New Delhi wants investments, Washington wants market access

Richa Mishra/Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on July 16, 2020 Published on July 16, 2020

Dharmendra Pradhan

Oil Minister Pradhan to hold talks with US Energy Secretary through video conferencing today

India will push for enhanced American investments and participation of US companies in India’s energy space — power, oil and gas, renewable — at the second India-US Strategic Energy Partnership Ministerial meeting to be held on Friday.

However, nuclear energy is unlikely to be taken up at this platform formally.

India needs investments and the US needs market, so let us hope this meeting is just not a goodwill talk, an industry tracker said. Initially, due to geopolitical interests driven by the US — sanctions on Iran — Washington was keen that India should look at other geographies including America to meet its energy requirements.

India’s imports of mineral oils, mineral fuels and related products from the US increased to $8.3 billion in 2019-20, which is a five-fold rise over 2016-17 imports of $1.6 billion.

“Apart from getting into efficient deals with the US to get assured supply of oil and gas at competitive prices, the strategic partnership also seeks to get the US to invest in building energy infrastructure in the country and support exploration projects so that India’s import dependence goes down,” said an official tracking the diplomatic developments.

Renewable thrust

India will also push for investments in the renewable space with a thrust on solar energy, to reduce its dependence on China for solar modules and cells.

Asked why nuclear energy may not be taken up at a formal level here, another official said, “nuclear is discussed at a higher platform. Someone may raise it at Friday’s meeting but it is unlikely to be debated upon.”

The stage for Friday’s meeting was set at the industry-level interaction organised by US-India Business Council (USIBC) earlier this week, where Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharemendra Pradhan said that cooperation in natural gas sector has been identified as a priority area.

He had highlighted several upcoming new opportunities in the field of LNG bunkering, LNG ISO container development, petrochemicals, bio-fuels, and Compressed Bio Gas in the Indian energy sector. He has also invited greater participation from the US companies in oil and gas blocks bid rounds.

On Friday Pradhan will meet US Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette to co-chair the second Ministerial through the virtual medium. This meeting was due to be held in Washington DC in April, but got postponed due to the pandemic outbreak.

The second Ministerial meeting will review the progress made since the first meeting and also take note of accomplishments and agree on priorities going forward in the energy sector.

The Indian government had in 2018 elevated the India-US Energy Dialogue to a Strategic Energy Partnership to be co-chaired by Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas. The US side is co-chaired by the Secretary of Energy.

The partnership was formally announced during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the US in June 2017, and the first Ministerial meeting was held in New Delhi in April 2018.

The US-India Gas Task Force (GTF) was also set up under the umbrella of this Partnership as part of the Oil & Gas Pillar. The GTF had identified three key themes for expanding natural gas use in India and trade with the US — Pricing, Markets and Regulation, Strengthening of Gas Infrastructure and Stimulating Natural Gas Demand Growth.

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Published on July 16, 2020
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