Energy security from renewable

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There is an urgent need to address the issue of air pollution with an appropriate policy response. India badly needs finance and modern technology to harness its huge untapped potential for renewable energy sources

A recent research by Harvard University finds that more than half of India’s population, about 660 million people, live in areas where pollution level is dangerously high. Consequently, their life span is reduced by 3.2 years on an average, resulting in the loss of 2.1 billion life years. The World Health Organisation estimates that 13 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in India and the national capital records the highest rate of deaths caused by chronic respiratory diseases.

There is an urgent need to address the issue of air pollution with an appropriate policy response. Among the many solutions, green energy is one of them. After the US and China, India is the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gas. It is true that India’s total emissions are one-fourth of China’s. India’s per capita emission is about two tonnes of greenhouse gas. This is well below the world’s average but significantly less than China’s eight tonnes per person and the US’s 20 tonnes per person. India’s cumulative emissions since 1990 are only four per cent of the world’s total compared to China’s 14 per cent and the US’s 15 per cent.

As India moves ahead economically, its consumption of fossil fuel is expected to increase rapidly. India has the potential to adapt to a low carbon energy pathway when 400 million of its people do not have access to electricity. With its plan to set up a 100 smart cities, besides the 500 Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission cities, the country’s economic and social landscape will change rapidly, and there will be a huge demand for power.

Businesses and clean energy venture capitalists are keen to develop a power initiative to meet India’s energy access goals by 2019. India’s goal is to deploy 1,00,000 megawatts of solar power capacity in five to seven years, thereby, taking energy supply beyond the grid — to people having no access to centralised grid. Private sector partnerships and new technology will strengthen India’s clean energy initiative. India badly needs finance and appropriate modern technology to harness its untapped potential for renewable energy sources.

India has successfully resisted the pressure to commit to a timeline for capping its emissions. India and the US will now focus on building manufacturing capabilities for solar and wind energy, apart from harnessing nuclear energy for civil purpose. It is estimated that India needs $200 billion of investment to develop renewable energy by 2022 to raise its solar power capacity 33 times to 100 gigawatts and its wind power capacity to 60 gigawatts.

At the UN climate change conference, India has been defending the principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibility’, emphasising that the burden of financial assistance to reduce the emission of greenhouse gas by undeveloped countries should be borne by developed countries. India’s focus will be on clean energy generation, energy conservation and energy efficiency.

The Government’s commitment to provide 24-hour electricity to all Indians by 2019 can be met, when the proportionate share of renewable energy from solar power goes to 100 GW. With a ‘100 smart cities’ in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also initiated to improve urban growth and development with cleaner air and water. India and the US are already working together through various programmes such as the Partnership to Advance Clean Energy to secure economic growth and climate action.

To ensure investment to meet ambitious renewable energy targets, the Government is committed to take up the much required economic reforms. Development of a global clean energy collaboration will help research institutes to mobilise new initiatives and resources and foster greater access to clean energy technologies.

The India-US commitment to building resilience to climate change can take advantage of the information technology capacity to make climate information more accessible. The meetings may help to form a new international climate agreement in Paris in December 2015. India’s manufacturing capabilities can go up when foreign investors come with better technologies in the renewable energy sector. The Government needs to focus on the much awaited economic and tax reform agenda to make it easy to do business in India by adapting conducive best business practices.

Joint ventures in the renewable energy sector are needed to provide an opportunity to Indian manufacturers to showcase their products and technologies against the best in the world and enhance their competitiveness. All leading project developers in renewable energy sectors, financiers, advisors, institutional investors, equipment suppliers must come together and work in collaboration to Make in India happen for ensuring energy security by 2019.

(The author is visiting professor, National Institute of Financial Management, and former Director General, office of the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India)

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