Road To 2047: How India Should Strike A Balance Between Rising Energy Needs And Carbon Emissions

Road To 2047: How India Should Strike A Balance Between Rising Energy Needs And Carbon Emissions

India has announced that it aims to achieve net zero emissions by 2070 and to meet 50 per cent of its power consumption needs from renewable or green energy sources by 2030. At the 26th Conference of Parties (CoP26) in Glasgow, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set an ambitious target for India to attain net zero carbon emissions. Needless to say, the task is quite daunting.

In order to attain the goals by 2070, the prime minister declared a five-fold strategy, known as the panchamrita. The five points are in the following:

India will get its non-fossil energy capacity to 500 gigawatt (GW) by 2030. India will meet 50 per cent of its energy requirements from renewable energy by 2030. India will reduce the total projected carbon emissions by one billion tonnes from now onwards till 2030. India will reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by less than 45 per cent By 2030. So, by the year 2070, India will achieve the target of net zero. 

Root Cause

According to the latest report of the IPCC, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, climate change driven by greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from human activity has already led to a temperature rise by around 1 degree relative to the pre-industrial age. A rise of more than 2.5 degrees is projected in an intermediate scenario of GHG emissions plateauing at current levels before falling in the years past 2050.

For India, both climate change and the policies triggered in response pose a significant challenge. India’s prosperity losses due to rising temperatures are among the highest globally, given the country’s natural conditions. So, a worldwide transition is happening and the good news is that the clean energy transition in India is already well underway.

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Net Zero Emissions By 2070: How far is it feasible?

According to experts, India requires trillions of dollars, access to smart technology and complete overhauling of some sectors in the economy to achieve the target by 2070. Several reports have pointed out India as the third-largest carbon emitter in the world although our per capita carbon emissions are low. The country needs to invest more to increase the share of renewable sources in electricity generation, electrification of fossil-fuel dependent industries, commercial manufacturing of green hydrogen, and promoting electric vehicles to achieve its goals.

India, the sixth-largest economy in the world, has surely a task cut out for. The trickiest part will be how the country balances its soaring energy needs and lowers its carbon emissions at the same time.

Experts believe that by 2070 India will be a comparatively richer country with a much higher per capita income that will create the fiscal space for the country to go for complete transition. So, according to analysts, the target 2070 is doable, though not a cakewalk.

The sheer size of the country and its huge scope for growth suggests that India’s energy demand is set to grow by more than that of any other country in the coming decades.

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India over the past five years has launched several efforts at many fronts to further its transition to clean energy and mobility, which includes its nationally determined contribution to install 500 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2028 and the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles (FAME) II scheme (Exhibit 2) to support the adoption of 7,000 electric buses, 5 lakh electric three-wheelers, 55,000 electric passenger cars, and 10 lakh electric two-wheelers. Complete overhauling of transportation to green fuel will certainly help India to reduce its CO2 emissions to a great extent, if implemented wisely.  

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India’s Power Consumption

Besides transportation, India is still highly dependent on fossil fuels such as coal and oil to run its power generating stations to meet electricity demand. The country’s energy demand is also expected to rise over the next decade as the economy continues on its growth trajectory. A gradual switch in power generation is needed if India wants to reduce emissions. From coal and oil to green energy will take time to materialise. The task is huge but not impossible to achieve.

According to India’s Central Electricity Authority (CEA), India was meeting 9.2 per cent of its electricity generation from renewables in 2019. By 2021, with an increase in renewable energy capacity to 102 GW the generation had increased to roughly 12 per cent. It means that India needs to increase this to meet the 50 per cent electricity generation target by 2030.

India’s target and energy plan for 2030 also implies that India will restrict its coal-based energy; currently, roughly 60 GW of coal thermal power is under construction and in the pipeline.

According to CEA, India’s coal capacity will be 266 GW by 2030 — which is an addition of 38 GW (which is roughly, what is under construction currently). This means India has stated that it will not invest in new coal beyond this. Reforms in the power distribution sector are also needed to pave the way for the transition to happen smoothly.

What Lies Ahead?

As India embarks on a new path to transform its energy needs, the country has to strike a balance between energy requirements and carbon emissions. The government has to chalk out policy to look after the coal workers to see that they are not left behind. Equitable growth should be there and the government must ensure that the poor are not denied their right to development in this new energy future. At the same time all the state governments should be on board for this mission.  

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Dr Bibek Debroy, chairman, Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister and Steering Committee member of Competitiveness Roadmap for India@100, has recently said that India can become an upper-middle-income country by 2047 if it manages to achieve a sustained growth rate of 7-7.5 per cent for the next 25 years. The country can become a $20-trillion economy by 2047 at this growth rate. It can be expected that in 2047, when the nation will celebrating her 100th year of Independence, India will be a global powerhouse and will be in a good position to control and manage her greenhouse gas emissions, way before 2070 – the target to become net zero.