CM – « We need to rapidly increase the use of renewable energies in India »


Because now we have to recognize that we need a completely new direction of the economy in the next half century, says Arunabha Ghosh, founder of CEEW


India will need a change in mindset and workforce skills to meet the net zero target set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi by 2070, said Arunabha Ghosh, founder of the New Delhi-based think tanks Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW). In a recent study, CEEW forecast that India’s total installed solar power capacity would have to rise to over 5,600 gigawatts in order to reach net zero by 2070. In addition, coal consumption, especially for power generation, would have to decrease 99% by 2060 for India to reach net zero by 2070. In addition, consumption of crude oil would have to peak in all sectors by 2050 and drop significantly by 90% between 2050 and 2070. Edited excerpts from an interview with Ghosh.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi outlined very ambitious goals for India at the meeting in Glasgow. How are we going to achieve this as it means shutting down coal power plants, reducing oil consumption and so on. What do we have to do?

First of all, we need to rapidly increase the use of renewable energies in the country. We are already looking at the non-fossil capacity of 500 GW. If you look at the amount of nuclear and hydropower that we have, it will be mostly renewable, and so we will basically have to put about 10MW to 11MW of renewable energy every single hour we work for the next nine years. p>

The second thing that needs to happen is the rapid electrification of industry. Currently, less than 20% of our industrial energy comes from electricity. That is why small and medium-sized companies use more polluted fuels for their industrial energy. In other words, rapid electrification of the industrial sector combined with electricity from renewable energies.

The third has to be the big push for alternative fuels for heavy industry, that is, steel, cement, petrochemicals and fertilizers. These account for around 75% of our industrial emissions. So these are high-intensity sectors, you need a lot of energy to produce steel or cement. This is where the green hydrogen mission (announced by Prime Minister Modi on August 15) becomes extremely important. Because the possibility of producing hydrogen from renewable energies and then using this hydrogen as a substitute for coal or gas will set the industrial energy equation in motion.

Then there is transportation. We need to electrify the two-wheeler, three-wheeler and passenger car market quickly, but for long-distance transport, the great thing about it is that the prime minister has already declared Indian railways net zero by 2030. It will be the first major rail system in the world to be net zero. And we will probably also need green hydrogen for long-distance transport.

So these are the components of what it takes to get started, but at the end of the day, all of these will require the total price of carbon as well. Because now we have to realize that we have to give the economy a completely new direction for the next half century. And everyone – corporate giant, small business, farmer, politician, political decision maker, investor, technology developer – everyone has to internalize whatever they do – clothing has to be sustainable. You make sweets, it has to be sustainable. Investments will be made here, new companies will emerge there, risk capital must go there. And all of this will require a signal of the carbon price.

It’s a mindset change, it’s a lifestyle change, it’s a material change – the type of minerals we use, the materials we use for different types of technologies that we are going to use, it’s different from that what we’ve done so far.

Are we really ready to do all of this in a country of 1.3 billion people? It’s a big job.

I don’t think any country is prepared for this because very few politicians have the courage to tell people that the future will be different from the past and that is why the Prime Minister’s declaration, the Declaration, has not been withdrawn from nowhere . A tremendous amount of analytical work has gone into making these commitments. So this is not impossible, but it takes political courage to make this statement that very few political leaders have made. China, for example, has not said anything about how it intends to achieve net zero, while India has been very clear about what the short term goals will be, not just long term. In the past 12 years, the developed world has consumed a total of 25 billion tons of excess carbon budget, and we say we will be reducing our emissions intensity in the next decade. It is therefore very important that the people inside and outside India recognize the extent of the ambition, but also the courage behind this ambition.

We have some guidelines – the EV Directive, for example. What are the next steps we need to take?

We now need clear guidelines for each of these elements, whatever renewable energy there is, EV (Electric Vehicle) policy – the ambitions should be clearly defined. We also need indications that the economy is about to see carbon pricing as this will help businesses gain clarity as many companies use internal carbon pricing. So if you have an explicit carbon price then this is a level playing field for companies that create regulatory clarity and then underpin all of this with legislative changes. India should have a law that says this is the ambition. Because legal protection gives him even more credibility and then we measure ourselves against our progress.

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