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What India Can Bring to COP26

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What India Can Bring to COP26

India’s commitment to renewable energy can help it serve as a bridge between the developed and developing world.

What India Can Bring to COP26
Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ Bkwcreator

As heads of different states and climate researchers head to Glasgow to attend the 26th Conference of Parties organized by the United Nations Climate Change Framework Convention (UNFCCC), the question of how to tackle the threat of climate change still remains unanswered. The global climate action plan requires a massive revamp, especially following the report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) a few months ago. India and its active participation at the COP26 summit remain integral in the fight against climate change.

Being a responsible climate leader, India can look to play the role of a mediator between the developing and developed countries. While increasing its own ambitions of reducing net emissions and improving clean energy infrastructure, India can look to support the states that are still dependent on traditional sources of energy to provide basic amenities to their citizens. Consistent efforts to ramp up clean energy production have made India almost achieve the target of 40 percent non-fossil fuel electricity generation capacity, with 38.5 percent already having been installed in the country. This timely delivery of climate goals by India can also provide it adequate clout to call out the failure of the developed world to adhere to the agreed-upon climate goals.

India and its policies toward tackling the climate crisis along with increasing the renewable energy infrastructure in the country can serve as a base for other states looking to improve on achieving their climate targets.

A Transnational Solar Grid

India, as a founding member of the International Solar Alliance (ISA), has developed a plan titled “One Sun, One World, One Grid” (Osowog), which advocates for the construction of a transnational solar grid. The primary objective of the plan is to help in the seamless transmission of solar energy across borders to different countries.

The November 2020 statement of the ISA delved into the idea behind Osowog along with the actors involved. The initiative is led by the ISA, the Indian government, and the World Bank, which has already signed an MoU for developing a long-term vision to implement the plan. The first plenary session of Osowog adopted the initiative, along with the formulation of the World Solar Bank as two of the key deliverables for COP26. The host nation for the conference, the United Kingdom, also offered its support for implementing Osowog.

With the first phase of the plan for a world solar grid focusing on the Indian subcontinent, the role of India in the promotion of accessible solar energy to the rest of the world underlines the importance of both Osowog and India’s role in implementing the initiative. India hopes to project the plan as a potential gamechanger in the fight against climate change and a necessary step for achieving the climate goals that were set previously. Global approval of the plan can enhance India’s role as a pioneer in clean energy and emphasize its role in delivering renewable energy projects.

The Proposed Energy Storage Policy

With the consistent increase in the installation of solar and wind capacity in India, the threat of a huge injection of electricity in the grid from renewable sources could cause the breakdown of the entire grid. This calls for a storage mechanism to help balance the national electricity grid.

An October 6 release by the Ministry of Power in India has called for “suggestions with regard to the formulation of a comprehensive policy framework and… other interventions to promote energy storage in the power sector.” A detailed policy on energy storage by the Indian government is in the works, which broadly focuses on regulatory and financial aspects to improve the storage capacity in the country.

The need to integrate an efficient and consistent supply of renewable energy into the overall system in the future requires an adequate storage system to fall back on. Providing flexibility and the ability for the grid to maintain certain consumption levels through specific mechanisms can serve as a template for up-and-coming clean energy economies looking to transform their renewable energy sectors.

India has already commissioned a grid-scale battery storage system at a renewable energy park in Gujarat along with a plan to promote hydro pump storage schemes in the country. These proposed schemes and policies have enhanced India’s commitment to transition to a green economy, which can provide a direction to developing countries on improving their net emissions.

Clean Energy Investments

With a thriving renewable energy market in India, the total installed renewable energy capacity has gradually increased year on year. Inclusive policy decisions taken by the government have also resulted in a significant amount of investments pouring into the clean energy market in the country. This has proved to be India’s watershed moment in combating the climate crisis and ensuring the state is on track to meet its environmental goals that had been decided in the previous summits.

This has been validated by the Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index (RECAI) rankings, which are released by the consultancy firm, EY. India has retained its position as the third most popular destination for renewable energy investment and deployment opportunities in the recently released rankings, behind the United States and China. RECAI extensively addresses the potential for each state to rake in clean energy projects and improve the infrastructure needed to achieve the set climate goals. The significance of the environment, social, and governance (ESG) measures, along with RECAI, help multinational companies and investors analyze the potential risks involved and identify the growth opportunities that exist in a market.

RECAI also highlights the role of Corporate Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) as a key driver of clean energy growth. This edition of the RECAI has introduced a new PPA index that focuses on the nation’s corporate PPA market. India, with its growing renewable energy market, ranks sixth among the top 30 PPA markets in the world. These indices stress the ability of the country to procure renewable power and build a resilient supply chain to fast-track the process of transitioning to a green economy.

The recent energy crisis has caused huge problems to India and China, two of the largest renewable energy markets in the world. The supply of traditional energy sources, like coal and natural gas, has been affected across the globe. Some analysts have attributed the recent spike in global energy prices and the looming energy crisis to a concept called “greenflation.” The rise in energy prices has been equated to the restrictions placed by certain governments on traditional energy sources. Continued support to renewable sources of energy and regulations on coal and natural gas by governments might lead to future inflation of energy markets as per the observations of some climate analysts. A potential shortage of supply of these traditional energy sources to developing countries that are still highly dependent on them to provide basic amenities to their citizens can be a major drawback in the fight against climate change.

Despite reports that India is down to the last of its coal reserves with a possibility of an incoming coal shortage, the country still remains committed to achieving its renewable energy goals. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has stated that India is on course to achieve its target of installed capacity from non-fossil fuel energy sources. A total of 450 GW of renewable energy installed capacity is set to be achieved by the end of 2030 as per government reports.

The steadfast nature of India toward achieving its climate goals can be an ideal story for both developing and developed countries across the world. This makes India’s presence at global climate forums imperative to develop a cohesive plan of action to tackle future climate crises.