How Can India Make A Sustainable Shift From Fossil Fuels To Cleaner Energy Sources?

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Any average individual as of now would know that the planet is in peril. Anyone like you and I would understand that snowcaps are melting, forests are dying, and more species of organisms are getting endangered as we speak. This is all on a global scale. Anyone living in Delhi would know the severity and potential harm of the pollution that has us gripped at this moment. This is the climate change we speak of, and it is here, at our doorstep now.

India is a flourishing economy. We are nearing 2020 in less than a month, and whether we have reached the goals for 2020 that Late Dr A.P.J Abdul Kalam, our former President envisioned for the country, will be a matter of debate—it cannot escape anyone that the industrial sector of the nation increased multiple folds. According to a survey conducted by the Economic Times, as of May 2018, the Industrial Production grew as much as 3.1%. The IIP (Index of Industrial Production) increased by 3.8%.

According to the GHG platform India, a forum built up by the Indian Civil Society to understand the nation’s GHG (Greenhouse gas) emissions estimates, the total emission of CO2 e with the GWP or Global Warming Potential of 1 according to the second assessment report. For Agriculture Forest and other Land Use or AFOLU, the sum of estimated emission was 172, 304, 759 tonnes and that energy emissions, in total taking both fugitive and fuel emissions in regard was 1,999,778,823. These numbers seem daunting, and they no doubt are, which should, at this point, force us to consider some implications to this grave situation.

Conventional energy sources such as petrol and diesel are textbook sources. We have heard of them, we have worked with them for decades and more now. Non-renewable energy sources might be the more known and go-to option, but the fact is that they will replenish very soon, and they are responsible for emissions of nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, carbon tetrafluoride and methane etc.

Source: carbonproject.org

The Global Warming Potential, of any GHG, is the amount of infrared radiation absorbed by it and its lasting ability in the atmosphere. For CO2, while it is 1, it can range up to 11 for CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons) and Hydrofluorocarbons it can range up to 14. What is also necessary to be noted is that CFCs and HFCs are the most frequent emissions by most industries and are emitted by appliances as frugally used as refrigerators.

Source: ghg platform-india.org

For a country like India, which is flourishing economically at a debatable pace, it is next to impossible for us to put a blanket on the automobile, electrical and electronic industries. Still, we as citizens of not just the nation but the globe, can work our way towards some more renewable sources of energy. As of 2019, India’s total electricity production mix is 35% from renewable energy, 55% from coal, 2% from nuclear power, and the remaining 8% from small hydro and other sources.

However, the chief energy consumption in India increased by 7.9% in 2018 and is the third-largest after China and USA with 5.8% global share. The cumulative prime energy consumption from unrefined oil (29.55%), natural gas ( 6.17%), coal (55.88%), nuclear power  (1.09%), hydroelectricity (3.91%) and renewable energy (23.40%) is 809.2 Mtoe in the year 2018. India is principally reliant on fossil fuel imports to meet its energy requirements by 2030; India’s dependence on energy imports is anticipated to exceed 53% of the country’s total energy consumption.

But, India requires to boost its installed renewable energy potential from 78 GW to 175 GW by March 2022. Of that 175 GW, 100 GW is to be solar power. Moreover, India wants to double the share of renewable energy in its total capacity to 40% by 2030. However, issues related to land acquisition, funding and policy continue to come in the way of these projects.

India has progressed steadily towards a more efficient and sustainable way to consume energy. Compressed Natural Gas, is one such example. Biogas plants that are being set up in rural and remote India, target areas according to Dr Kalam’s 2020 goals, are rapidly replacing firewood that was used daily. Biogas literally uses cow dung, methane emissions into productive energy that runs electricity and provides heat.

Some initiatives by the Government of India to support the Indian renewable energy sector are as follows:

  • A new Hydropower plan for 2018-28 has been designed for the increase of hydro schemes in the nation.
  • The Government of India has declared a project to implement a US$ 238 million National Mission on advanced ultra-supercritical technologies for cleaner coal utilisation.
  • The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has chosen to give custom and excise tax benefits to the solar rooftop sector, which will lower the expense of setting up as well as generating energy, thus increasing growth.
  • The Indian Railways is taking increased efforts through sustained energy-saving measures and maximum use of clean fuel to diminish emission level by 33% by 2030.
A girl studies under the light of a rechargeable solar lamp. Without the lamp she couldn’t study at night as her home in Natore, Bangladesh has no access to electricity. Photo: GMB Akash/PANOS

NGOs such as Vasudha foundation, GHG platform-India, Greenpeace India and Pairvi in Delhi, are striving towards making climate change a more pressing topic in everyone’s mind.  Greenpeace India, in partnership with regional NGOs like BASIX and Centre for Environment and Energy Development (CEED), has been operating in the field of energy access for many years. They have showcased successful decentralised rural electrification models like that of Dharnai village in Jehanabad district of Bihar. Organisations like India Youth Climate Network is doing the job of educating young individuals about the problem we are all facing together as one planet, climate change and the dire consequences that would follow were we to keep a casual attitude about our carbon footprints and GHG emissions.

Some Ways In Which Citizens Can Be Encouraged To Use Cleaner Energy Options:

1. Eliminate fossil fuels subsidies and put a price on carbon.

Subsidy reform, coupled with carbon pricing, could create an expected $2.8 trillion in annual state revenues or savings by 2030. Data from the 70 national and subnational economies that have put a price on carbon are about to reveal that it does not slow economic growth but presents a clear and steady signal for business, manufacturing and customers to change direction. Even where carbon pricing is not yet in position, enterprises and development finance institutions can implement shadow carbon prices to drive finances away from increasingly risky fossil fuel options. These steps will help unveil the value proposition of renewables and energy efficiency.

2. Step up investment in energy efficiency.

In India, a government-backed organisation, Energy Efficiency Services Limited, pools procurement to expand markets for high-efficiency lighting and appliances. The system provides more than 35 billion kilowatt-hours in annual energy savings and $2.3 billion in cost savings. Energy efficiency finance also creates up to three times the number of jobs as the same stake in fossil fuels.

3. Improve access to electricity and clean cooking.

Solar breakthroughs joined with high-efficiency lighting and appliances are reducing costs of household electricity, while innovative consumer finance is improving affordability and developing markets for decentralised solutions. Universal access to clean cooking singly could bypass 1.8 million premature deaths yearly by 2030, save billions of hours spent cooking or gathering fuelwood, and better livelihoods for millions of women.

In clean energy businesses, training women entrepreneurs have shown encouraging results and making women’s employment a priority could stimulate market growth. For example, Grameen Shakti in Bangladesh has taught 3,000 women as solar technicians to place and manage Solar Home Systems in rural areas. 4.12 million solar systems have been introduced, improving per capita income by 9 to 12%, generating 115,000 jobs and decreasing carbon emissions by 160,000 tonnes annually.

Moving from conventional to green energy is the course for the future, one that is ripe with business opportunities and long-term benefits such as cleaner air and new jobs. It is not an alternative; it’s imperative to achieve a better economy and better lives.

This post has been written by a YKA Climate Correspondent as part of #WhyOnEarth. Join the conversation by adding a post here.
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