10 Solutions for India’s Energy Future

By Prithviraj Lingayat

Energy is the most important commodity of our world today. Energy fuels our economic system and over time we have incorporated the use of energy in almost all walks of our life. Just think about all the things you use which need energy, Phones, Cars, bikes, Televisions, laptops, washing machines… seriously, will this list even end?

We recently concluded the National Conference on ‘Energy, Environment & Economic Growth: Emerging Challenges’ and it was a big success! It brought about a knowledge exchange between economists, ecologists and industry experts. The ideas discussed in the conference were of high quality and provided clarity to what an ‘Integrated Pathway’ between environment and economics will look like. But what is the use of such a great conference if we don’t revisit the ideas discussed in it? In this blog, we will do exactly that! Here we take a look back to the third session of ‘Changing Energy Dynamics for India’ and put together the most important actionable solutions mentioned in the conference.

Energy is the most important commodity of our world today and has been so since Human settlements developed. Initially, humans relied on renewable energy like sun, wood, and water-flow to harness energy. Then with the advent of the Industrial revolution, we shifted to fossil fuels. Now, we are at a juncture where we need to go back to renewables, only in more diverse forms including solar, wind and biofuels.

Why is Energy sector so important? How is it relevant to my life?

Energy fuels our economic system and over time we have incorporated the use of energy in almost all walks of our life. Just think about all the things you use which need energy, Phones, Cars, bikes, Televisions, laptops, washing machines… seriously, will this list even end? With increasing material demand and population, the use of energy also has been on the rise. Yes, energy makes our lives easy but our energy sources also have a huge impact on the environment. The energy sector is responsible for almost 70% of all carbon emissions, thus like our appliances, energy is also fuelling Climate Change.

Recent studies show that the energy mix we are using now, which heavily utilizes fossil fuels like coal, petrol, etc. is making it economically unviable too. And as energy is such a core part of our lives, it is bound to have impacts on our personal life too. Till now you must have realized that the Energy sector must change and it must change fast! Let’s now look at what the actionable solutions which need to be incorporated in India’s future energy plan –

1. Net Zero must not stay as a slogan, it must become our reality
Net Zero refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gas (GHG) produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere. To stabilize Climate Change, the CO2 emissions should not exceed the earth’s capacity to sequester/store carbon. Net Zero must be India’s goal, and for that India would have to plan and regulate ‘Carbon Budgets’ for industries as well as individuals. Till now, many nations including the UK have committed to go Net Zero by 2050. India will also need to go Net Zero at the earliest, and this would mean rapid roll-outs of Renewable Energy.

2. Establish a cohesive Government mechanism
The state plays a very important and dominating role in the entire energy value chain. There are energy ministries at the Centre as well as State levels, along with these there is a gamut of companies, committees and national organizations which create an extremely complex structure. There are at least 60 bodies which report directly to the ministerial level. This creates inefficiencies in the decision-making process. India needs to build a common vision and a common reform roadmap to create a cross-government framework, this would ensure greater co-ordination between institutions, markets, infrastructure, etc.

3. Making use of Proven Technologies
India must make use of Proven Technologies in fields of energy efficiency, Renewable Energy, fuel substitution for industries, Carbon Capture & Storage, and synthetic fuels. Scenarios painted by even the IEA point out to the fact that India can achieve the 2o C goal if we effectively allocate proven green low-carbon technologies. Along with this, a line of sight to future technologies will help to address the dynamics of India’s energy transition.

4. Localization of Technologies
India is yet to provide 24x7 energy supply to millions of people and overall energy demand is also expected to double in the next 10 years. Localized energy generation sources or decentralized sources can provide energy to specific regions according to their demand and empower locals through green jobs. These sources are also more resilient as they are distributed as opposed to being centralized. And can empower rural areas greatly.

5. Installing Smart Microgrids
Microgrids are localized small grids which can operate autonomously and still coordinate with the main grid. As microgrids are stand-alone they can cut themselves out of the main grid during some emergency shutdowns and still function efficiently. Distributed generation and distributed supply will be important for a country like India where energy demands are diverse in terms of geography, population, urbanization, etc. Smart microgrids powered by Renewable Energy will provide resilient and efficient solutions for modern India.

6. Exploring innovative solutions for energy storage & energy generation
With a population as huge as India, there is bound to be huge material usage as well. This in turn means heaps of waste. We must explore innovative options such as waste-to-energy, Biogas, Bio-diesel, Gasifier + fuel cells, etc., as these energy options can help in efficient material management. India should look beyond batteries for storage options. Combining two or more available technologies can also help to circumvent the need for storage capacity.

7. Incentivizing Green Investments
Most of the green funds today come from the commercial banks, followed by the public sector undertakings and then the government budgets. The lack of dominance of the ‘Green Bond Market’ are signs of worry for India. The government must revitalize the Green Bond Market and mandate banks and funding agencies to have the component of climate change in their investment portfolio. Further, these funds must be directed towards innovation in green energy sources which can help in cost-cutting for the future.

8. The Transition must be Rapid
India is the most vulnerable country to climate change among the USD 1 Trillion+ economies. So, unlike some other countries, India does not have the luxury to transition slowly. Our plan for transition must be rapid. And the targets need to be revamped to make the roadmap to a Net Zero energy sector inclusive.

9. Finding synergy between the 3 big drivers
For India to have a bright energy future, there are 3 drivers for Renewable Energy which need to function efficiently, function together and function on time. The 3 drivers are —

I. Engineering
II. Political Will
III. Financial support
Simply put, India will have to innovate and engineer better technological solutions, the political will must pull the right levers and plan for long term sustainability, and finally, there has to be ample financial support for the Green energy transition.

10. Energy transition WON’T solve everything
Even though energy transition is critical and necessary, there are several other diverse levers which India will have to pull. India will have to create roadmaps for reforms in Electricity, Transportation, Agriculture, Industry, Building, and Finance sectors — all at the same time. At an individual level, we must also limit our frivolous material demand as just an energy transition would be meaningless if Earth resources still stay subject to exploitation.

Conclusion
This list of 10 actionable solutions portrays what our governments and institutions need to do. But it is our collective responsibility to be a part of this ‘Paradigm Shift’ in the energy sector. Our individual actions, such as reducing demand and making efficient use of energy, matter as much as these long-term solutions. However, the most important responsibility we all have in our democracy — is to build support for this ‘Green Energy Transition’, which must stem from the grass-roots.

Prithviraj, currently a student of Garware College of Commerce wants to design innovative solutions for real-world problems and find better models of development which synergise social harmony, environment and economics… He works as a policy research intern with CCP.

PS — Pune International Centre organized an Online National Conference on 22–23 January 2021! It was a first of its kind initiative to open up a discussion on Climate Economics in India and promote the effort to synergize Economy and Environment. Visit our Website to know more.

CCP aims to make citizens better aware about Climate Change and proactively make cities like Pune Carbon Neutral at the earliest. #ClimateAction