In its 2024 Ministerial Meeting, the International Energy Agency (IEA) announced that ministers from its 31 member countries had agreed to start discussions with India regarding its formal request for full membership to the IEA.

India applied for full membership in October 2023 following an already long-standing relationship with the IEA. It became an association country in March 2017 and signed a Framework for a Strategic Partnership in January 2021.

IEA executive director Faith Birol called the agreement “a major milestone for international energy governance,” adding: “A valued and indispensable partner of our Agency, India plays a crucial and growing role in the global energy economy. The world cannot plan for its energy future without India at the table.”

India’s membership would be a significant addition to the IEA. With 1.4 billion residents, it has the highest population of any country worldwide and the potential to have a massive impact on the global energy sector, as well as global green transition efforts.

In 2023, the country accounted for 5.8% of total global capacity, and its capacity is expected to rise at a CAGR of 6.5% during 2022–2035, with GlobalData predicting that it will reach 1,109GW by 2035.

However, India’s power market is still dominated by thermal sources (coal, oil and gas), which comprised a cumulative capacity of 309.2GW in 2022, and are expected to reach 400.2GW by 2035.

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A growing renewables sector is turning the tide in favour of cleaner energies, though. The overall share of thermal power in India’s total power capacity was 63.4% in 2022 but is expected to decrease to 36.1% by 2035, with renewables set to increase from 25.7% to 55.5% in the same period.

India’s attitude towards the energy transition, therefore, is already likely to drive change on a global scale. If the country is willing, the IEA believes that it could play a “central role in efforts to safeguard energy security, drive inclusive energy transitions, and combat climate change”.

Of the importance of India’s potential membership of the IEA, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “India is the world’s fastest-growing major economy. Sustained growth needs energy security and sustainability.”

He added: “Inclusivity boosts the credibility and capability for any institution. 1.4 billion Indians bring talent, technology and innovation to the table. We bring scale and speed, quantity and quality to every mission. I am sure that the IEA will benefit when India plays a bigger role in it.”

Considering India’s role against the global backdrop, a recent GlobalData report noted: “The global primary energy consumption is estimated to have risen at a year-on-year growth rate of 1.6% to 14,442Mtoe in 2022 compared to 14, 215.0Mtoe in 2021. The increase was majorly due to rapid industrialization in emerging markets such as India and China where several industries require substantial electricity and other petroleum-based fuels to operate, leading to an immense demand for energy.”

This demand is set to grow too, with the IEA reporting that India is set to see the largest energy demand growth of any country worldwide over the next three decades, noting that the consumption will increase “as industrialisation and urbanisation surge and per capita income rises sharply.”

India’s membership could then mark what the IEA called “a huge, consequential change in international energy governance.”