India has set strong examples in transitioning to a low-carbon future through several initiatives designed to slash the country’s emissions. Guided by the themes of the recently concluded Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS), these initiatives are classified under:
A. Healthy Energy Systems
- 227GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022
India is likely to overshoot its previous target of 175GW of installed renewable energy capacity by 2022, and is now targeting 227GW by March 2022. Utility-scale solar energy will play a key role, as will on-shore wind energy capacity. The country is also aiming to harness 30GW of offshore wind energy potential by 2030.
- Gradual demise of coal
Several GW of old coal-fired thermal power plants have been retired (24GW since January 2018 alone). Coal-fired power also accounts for about 40GW of stressed/non performing assets in India – 11% of its total power capacity – and 15.7GW of these have not even been commissioned over the lack of demand.
There is also growing public concern and acknowledgement by the government of the air quality impacts of coal-fired power. Reverse auctions have made renewables’ tariffs cheaper than coal-fired power, and existing coal plants will additionally face stricter SOx, NOx, CO2, PM and Mercury emission norms from 2022.
B. Inclusive Economic Growth
- Stronger creation of jobs by renewables
Renewables added in excess of 150,000 new jobs to India’s employment figures in 2017 – primarily in engineering, project implementation and operations management. The sector is likely to emerge as a key driver in skilled employment generation as it attracts the estimated $50 billion in investment needed to achieve India’s 2022 targets.
- Power for All by 2019
The current Indian government has guaranteed 24X7 power for all Indians by March 2019. Every village in the country has already been electrified, which will begin to extend economic benefits to their residents. Electricity access to every citizen under the SAUBHAGYA scheme – powered by more renewable energy in the mix – will open more opportunities for sustainable economic growth.
The Centre also launched the KUSUM (Kisan Urja Suraksha Evam Utthaan Mahaabhiyan) in July 2018 – that aims to generate 10GW of additional solar power from 2.75 million solar-powered agricultural water pumps over the next 10 years. Farmers can sell any excess electricity generated back to the grid to earn secondary income as well.
C. Sustainable Communities
- Smart Cities
The Indian administration launched its Smart Cities Mission in 2015 with a corpus of $14 billion – with the aim of using data analytics to optimize resource allocation for power generation, transportation and water use in 100 cities. 99 such cities have been identified – each of which will derive at least 10% of their power from renewable sources.
- Rainwater Harvesting
The northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh has launched its rainwater harvesting policy to minimize freshwater runoff. Every new built-up project in Mumbai with an area of more than 100 sq. m. will also be mandated to incorporate rainwater harvesting per the draft Maharashtra Groundwater (Development and Management) Rules, 2018.
- Energy efficiency and Green Building codes
India has been pursuing a nationwide drive in promoting LED lighting, more energy efficient household appliances and eco-friendly construction practices through its Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA) and Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) codes. The codes also aim to significantly reduce water consumption and waste generation. The country’s green building potential is estimated at around 10 billion sq. ft. by 2022.
- Electric Mobility
Several Indian cities are exploring pilot projects to use EVs for public transit & shared mobility. India’s Electricity Act (2003) has also been amended to allow setting up of charging stations without licensing requirements. And the country’s unique demographics and upcoming innovations – such as battery swapping terminals – could drive massive sales of EVs, particularly in the 2 & 3-wheeler space.
An EV policy is also likely to be announced to clearly define technical standards and financial incentives for automakers to help them transition to electric vehicles.
D. Land and Ocean Stewardship
- REDD+ & Ujjwala
India’s Environment Ministry has launched the country’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) strategy in August 2018 to capture 2.5-3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2030. This will be achieved by increasing India’s forest and tree cover through focused re-forestation and tree plantation drives.
The strategy will dovetail into the Ujjwala scheme’s target of providing free LPG access to 50 million poor women who currently depend on fossil fuels and forest biomass for their cooking needs.
- Ban on single-use plastics
India’s ministry of environment has also enacted one the toughest nation-wide bans on wasteful single-use plastics – to fully eliminate their use by 2022 and their impacts on India’s drainage systems and its freshwater and marine resources. The ban was affected on June 5, 2018 (World Environment Day) and has already resulted in heavy penalties for non-compliance.
E. Transformative Climate Investments
- International Solar Alliance (ISA)
The ISA is India’s flagship project on mobilizing up to $1000 billion in financing for solar projects (by 20230) across the developing world. The Alliance will help aggregate demand for solar water pumps and solar-powered electricity systems in its 121 member nations to prevent the emission of billions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. India has already committed $350million towards the objective.
- Stiffer clean energy cess on coal
India established the National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF) in 2010 to fund its renewable energy ambitions by taxing its coal output. The cess has been doubled from Rs.200/ton of coal in 2012-2015 to Rs. 400/ton since 2015 – which is expected to add Rs. 95,000 crore (nearly $14bllion) to the NCEF by 2020.
- Renewables attracting much larger investments
Private and multi-lateral investment in India’s renewable energy projects in 2017 ($20 billion) outstripped investment in thermal power systems ($16 billion) – which was also the lowest ever annual investment in the sector for the last 15 years. Solar energy alone accounted for $10 billion of the amount (up from $4 billion in 2016).
Nearly $2.5 billion was also raised through green bonds issued by the country’s largest clean energy developers. India’s largest bank – State Bank of India – also plans to raise $500 million through debt financing as renewables have established themselves as better investment opportunities.