Event summary by Larissa Nzikeu
This week’s event focused on India’s energy transition, with esteemed guest speakers Amitabh Kant and Professor Navroz. K Dubash leading the conversation. Mr Kant is CEO of the National Institute for Transforming India, whilst Professor Dubash is a leading figure at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, India.
Mr Kant began the conversation brimming with positivity and optimism at India’s progress in achieving its sustainability goals. Indeed, he pointed out that India is one of the few G20 countries on track to meet its Paris Agreements climate ambitions—such as achieving 175 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2022. Mr Kant detailed the many achievements made throughout the course of India’s energy transition, highlighting, for example, that innovative and cutting-edge technology such as battery storage, ethanol blending, and solar pumps have already been implemented to promote energy efficiency schemes that facilitate India’s decarbonisation agenda.
Much progress has also been made at the fiscal and policy level to aid India's energy transition to renewables. For example, Mr Kant outlined India’s successful implementation of energy efficiency policies that promote green business models. This includes the aspirational goal of launching a mission to produce hydrogen fuel from green power sources. Also, a future 60-billion-dollar investment is set to be made to help the country transition to a gas-based economy, wherein such infrastructure as re-gasification terminals become the norm.
However, India’s energy transition is not perfect. Mr Kant discussed the challenges ahead, for example, in replacing the monopoly of state-run carbon-intensive power generation a more efficient and competitive distribution system which provides choice to consumers to opt for green services. Elaborating upon such challenges, Professor Dubash added that India’s energy transition is a rather complex and ‘multi-stranded process’. For instance, he argued that opting for sustainable models of development may cause a rise in carbon emissions in India - due in part to rising energy demands.
Professor Dubash noted that a just transition was critical, to minimise the social disruption caused by the shift from coal power shares of energy generation to renewables. In particular, he argued that substitutes will be needed to replace large revenues traditionally gained from fossil fuels in order to maintain India’s financial health. Likewise, the switch to renewables is likely to impact millions of Indian livelihoods heavily dependent on coal industries. Importantly, Professor Dubash stressed that social inequalities will be greatly exacerbated should the cross-subsidy system of the electricity sector be lost during the transition to solar power.
All is not doom and gloom. Both Professor Dubash and Mr Kant agreed that there is still much cause for optimism for India’s energy transition: it has great renewable energy capacity. However, the socio-economic strategies put in place to aid this transition must be kept under a watchful eye.
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