Climate change is a reality and India is serious about climate care

In the following article, a senior-level executive at The Climate Group India office reflects on the current policies for bringing clean revolution in India, and The Climate Group's initiatives in the space.

‘Climate change is a reality and India is serious about climate care’ – this thought has translated into practical actions and India seems to be clearly moving ahead with low carbon policies and initiatives. India Integrated Energy Policy (2006), National Action Plan on Climate Change (2008) and the 11th Five-year Plan (2007–12) are a few steps that have added impetus in setting up ambitious green targets to India’s clean journey. A microscopic view suggests that climate control policies in India are clearly focusing on energy efficiency and renewable energy. Demand side management through adoption of energy efficient technologies and interventions can reduce the additional energy needs, minimize energy loss and reduce its carbon intensity.  Adding to that, a considerable percentage of renewables in the energy mix means that the growing energy needs will not stretch the non-renewable resources to maximum.

However it is now, more than ever, important to see the opportunity hidden behind the climate change challenge. Few would rebuke this fact. The logic works this way - to mitigate effects of climate change, the world would need new interventions/ technologies to increase efficiency and cut emissions and that would mean automatically create business opportunities for clean technologies. This would also offer a chance for peoples, cities and governments to switch towards a cleaner and sustainable living.

Published in March this year, The Climate Group’s report –“India’s Clean Revolution” indicates that India’s target of approximately 40-55 GW of renewable energy capacity, as proposed at the end of 13th Five Year Plan represents a financing opportunity worth USD 60 billion over the next decade. Also the Energy Efficiency space represents potential amounting to around USD 16.5 billion.

This clearly indicates that it is strategically in India’s interest  to adopt a low carbon development pathway and unlock the enormous opportunities that exist in the development of renewable technologies, in the provision of energy efficient measures or in the development of clean applications in transport, buildings, appliances, lighting and the ICT sector.

While from a policy perspective India has laid out a comprehensive low carbon growth path as manifested through the various national plans, experts feel that significant  financial, technical and institutional barriers exist and unless those are addressed, the opportunity cannot truly be leveraged. Also, mitigating climate change will involve a lot of techno interventions and hence a limitation of knowledge-based skills for these new green technologies can act as a deterrent.

The interim report of the Expert Group on ‘Low Carbon Strategies for Inclusive Growth’ published earlier this year suggests a few steps that can ease out these barriers. According to the recommendations in the report – “A supportive institutional set up is necessary for implementing low-carbon strategies for inclusive growth. Coupled with that, also needed are promotion of technological and institutional innovation and incentive compatible policies that take into consideration the factor of uncertainties especially in the context of climate change.”

Moreover, for new policies to come in and efficient technologies to get mainstreamed, it is important that government and non-government agencies invest in on-ground demonstrations of such climate solutions. The small demonstration projects can be instrumental in testing the technical sustainability of the technologies and consequently catalyzing business opportunities. A boost in the need and use of energy efficient technologies through successes of such pilots will certainly go a long way in creating a competitive market, hence lowering the cost and triggering a favorable market mechanism. Thus, while better policies can take care of institutional barriers, the gradual build up of capacity and knowledge sharing about the efficient mechanisms can address the issue of lack of knowledge and technical handicap. And, as the increased need for these technologies triggers competition, prices are bound to get into affordable zones reducing the funding gap.

To see those barriers melt away and a clean revolution happen in India, The Climate Group, a not for profit organization headquartered in UK, is working towards promoting low carbon technologies. In India, its work is primarily focusing on LED streetlights. In a country where over 1% of total energy consumption and roughly 4,400 MW of connected load is used in public lighting, an efficient technology that can result into 50-70% energy reduction, can be a small yet a giant leap towards energy saving and emission reduction.  It is seen that in many instances, street lighting is the single largest expenditure for many urban local bodies accounting for up to 38% their total electricity bill; therefore LED technology despite its high initial cost makes sense. With benefits of longer life, better quality lighting, lower maintenance costs, and improved user satisfaction, LEDs are clearly the technology that would redefine the global lighting landscape in years to come. To create way for LEDs onto the streets of India, The Climate Group is designing and facilitating LED street lighting pilots in different Indian cities and reaching out to Indian businesses and governments to help them understand the opportunity waiting to be unlocked. Currently the pilots are being undertaken in Kolkata and Haldia in West Bengal and in Maharashtra.

The Kolkata pilot started in October 2010 has been a huge success as the Kolkata Municipal Corporation has now decided to upscale the project and light up about 15,000 Kolkata street lights with LEDs. Though the plans of up scaling has been made possible with a soft loan provided by Asian Development Bank under the Kolkata Environmental Improvement Project, yet the project is a clear example of how through systematic step by step approach, a new climate friendly expensive technology can be adopted by government machinery and up scaled thereafter because the functionary is convinced about the considerable benefits of the technology. With support from British High Commission, The Climate Group is also all set to work towards enabling Indian States to formulate policies for adoption of low carbon energy efficient LED technology in street lighting in large-scale.

India’s climate solutions need to follow if not the same but similar ways where a technology is tested, showcased and then up scaled. Setting ambitious targets are good but can only yield the results if practically possible solutions are worked out and implemented.  Triggering a clean revolution would be a game changer, and hence the efforts should match with the dreams.

The author, Aditi Dass, is the Director of Technologies at The Climate Group,India Office.

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