Clean energy challenge for coal-fired India

RITU JHA

The United States and India have launched their climate and clean energy Agenda 2030 partnership to strengthen bilateral collaboration on the key challenges facing the planet.

The virtual launch was announced on April 22 during the President Joe Biden’s Leaders’ Summit on Climate, a two-day gathering that included 40 heads of countries.

The US-India partnership will proceed along two main tracks: The Strategic Clean Energy Partnership, co-chaired by Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, and the Climate Action and Finance Mobilization Dialogue, co-chaired by Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry.

The announcement follows Kerry’s visit to India, where he and Prime Minister Modi affirmed that the US and India would collaborate on a 2030 agenda for clean technologies and climate action.

Modi during his speech shared about his ambitious renewable energy target of 450 gigawatts by 2030 and welcomed partners to create templates of sustainable development in India.

Sameer Kwatra, acting director for India at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in Washington, DC, told indica News that it was a good, forward-thinking initiative by the two largest democracies in the world and it builds on a strong track record established over the last two decades.

With the renewed climate focus by the US, the two countries now have opportunities to reinvigorate their partnership on clean energy, climate finance, climate resilience, sub-national actions, and global climate policy,” Kwatra said.

Asked if it was possible for India, which is heavily dependent on coal, to meet its clean energy goal in just nine years, Kwatra agreed it was a very ambitious goal.

To put it in perspective, 450GW of installed renewable energy capacity is more than the current electricity capacity of Brazil, South Africa, and Russia put together.

Which is why India needs strong collaboration on finance and technology,” Kwatra said. “An effective US-India partnership on climate change can go a long way in supporting India’s goals and ensuring the collective goal of keeping global warming to less than 1.5°C.

A February 2021 report by the the Ohio-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) said that while the renewable energy sector in India has received more than $42 billion in investment since 2014, the country will require $500 billion more in order to reach 450GW clean energy capacity by 2030.

The report estimates $300 billion for wind and solar infrastructure, $50 billion on grid firming investments such as gas peakers, hydro and batteries, and $150 billion on expanding and modernizing transmission and distribution.

The report – co-written by IEEFA research analyst Saurabh Trivedi – comes as the International Energy Agency’s new India Energy Outlook 2021 says India will need $1.4 trillion in additional funding for low emissions technologies in order to be on a sustainable path over the next 20 years – 70 percent higher than in a scenario based on current policy.

India has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform its energy system, said the report’s co-author Tim Buckley, director, Energy Finance Studies, South Asia, IEEEA.

It would be a challenge for India to shut down its coal mines in nine years, admitted Minnesota-based Raj Rajan, VP, Direct Connect LLC & Principal, Inunext LLC. His firm, a power transmission company developing and implementing a new approach to sustainable and resilient power transmission in the US, has a great interest in India’s clean energy agenda.

However, he said: “Instead of spending billions of dollars building big transmission lines from one end of India to another, you can actually do distributed generation,” he said. “Distributed power generation is leapfrogging similar to cell phone buildout like India did earlier when it did not have enough landlines.”