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Can Renewable Energy Deliver India’s Climate Targets

By Author: Nikhil Mehra
Total Articles: 33

In a historic move that clearly reflected a change in its conventional stand on climate change, India announced a bold, new strategy as part of its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), to curb its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and reduce its vulnerability to climatic changes in October this year.

As a part of this initiative, the Modi administration has committed to reduce its emissions intensity by 33-35% below 2005 levels, mainly through the large-scale deployment of renewable energy and enhancing the energy efficiency of its industries.

Of all of potential options, renewable energy is clearly the most important for total emission reduction. With solar power generation expected to account for nearly three quarters of all renewable energy by 2030, solar has the potential to deliver greater reductions than the combined might of forestation and energy efficiency initiatives.

However in keeping with its agenda to transform to a low-carbon economy, it is imperative for India to develop a comprehensive portfolio of new, sustainable energy technologies. Coal, which currently accounts for nearly 70% of India's current GHG emissions, is likely to continue its dominance over India's energy mix.

In light of this fact, efforts to increase the efficiency of India's massive coal power plants portfolio by reducing emissions/per unit of energy produced must be made a top priority. India could also increase its use of natural gas, which produces only half the emissions of coal, in its endeavour to cut emissions from the power and industrial sectors, where the use of coal is widespread.

International monetary agencies like the World Bank and Asian Development Bank who have already pledged resources to support renewable energy, can support India's transition by offering lower-cost loans for clean energy initiatives like the setting up of solar energy projects, to encourage foreign investors to finance renewable energy projects in India.

Further, pledges from developed countries, through initiatives like the Green Climate Fund, could enable vulnerable countries like India to invest in a range of low-carbon options and bear the expensive "adaptation" measures to counter the adverse impact of climate change.

However, it's important that India initiates a few key changes if it wants to facilitate global financial assistance in this regard. To begin with, policy makers need to focus on improving India's power utilities. It's an open secret that more than a quarter of the energy produced in India is lost in transit even before it reaches the consumers.

Additionally, power utilities need to get their precarious finances in order, prior to inviting domestic and global investors to fund the development of clean energy projects in the country.

India also needs to respect intellectual property rights if it expects foreign companies to share their clean energy technology. Companies that don't face a obvious threat to their intellectual property protection are more likely to set up local manufacturing units, create jobs, and seek to deploy affordable clean energy to attract consumers.

Clearly, India has its task cut out if it's to achieve its ambitious climate change objectives via the renewable energy route. But what's important here is that a beginning has been made and if India does manage to stick to its core agenda and create the necessary political will, its only s matter of time before we clean up our act for good.

Welspun Renewables is a leading player in India's RE sector with a huge network of solar and wind-based energy projects across the country.

Of all the available options, renewable energy generation is clearly the most important for India’s bid to reduce GHG emissions.

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