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Transition Pathways: India’s Roadmap towards Net-Zero by 2070


Authors: Dorothy Ashmita Biswas & Soham Banerjee

Energy Review, Vol 4. Issue 3. 2022

The 2021 publication of the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) was a critical precursor to the 26th Conference of Parties (COP26), cementing the urgency required by the global community for reducing emissions in order to prevent irreversible change in the climate. In response, countries around the world are committing to net-zero target years to limit global temperature rise within 1.5-degree temperature rise, as per the Paris Agreement. Similarly, the Prime Minister of India announced a five-point strategy towards the nation’s climate action enhancing its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and setting a national net-zero target for 2070. Four of these targets aim for the enhancement of India’s renewable energy (RE) capacity and the reduction of carbon intensity of its GDP. The fulfilment of India’s announcements at COP26 in Glasgow will require a substantial policy shift from business-as-usual, along with reduction of cost of technologies for domestic companies to make the shift towards energy efficiency. While India has enhanced its commitments for climate action at Glasgow, international climate finance from developed countries has failed to deliver on the $100 billion commitment.

India’s movement towards transitioning into a low-carbon emitting economy is already widely underway. Recent years have seen India make progress in its low-carbon energy system through a noticeable slowdown in the rate of constructing new coal-fired power stations, while parallelly building a viable and large-scale solar PV sector. Policy interventions like the Perform Achieve Trade (PAT), the recently announced Raising and Accelerating MSME Productivity (RAMP), and Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles (FAME) have pushed for the adoption of RE and have promoted energy efficiency widely across sectors. Long-term strategies such as the National Hydrogen Energy Mission have cemented the roadmap towards R&D and the adoption of cleaner sources of energy ,aside from RE at scale.

However, building on the progress India has made so far, India will require tremendous financial and technological support from developed countries and private corporations on its path to a net-zero economy. India’s push for RE overall has been laudable, but the efforts need to have a sector-specific approach, across all industries, in order to scale down national emissions. Aside from power, the spotlight needs to fall extensively on energy intensive sectors such as the 6 listed under the PAT scheme in Cycle VI. There is great potential for widespread electrification of processes in the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME), agriculture and transport. Reducing the impact of direct emissions with the help of mitigating technologies such as carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) will be critical in hard-to-abate energy intensive sectors such as iron, steel and cement.

India will need to adopt cleaner energy technologies at a widespread scale. Faster deployment of large-scale solar, wind and hydro power will be critical in phasing out coal, powering greater electrification across the country, both in rural and urban regions. The electrification of energy services is a major lever for the transformation of the energy system and the reduction of emissions, particularly as the electricity system shifts to zero-carbon generation through solar and wind power. Opportunities for electrification exist in every sector of the economy, with most making use of available or near-term technologies. New alternative fuels like biofuels and biogas need to be developed and deployed to help drive the decarbonisation of sectors such as agriculture and transport. Additionally over time, India requires hydrogen produced from electrolysis to manage carbon emissions from hard-to-abate sectors such as heavy industry and heavy commercial vehicles.

Achieving the targets India set about at COP26 in Glasgow will require businesses and governments to work together closely to enhance innovation, create and grow new markets, deliver goods and services which in a way will shape up consumer behaviour to a greener future. This movement will require a multi-stakeholder approach which will include perspectives from all levels across sectors. In India, success stories of climate action through public-private partnerships (PPP) are numerous. One such instance would be the promotion and adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) in the Indian markets in the last decade. The Indian Electric Vehicle Market was valued at USD 1434.04 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach USD 15,397.19 billion by 2027 registering a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CGAR) of 47.09% during the forecast period (2022 - 2027). It is also expected that India will have a tipping point of the EV market by 2030 where public-private partnerships will play a crucial role in deploying finance and adopting technological advances alongside policies that promote and incentivize the transition. Announcements and initiatives taken up by private firms like Tata and the Adani group around research and development of green hydrogen as an energy source also exemplify the importance of PPP involvement alongside national strategies like the National Hydrogen Energy Mission.

Such collaborative efforts between governments and PPPs will be essential across sectors to overall shift the narrative towards energy efficiency and meet India’s NDCs. Some of the key action areas to fulfil India’s ambition of achieving net zero targets include-

Policy and Regulation: Industries and markets need to be steered more aggressively towards energy efficiency with standards, regulations and incentives for transitioning and planning the phasing-down of emissions.

Innovation and Product Development: Technological innovation and improvement through R&D and piloting will have to scale up to widespread deployment to have measurable impact in the near term. Collaborations and involvement with PPPs will be critical for incorporating more energy efficient technologies into the mix at a sectoral level.

Market Making: Private sector interest and demand in energy efficient technologies will have to be significantly increased through building and accommodating market activities. Regulations, registries and standards need to be adopted for a domestic market to emerge and steer PPPs towards contributing to meeting the NDCs. Activities under Article 6, supported by this domestic market infrastructure, will be a key tool in aiding the economy’s transition to net-zero emissions.

(Dorothy Ashmita Biswas and Soham Banerjee are Project Associates at the Centre for Global Environment Research at The Energy and Resources Institute, New Delhi.)■□■

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