It’s strange to think that one of the world’s major economies has functioned in most of the 21st century without adequate access to electricity, but that’s certainly been the case for much of India. Nearly seven years ago Energy Fairness wrote about India’s obstacles in reaching full electrification, most of which stemmed from a lack access to coal and other fuels. However, in recent years, India’s minister of railways and coal, Piyush Goyal, has been working to change the paucity of access to what has become a basic human right.
During his tenure Goyal has brought the miracle of electricity to more than 18,000 villages in the most rural sections of India, while at the same time reforming India’s power markets and expanding access to renewable electricity.
His efforts have not gone unnoticed. Recently, the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy at the University of Pennsylvania presented him with its fourth annual Carnot Prize for achievements.
“The international achievements of Minister Goyal are remarkable,” said 2016 Carnot Prize winner Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA). “Minister Goyal rolled out India’s comprehensive power sector reform, oversaw the world’s biggest and most successful LED lighting program, and deployed renewable energy sources. He also helped millions of Indians gain access to electricity.”
According to the EIA, less than half of India’s population had access to electricity in the year 2000, but now, thanks largely to Goyal’s contributions, nearly 80% of Indians have power. Even more impressively, the rest of the country is on track to be electrified by next year, if current trends continue. India relies heavily on coal fired power for its main source of electricity, and is working to complement this affordable and reliable source of power by adding renewables into its overall energy portfolio.
“Minister Goyal’s efforts demonstrate what it takes to create a just energy transition—courage amidst complexity,” said Mark Alan Hughes, founding faculty director of the Kleinman Center. “Providing power to the world’s energy poor turns on the lights—and also empowers education, sanitation, and health care. It closes the gap between the haves and have nots.”
We at Energy Fairness are excited to celebrate this important milestone for India and congratulate Minister Piyush Goyal on his achievement of extending such a basic human right to so many of his fellow countrymen.