Maria van der Hoeven, executive director of the International Energy Agency, said at an Asian natural gas summit in India that electricity demand in India could surge to more than 3,200 terawatt-hours by 2035.
By then, she said, natural gas could be the second-largest source of electricity generation in India but it would be a distant second to coal.
"Increasing the share of gas as well as other sources, in particular renewables, will be good for Indian energy security," van der Hoeven said. "This will also have environmental benefits, not just in terms of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, but also for the millions of people affected by local pollution."
She added that coal was expected to remain central to India's power needs though domestic production would struggle to keep pace with rising demand. Natural gas, meanwhile, should become more expensive in the future.
"Indeed, Indian policy makers have to expect that gas will become more expensive in the future," she said. "At the same time, power demand will rise significantly and only a solid energy mix will provide India with energy security."