Photo courtesy js42/Flickr

Photo courtesy js42/Flickr

Renewable energy has been in the Indian news a lot lately. Firstly, India is gearing up for a partnership in renewable energy with the United States: an American trade mission exploring possible tie-ups in solar energy has come to India at a time when India is fleshing out its national solar mission (which was announced in the climate change action plan last year).

As far as public awareness on energy conservation is concerned, there seems to be a new push towards fostering awareness. The government has been running a series of environmentally themed ads (although the approach is one of cutting costs and economising) on conserving energy (saving cooking gas, petrol and switching to ecofriendly lighting). Let’s also not forget that today a number of mostly urban Indians will observe Earth Hour and turn off their lights for an hour this evening.

Thirdly, Greenpeace’s recent report on energy efficiency notes that given the right political will, India could potentially source 35% of its electricity requirements from renewable energy. Arguing that economic development need not be compromised, it calls for an “energy revolution” that will push for encouraging innovation, removing subsidies that support fossil fuels, reforming the energy sectors and introducing better regulation and laws. The press release adds that “there is a huge opportunity in going green now given the fact that India is still developing its energy infrastructure and has the human and intellectual capital to be world leaders on this front”.

Clearly, the political will required to push such policies through is very important. India has been pretty slow in formulating an environmental agenda and acting upon it in the past (indeed, as mentioned above, the climate change action plan was mostly silent on policies and most of the missions announced in the action plan are yet to be articulated). The recently released election manifestos of the main political parties don’t really mention any environmental or climate change initiative because elections in India are fought on a very different set of issues. And of course, India doesn’t have a green party. A report published by FICCI (the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry) evaluates the incumbent government’s environmental performance noting that it has fallen short in a number of areas: inefficient CDM processing procedures, weak EIA monitoring measures and insufficient biodiversity and conservation initiatives.

Nevertheless, energy security is perhaps the most important feature of India’s climate change policy so far. The economic ramifications are perceived to be just as important as (if not more than) the environmental ones and the renewable energy market is poised to expand considerably. Given also the fact that the infrastructure and networks are still being set up in India the pursuit of energy self sufficiency is a priority and will continue to be so, irrespective of political and electoral outcomes.

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