Interview with First Fuel Author Padu Padmanabhan

The historic oil crisis of 1973, which permanently altered significant economic policies worldwide, marked a turning point in India’s energy odyssey, putting the country on the path towards energy efficiency. A young energy researcher at the National Productivity Council at the time, Padu Padmanabhan soon found himself at a juncture that would lead him to the many watershed moments of this journey.

Drawing on his extensive subsequent experience at the United States Agency for International Development in India and the World Bank, Padu takes us from the Nehruvian years of idealism, through the five-decade-long quest for fuel efficiency and energy conservation that ultimately paved the way for the shift towards energy-efficient practices. Simple yet highly effective, energy efficiency has come to be known as our first fuel – an inexhaustible source of energy that may be one of the most viable means of combating the consequences of climate change and the indiscriminate use of natural resources. Through lessons gleaned from the implementation of past energy-efficient technology, Padu shows us how this ‘fuel’ can be harnessed for a sustainable future.

First Fuel is an invaluable account for not only energy-sector professionals, but anyone interested in understanding what it takes to achieve energy efficiency and why we need to urgently adopt such practices. It recommends vital policy and regulatory changes and, in so doing, presents a radical new vision for energy and all its users living in the most critical of times.


Mr. Padu S. Padmanabhan was the former Program Director of the South Asia Regional Initiative for Energy (SARI/E) and Senior Energy Advisor for USAID/India’s bilateral program.  He has served with the World Bank, Washington DC as an Energy Efficiency Specialist and was a visiting fellow with the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC), Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.  He has over four decades of experience in the design of national and regional energy efficiency programs, power sector reforms, regional energy integration, energy-water nexus, clean energy, and energy access projects, including the planning and establishment of national and regional centers of excellence in energy efficiency.  He is a trustee of Alttech Foundation, a Bangalore based NGO devoted to advancing water-energy sustainability and is the founder member of the Alliance for Energy Efficient Economy (AEEE), India.

Mr. Padu Padmanabhan is the author of the pioneering book titled: First Fuel: India’s Energy Efficiency Journey that recounts the evolution of energy conservation and management in India since the early 70’s.  The volume provides approaches to mainstream energy efficiency and capture the benefits of clean energy solutions in the country to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change.

Mr. Padmanabhan is the recipient of several international and national awards in energy management and efficiency. These include The Regional Energy Manager of the Year 2019 Award by the United States Association of Energy Engineers and the World Clean Energy Award, 2007 by the Swiss-based Transatlantic 21 in global recognition of his achievements in advancing energy efficiency and renewable energy. He is the recipient of the Hall of Fame Award by the Indian Green Building Council in 2013; the All India Power Award in 2010; and the Energy Professional Development Award, 2008 given by the Association of Energy Engineers, India.

Mr. Padmanabhan taught at the School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC.  He has a B.E. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Madras (1973), a postgraduate certificate in Fuel Efficiency (1974-76) from the National Productivity Council of India and diplomas in Energy Management from UCTI-Institute for Industrial Reconstruction, Rome (1981) and International Labor Organization, Turin (1983), Italy.