In India the energy revolution does not wait !


An article by Auguste Bergot for La Releve et la peste

Since the Paris Agreement, India has taken its commitments for sustainable development very seriously. For the third most energy-consuming country in the world, the energy transition has been, in a sense, a windfall: it has enabled it to reconcile its development objectives – by making electricity accessible to its entire population – and asserting itself as a “superpower of renewable energies” on a global scale. By developing massively its photovoltaic panels, India has already managed to exceed all expectations, and is not ready to stop.

(Photovoltaic installation of Khilchipur (Madhya Pradesh, Inde) MWc, started up in 2014. Crédits : EDF EN)

India has more than 1.3 billion inhabitants. In this country, where the ventilator is an indispensable part of everyday life, the inhabitants show an increase in demand for electricity that is roughly similar to France or Germany. On the other hand, at the level of quantities, in 2014, people consumed on average 805.6 kWh compared to 6,937 kWh in France and 7,035 kWh in Germany, a huge difference that reflects serious inequalities in access to electricity in India.

Indeed, about 240 million Indians (nearly 2% of the population) still do not have access to electricity. This is a major problem as many Indian people still can not light up in the evenings. This prevents children from studying and poses food preservation problems. That is why, with the commitment of the COP21, India has set itself the goal of providing power to its entire population 24 hours a day by 2030.

To meet this objective, India could simply have relied on conventional energy sources, including coal, its traditional energy source. But instead, it decided to invest fully (and at high speed) in renewable energies, and particularly solar energy. It takes advantage of its 300 days of sunshine per year on average, which is particularly apt for development of this sector. This is why it is the leader of the International Solar Alliance, a coalition of 121 countries located between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer, which aims to “generalize solar energy in the world and mobilize $ 1 trillion of investment by 2030 [invested by the World Bank] “by making the best use of the photovoltaic potential of the countries of the South.

In addition, it appears that investors have identified the advantageous profile of India. As the World Bank points out, “the last call for tenders for a solar project in the Rajasthan desert was a record low rate of 2.44 rupees (the equivalent of 4 cents) per kilowatt hour. So the price of solar energy is already more competitive than that of coal, which is excellent news for the trend towards a gradual exit from coal (which still accounts for 69% of the Indian energy mix) .

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(Click here for a version of this article in French.

Question for this article:

Are we making progress in renewable energy?

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While the previous government had set a timid target of 22 gigawatts for 2022, the Minister of Energy of Narendra Modi’s government of India, Piyush Goyal, said that “it is not very difficult to envisage that India installs 10 GWp of photovoltaics per year and 6 to 8 GW of wind each year. The target was simply multiplied by 7: 160 GW of wind and solar energy by 2022. However, despite the unprecedented efforts of India, it seems difficult to imagine that the State can achieve its objective.
Indeed, even if the growth of the photovoltaic sector is spectacular in India (+632% in 2011, +154% in 2012, +64% in 2013 and +43% in 2014), it still had only in 2016 a production capacity of 9.01 GW, out of the 100 GW of the 160 planned for 2022 … However, it can be said without reservation that the 22 GW target set by the former government will be far surpassed if India follows this momentum. But far from being enough to dethrone the fossil energy sector, India will have to be patient and continue working to achieve its goals. It is estimated that Indian greenhouse gas emissions will continue to increase at least until 2030, before the efforts have a visible impact.

The triple problem faced by India today is how to reconcile its commitment to energy transition with its desire to bring electricity to the entire population and to meet the economy in full development. Thus, the measures put in place by the Modi government, in particular concerning the doubling of the coal tax and the aid for the closure of coal-fired power stations over 25 years of age, are at the same time a further step towards a revolution in energy and a thorn in the foot for the development of Indian industry.

An article published by La Tribune also notes that “if India is a new Eldorado for renewable energy, a high cost of capital and a financing market make it relatively complex.” However, massive investments by the World Bank are aimed at remedying these aporias. With a contribution of more than $ 1 billion in support to India’s solar plans, the World Bank and Indian State cooperation will develop Indian solar parks, develop solutions storage and contribute to the development of common network infrastructures.

Just a few months ago, the Indian government announced that it wanted to make its fleet of cars completely electric by 2030 to curb air pollution (according to Greenpeace, India became the country for the period 2016-2017 where air pollution causes the most deaths in the world).

The efforts of the Modi government to achieve the goals set by COP21 and to drive the so-called “southern” countries (formerly excluded from the ecological transition, despite their potential due to the excessively high costs of renewable energies) should be a source of inspiration for European leaders, who seem to be more concerned about half-hearted measures than strong and assertive international mobilization.

While India’s ambitions are beyond its own capabilities, they remain an ideal that deserves support and pursuit by the international community, not only on the basis of profits for corporations. Without this, we may have the bitter result that India is only the new playing field of investors who profit from a particularly juicy market …

(Thank you to Kiki Chauvin, the CPNN reporter for this article.)