Subaskar Sitsabeshan: India's policymakers must find renewable solutions to alleviate energy poverty
- 05 July 2013
The Climate Group's Subaskar Sitsabeshan writes about the renewed international focus on India, as the country begins to map out options to alleviate energy poverty and address climate change through clean technology.
India faces an uphill task of addressing the twin goals of reducing energy poverty while mitigating climate change.
More than half of India’s increasing population has unreliable or no access to electricity, a fact that means their typical day is slashed to less than twelve hours once the sun sets. Meanwhile, floods in Uttarakhand, dubbed the ‘Himalayan tsunami’, which resulted in huge loss of life and creation of climate refugees in the north Indian state, were yet another stark reminder of the impacts of climate change.
In fact, new research by Postdam Institute for Climate Impact Research suggests that north India is among one of the many climate change impact ‘hotspots’ that are vulnerable to extreme climate changes.
And while the International Energy Agency's new report forecasts renewable energy to overtake natural gas in the global power mix by 2016 (second only to coal), in India, burning coal is moving at the fastest pace in 31 years and is set to eclipse China as the top importer of power station coal by 2014, according to Bloomberg.
Yet every difficulty provides an opportunity, and with the UN declaring 2014 to 2024 as the decade for 'sustainable energy for all', India must prove its leadership through pursuing a pathway for sustainable energy.
And as we outlined in our report India's Clean Revolution, India possesses a huge and untapped market opportunity for renewable energy.
This, perhaps, is the reason why two high profile India visits from the US and UK took place in the past weeks
US Secretary of State John Kerry completed his first trip to India last week with the announcement of a US$100 million loan guarantee program by USAID on private sector financing of clean energy.
While emphasizing the importance of India’s commitment to eradicate poverty, John Kerry outlined that the collective failure to address climate challenge will dent all countries’ dreams of development and growth.
Echoing this need for international collaboration, UK minister of climate change Greg Barker wrapped up his visit to India this week by urging India to replicate Britain’s cleantech model. He highlighted that investment in low carbon growth is not only desirable in terms of tackling climate change, but also as a stimulus to the economy.
Low carbon growth
The key for sustainable energy in India is to ‘demythify’ the common misunderstanding that pursuing a low carbon development pathway means a break on economic growth, aspirations of millions of young people and continued poverty.
There is an urgent need for a paradigm shift in the policymakers’ way of approaching the energy situation in India, by finding localized renewable solutions that will leapfrog the ‘dirty’ development trajectory that other developed countries have undergone in the past.
This will not only be beneficial for India’s poor communities that are extremely vulnerable to climate change, but it is also crucial for its international reputation in climate change negotiation tables.
Read our report: India's Clean Revolution