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In line with the attempts of Centre for Financial Accountability to work towards exploring the possibilities and handicaps in the much touted energy transition from fossil fuels to Renewable energy, world over in general and India in particular, we wish to introduce an exclusive monthly newsletter on Renewables, RE Matters, from CFA.  RE Matters will attempt to initiate conversations, through articles, podcasts, interviews and write-ups, from both insiders and experts, on the need for a just energy transition to renewables while also emphasizing on concepts like energy justice and energy sovereignty. The Newsletter further seeks to examine the financial side of RE Technology in India including investments in RE, financial viability of proposed and operational plans and the gaps in the public vs private shareholding in RE projects in the country.   Along with collating the lessons to be learnt from RE experiences abroad, RE Matters will venture out to explore the potential, future trends and deficiencies in the institutionalization of RE technology in India. There will also be an attempt to go beyond the commonly debated coal vs renewable binary, as a critical comparison of the economics and socio-ecological costs of both transcends the common claims of RE being the quick fix for a sustainable world. The newsletter will thus strive to serve as an extension of our existing work on documenting the human and ecological costs of both coal and RE, while also trying to develop a more rounded understanding about the two key contributors to the energy sector. 

India at present has one of the largest RE programmes in the world for deploying RE products and systems. The country has upped its ambitious target of RE capacity installation to 175 GW by 2022, drawing 110 GW from solar, 60 GW from wind, 10 GW from bio-power and 5 GW from small hydro-power projects. The significant markers of an RE push within the country can be located in India joining the International Solar Alliance in 2015, a collegium of 121 solar rich countries,  to further the development of solar power among the member countries with an ambitious target of mobilizing investments worth $1 trillion by 2030. India, being a solar rich country, with the world’s first and only 100% solar-powered airport in Cochin, Kerala and 100% solar-powered railway station in Guwahati, Assam, has already earmarked over 35,000 km2 area of Thar Desert for mega solar power projects. Similarly, on the wind energy front, despite being a relatively new entrant, the country has set a target of 60,000 MW of electricity generation from wind power by 2022. Wind power at present accounts for almost 10% of India’s total installed power capacity. Further, given the tropical location and abundant rains and sunshine, India is touted to be an ideal market for biomass energy production too, with estimates running to 16,000 MW from biomass and an additional 3500 MW from bagasse cogeneration.

While there is a growing market for green energy investments in the country that is at the top 4 ranking of world’s largest carbon-emitters, a transition to the alternative energy models, read renewables, might not exactly be a substitute for intergenerational equity. Even when the “alternative” energy models are being pushed with the intent to bring about equity, accessibility and affordability, centred around communities, a transition from coal to renewables is not necessarily only about supplanting coal as the primary source of energy in the country but has its own socio-political and economic manifestations too. Any investment in RE projects hence must be vigilant of the socio-ecological, labour, health and economic impacts of these projects on indigenous and local communities.

RE Matters thus would attempt, amongst others, to search into the political economy of India’s renewable energy aspirations and the consequent impact and resonance of such targets with the real aspirations and access to energy sources of the large majority of people within the country. We look forward to feedbacks, suggestions and comments on the first edition to better ourselves.

Thank you.

Energy Team,

Centre for Financial Accountability

Picture courtesy: “Growing Strong Together” by Sarah Bloom

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