India And China’s Energy Strategy Holds The Key To Our Planet’s Future

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India and China, are catching up with the west in several key development metrics. As a billion people rise up the standard of living ladder, how the two countries navigate the energy demand – increased emissions equation will determine the fate of our planet.

Collectively, India and China hold within them 2.6 Billion people with the numbers rising and set to hit the 3 billion mark by 2025. These countries rank 130 and 86 on the UN’s Human Development Index respectively, far behind the countries in the west where rankings do not fall below the 20th mark. With both their GDPs growing at 6%+ figures while the GDPs of the western countries grow only in the 2-3% bracket, India and China will soon become the world’s biggest economies, and as a consequence – the largest carbon emitters on the planet. In this 3 pronged analysis, I break down the moving factors that are going to affect our energy future and explain why and how a symbiotic relationship between the two might be the only way to save the world.

1. Energy demand is set to rise around the world and will be driven majorly by India and China. Emissions will increase as well.

No alt text provided for this image

Source: www.ourenergypolicy.org

  • The energy sector contributes to 66% of global CO2 emissions [more energy demand = more emissions]
  • There is a strong causal link between the development stage of a country and its energy demand [increase in development = increase in energy demand] Throughout history, energy demand has mirrored growth in GDP and this trend is not set to change despite improvements in energy efficiency since most of the GDP growth in the coming decades will come from developing nations, whose citizens will be climbing the HDI ladder (in graph) and basic needs and prosperity will be prioritized over efficiency. Therefore through simple transitive logic: [increased development = increased emissions]
  • The major causes of this rising energy demand will be the expanding service/ digital economies around the world and rapid urbanization in the developing world. Analysts now predict that energy demand will rise by about 25% leading up to 2040.
  • Most of this growth will stem primarily from Asia, which will make up 40% of the energy demand share by 2040, while the U.S and Europe will account for only 20%. The figures are exactly opposite as things stand in 2019.

Now, onto the question of how this energy demand will be met…

2. Renewable Energy has been catching up with several other generation sources but challenges remain. Therefore, a large chunk of this additional demand will be met through fossil fuels.

  • Renewable energy currently supplies just under 20% of the world’s capacity, and this percentage is set to rise up to 40% going into 2040 based on current trends
  • We believe that this will happen because solar costs have fallen by 73% since 2010 and are expected to fall by 59% more in the next 5 years. At this pace, solar will overtake coal in the world energy mix by 2040. At the same time, wind costs have fallen by 22% since 2010 and are expected to fall by 26% more in the next 5 years.
  • Several countries have shown their willingness to move to renewables – over 57 have committed to decarbonizing their power sectors including oil-exporting UAE. Denmark, Costa Rica, Germany, and Portugal have in fact shown periods where they have entirely relied on renewable sources for their energy.
  • Falling costs, national policy support, and corporate willingness have boosted the sector exponentially over the last few years, but the sector is yet to combat the intermittency of these generation sources (solar stops producing when there are clouds/ at night, and wind is extremely seasonal) which often requires other firmer sources (natural gas, coal, etc.) to produce reliable power.

i.e renewables are on track to occupy a larger chunk of the energy pie, but the pie is growing too, meaning that coal and oil will continue to grow for the foreseeable future even if they occupy a smaller share of the overall mix. Having said that, as renewables overtake oil in the energy mix, we will see tectonic shifts in global relations.

3. When Oil’s relevance declines globally, massive geopolitical shifts will occur, and India and China will be in the thick of it

  • If renewables and other cleaner sources of energy continue to gain prominence, countries will seek to protect themselves from price fluctuations in the oil market, while clean energy leaders will seem to maximize hold over the market i.e Energy security, Income Security, and Profit will be the major drivers for national policy decisions in the time to come.
  • Countries that are currently dependent on oil imports for their energy needs will look to centralize their energy production in house by doubling down on clean energy investments and/or looking to other alternative sources – Nuclear, LNG, etc.
  • Oil exporters, on the other hand, will look to diversify their income to hedge risk and will look to develop relationships with countries that will continue to have the need for oil – i.e expanding economies like India and China
  • Similarly, countries that have a high potential for renewable energy deployment will look to maximize profits through energy trade once their own needs are met.
Global Solar Potential
Source: IEA Global Energy Outlook 2018
Global Wind Potential
Source: IEA Global Energy Outlook 2018
  • As you can see – China, Australia, China, Greenland, Iceland, and parts of Africa are well-positioned to exploit renewable sources for profit while the Americas and parts of India will be adequately rewarded as well.
  • In this context, any country which holds the most important IP or monopolizes manufacturing in the clean energy space will dictate market terms.
Renewable energy IP

Source: IRENA

  • A brief glance at the chart attached in this section will show you just how that story is playing out – China is far ahead of its peers in terms of technological innovation in the field and is currently the largest producer, exporter, and installer of solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, and electric vehicles, globally. [China is doing well]
  • India, on the other hand, is heavily exposed to oil imports, holds close to no significant patents in clean energy tech, and is yet, poised to be the fastest-growing energy market over the next decade i.e could end up relying too heavily on oil/ energy imports. There is, however, significant policy intent from India to become a clean energy powerhouse with the government announcing an ambitious 500 GW clean energy target for 2030 (currently only 70 GW is installed), and taking a leadership position in the International Solar Alliance. [India is in trouble but moving in the right direction]

Let’s get this straight – because of their move towards prosperity and the challenges of renewable energy, both India and China will have an increased demand for coal and oil over the next 2 decades and the atmosphere just cannot afford to hold that amount of CO2 emissions if we are to restrict global warming to 2 degrees.

Having said that, both of them have shown serious intent in decarbonizing their power sectors to move towards a cleaner future – with China evidently ahead in its effort of setting up the policy and infrastructural foundation for an imminent energy transition.

With global temperatures rising and set to rise due to increased emissions into 2040, I would argue that if India and China do not collaborate and re-calibrate up their energy policy for an emission-free future, the entirely just motive of raising a poor nation to prosperity, will, unfortunately, kill any hopes for an environmental recovery as our planet descends into a hothouse state. Here are a few ways in which this can work:

  1. India needs to emulate China’s progress so far by increasing R&D efforts in clean energy, developing a coherent decarbonization policy (and have the state & corporate machinery align with it), and incentivizing local manufacturers of EVs, solar panels, etc.
  2. China and India need to trade knowledge for profit as India will be the fastest-growing energy market in a few years while China will continue to remain the leader in clean energy IP, manufacturing, and deployment. Based on an analysis of the clean energy target (500GW) vs current deployment in India (70GW), I wager that the challenge is larger than can be met by Indian players alone. Chinese players have a massive opportunity to collaborate with Indian players through a knowledge/ resources vs profit exchange arrangement to meet this demand while making easy money.
  3. A unified grid may have significant benefits. Okay so this is a risky one, typically an electricity grid is an asset of national importance and sharing one with a neighbor as aggressive as China might not be the safest move, but there are several benefits if executed. A major problem in solar and wind sites is curtailment – i.e the cutting off of a plant because it has produced more than can be handled by the local grid. A unified national grid followed by a shared grid policy between India and China will be able to shuttle electricity across borders to balance out excesses and shortfalls – a plant in Rajasthan which overproduces electricity will be able to sell it to buyers in Shanghai, and the same will be true for Chinese plants as well. If there is one thing that unites people across borders – it is the opportunity to make money.

It is unfair that the responsibility to save the planet now lies with us, but we have no option but to respond with courage. When things cool down the winners of the energy transition will reap disproportionate rewards.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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