study due to reasons discussed in Section 2.3.

  10. 10.

    Out of around 214.49 million households in India, 214.47 million households have been electrified as on 31 March 2020, and 18,734 households remain to be electrified (MOP 2019).

  11. 11.

    Low-carbon scenarios include INDCH, INDCL, NPiH and NPiL.

  12. 12.

    The discount rate used in this study is 10% which is based on opportunity cost with respect to alternative investment avenues.

  13. 13.

    Recent guidelines suggest that around 60–65% of steel produced in India by 2030 should be produced via the Basic Oxidation Furnace (BF-BOF) route (MOS 2017).


  1. Bandyopadhyay S (2017) Renewable targets for India. Clean Technol Environ Policies.

  2. BEE (2017) Achievements under Perform, Achieve and Trade (PAT). Bureau of Energy Efficiency. Accessed 16 September 2020

  3. BEE (2018) Cement. Bureau of Energy Efficiency. Accessed 01 April 2020

  4. BEE (2020) Impact of energy efficiency measures for the year 2018–19. Bureau of Energy Efficiency, New Delhi

    Google Scholar 

  5. Byravan S, Ali MS, Ananthakumar MR et al (2017) Quality of life for all: a sustainable development framework for India’s climate policy reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Energy Sustain Dev.

  6. CAT (2015) CAT statement- statement on COP21 Paris Agreement. Climate Action Tracker. Accessed 03 March 2020

  7. CAT (2019) India. Climate Action Tracker. Accessed 16 September 2020

  8. Chandramauli C (2011) Census of India 2011- primary census abstract data highlights India series 1. Ministry of Home Affairs, New Delhi

    Google Scholar 

  9. Chaturvedi V, Koti PN, Sugam R, Neog K, Hejazi M (2017) Implications for shared socio-economic pathways for India’s long-term electricity generation and associated water demands. Council on Energy Environment & Water, New Delhi

    Google Scholar 

  10. Das S, Priess JA (2011) Zig-zagging into the future: the role of biofuels in India. Biofuels Bioprod Biorefin 5:18–27

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. den Elzen M, Admiraal A, Roelfsema M, van Soest H, Hof AF, Forsell N (2016) Contribution of the G20 economies to the global impact of the Paris agreement climate proposals. Climatic Change 137 (3-4):655–665

  12. Dubash NK, Khosla R, Rao ND, Bhardwaj A (2018) India’s energy and emissions future: an interpretive analysis of model scenarios. Environ Res Lett.

  13. EESL (2020) National Ujala dashboard. Energy efficiency services limited. Accessed 01 April 1, 2020

  14. den Elzen M, Admiraal A, Roelfsema M, van Soest H, Hof AF, Forsell N (2016) Contribution of the G20 economies to the global impact of the Paris Agreement climate proposals. Clim Chang.

  15. Fawcett AA, Iyer GC, Clarke LE et al (2015) Can Paris pledge avert climate change? Science.

  16. Gambhir A, Napp TA, Emmott CJ, Anandarajah G (2014) India’s CO2 emissions pathways to 2050: energy system, economic and fossil fuel impacts with and without carbon permit trading. Energy.

  17. Ghosh SK (2020) Making Ujjwala Yojana the livewire of rural India post the LPG price increase. Ecowrap 73:1–3

    Google Scholar 

  18. GOI (2015) India’s intended nationally determined contribution: working towards climate justice. Government of India, New Delhi

    Google Scholar 

  19. Grové J, Lant PA, Greig CR, Smart S (2017) Can coal-derived DME reduce the dependence on solid cooking fuels in India? Energy Sustain Dev 37:51–59

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Gupta D, Ghersi F, Vishwanathan SS, Garg A (2019) Achieving sustainable development in India along low carbon pathways: macroeconomic assessment. World Dev.

  21. IEA (2016) World Energy Outlook 2016. International Energy Agency, Paris

    Google Scholar 

  22. Krey V, Guo F, Kolp P et al (2019) Looking under the hood: a comparison of techno-economic assumptions across national and global integrated assessment models. Energy.

  23. Kumar S, Kapoor R, Deshmukh A, Kamath M, Manu S (2010) Total commercial floor space estimates for India. USAID, New Delhi

    Google Scholar 

  24. Lucas PL, Shukla P, Chen W, Ruijven BJ, Dhar S, Elzen MG, van Vuuren DP (2013) Implications of the international reduction pledges on long-term energy system changes and costs in China and India. Energy Policy.

  25. Luderer G, Kriegler E, Delsa L et al (2016) Deep decarbonisation towards 1.5°C–2°C stabilisation: policy findings from the ADVANCE project

  26. Malik A, Bertram C, Despres J et al (2020) Reducing stranded assets through early action in the Indian power sector. Environ Res Lett.

  27. Mathur R, Shekhar S (2019) India: decarbonisation pathways - options & implications. COMMIT. Accessed 16 September 2020

  28. Mathur R, Vats G, Shekhar S (2019) India’s conundrum: aligning emission mitigation with development. Yojana 1(2):7–9

    Google Scholar 

  29. Mittal S, Hanaoka T, Shukla PR, Masui T (2015) Air pollution co-benefits of low carbon policies in road transport: a sub-national assessment for India. Environ Res Lett.

  30. MNRE (2019) Solar energy. Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. Accessed 31 March 2020

  31. MOEFCC (2018) India: second biennial update report to the United Nations framework convention on climate change. Ministry of Environment Forest & Climate Change, New Delhi

    Google Scholar 

  32. MOEFCC (2019) India cooling action plan. Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, New Delhi

    Google Scholar 

  33. MOP (2019) Saubhagya Dashboard. Ministry of Power. Accessed 31 March 2020

  34. MOS (2017) National Steel Policy, 2017. Ministry of Steel, New Delhi

    Google Scholar 

  35. Nand S, Goswami M (2011) Energy efficiency and CO2 generation in Indian ammonia plants. Ammonia Tech Manual:191–198

  36. NIWE (2015) Wind power potential at 100m agl. National Institute of Wind Energy. Accessed 30 March 2020

  37. NIWE (2019) India’s Wind Potential Atlas at 120m agl. National Institute of Wind Energy.'s_Wind_Potential_Atlas_at_120m_agl.pdf. Accessed 30 March 2020

  38. NSSO (2014) Household consumption of various goods and services in India 2011–12. Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. Government of India, New Delhi

    Google Scholar 

  39. OECD (2018) OECD Economic Outlook. OECD Publishing, Paris

    Google Scholar 

  40. Parikh KS, Parikh JK, Ghosh PP (2018) Can India grow and live within a 1.5 degree CO2 emissions budget? Energy Policy.

  41. PFI and PRB (2007) The future population of India: a long-range demographic view. Population Foundation of India & Population Reference Bureau, New Delhi

    Google Scholar 

  42. PIB (2018) Cabinet approves National Policy on Biofuels - 2018. Press Information Bureau., Accessed 09 September 2020

  43. Rogelj J, den Elzen M, Höhne N et al (2016) Paris Agreement climate proposals need a boost to keep warming well below 2°C. Nature.

  44. Rohra H, Taneja A (2016) Indoor air quality scenario in India—an outline of household fuel combustion. Atmos Environ.

  45. Schaeffer R, Köberle A, van Soest HL et al (2020) Comparing transformation pathways across different regions and countries. Clim Chang.

  46. Shukla PR, Chaturvedi V (2012) Low carbon and clean energy scenarios for India: analysis of targets approach. Energy Econ.

  47. Shukla PR, Dhar S, Mahapatra D (2008) Low-carbon society scenarios for India. Clim Pol.

  48. Sood A, Vyas S (2017) A review: carbon capture and sequestration in India. Int J Mech Eng Technol 8(2):1–7

    Google Scholar 

  49. Spencer T, Rodrigues N, Pachouri R, Thakre S, Renjith G (2020) Renewable power pathways: modelling the integration of wind and solar in India by 2030. The Energy and Resources Institute, New Delhi

    Google Scholar 

  50. Srinivasan S, Kholod N, Chaturvedi V et al (2018) Water for electricity in India: a multi-model study of future challenges and linkages to climate change mitigation. Appl Energy.

  51. TERI (2006) National Energy Map for India Technology Vision 2030. The Energy and Resources Institute, New Delhi

    Google Scholar 

  52. TERI (2018a) Assess the human health and agricultural co-benefits of a low carbon pathway for India. The Energy and Resources Institute, New Delhi

    Google Scholar 

  53. TERI (2018b) Energy efficiency potential in India. The Energy and Resources Institute, New Delhi

    Google Scholar 

  54. TERI (2019) TERI Energy & Environment Data Diary and Yearbook 2018/19. The Energy and Resources Institute, New Delhi

    Google Scholar 

  55. TERI (2020) Reference card- MARKAL-India. IAMC wiki. Accessed 04 September 2020

  56. Thambi S, Bhatacharya A, Fricko O (2018) India’s energy and emissions outlook: results from India energy model. NITI Aayog, New Delhi

    Google Scholar 

  57. UNDESA (2019) World Population Prospects. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations

    Google Scholar 

  58. UNEP (2016) The Emissions Gap Report 2016. United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi

    Google Scholar 

  59. van den Berg NJ, van Soest HL, Hof AF et al (2019) Implications of various effort-sharing approaches for national carbon budgets and emission pathways. Clim Chang.

  60. Viebahn P, Höller S, Vallentin D, Liptow H, Villar A (2011) Future CCS implementation in India: a systemic and long-term analysis. Energy Procedia.

  61. Viebahn P, Vallentin D, Höller S (2014) Prospects of carbon capture and storage (CCS) in India’s power sector – an integrated assessment. Appl Energy.

  62. Vishwanathan S, Garg A (2020) Energy system transformation to meet NDC, 2 °C, and well below 2 °C targets for India. Clim Chang.

  63. Vishwanathan SS, Garg A, Tiwari V, Shukla PR (2018) India in 2°C and well below 2°C worlds: opportunities and challenges. Carbon Management.

  64. World Bank (2019a) CO2 emissions (metric tons per capita).World Bank Data. Accessed 30 March 2020

  65. World Bank (2019b) Energy use (kg of oil equivalent per capita).World Bank Data. Accessed 30 March 2020

Download references


This work is part of a project that has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 642147 (CD-LINKS).

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Swapnil Shekhar.

Additional information

Publisher’s note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

This article is part of a Special Issue on “National Low-Carbon Development Pathways” edited by Roberto Schaeffer, Valentina Bosetti, Elmar Kriegler, Keywan Riahi, Detlef van Vuuren, and John Weyant

Electronic supplementary material


(DOCX 30.5 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Mathur, R., Shekhar, S. India’s energy sector choices—options and implications of ambitious mitigation efforts. Climatic Change 162, 1893–1911 (2020).

Download citation


  • Climate mitigation pathways
  • India
  • Energy sector
  • NDC
  • Low carbon development
  • Energy system modelling