India can have 3.5 million jobs in renewable energy sector by 2030: IRENA DG - Hindustan Times
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India can have 3.5 million jobs in renewable energy sector by 2030: IRENA DG

ByJayashree Nandi
Feb 14, 2023 08:07 AM IST

Francesco La Camera, director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency, told HT in an interview that lack of physical and policy infrastructure for rapid adoption of renewables globally is a barrier that can lead to failure in achieving the goals of Paris climate pact

India’s renewable energy sector can create 3.5 million jobs by 2030, help the country reduce dependency oil imports and provide economic benefits as renewable energy is increasing costing less than conventional modes, Francesco La Camera, director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency, said in an interview. However, lack of physical and policy infrastructure for rapid adoption of renewables globally is a barrier that can lead to failure in achieving the goals of Paris climate pact of containing planetary temperature rise within 1.5°C or even 2°C, La Camera said.

International Renewable Energy Agency director-general Francesco La Camera. (Twitter Photo) PREMIUM
International Renewable Energy Agency director-general Francesco La Camera. (Twitter Photo)

Edited excerpts:

India announced a huge outlay of 35,000 crore towards net zero transition by 2070. What is your outlook for India?

I think India can get to net zero before 2070. Today, its renewable energy goal of 2030 and 2025 has already been achieved, or close to being achieved, so we are very confident about India’s energy transition. We have to also understand the complexity of the energy transition task for India. But, the benefits of transition are evident and there is political will behind it. India already has some 700,000 jobs in the renewable energy sector today. In 2030, it could grow to 3.5 million jobs, which is very important socially. India will have less dependency on fossil fuels and it will be economically more important because renewable energy is expected to cost less than the traditional ways of producing electricity. India is moving fast towards greening its steel sector. India is fourth when it comes to installed renewable energy capacity already.

There is renewed focus on energy security globally because of the Ukraine war. There are reports of coal rebound in Europe. Do you think there will be backtracking by countries on climate commitments?

I don’t believe this will happen. We have to distinguish between the short term and the medium and long term. We have also seen some wrong investments. But the fear of creating stranded assets is too strong. So, in my view, we can keep alive some old plants and increase the exploitation of some existing fossil fuel reserves, but this will be in the immediate short term. In the medium and long term, we will see an acceleration in renewable energy. The dependency is so evident. The Ukraine crisis made it clear than 80% of the countries in the world are fossil fuel dependent. This dependency can be decreased only if you go for renewables and decentralised energy systems. So, the mix can be renewables plus hydrogen plus the sustainable use of biomass.

So I don’t think we need to fear of countries going back on their commitments. It’s important to remember we are not in line with the pathway for achieving the Paris Agreement goals of keeping global warming under 1.5°C and 2°C. We will not be in line if we do not manage to accelerate on renewables drastically. Annual renewable energy capacity additions need to triple until 2030. Transition is inescapable, but we are not sure if the speed and scale of transition will be enough to put us on the Paris Agreement pathway.

What can be done to ensure we are aligned with the Paris goals? Do you think there will be a resolution at this year’s UN climate conference?

The main task of the conference will be stocktake. It will be the first assessment of how far we have managed to align ourselves with the Paris Agreement goals. Certainly, the Dubai summit will certify that we are not on track. The stocktake should also say how to close that gap. IRENA will try to build a narrative for closing this gap. In our point of view, the main barrier today for a more rapid deployment of renewables is not the economy because they are cost-effective, clean and socially acceptable and they produce jobs. The barrier is that the infrastructure is not yet there.

The three pillars of this infrastructure are the grids—land and sea; the legal and policy pillar; and the third is institutional capacity or professional skills. The old energy system based on fossil fuels is sustained by the infrastructure that has been already built. We have a way of bringing or using oil and gas at home after extraction. We have to change now as we do not have the luxury of time. The infrastructure for conventional electricity was built in more than one century and still we have places that are not electrified. The infrastructure will also determine how global cooperation will work in the future.

What are your expectations from G20? Do you think there will be a strong message on fossil fuels?

We are collaborating with G20 and the energy transition group. We are also trying to build a narrative on renewables because none of the G20 countries want more dependency in view of the geopolitical situation. India also has the IRENA presidency this year. India’s presidency of the G20 is vital. I am hopeful that through its own experience of the energy transition, and the steely determination India has shown in embracing new technologies, like green hydrogen, it can help set the G20 agenda. This can then be the start of an energy transition reboot around the world, so that we can fulfil our goals ahead of 2030 and 2050.

The United Arab Emirates is heavily invested in oil and it is the host of the next climate summit. Is that concerning? Will it affect its outcome on fossil fuels?

That will not happen. The United Arab Emirates possibly has the largest investments abroad in renewables. Through MASDAR (also known as Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company), they have invested in around 44 countries. They started investing in renewables when renewables were not yet there. The UAE domestically has ambitious plans. They are already investing in hydrogen and they are exporting ammonia. So, they are looking at the New World. They are very particular about having a successful climate summit.

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