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The origins of TERI lie in Mithapur, in a remote corner of north-western India, where a visionary chemical engineer was concerned about the enormous quantities of energy his factory spent on desalination – fresh potable water is scarce in those salty plains – and on making caustic soda from salt. It was Mr Darbari Seth of Tata Chemicals, whose appreciation of the importance of energy as a resource, who thought of an institute ‘to tackle and deal with the immense and acute problems that mankind is likely to face within the years ahead (a) on account of the gradual depletion of the earth’s finite energy resources which are largely non-renewable and (b) on account of the existing methods of their use which are polluting’. The idea instantly appealed to Mr J R D Tata, chairman of the Tata Group, a great visionary himself and a staunch supporter of scientific research - and TERI was duly registered in Delhi in 1974 as the Tata Energy Research Institute. As the scope of our activities widened over time, the institute was renamed as The Energy and Resources Institute in 2003.

TERI began operations in Mumbai in Bombay House, headquarters of the house of Tatas, India’s most respected industrial house. In the first decade, the approach was to fund deserving research projects on renewable energy. TERI also set up a documentation and information centre, which began publishing Indian Energy Abstracts, and a small field station in Pondicherry to undertake research on renewable energy. However, in 1984, it moved to Delhi and began its own research. The first externally funded project was to develop an energy model for India. For a decade after that, TERI operated out of rented premises, in keeping with the institute’s conscious policy that activities must precede brick and mortar, before moving into our its premises, the Darbari Seth Block, within the India Habitat Centre complex off Lodhi Road.