NEW DELHI, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- India needs to rely on nuclear power until it can further develop renewable energy, a government official said.
New and Renewable Energy Minister Farooq Abdullah, speaking at the opening Thursday of Delhi Sustainable Development Summit 2014, cited India's growing needs for energy amid its developing economy.
"India is moving forward. India needs energy. Therefore, please forgive us. We have to use nuclear energy [until] renewable energy comes up to such a level that we are able to dispense with fossil fuels and nuclear energy," Press Trust of India quoted Abdullah as saying.
India, the fourth largest energy consumer in the world after the United States, China and Russia, has increased its oil imports from about 40 percent of demand in 1990 to more than 70 percent of demand by 2011, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, at a ceremony last month to lay the foundation stone for a 2,800 megawatt nuclear power plant in Gorakhpur in the state of Uttar Pradesh, defended the safety of the country's nuclear power sector.
The Gorakhpur project had faced opposition from environmental activists and some farmers in the area.
"We regularly test our safety standards against other countries to ensure that India always remained as a foremost country in the entire world in the area of nuclear safety," Singh said.
India now has an installed capacity of 4,800 megawatts of nuclear power generation and aims to increase that to 27,000 megawatts within the next decade, he said.
Citing India's 2008 agreement with the United States on nuclear cooperation, the prime minister said India is "now able to get latest nuclear technologies as also adequate supply of nuclear fuel from other countries."
At the Delhi summit Wednesday, Abdullah noted about 40 percent of India's population still does not have access to energy. The summit's theme is "attaining food, water and energy security for all."
"India spends 80 percent on getting fossil fuels. The money could be used for making available drinking water, better roads, better hospitals and education. Here is a challenge for all of us. Let us work together for improving renewable energy," the minister said.
"In wind power, we are No. 5 in the world. We are now going offshore. There are nations who have great expertise. We will call on them to help us in developing this energy."
Last month Abdullah said India was working on establishing a national offshore wind energy agency to explore the potential of offshore wind generation, the Times of India reported.