One of the core development challenges in India is the lack of access to clean cooking energy, which imposes a public health hazard, particularly for women in the household. However, the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana has been successful in ensuring that each household has access to clean cooking fuels in India. Piped natural gas (PNG) is an important component of India’s plan to transition towards a gas-based economy, as it aims to meet 15 per cent of its primary energy demands through natural gas by 2030. As per the estimates by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board, the projected demand for PNG in 2030 is 44.67 million standard cubic feet per day (mmscmd), up from the existing sales and supply of 8.57 mmscmd in 2016-17. This increase in projected demand calls for investment in additional capacities through gas infrastructure, including the addition of cities to the existing city gas distribution (CGD) network. According to Enincon, CGD is expected to contribute 11 per cent of the total demand for natural gas by 2030.
However, there are a number of challenges that restrict the expansion of PNG network in the country. The extremely high connection cost of around Rs 5,000 makes it unaffordable for the urban poor. The Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) suggests that credit-linked instalment mechanisms and adoption of prepaid meters to allow recurring payments of smaller amounts can improve the affordability of PNG for low-income urban and peri-urban households. Further, exploring decentralised distribution models for peri-urban and rural areas along the same lines as microgrids for electricity could go a long way in reducing the cost of pipeline construction in hilly terrain. Finally, CGD companies have also expressed concerns regarding the inadequacy of financial incentives to meet investment needs for domestic gas exploration and production under the Gas Utilisation Policy. Therefore, CEEW suggests that there should be a healthy balance of import and domestic LNG as it directly impacts the profitability of CGDs.
The roadmap prepared by the CEEW proposes short-term and long-term strategies for greater adoption of a range of clean cooking energy alternatives, including PNG, liquefied petroleum gas, biogas, and solar and electricity-based cooking technologies.