India has declared the goal to achieve Net Zero emissions by 2070. As India’s growth story unfolds, its demand for energy and resources is set to rise. Energy use has doubled in the last 20 years and is likely to grow by at least another 25% by 2030. Major sectors like mobility and industrial production are significantly dependent on imported fossil fuels. This necessitates a shift towards technologies that enable enhanced share of renewable sources in the energy mix, and progressively reduce the reliance on fossil fuels.
At the UN climate change conference in Glasgow, COP26, India committed to meeting 50% of its energy needs from renewable energy by 2030. Indian policymakers have had the confidence to make these commitments due to their confidence in their industry partners. Tata Power, for instance, is investing heavily (a capex of over Rs 75,000 crores) in renewables and adding over 700 MW of capacity in renewables in FY22 alone.
They’ve also joined hands with News18 Network to launch ‘Sustainable is Attainable’ - An Initiative to fast-track India’s Green Energy transition by propagation and popularisation of green and clean energy, making a sustainable lifestyle ‘attainable’ for millions of Indians via wide-scale adoption of green products and solutions.
As a part of this initiative, CNN-News18’s Marya Shakil spoke with Union Minister of Power, New & Renewable Energy, R K Singh, who is leading the GOI’s charge towards India’s Green Energy Transition. The following are excerpts from their conversation.
India’s Emergence as a Global Leader in Green Energy Transition
According to the latest Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI, 2023), India is amongst the top 5 best performing countries on Climate Change, and the best amongst the G20 nations. According to Mr R K Singh, the pace at which we’ve carried out this energy transition is unprecedented. “We said that by 2030, 40 percent of our power generation capacity will come from non-fossils. We achieved that in November 2021 and today 42 percent of our power generation capacity comes from non-fossils, most of which is renewable. That is, solar, wind, hydro and nuclear power is just about 6800 megawatts."
Mr Singh also expressed confidence in our ability to overachieve our target on emissions intensity. “We had said that by 2030 we will reduce the emissions intensity for the economy by 33 to 35 percent. We are already at 30 percent."
This from a country whose per capita emissions are one third of the global average and our share in the legacy CO2 load on the planet is just about 3.4%, while our population is 17.5% of the world population. For context, 85% of the legacy carbon load comes from developed countries.
Powering growth, while powering sustainability
India is a nation where experiencing power shortages has been fairly commonplace. In fact, for many years, last mile connectivity to electricity has continued to be a challenge. In recent months however, much progress has been made. “We have connected hundreds and thousands of hamlets, covering the hopes of 29 million in just 19 months. We’ve connected the whole country into one grid running on one frequency today. Our grid is the largest integrated grid in the world bar none. International agencies called it the largest expansion of access in such a short short time frame in the history of electricity."
Mr Singh also talked about strengthening the distribution systems by spending Rs 2,08,000 crores under various schemes in the past six years. “We have added 2,900 substations and upgraded almost about 3000 odd substations. We’ve installed 7.5 lakh transformers as a result of which the availability of power in rural areas went up from about 12 hrs in 2015 to 22.5 hrs today. Moreover, at a time when we’re seeing mayhem in worldwide energy prices, and energy prices have doubled and tripled in various parts of Europe, India’s energy prices have remained constant."
Mr Singh also drew attention to the rapid increase in demand: our power demands have grown 12-12.5% in the last quarter, and 10.6 percent over last year. He estimates that daily demand has grown by roughly 25000 MW over the corresponding window last year. India’s installed power generation capacity is expected to swell to 800 GW by 2030, setting our non-fossil power generation capacity target at 400 GW. Mr Singh is confident of exceeding this target. “Our current installed non-fossil energy capacity stands at 177 GW with roughly 80 GW under construction. This brings us to roughly 250 GW. So we only need to build 150 GW more!" He also expressed confidence in meeting India’s target to build capabilities to produce at least 5 Million Metric Tonne (MMT) of Green Hydrogen per annum by 2030.
Making India’s Green Future, In India
According to Mr Singh, our ability to manage our growing economy’s increased power demands can be attributed to increases in our increasing green power generation capabilities, as well as our growing manufacturing capacities. “At the moment, we have module manufacturing capacity for 20,000 MW. This is expected to grow to 30,000 MW next year and 90,000 MW by 2030. That is the quantum of manufacturing coming up. This growth is fueling India’s growth. This is what gives us the confidence to tell the world that we can do it."
Another notable feature of this growth has been the source of the investments that fueled it. Mr Singh pointed out that over 90% of the investment has come from private entrepreneurs, not GOI. He believes that this speaks to how strongly the ecosystem is structured. “Our bidding documents and process are transparent, and if we change anything there, we consult industry first. We’ve also set up robust dispute resolution mechanisms. This creates confidence. If you feel safe, you will invest your money. If you compete effectively, you will win the bid. If you set up power production, you will get paid. And if there are any disputes, you will be treated fairly."
The Pathway to Achieving India’s Net Zero Pledge
Mr Singh laid out four key stages:
“The first step towards Net Zero involves moving towards green electricity. We have to green our electricity, and we have to move industries - wherever they are consuming coal, coke, petroleum, etc as a source of power, we have to move them to electricity. The second step is to move our power generation to renewables, so solar, wind, hydro, etc. The third step is feedstock: ammonia and methanol for instance. How do you make green ammonia and green methanol, how do you make green hydrogen? Preferably, you do it with green energy. 75% of the input cost is the cost of energy, so the argument for green energy makes itself. The next step is carbon capture because there will be some sectors where it will be very difficult to switch to green feedstock. Where we cannot replace it, we have to mitigate through carbon capture and we are running pilots on this now."
He also spoke about renewables being at the core of this transformation. How we envision mobility now is moving away from fossil fuel based mobility: from petrol or diesel for two and four wheelers to electric mobility for individual and family transport. For heavy transport, buses and long haul trucks, hydrogen is the more feasible way. This is because of the prohibitive size of the batteries needed for long haul transport. The size and weight of the batteries become so so huge that the load penalty is high.
For shipping, not only India, but the world is looking towards green ammonia and green methanol. The International Maritime Association anticipates that by 2030, 50% of shipping will involve these fuels.
Here too, Mr Singh seemed hopeful about India’s advantages and abilities. “We have set ourselves a target of achieving 20 million tonnes manufacturing capacity for green hydrogen by 2030. While nearly all of the developed world has announced Net Zero targets, they don’t have India’s advantages. They don’t have the space for making green hydrogen and they don’t have our huge renewables industry. I am confident we will soon emerge as the world’s biggest source of green ammonia and we aim to lead the supply of green hydrogen for the developed world. Not only that, I am confident that our green hydrogen costs will be the lowest in the world."
Atmanirbhar Bharat through green energy
Possibly the most inspiring part of this conversation revolved around the role of the individual in India’s Green Energy transition. While GOI is setting big wheels in motion, Mr Singh doesn’t discount the role of the individual. “As homo sapiens, we realise that there’s just one boat, one planet. There’s no alternative planet to migrate to. It is incumbent on us to save this planet, and to do so, we must remember what Mahatma Gandhi said: There is enough for everybody’s need, but not for everyone’s greed. We have to keep our consumption of goods, services and energy within reasonable limits, instead of indulging in conspicuous consumption."
One of the great advantages of renewable energy is distributed generation. Every consumer today can be a prosumer - generating their own solar power when the sun is shining. Of course, for businesses, the ability to adopt renewables and generate their own power multiplies manifold. “Renewable energy is something for which India has abundant resources: we don’t need to import fossil fuel. The sun is shining, the wind is blowing: we just have to utilise it. There is enough, and it is the energy of nature, the earth and the sun. Renewable energy is, by definition, atmanirbhar."
You can watch the full conversation here. To know more about Tata Power’s sustainable energy portfolio, visit the Sustainable is Attainable Initiative website, and help spread the word.
This is a Partnered Post.
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