By - King Stubb & Kasiva on September 11, 2023
Geothermal energy is harnessed from the Earth’s crust and is an abundant and sustainable power source. It distinguishes itself among renewables by not requiring any fuel for electricity generation, and its associated emissions are minimal compared to those arising from burning fossil fuels. Conventional sources like coal, oil, and natural gas have traditionally dominated India's energy sector.
While these sources have powered the country’s rapid industrial and urban growth, they have also played a significant role in environmental damage and climate change. Nonetheless, the successful implementation of geothermal projects in India hinges on a well-structured legal framework and various other policies and regulations. Therefore, India's geothermal energy regulations should strive to unlock its maximum potential.
The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) in India has “Draft Indian Geothermal Energy Development Framework.” The steps taken to promote geothermal energy also include the first-ever Geothermal Field Development Project in India, which will be carried out by the government-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) in the region of Ladakh. 
The Draft National Policy on GeoThermal Energy aims to enhance India's long-term geothermal energy production significantly. This objective involves the establishment of a sustainable, secure, and socially as well as environmentally responsible geothermal energy sector. Additionally, it seeks to generate employment opportunities and advocate for ecologically sustainable methods of energy generation. The vision positions India as a world leader in geothermal power generation sector which is proposed to be achieved by initially deploying 1000 MW of geothermal energy capacity by 2022 and scaling up to 10,000 MW by 2030.
The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy plans to explore multi-functional projects, which will supplement the utilization of geothermal resources nationwide. The scheme focuses on assessing the country's potential in geothermal resources while promoting RD&D projects of geo-thermal power production and Geo-exchange Pumps. The intention is to initiate at least one project in all feasible states, aligning with the Ministry's R&D Policy guidelines.
The ministry is looking to promote partnerships with leading countries in geothermal energy, including the USA, Philippines, Indonesia, Mexico, and New Zealand. This strategy seeks to accelerate the utilisation of geothermal energy through various means, such as attracting international investments (permitting 100% FDI in the Renewable Energy Sector), providing customised capacity-building programs and technical support to key stakeholders, mitigating exploration risks, and offering technological assistance, among other initiatives.
The goal is to significantly contribute to India's future energy production and decrease greenhouse gas emissions by establishing a sustainable, secure, and environmentally responsible geothermal energy sector that prioritises safety and social responsibility.
Geothermal energy has emerged as a promising and optimistic option to address the pressing issue of climate change and allows a shift towards more environmentally friendly energy alternatives. Creating a conducive legal framework for geothermal energy will significantly benefit India. This will require enabling technology transfer through liberal legal provisions, fostering capacity building, and promoting infrastructure development in the country.
The current draft policy mentions that state governments could explore infrastructure development. Still, it has been noticed that infrastructure constructed for geothermal areas is often predominantly used by the state for purposes other than to analyse geothermal energy. Many promising geothermal sites in India are situated at considerable distances from major cities, providing a safe buffer space in case of industrial accidents but necessitating substantial investments in critical infrastructure such as roads and essential utility supply networks for water and electricity. These expenses can be significant when sites are in remote or isolated regions. Hence, state governments must provide subsidies for infrastructure costs to ensure the project's viability.
To expedite engagement with the Central Government, creating a straightforward mechanism that connects interested entities, stakeholders, and individuals directly is essential, thus avoiding the time-consuming involvement of state-run nodal agencies. The need of the hour is to simplify official protocols enabling entrepreneurs to achieve their local ideas, provided they receive policy benefits. Using geothermal energy for various purposes will attract diverse businesses, ultimately driving increased investments in this sector.
Therefore, to ensure that the benefits of this policy trickle down to the relevant stakeholders, a bottom-to-top approach, i.e., a firm ground-level functioning of the policy would be required. Furthermore, the Indian government should contemplate providing fiscal incentives for renewable energy equipment, such as reductions, exemptions and subsidies in excise and customs duties.
Lastly, raising awareness regarding utilising geothermal energy through diverse communication channels is also necessary. Promoting geothermal energy as a viable, secure, and contemporary alternative energy source is crucial. Enhancing the appeal of geothermal energy can be accomplished by utilising print media, video presentations, and informational brochures.
Indeed, there are challenges, ranging from intricate logistical aspects and significant financial commitments necessary for drilling and technical infrastructure development to a more unified regulatory framework that can harmonise state and National concerns. Nevertheless, these obstacles can be overcome, particularly considering India's steadfast dedication to advancing renewable energy.
It is imperative to skillfully navigate the intricacies of regulation and chart a course towards an eco-friendly energy future. The path forward concerning geothermal energy regulations in India necessitates cooperative endeavours, inventive thinking, and unwavering determination. It demands synchronised actions from policymakers, industry pioneers and environmental advocates. India can tap into the remarkable latent possibilities beneath its exterior by fostering an environment that encourages the expansion of geothermal energy and refining the regulatory terrain.
Therefore, understanding the current regulatory landscape in India concerning geothermal regulations is essential to achieve the ambition of a sustainable future. Valuable insights and recommendations from the policymakers, relevant stakeholders, environmental enthusiasts and technical/scientific experts are required to make a significant impact who share a common goal: shaping a green energy future for India through harnessing its geothermal potential.
The Geological Survey of India (GSI) maps the geothermal potential. The broad estimate suggests that there could be 10 GW of geothermal power potential in India currently.
The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy governs the geothermal regulations in India. Government organisations like GSI, NGRI and ONGC are also the bodies leading geothermal energy exploration in India.
India proposes to harness 10,000 MW of geothermal energy by 2030.