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India's $2.3-trillion plan focuses on green energy

REUTERS  |  New Delhi 

India will spend $2.3 trillion(Rs 1,02,00,499 crore) to boost its energy sector by 2030 by improving energy efficiency and using clean technology to help Asia’s third largest economy balance growth and environmental aims.

While India will need to keep burning cheaper fossil fuel to expand the reach of electricity to half of its one-billion-plus population without power, relying on conventional energy alone would be unsustainable as reserves deplete and costs rise.

And, being the world’s third-worst carbon emitter only makes it imperative to shift to a greener economy, B K Chaturvedi, a member of the Planning Commission that charts India’s growth path, told a Reuters Global Climate and Alternative Energy Summit. “We should develop this in the context of a two-pronged strategy: The first is improving energy efficiency, and the second is changing the mix of the energy which we consume,” Chaturvedi said.

He said India plans to spend $2.3 trillion on the energy sector by 2030, which will include a substantial burden for expanding the country’s energy basket to include green sources such as solar, wind and nuclear power. “Some of it will be towards energy consumption, but a lot of it will go towards improving energy efficiency and improving the composition of energy,” Chaturvedi, a former top civil servant, said. “This cost will have to be borne by the economy.” He didn’t mention what portion of the amount would be spent on making the shift to a green economy in the next two decades.

Going green

India last year set a goal for slowing the growth of its emissions, saying it will try to rein in its “carbon intensity” the amount of carbon dioxide emitted per unit of GDP by between 20 and 25 per cent by 2020, from 2005 levels.

Chaturvedi said the target was doable, and that thrust for efficiency was being laid on power, transport and industry among a slew of energy-intensive sectors. He said the government had set up a panel on transport sector efficiency which would submit its report by early next year.

“We are taking measures for improving the energy efficiency of cars, and setting up the dedicated freight corridor so that we are able to expand goods faster,” he said. “We are trying to move to increase the share of rail transport from 30 per cent to around 50-60 per cent. In developing that you require a lot of investment in the rail sector.”

Power remains a top priority in terms of increasing energy efficiency and use of renewables as well. India aims to add about 100 gigawatts (Gw) of power generation capacity by early 2017, much of it from coal, despite conceding it would miss by 79 per cent an earlier five-year target of adding 78.7 Gw by March 2012.

India aims to almost triple the use of hydro power by 2032 and that of nuclear by almost six times during the same period, which could help India slow the growth of its emissions.

Game changing technology

Additionally, India hopes to generate 10.5 Gw of wind power by 2012 and 20 Gw of solar power by 2022, as part of plans to lift the contribution of “green” power sources to India’s energy mix to about 20 per cent by 2020. Just about six per cent of India’s total power mix now comes from renewables.

But Chaturvedi said renewables were still expensive energy and that it was important to develop technology to cut costs.

He, however, warned the world was still awaiting “game changing” green technologies.

“Things are coming up, but these are not game-changers,” he said, adding the private sector was key in developing research.

“What we are doing is trying to see how we can use or adapt these (Western) technologies, and pick up some of the other areas of energy efficiency to invest these funds.”

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First Published: Thu, October 14 2010. 01:12 IST