Interview (Jarnail Singh)

Jarnail Singh,
India Director at The Climate Group

“How do you see India's journey in the Renewable Energy industry over the last 10 years?”

The renewable energy industry has come a long way with the Indian government setting an ambitious target of achieving 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022 after committing to the Paris Agreement. This is more than the combined total installed capacity of several nations like Australia, Austria, Mexico, and the Philippines put together. The sector has attracted more than US$ 42 billion investments since 2014 as per a report by IBEF and accounted for around half a million jobs in the year 2018 as per a report by IRENA. In the last few years, we have seen the rise of Independent Power Producers like ReNew Power which has been instrumental in pushing the nation towards achieving the ambitious renewable targets set by the government. We are already close to 80 GW of encouraging renewable energy, and the government seems keen on exceeding the target for 2022 to 285 GW. While the sector has grown exponentially there have been several hiccups as well. The recent crisis in Andhra should be taken as learning by everyone and since the sector is still growing we need to tread cautiously and be prepared to mitigate any such crisis. With the current government’s aim to make India a USD 5 trillion economy, the RE sector will have an important role to play.

“What are your thoughts on India’s ambitious 175 GW Renewable Energy power generation target by 2022? What key drivers will play an integral role in achieving the same?”

The ambitious target to achieve 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022 has made India a preferred destination for investment in renewables and has opened hundreds of thousands of job opportunities. A recent report stated that there has been a five-fold increase in the workforce employed in the Indian renewable energy sector between 2014 and 2019 and there over 330,000 cumulative employment potential in the solar and wind sectors alone if India meets its 175 GW renewable target. Increasing demand for clean energy, the business case for renewables, decreasing tariff, strong policy support, better renewable energy infrastructure, energy independence, etc are some of the key drivers in achieving this. Also, with the renewables becoming more cost-effective and their share in the power generation increasing there must be a robust policy and strategy around grid integration. Grid integration of Variable Renewable Energy (VRE) sources is important to maintain grid frequency and stability.

“Please tell us about the Climate Group’s latest report, i.e. ‘Smarter Energy Use: Businesses Doing More With Less’. As per the report, where does India stand?”

‘Smarter Energy Use: Businesses Doing More with Less’, is our first EP100 Annual Progress and Insights Report which we recently launched in partnership with the Alliance to Save Energy. This report showcases the progress made by 23 of the 50 EP100 member companies operating in over 130 markets worldwide, across nine sectors including retail, real estate, cement, and auto manufacturing.

It is to be noted that India is leading the way with the largest contingent of companies that have signed up for the EP100 initiative. Mahindra Vehicles Manufacturers Ltd has increased its energy productivity by over 40% in three years, while Mahindra Group has saved US$ 38 million over the last six years. Indian cement giant Ultratech Cement has saved over US$ 4.5 million last year and has prevented over 30 million metric tons of GHG emissions since 2010. Together, all the member companies have saved over 730 TWh of energy to date which is almost half the annual electricity consumption of India. If all the major companies in India were to join EP100, it could pull down the country’s emission intensity rapidly. It, therefore, is evident that energy productivity is great for business but helps the country achieve its Paris Agreement pledge.

“The Climate Group has launched the RE100 Initiative. Please tell us more about its achievements to date and its India chapter?”

RE100 is an initiative of The Climate Group in partnership with CDP, that was launched in 2014. Companies joining RE100 publicly set a goal to source 100% of their electricity from renewables within a specific time frame.

Companies from various sectors like telecommunications, financial services, automobiles, cement, etc have joined this initiative and firmly believe that shifting to renewable power is a smart and sustainable business decision. We have around 49 global companies with operations in India (this includes five Indian companies) and their annual demand is upwards of 2.5TWh annually. Renewable power helps businesses to meet emission reduction goals, lower business risk, stabilize energy bills, drive competitiveness, and boost reputation.

RE100 shares best practice and showcases the leadership of companies making progress on renewable power – encouraging others to do the same. Many RE100 members are also encouraging their suppliers to transition to renewables so that we shape the energy system away from fossil fuels more rapidly. RE100 partners with other organizations and initiatives to address barriers and help grow market demand. Together, we are sending a strong demand signal to markets and policymakers, to bring about greater access to renewable electricity for businesses around the world.

Some of the leading companies from India include Dalmia Cement, Tata Motors and Infosys. While Infosys was one of the global companies to set an ambitious 2020 target to achieve 100% renewable electricity, Dalmia Cement became the first cement company in the world that committed to 100% RE for electricity consumption. Due to some policy and regulatory challenges, the bulk of RE sourced by RE100 members from India is self-generated, among the highest globally.

“The Indian Power Ministry has committed to achieving 24x7 Power For All by 2022. According to you, what opportunities have decentralized RE solutions endow in pursuit of accelerating clean energy access in the country?”

24/7 quality of electricity is essential for our country to become a US$ 5 trillion economy. The government has high aspirations and decentralized renewable energy (DRE) has an important role in achieving this. DRE provides a great opportunity to supplement the existing efforts of the government towards achieving 24*7 Power for All. With a lot of technological innovations in the fray, DRE is pivoting towards supporting rural livelihoods through solutions like solar pumps, solar dryers, solar-powered micro cold storage, and solar water purifiers. This ties in perfectly with the government’s commitment to double farmer incomes. While technological innovations are coming about organically, there is a need for engagement of mainstream investors for DRE to be deployed at scale. To support this, The Climate Group has anchored the India Initiative on DRE Financing (IIDF), in partnership with Goldman Sachs Centre for Environmental Markets and cKinetics. The idea behind IIDF is to facilitate domestic financing of DRE in keeping with the latest market trends and government priorities.

“The Indian government has been aggressively promoting the adoption of E-Mobility under the FAME II scheme. With the Climate Group’s EV100 Initiative, what future do you foresee for India’s E-Mobility Transition?”

Transport is increasingly becoming a major contributor to climate change with emissions increasing by 2.5% per year and contributing to around 23% of the global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. It is also one of the major sources of air pollution which have impacted a lot of cities in India and across the world. Several policy initiatives posit the importance of electric mobility as a solution to this problem.

The Government of India’s National Institute for Transforming India, (NITI) Aayog, has officially endorsed The Climate Group’s EV100 initiative as a crucial platform for driving corporate leadership on electric transport. Through the EV100 initiative, we bring together leading forward-thinking companies to accelerate the transition to electric mobility by 2030. Wipro plans to transition nearly 2,000 vehicles to electric across Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and Pune. With a network of more than 22,000 branches across India, the State Bank of India will transition its vehicle fleet to EVs in major cities by 2030. As part of this commitment, the bank will also set up charging stations in major residential spaces to support the uptake of EVs by staff. Delhi-based utility company BSES Yamuna has gone one step further by implementing pilot projects to study the performance of EVs for utility services while engaging with manufacturers, fleet owners, and service providers.

The efforts of the government to promote electric mobility in the country are encouraging. There exist teething troubles concerning lack of charging infrastructure and battery swapping facilities etc however with growing demand this should be taken care of. As more and more companies switch to electric mobility resulting in increased EV demand it will lead to the development of infrastructure and cost reduction owing to economies of scale, much needed for mass adoption of EVs in the country.

Interview 21/08/2019 by News Bureau
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