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India: Carbon Neutral 2050 - A Double Engine Journey

A dream reduction in the defence budget after securing our borders alone can spare upto 2% of gross domestic product for investing in clean technologies and break free an energy revolution unheard of in the world whihch can showcase our great nation as one of the first climate nuetral countries by 2050.

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Despite the market turbulence brought by the coronavirus pandemic in the last two years, India still managed to meet its self set goal of the 2015 Paris Summit COP21, nine years ahead of the schedule.

Our country, while setting an overwhelming target for itself, had committed to achieving 40 per cent of its installed electricity capacity from non-fossil energy sources by 2030, and has now proved itself by achieving it in November 2021 only, way before the self induced deadline. This miracle has been achieved in India’s quest for climate reversal on account of the “double engine” effort of record installations of solar and wind energy across the country.

Sustainability being the key driver, the world is now witnessing a major shift to clean energy technologies. Due to the limited availability of fossil fuels and their adverse impact on the environment, a transition to the renewable energy sector was highly essential for our planet.

What responsible Government’s across the world need to do further for a dramatic reversal of climate damages is committing an additional 2% of the global GDP in technologies like solar and wind power, the result of which can be a carbon nuetral world economy by 2050.

India today, stands 4th globally, in terms of its installed renewable energy capacity crossing the milestone of 100 GW, 5TH in solar and 4th in wind as per the Ministry of Power.

India’s this effort of overachieving its wind, hydro and solar energy tagets much ahead of 2030 has a remarkable symbolic effect on other developing economies as without clean technology transfers and much support from the developed world, a stunning climate change energy optimization would not have taken place in India during the last 7 years.

In the past few years, a rapid growth has been witnessed in India’s renewable energy sector with a CAGR OF 17.33% between 2016-2020, which is in turn also driving a demand for new technologies to further modernize the power sector of the country. India, among all large economies during the last 7.5 years has witnessed the fastest rate of growth with renewable energy capacity growing 1.97 times and solar energy expanding over 18 times.

Ambitious targets and inclusive policies by the Government has now made India a renewable energy forerunner. All thanks to the Government’s liberal foreign investment policy and initiatives such as the Hydrogen Mission, Solar Parks Scheme and the Green energy corridor (GEC) to name a few.

As per REN21 Renewables 2020 Global Status Report, there was a total investment of USD 64.4 billion in India’s renewable energy programmes and projects. In 2019, USD 11.2 billion were invested alone. In addition, recent data shows that from the year 2015 to June 2021 India’s non-conventional energy sector received USD 7.27 billion through foreign direct investment.

Further, the total value of acquisitions of renewable energy projects in India surged by four times, to $6 billion in 2021 from $1.5 billion recorded in 2020.

Major breakthrough projects like the floating solar project on the Cochin International Airport with 452 KWH capacity or the building of the world’s largest renewable energy park in Gujarat which is expected to produce 30 GW of power, have also been undertaken by the Government in an attempt to further achieve its targets.

The GEC that was initiated by the Government of India since 2015, being implemented by eight-renewable rich states namely, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. As of November 2021, 8,434 ckm of intra-state transmission lines have been constructed already and 15,268 MVA of intra-state substations have been charged.

In addition to these, the initiatives taken by the large private enterprises has further aided this energy revolution.

To name a few, companies like Adani Green Energy Limited (AGEL) being one of the largest renewable companies in India, with a current project portfolio of 13,990 MW have undertaken various projects to help India meet its targets. It is now targeting 45 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2030 and will also invest USD 20 billion to develop a 2 GW per year solar manufacturing capacity by 2022-23.

Moreover, in order to further enhance the renewable energy sector of India, a new subsidiary ANIL (Adani New Industries Ltd) has recently been floated by the Adani Group for development and operation of various projects for the generation of low carbon electricity and manufacture of key components for generation of green hydrogen, electricity generation and also wind turbines.

Reliance Industries Ltd. on the other hand, has floated Reliance New Energy Solar Ltd (RNESL) to operate its new energy business. The aim has been towards acquiring or gaining access to cutting-edge technology that can reduce the cost of renewable energy production, especially in solar energy generation. The company is aiming towards solar manufacturing of 100 GW and green hydrogen costs of USD 1 per kg by 2030 on which it is planning to spend USD 10 billion over the next three years.

So what has been the single most defining feature of the Indian economy in the last 7 years? The dramatic and exponential rise of startups in every sector, with more than 100 on its way to becoming unicorns.

In that list, various state of art clean energy companies have marked their presence with their rapid rise and listing in stock exchanges across the world. Clean energy and more particularly solar and wind has captured the imagination of the young entreprenuers across the country who are redifing the energy landscape for the country.

So, adding to the large private enterprises are some of the leading green energy startups of India helping India transition to sustainable energy sources.

The recent announcement of the commissioning of 250 MW solar project in Jaisalmer by ReNew power, India’s leading renewable energy Independent Power Producer (IPP) by capacity and the 10th largest global renewable IPP by operational capacity is one such initiative. As of August 31, 2021, it had a total capacity of approximately 10.2 GW of wind and solar energy projects across India out of which 5.8 GW is operational across the wind, solar and hydro energy projects in India and the rest is under construction.

Loom Solar, an emerging solartech startup under the government of India’s flagship Start Up India initiative, reaching its milestone of powering 50,000 homes across the country with its rooftop solar panels, claims to have the potential to reduce 3.32 lakh tonnes of carbon footprint and mitigating climate change equivalent to 5.6 lakh trees.

According to the Central Electricity Authority, by 2030, the country’s power requirement would be 817GW, more than half of which would be clean energy, and 280GW would be from solar energy alone. Apart from this, India has also recently announced to cut its net carbon emissions to zero by 2070 at COP26 in Glasgow.

The road ahead in terms of sectoral targets for 2030 include the decarbonization of the Indian Railways Network, and atleast 30% of all new vehicles to be EVs. As the share of renewable energy on India’s electricity grid continues to rise and the pollution continues to worsen, the need for clean power is certainly increasing.

By 2030, India now aims to reach a new goal of 450 GW of renewables.

It is further expected that by 2040, around 49% of the total electricity will be generated by renewable energy as more efficient batteries will be used to store electricity, further cutting the solar energy cost.

The dream scenario for India coud be to reduce our defence budget by 10% atleast which can also be a reality eventually when Pakistan’s security policy will extend a 100 year of friendship offer with India which every Pakistan media is talking about in the past few weeks.

A dream reduction in the defence budget after securing our borders alone can spare upto 2% of gross domestic product for investing in clean technologies and break free an energy revolution unheard of in the world whihch can showcase our great nation as one of the first climate nuetral countries by 2050.

The author is Leading Environmental Lawyer, Door Tenant No5 Barristers’ Chambers United Kingdom and Simran Gupta, Associate, Trust Legal.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Sudhir Mishra

The author is Founder and Managing Partner, Trust Legal.

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Simran Gupta

Associate, Trust Legal

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