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The sun and wind

Focus on renewable energy is also good for India’s negotiating position at climate change forums.

By: Express News Service |
Updated: February 17, 2015 12:34:07 am

At India’s first investors’ meet for green energy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi acknowledged the work still to be done by the government in providing power to its people. Reportedly, about 35,000 villages and one in four people still lack access to electricity, and events such as the July 2012 blackout due to the failure of the northern power grid highlight how installed power capacity — dominated by coal-fired plants — is woefully inadequate to meet even current demand. This lack of power imposes obvious economic costs and throttles growth.

So the prime minister’s move to link universal and affordable access to electricity to an expansion in India’s renewable energy capacity signals a welcome commitment to addressing the energy challenge. It promises to reduce the country’s overwhelming dependence on fossil fuels while strengthening its negotiating position at global climate change discussions.

India has rightly resisted pressure to set targets to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, arguing that it needs to prioritise economic growth. At the same time, however, the NDA government has made ambitious commitments to substantially ramp up India’s renewable energy capacity. It has revised a solar energy target from 20,000 megawatts in 2022 to 1,00,000 MW. It also plans to generate 60,000 MW in wind power. Power, Coal and Renewable Energy Minister Piyush Goyal has called for $200 billion in investments, including $100 billion in renewables, and said that the government is looking to increase the share of renewable sources in the overall energy basket to 15 per cent in a decade, from 6 per cent currently — a goal that is reflected in the National Action Plan on Climate Change. And though a bilateral climate treaty of the kind signed between the US and China last year was realistically never on the cards, agreements were signed during US President Barack Obama’s recent visit to aid Indian renewable energy projects in mobilising funding and investment.

Though Modi has denied the suggestion that his government’s push for renewable energy is aimed at an international audience, the fact is that these announcements could preempt criticism of India at global climate change forums, where it has often been accused of obstructing a meaningful deal. While taking steps to address climate change is, of course, in India’s own interest, diversifying its energy basket and thereby reducing its carbon footprint is also smart diplomacy.

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First published on: 17-02-2015 at 12:34:04 am
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