Clean Energy to Meet Climate Targets

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    Syllabus: GS3/ Conservation/Environmental Pollution & Degradation

    In Context

    • As part of its international climate commitments, India has said that it would source roughly half its energy needs from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030. 
    Renewable vs Non-Renewable Resources of  Energy

    – Renewable energy is energy derived from natural sources that are replenished at a higher rate than they are consumed. Sunlight and wind, for example, are such sources that are constantly being replenished.
    Fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – on the other hand, are non-renewable resources that take hundreds of millions of years to form. Fossil fuels, when burned to produce energy, cause harmful greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide.

    Renewable Energy to Combat Climate Crisis

    – Generating renewable energy creates far lower emissions than burning fossil fuels. 
    – Transitioning from fossil fuels, which currently account for the lion’s share of emissions, to renewable energy is key to addressing the climate crisis.
    – Renewables are now cheaper in most countries, and generate three times more jobs than fossil fuels.

    India’s Emissions & Renewable Energy Targets

    • India’s renewable energy targets: The PM has set the targets and reiterated that the Indian government is committed to increasing the share of renewable energy in India’s total energy share.
      • Initially, the target for renewable energy was set at 175 GW, but now it has been further revised to 450 GW by 2030.
      • As part of its international climate commitments, India has said that it would source roughly half its energy needs from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030. 
    • Increasing consumption of non-renewable resources: Hot and dry weather has caused the 7%-9% of households with air-conditioning to crank it up.
      • Farmers have switched on groundwater irrigation pumps, pushing demand from the grid to a record 240 gigawatts on 1 September. 
      • With a rainfall shortage causing hydroelectric dams to run short and renewable installations [unable to fill shortfalls], that’s pushed coal consumption to record levels.
        • Output rose 13% from a year earlier in August.
      • The rapid growth in fossil energy consumption has also meant India’s annual CO2 emissions have risen to become the third highest in the world
    • India’a emissions: India’s CO2 emissions per person put it near the bottom of the world’s emitters, and they are lower still if you consider historical emissions per person.
      • Responsible for just 3% of historic greenhouse pollution, even in its current coal-burning state, it accounts for less than a third of the EU’s emissions on a per-capita basis, and about one-eighth of those in the US.

    Challenges

    • Potential of rise in emissions: India’s sheer size and its huge scope for growth means that its energy demand is set to grow by more than that of any other country in the coming decades. 
    • Incomplete targets: The government had announced an ambitious plan to lift installations of wind, solar and small-scale renewables to 175 gigawatts by 2022. 
      • Ultimately, only about 60% of the promised capacity was added.
      • There are still just 8,738 public charging stations for EVs, compared to the 1.32 million that the Confederation of Indian Industry believes will be necessary by 2030.
    • Unachievable goals: Now the government wants 500 gigawatts of zero-carbon power to be installed by 2030, which would need about 50 gigawatts added every year. This looks even less achievable.
      • Cumulative installations in the three-and-a-half years since the end of 2019 have amounted to only about 40 gigawatts. 
    • Factors behind that shortfall: There are some intractable factors behind that shortfall, such as
      • Global interest rates that have pushed up the cost of financing energy infrastructure, 
      • A chaotic land ownership system that has fuelled opposition to solar and transmission projects.
      • Uncertainties over power tariffs, approved components and project timelines contributed to a 58% year-on-year fall in solar installations, according to Mercom India Research. 
    • Negligible global share: China alone will install 209 gigawatts of solar this year, according to Bloomberg NEF, with plug-in cars hitting a 38% market share in July. In India, the equivalent share so far this year was just 5.5%. 

    Suggestions

    • Using digital technologies for enhanced energy efficiency: Deploying the digital technologies that allow factories, buildings, infrastructure operators, even households, to measure how much energy is – or will be – consumed.
      • Software, artificial intelligence, and data analytics: all these allow us to control and adapt our usage for maximum efficiency – decreasing energy demand, energy bills, and carbon emissions.
    • Making small changes: Making sure that buildings are powered by electric heat pumps rather than gas or wood, and that cars and public transport shift away from combustion engines to electric versions, which not only emit fewer emissions, but are more efficient, too.
    • Generation and storage of clean electricity: It also requires mobilising more Indians to make use of localised energy-generation technologies like rooftop solar panels and microgrids.
      • These allow individual households and buildings both to generate and store their own clean electricity, gaining greater independence from the grid.
    • Green hydrogen: Green hydrogen will play a complementary role, helping to decarbonize those harder-to-abate sectors such as aviation, chemical or steel and, possibly long-duration storage, allowing for the storage of those green energy sources.

    Way Ahead

    • Building out a completely new energy model that enables access to safe, clean and reliable energy to India’s 1.4 billion population may seem like a faraway dream. 
    • With progressively declining costs, improved efficiency and reliability, renewable energy is now an attractive option for meeting the energy needs across different sectors of the economy. 
    • It is an opportunity for India, in reaching for its Amrit Kaal, to demonstrate, and bolster, its leadership in digital adoption, sustainability action and human capital development.
    Daily Mains Question
    [Q] Examine India’s need for Clean energy to meet its climate targets. What are the challenges? Suggest ways for access to safe, clean and reliable energy.