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India’s Transition to Green Energy

Context

  • Climate change is an existential threat with the potential to alter the course of human history. The traditional energy sources that contribute the most to climate change are fossil fuels. They are responsible for more than 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions and roughly 90% of total carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Green energy is the key solution for a better future, allowing India to meet its net zero emission target by 2070.
  • As a result, India should pioneer a new economic development model that avoids the carbon-intensive approaches that many countries have pursued in the past and provides a blueprint for other developing economies to transition to clean energy.

Relevance

GS Paper – 3: Issues Relating to Development, Growth & Development, Renewable Energy, Environmental Pollution & Degradation

Mains Question

Examine the current state of India’s energy sector and propose novel ways for the country to transition to green energy. (150 Words)


What exactly is Green Energy?

  • Green energy is defined as energy derived from renewable sources. Green energy is also known as clean, sustainable, or renewable energy.
    • Because green energy does not emit toxic greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, it has little or no environmental impact.
  • Solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, low-impact hydroelectricity, and certain eligible biomass sources are all important green energy sources.
  • How is India facilitating the transition to green energy?
  • India is the world’s third-largest consumer of energy. Since 2000, energy consumption has more than doubled, with coal, oil, and solid biomass still meeting 80% of demand.
    • India’s energy consumption and emissions are less than half the global average.
  • Efforts Towards Green Energy Transition: o In 2019, India announced that it would increase its installed renewable energy capacity to 450 GW by 2030.
    • The Production Linked Incentive Scheme (PLI) scheme is another initiative of the Government of India aimed at improving the manufacturing sector in order to produce raw materials for renewable energy.
    • The PM-KUSUM (Pradhan Mantri-Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan) aims to provide farmers with financial and water security by harnessing 25,750 MW of solar energy capacity by 2022.
      • Solarization of water pumps is a step toward delivering distributed power to the consumer’s door.
    • On its website, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy also hosts the Akshay Urja Portal and the India Renewable Idea Exchange (IRIX) Portal.
      • IRIX is a platform for the exchange of ideas between energy-conscious Indians and the global community.

What are the Energy Sector Challenges in India?

  • Energy Poverty and Inequality: Access to energy is a major issue in India, with significant disparities in access. In India, approximately 77 million households still use kerosene for lighting.
    • The problem is exacerbated in rural India, where up to 44% of households do not have access to electricity.
    • While India has launched a number of programmes and initiatives to combat energy poverty, they have encountered logistical challenges and inadequate local implementation.
  • Import Dependence and Supply Chain Weaponization: India’s crude oil import bill increased by 76% to USD 90.3 billion in the first half of 2022-23, while total import quantity increased by 15%.
    • With its growing reliance on imported oil, India’s energy security is under severe strain, and the current disrupted global supply chain caused by geopolitical turmoil is exacerbating the problem.
    • When it comes to renewable energy, India is also heavily reliant on foreign countries such as China for solar modules.
      • There is no backward integration in the solar value chain because India currently lacks capacity for manufacturing solar wafers and polysilicon, impeding clean energy transition.
  • Climate Change Caused Energy Crisis: Climate change has a direct impact on fuel supply, energy demand, and the physical resilience of current and future energy infrastructure.
    • Heatwaves and disrupted monsoons caused by climate change are already stressing existing energy generation, making it even more critical to reduce fossil fuel emissions.
  • Women’s Health at Risk: Because women are more involved in household activities, they are at risk when long-term household energy is derived from non-renewable resources such as firewood, coal, and cow dung.
    • Using non-renewable energy sources increases the risk of respiratory, cardiovascular, and psychological diseases in women, as well as maternal and infant mortality.
  • Widening Coal Supply-Demand Gap: Data from the Ministry of Coal in 2021 show that the gap between demand and domestic supply of coal is widening.
    • Despite the availability of adequate reserves, coal extraction in the larger coal-producing states has been declining.
    • Rising prices and unresolved contractual issues with power plants are exacerbating the problem.
  • Increasing Demand, Increasing Energy Costs: The International Energy Agency predicted in its World Energy Outlook report that with increasing urbanisation and industrialisation, the demand for energy in India alone would rise by more than 3% per year.
    • At the same time, global petroleum prices are rising rapidly.

What Should Be the Next Step?

  • Women’s Empowerment and Green Energy: By promoting clean energy, women’s empowerment and leadership in the energy sector could help accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy.
    • A gender perspective should be included in the “just transition” to ensure equal opportunities in green jobs for both men and women in the workforce.
    • Women, particularly as responsible mothers, wives, and daughters, can play an important role in the green energy transition through entrepreneurship and policy making.
  • Diversifying Green Supply Chains: Clean energy supply chains must be expanded to include a much larger number of countries rather than being limited to developed countries.
    • In this regard, the COP27 climate finance agenda can serve as a vehicle. As traditional energy sources are phased out, revenues and employment will shift from one region to another, which must be carefully managed.
  • Incentives for Low-Cost Energy Solutions: India can encourage university-level innovations that will assist the country in pursuing an economically viable clean energy transition. Thus, India’s demographic dividend can be used, and students will be encouraged to pursue research and innovation rather than traditional education.
    • The Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All (UJALA) programme, for example, reduced the unit cost of LED bulbs by more than 75%.
    • The Ministry of Environment, Forestry, and Climate Change, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), launched ‘In Our LiFEtime,’ a campaign that urges and encourages young people aged 18 to 23 to adapt to and promote sustainable lifestyles.
  • Focusing on Green Transportation: There is a need to rethink and restore trust in public transportation, including the procurement of more buses, the adoption of e-buses, bus corridors, and bus rapid transit systems, as well as public transportation digitization.
    • Emission standards should be tightened, and biofuels should be used in place of fossil fuels.
    • Creating several electric freight corridors to encourage electrification is also critical to reaping the benefits of electric vehicles.

Multisectoral Approach to Energy Transition

  • Future growth in India will necessitate resilience on multiple fronts, including energy system design, urban development, industrial growth and internal supply-chain management, and underprivileged livelihoods.
    • Through distributed energy systems and the promotion of domestic manufacturing, India can gradually reduce its reliance on commodity imports and foreign supply chains.
    • Over time, India’s manufacturing prowess and technological leadership present an opportunity to leverage Make in India to transform the country into a more self-sufficient green economy and globally competitive green energy export hub.
  • Circular economy solutions based on green energy should be a key component of India’s future economy.

February 2023
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