Theme: The Political Economy of Energy Transition
Dates: 7, 9, 11, 14, 16, and 18 December 2020
Format: On Zoom Platform (Registration Required) Time: 3:00-6:00 pm
The Energy Finance Conference-India (EFCI), since the inaugural conference in 2019, has been an explorative leap to decipher, analyse and make sense of the world of energy, economy and environment at large. EFC is co-organized by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT, Madras– Department of Humanities) and the Centre for Financial Accountability (CFA). The 2020 Conference is further stimulated by the association of Climate Trends as a knowledge partner. The collaborative Conference has been a facilitator for diverse viewpoints to come together and converse, in an effort to understand and critically engage with each other. The 2019 Conference brought together several key stakeholders for discussions and deliberations on the many facets of energy economics, including speakers and participants from the industry, banking, think tanks, executive, academia and trade unions along with researchers, climate justice activists and local community members, so as to be able to share, reflect and learn from each other.
The Conference, this year, will be held in an online format from the 7th of December 2020 over a course of 6 alternate working days beginning with the inaugural session and followed by 5 thematic sessions of 3 hours each on 9th, 11th, 14th, 16th and 18th December . With a view to advance the conversations around Energy and Finance through Energy Finance Conference- India, the key operational theme of the Conference this year will be The Political Economy of Energy Transition. The thematic sessions, under the larger framework of political economy of energy transition, seek to capture perspectives and propositions on some of the most compelling narratives around the transition paradigm. These include discussions on what constitutes energy transition and what would such a transition embody for the global population in general and Indian public in particular, the economic, socio-political and cultural ramifications of the transition in motion, the myriad sectoral inter- linkages and overlaps within the process of energy transition, the policy statutes and institutional mechanisms guiding energy transition in India and lastly, the role of financial governance and economic regulatory measures in assisting in the attempted energy transition in the country.
Why Political Economy of Energy Transition?
Energy is indeed the corner stone of the modern industrial economy and modern energy enterprises have become the new catalysts for socio-economic development in societies. While the world is bearing witness to the worst ever capitalist contradiction in modern history, through an unprecedented global lockdown imposed by a viral outbreak, it also presents us with the best opportunity to explore and examine the inter dependence and sustainability of both energy and growth from the prism of economics. The pandemic exposed us both to the deeper fault-lines in the non-democratization of economic and socio-political powers in a market model and to the ecological and economic implausibility of sustaining the industrial economy as we have known it for generations.
An energy pathway predominantly dependent on depleting fossil fuel resources and consequently contributing to the steadily detonating climate crisis is definitely pushing the earth towards a “global tipping point”. Weathering the climate change and the bottlenecks in the supply of energy resources requires a rapid, dramatic shift in world energy sources–a shift that is not just extremely challenging and unprecedented, but would also require levels of investment measured in tens of trillions of dollars. A transition is hence inevitable. However, any idea of a just transition should go beyond merely disparaging the globalized capitalist economy framework and must include a plan towards reforming and democratizing the systems of governance and economy, while linking it also to the locally living participatory economies that look out for the welfare of one and all. It must also look in to and recognize the disproportionately placed social locations of the rich and the poor all across the world. Further, the developing world including India must look towards and learn from the global transitory experiences to ensure that the transition covers and secures energy security and self-reliance in countries bargaining for a systemic transformation of all sectors of the economy. Along with aiming for greater democratization and access to energy services, countries like India must also be vigilant against overlooking their specificities like the existing institutional structures, decision making processes, federal dynamism, ground realities and competing identities in the current political narrative, while ushering in the transition discourses.
In economies like those of India the dialogues on the need for transition towards a sustainable energy economy becomes worthwhile due to multiple reasons; one the one hand the Indian national circumstances equates growth in per capita energy consumption with economic growth itself and on the other the skewed character of energy economics in the country refuses to ensure even a minimum access to energy services for a broad section of the population. The political economy framework of such a sustainable transition would introduce and cover the transition to energy democracy, that encapsulates the multiple objectives of energy access, equity, affordability, security, and consistency, for all rather than a few. Along with climate change goals, an equitable energy transition paradigm encompasses a shift from arbitrary development to ecosystem revival, from gentrification to community land rights, from social exclusion and poverty to right to dignified labour and decent remunerations and so on and so forth. India, being an economy heavily dependent on its ability to procure, harness and disburse energy resources, has been witnessing several shifts in its energy paradigm; the most popular being the much celebrated shift from fossils to renewable. The viability and sustainability of such energy transitions, nevertheless, can only be ascertained through a thorough scrutiny of the inferred efficacy of its cost and effects and a detailed assessment of the possible repercussions, through social dialogues, for all stakeholders, including the voices seldom heard.
Further, any real transformation in the pre-existing power relations within the prevailing energy model will require not just a long-term policy-level vision from the state but also continued cooperation amongst a large array of diverse stakeholders that recognizes access to and ownership of energy resources as a human right. It is in this context that it becomes relevant and prudent to look in to the political economy of energy transition in India along with correlative and stirring energy transition experiences from across the globe. As transition from one unviable economic model to another unsustainable one is not necessarily a marker of progression, the Indian energy transition paradigm would do well to look forward to a transitory model of energy reign that addresses questions of energy efficiency and unequal energy distribution, and augments the mechanisms for waste minimization and enhancing resilience.
An Overview of the Ripple Effects of the Energy Transition in Motion
The financial flows and modules in the Indian energy market today are heavily inclined towards the great Indian transition from fossils to renewable sources, with the country witnessing a slump in coal financing by 82% in 2019. Despite many states still going ahead with coal-fired thermal plants and simultaneous efforts to bundle renewable energy with coal in an apparent effort to provide round the clock power, a cumulative Rs 22,917 crore (US$ 3,220 million) was loaned to 41 renewable energy projects alone in India in 2019, wherein solar PV accounted for 69% and 31% for wind. Hence, renewable energy is here to stay and it currently defines the energy transitory trajectory of Indian economy. While it is pertinent to look in to and adapt to the advantages of a clean energy model, one can also not turn a blind eye to the ever increasing concern about the accompanying geographical and environmental ramifications that such projects set in motion. While the real ‘costs’ of such vicissitudes may be difficult to compute, the practical manifestations that unfold before us in the form of displacement of local communities from their traditional land holdings leading to loss of lives and livelihoods, ecological damages like loss of ground water and parched agricultural and pastoral lands, submergence of multiple villages and mass migration of labourers from villages to cities in search of alternate avenues for sustenance are hard to dismiss.
Finding the Variants of a ‘Just’ Transition through the Conference
A clean energy economy thus has to be a ‘just’ one committed to the generation of employment opportunities for displaced workers, environmental rehabilitation in coal mining activities, safeguarding the ecological system by promoting sustainable enterprises and facilitation of more energy and resource efficient practices. As the energy policies of an incumbent government leave its mark on all sectors of the economy, there is the need for a larger dialogue on the need to judiciously maximise the security of energy supplies in the country to fuel development without burdening both human beings and the environment. These dialogues must in turn address all aspects of energy economy, including generation, distribution, investments as well as the inequity in access and consumption. The Energy Finance Conference-India, 2020 has the Political Economy of Energy Transition as its central theme with the intent to open up discussions on what does the energy transition framework in India entail, along with deliberations on what do we as stakeholders and observers understand and decipher from the current transitory phase in motion, both in terms of its right routes and wrong curves.
More details: https://www.cenfa.org/efci/
Department of Humanities – Indian Institute of Technology, Madras
Centre for Financial Accountability, New Delhi