India will be the main driver of rising demand for energy over the next two decades, accounting for 25% of global growth, and is set to overtake the European Union as the world's third-biggest energy consumer by 2030, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said.

India’s energy consumption is expected to nearly double as the nation’s gross domestic product expands to an estimated $8.6 trillion by 2040 under its current national policy scenario, the IEA said in its India Energy Outlook 2021 released on Feb. 9.

“This is underpinned by a rate of GDP growth that adds the equivalent of another Japan to the world economy by 2040,” said the IEA, the energy agency and policy adviser for members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

India’s growing energy needs will make it more reliant on fossil fuel imports as its domestic oil and gas production has been stagnant for years despite government policies to promote petroleum exploration and production and renewable energy.

India’s oil demand is expected to rise to 8.7 million bbl/d in 2040 from about 5 million bbl/d in 2019, the IEA said, while its refining capacity will reach 6.4 million bbl/d by 2030 and 7.7 million bbl/d by 2040, from 5 million bbl/d.

It will be the world’s third-biggest energy consumer, behind China and the U.S., by 2030.

The world’s second-biggest net oil importer, behind China, currently imports about 76% of its crude oil needs. That reliance on overseas oil is expected to rise to 90% by 2030 and 92% by 2040, the IEA said.

Rising oil demand could double India’s oil import bill to about $181 billion by 2030 and nearly treble it to $255 billion by 2040 compared with 2019, the IEA said.

India, a signatory to the Paris climate accord, wants to boost power generation through renewables, mainly solar, and raise the share of natural gas in its energy mix to 15% by 2030 from 6.2% currently.

Total Primary Energy Demand in India, 2000-2020 Graph Source: IEA India Energy Outlook 2021

The share of solar energy in India’s power generation could equal coal-fired output by 2040, the IEA said. Coal currently dominates India’s electricity sector, accounting for over 70% of overall generation with only about 4% produced through solar.

The world’s fourth-largest LNG importer, which ships in about half of its natural gas needs by tanker currently, is spending billions of dollars to build infrastructure to boost use of the cleaner fuel.

LNG imports are expected to quadruple to 124 Bcm, or about 61% of overall gas demand by 2040, IEA said. That would be up from imports of 76 Bcm, or about 58% of gas consumption by 2030.