How PM Modi’s 450 GW power plan can change Indian economy | Opinion
Increasing the share of non-fossil fuels in India’s fuel mix to 450 gigawatts (GW), as announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at United Nations climate summit on Monday night, can transform country’s economy in three ways.
First, it can help to reduce India’s dependence on coal, the fossil fuel which contributes to 60% of the country’s total carbon emissions. Most of these thermal power plants are in the country’s highest polluted regions such as Singrauli in Uttar, Pradesh and the coal mining in India is considered one of the most hazardous industries to work in.
Though India has not given any commitment to reduce or restrict use of coal, as China has done under the Paris climate agreement, the announcement at New York clearly shows India’s intent to transit to non-coal based fuel economy.
Such a transition would be a costly affair and will need easy and cost effective technology transfer from the developed western world. But, it also provides India an opportunity to innovate in reducing emissions from coal which is possible through different carbon sequestration technologies.
Second, the target can make India a global leader in new cost effective solar technologies provided it can beat China, which leads in manufacturing of cheaper solar photo-voltaic and other equipment. If India can produce good quality solar equipment at the same cost as China, it will surely attract the fastest growing global (solar) market. It is estimated that by 2030, the global solar market would be worth US $1 trillion.
The Global Solar Alliance with about 80 countries on board can become an enabler in establishing India as a key innovator and manufacturer of solar equipment. The alliance, headquartered in New Delhi, has so far not got the required push for innovation in absence of adequate manpower and resources. Time has come for the world to invest in the alliance.
For being renewable innovator, India needs to focus on green technology research in premier institutes such as Indian Institute of Sciences in Bengaluru and Indian Institutes of Technology, which are working in different fields of new and renewable energy.
India also needs to provide skill training to youth in the area, which according to New and Renewable Energy ministry can generate around 10 million jobs by 2022, India’s target year to achieve 175 GW of renewable energy under the Paris climate agreement.
Third, the target can give boost to electric mobility in India, which rightly has been the Centre’s focus in the recent months. Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced lowest Goods and Services Tax (GST) rate, income tax exemption and new incentives under National Electrical Mobility Mission, 2020, for electric vehicles.
The mission provides Rs 10,000 crore from April 1, 2019, for the next three years, of which Rs 1,000 crore will be provided to set up charging stations across India. Just last week, Tamil Nadu became the first state in India to notify a new policy on electric vehicles, which has specific timelines for setting up infrastructure for electric vehicles.
The National Institution for Transforming India (Niti) Aayog had come up with a concept note on setting up of charging stations, key for making electric vehicles a viable option for personal mobility but most transport bodies have not done much to adopt these guidelines despite the incentives.
India needs a national task force of transport ministers to implement a comprehensive national plan on electric mobility, which provides for affordable electric vehicles, easily accessible charging stations and low cost replacement policy for good quality batteries. If this does not happen, the electric mobility plan will meet the same fate as the first phase of electrical mobility mission, which failed to meet most of its targets.
PM Modi had rightly said: “We must accept that if we have to overcome a serious challenge like climate change, then what we are doing at the moment is just not enough. The time for talking is over. The world needs to act now… What we need is a global people’s movement to bring about behavioural change.”
This change can happen only if the governments --- Centre and the states --- have rsynchronised policies in place, which are acceptable and attractive to people.