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War against Nature~II

India’s energy policy is driven towards increasing use of renewable energy to achieve energy security.

KP Shashidharan | New Delhi |

In accord with Article 48-A of the Constitution, India will strive to protect environment, forests and wildlife. A Renewable Energy programme was initiated with the creation of the Commission for Additional Sources of Energy in 1981. The Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources was created in 1992, renamed as Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) in 2006.

India’s energy policy is driven towards increasing use of renewable energy to achieve energy security. It aims at transition from coal-fired power plants to renewable energy sources; green industrialization with zero-emission technologies; mass public transit systems; domestic electric vehicles with zero-emission. Currently, India’s total primary energy supply (TPES) needs are met from coal, natural gas, hydro, geothermal, solar, nuclear, biofuels and waste and primary and secondary oil.

India still remains one of the world’s largest coal consumers. In accord with Article 48-A of Constitution, India will strive to protect environment, forests and wildlife. A Renewable Energy programme was initiated with the creation of the Commission for Additional Sources of Energy in 1981. The Ministry of Nonconventional Energy Sources was created in 1992, renamed as Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) in 2006.

India’s RE sector is fifth in the world focusing on four main objectives: first promoting its participation in the power grid; second meeting energy demands for urban and rural areas along with industries; third, promote implementation, design and research of new RE technologies, and fourth, creating a manufacturing industry in the RE division. In 2009 India announced under the Copenhagen Accord that it would reduce its emissions by 20-25 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020.

As per UNFCCC’s COP21 decision in Paris in 2015, India submitted its Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) specifying the emission reduction commitments through 2025 to 2030, outlining 8 major commitments for the period of 2021 to 2030: First, promoting a sustainable way of life centered on traditions and principles of preservation. Second, adoption of environmentally sustainable path for economic growth.

Third, reduce emissions intensity of GDP by 33 per cent to 35 per cent by 2030, based on 2005 levels. Fourth, increasing use of non-fossil fuel-based energy sources to 40 per cent power capacity of the total electricity consumption by 2030. Fifth, develop supplementary carbon sinks that can absorb 2.5 to 3 billion tones CO2 equivalent by 2030.

Sixth, increasing adaptation strategies by investments in development programmes in agriculture, water resources and disaster management. Seventh, transfer resources from developed countries to implement mitigation strategies. Finally, building capacities in technology and international collaboration for research and development for future technologies. India may need about $2.5 trillion for meeting these objectives.

The government introduced a nationwide Clean Energy tax in 2010 on coal and cut its subsidies. India’s Electricity Cct enacted in 2003 emphasized use of alternative energy sources to fossil fuels for electricity. National Electricity Policy 2005 focussed on reducing poverty, vulnerability and anthropogenic impacts on climate change, decline in GHG emissions, and applying appropriate technologies for mitigation of GHGs and establishing new markets and regulatory mechanisms.

NAPCC plans 15 per cent of India’s electricity production from renewable sources by 2020. The National Mission on Sustainable Habitat is intended to increase energy efficiency through urban planning, improving building codes and renewable energy-based vehicles, better public transportation and waste management. The Electricity Act of 2003 and National Tariff Policy of 2006 promote energy efficiency by subjecting large industries through energy audits. Energy poverty cripples many Indians.

Clean cooking energy is a must. The 2011 census showed 75 per cent rural households used biomass and dung to cook. The government’s policy to provide LPG to poor households has changed the scenario. Most Indian cities are polluted, the worst being Delhi, the world’s most polluted city. It is almost like a gas chamber. RE sector can help growth while mitigating the adverse impact of climate change.

The energy delivery system needs to cut down supply lines, plug leakages and losses. India is the third biggest energy consumer after China and the USA with 5.8 per cent global share and is projected to be the second-largest energy consumer by 2035 with 18 per cent rise in consumption. India’s dependence on energy imports is expected to exceed 53 per cent of the total energy consumption by 2030. As of now about 80 per cent of India’s electricity generation is from fossil fuels.

Out of the total primary energy consumption, crude oil contributes 29.55 per cent, natural gas 6.17 per cent, coal 55.88 per cent, nuclear energy 1.09 per cent, hydro-electricity 3.91 per cent and renewable power 3.40 per cent, excluding biomass in 2018. The global concern over environment began with the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in 1972 in Stockholm, the creation of the World Commission on Environment and Development known as the Brundtland Commission in 1983, which defined sustainable development as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Earth summits or the first United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) commenced from 1992 onwards in Rio de Janeiro with the first blu print of action. Agenda 21 was developed and adopted. Rio+10 in Johannesburg and Rio+20 in 2012, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) and adoption of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) with 17 goals and associated targets, the world is clear about “The Future We Want” in terms of poverty eradication, energy, water and sanitation, health, and human settlement.

Ban Ki-moon, the then UN Secretary- General said in 2016: “We don’t have plan B because there is no planet B.” The SDGs were developed after the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) could not be achieved by 2015. “The Future We Want” was a non-binding document released in Rio+20 Conference held in 2012. In 2015, 193 countries of the UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Development Agenda titled “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” with 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and associated 169 targets and 232 indicators.

These are ‘No Poverty, zero hunger, good health and wellbeing, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth, industry, innovation, and infrastructure, reducing inequality, sustainable cities and communities, responsible consumption and production, climate action, life below water, life on land, peace, justice, and strong institutions.’

These goals are broadbased, overlapping and interdependent, each having a list of targets, and can be measured by indicators. Reliable data on the 17 goals is yet to be received from all countries. There are cross-cutting issues such as women and gender equality, education and sustainable development, education, gender and technology and need for SDG-driven investment.

(Concluded)

(The writer is former Director-General, CAG of India. Views are personal)