India Needs Suitable Policy, Innovative Technologies to Reach Net-Zero Emissions by 2050

In order to reach a net-zero emissions energy system by 2050, India needs a suitable policy and innovation driven context to deploy clean energy technologies on a massive scale, says a joint modelling report undertaken by The Energy & Resources Institute (TERI) and Shell.

March 24, 2021. By Manu Tayal

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In order to reach a net-zero emissions energy system by 2050, India needs a suitable policy and innovation driven context to deploy clean energy technologies on a massive scale, says a joint modelling report undertaken by The Energy & Resources Institute (TERI) and Shell.

According to the report titled ‘India: Transforming to a net-zero emissions energy system’, the move will require more and faster deployment of large-scale solar, wind and hydro power to enable greater electrification across the country.

It also requires the development of new fuels, such as liquid biofuels and biogas, as well as hydrogen produced from electrolysis. Energy efficiency must improve significantly, and carbon removals (from technology and nature-based solutions) will have a critical role in moving towards zero emissions. These are the key insights from a new scenario sketch by TERI and Shell, that has assessed India’s technology and policy options if it were to accelerate its transition to a net zero emissions energy system by 2050.

Today, India has opportunities to chart out its own unique development pathway rather than take up fossil-fuel driven paths previously pursued by developed economies. At the same time, it will be important for India to ensure that its energy pathway is socially inclusive, economically viable and ensures long term sustainability of resources.

Speaking at the report launch, Amitabh Kant, CEO of the NITI Aayog said, “I’m really pleased to participate in the launch of this very important study on transforming India to a Net Zero emissions energy system which I believe is a step towards pursuing the goal of achieving cleaner energy transition and spearheading discussions amongst policy makers, knowledge partners and think tanks. With its geographic advantage and availability of vast potential, not only can India materialize its renewable potential, it can also become a global leader to showcase its green energy pathways. This is the right time for India to think in this direction of net-zero emissions by 2050.”

“Building on many years of collaboration in the work related to the Indian energy sector and its transition, TERI and Shell have partnered to present a Scenario Sketch for India outlining the options and choices towards developing a technically possible though challenging net-zero energy system for India. The challenge actually provides an opportunity for India to embed sustainability principles while achieving its developmental priorities – and minimise the risk of stranded investment in high emitting infrastructure. This approach has important implications in accelerating economic growth, local manufacturing, job creation and energy security,” said Nitin Prasad, Chairman of Shell Companies in India.

Commenting on the availability of technological solutions, Dr. Ritu Mathur, Director, Integrated Assessments & Modelling at TERI, said “the energy sector alone does not have enough choices with the technologies available today to achieve net-zero by 2050. The industry sector, in particular, lacks technological solutions. Additional options for sequestration through nature-based solutions and CCS/CCUS would need to be adopted if net-zero were to be achieved by 2050.”

In the light of announcements made by various countries about their net-zero emission targets, this report assumes significance as it is one of the first assessments of the challenges that India would face if India were to move towards such a pathway. The report indicated that the transformations needed over the next 30 years for India, in pursuit of this goal by mid-century would consist of the following areas of action:

Accelerate clean technologies

- Grow the power sector by a factor of more than 4 in 30 years, dominated by renewables i.e. around 90 per cent.

- Target 13 per cent hydrogen in final energy, including as a fuel for industry and transport.

- Transform bioenergy, with liquid biofuels surpassing petroleum products by 2040 to fuel industry and transport, including hard-to-abate sectors such as aviation.

Support energy-efficient and lower-carbon choices

- Invest in processes, technologies and end uses to improve energy intensity per unit of GDP by almost 60 per cent by 2050, a rate of improvement nearly twice historical levels.

- Adopt economic mechanisms, such as carbon trading and/or pricing to facilitate reallocation of capital and resources to support commercialization of new fuels and technologies.

The report added that success in achieving net-zero emissions goal will depend on clear and coherent policies at the national and sub national level. It suggested that the economic and social impact of the transition will need to be understood and managed, and a well-designed policy framework will be required to contain the overall macroeconomic costs; address transition impacts and ensure more resilient and environmentally just outcomes for the most vulnerable and underserved communities.

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