India Pushing for Renewable Leadership

June 15, 2017

Above, my interview 2 years ago with Keith Schneider, long time writer for the New York Times who specializes in International environmental and energy issues.

I’ll be visiting him again next week for an update, in light of Paris. For now, he sent me a recent synopsis of hopeful developments in an important part of the world.

In the vacuum left by US abdication of technological leadership in renewable energy, India has decided it will be a player.

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars:

MADURAI, India – Before he agreed to serve as minister of state and take command of his country’s mammoth energy production and distribution sector, Piyush Goyal developed one of India’s most spirited political careers. “A man of ideas and competence,” according to First Post, a prominent news organization, Goyal is an accountant and lawyer who rose to the peak of Indian economic and political culture as an investment banker, member of parliament, and treasurer of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Following the May 2014 national election – a BJP triumph – Goyal seemed poised to assume any number of economic development posts in Narendra Modi’s new government. Modi recognized, though, that Goyal’s expertise in law, international finance, and politics was a near perfect fit for one of the most difficult ministerial assignments. Modi asked Goyal to make over India’s obsolete, dangerous, water-wasting electrical generating sector.

India’s leaders are attempting a delicate maneuver: stoking the fires of economic growth while jettisoning an energy strategy that relies on coal for almost 70 percent of its electricity. The country churns with economic disruptions that are not helped at all by frequent blackouts and confrontations over scarce water between citizens and coal-fired electrical stations. State and national agencies are burdened by corruption that impedes the fair permitting and enforcement of pollution control laws. In rural villages, people organize to protect their water supplies and block coal mines and the construction of coal-fired power plants.

Goyal has moved to meet that challenge much faster than anyone anticipated. Though he has not attained the global prominence of climate champions such as Pope Francis, Al Gore, or Bill McKibben, Goyal belongs in the conversation. “We have crossed 10,000 [megawatts] of installed capacity of solar,” Goyal said in one triumphant tweet in mid-March. “In another 15 months we expect this to go up to 20,000 MW and 100,000 MW by 2022.” A thousand megawatts is equal to one gigawatt, roughly the size of a single large coal or natural gas power station.

India now competes with China, the United States, Japan, and Germany as a world-leading developer of electricity from wind, solar, biomass, and small hydropower plants. India’s generating capacity from wind power is more than 30 gigawatts, fourth among nations and nearly 6 gigawatts more than two years ago. India’s solar electrical generating capacity doubled in the last year to 10 gigawatts. Overall, India reached 50 gigawatts of renewable generating capacity in March 2017, excluding large hydro-electricity, twice as much as in 2012 and equal to 16 percent of India’s total generating capacity. The country ranks fifth in the world in renewable capacity, according to government figures.

Like China and the United States, India is also shutting down old coal-fired plants and curtailing the development of new ones. In December 2016, India announced an energy plan to develop 275 gigawatts of generating capacity from renewable sources by 2027, equivalent to more than a quarter of all the generating capacity in the United States. The Central Electric Authority said India would not need to build another new coal-fired generating station for at least a decade and likely longer. If carried out, that would mean effectively shelving 178 gigawatts of previously planned coal-fired generating capacity.

Goyal followed that disclosure with another – a plan to quickly close at least a dozen still operating coal-fired plants that have a total of 11 gigawatts of generating capacity. “That one action alone will not only help us bring in more efficiency in the operation of thermal plants, but will help us reduce millions of tons of carbon dioxide that is being generated by the age-old plants,” he said in a statement. “It will help us reignite economic activity in the power sector.”

The numbers express a profound new reality in India’s energy industry that carries international significance: Climate-changing carbon emissions in India, the world’s third largest producer, are poised to start leveling off after years of sizable increases. India is joining China, the United States, and Europe in reducing carbon emissions at the same time that economic activity increases – a decoupling that has been heralded by economists as critical to slowing and stopping global climate change. In March, the International Energy Agency reported that in 2016, for the third year in a row, climate-changing emissions did not increase even as the global economy expanded.



India, a country of 1.3 billion people, is becoming perhaps the world’s best example of the revolution in green energy.

“It’s happening faster than anybody expected, because it was a gigantic promise,” says international environmental reporter Stephen Leahy, who has been writing about the energy transition in India for National Geographic.

“Many people were skeptical that they could deliver, but in just these last two years they have done remarkable things, in terms of creating a new approach to bringing energy to an awful lot of people,” Leahy says. “People thought that even if India [tried], they couldn’t do it this quickly. The perception of India may be that it’s a bureaucratic government that takes a long time to make decisions, that there’s lots of red tape, but that seems not to be the case when it comes to this.”

Leahy says India is acting, in part, because it is so vulnerable to the weather changes created by climate disruption.

“They’ve got water shortages. They’ve had huge heat waves that killed hundreds of people. They’ve got the sea-level rise issue, with most of the coastal areas. There are threats to their monsoon, which their agriculture is completely dependent upon,” he says. “There are a whole range of real impacts already happening to India right now, and it’s only going to get worse in the future.”

For India, the beauty of renewable energy is it’s cheaper, and it’s decentralized, Leahy says. In remote areas, where people have no electricity at all, “it’s much easier to install a small solar panel setup or a couple of wind turbines to provide energy,” he notes.

The other aspect that doesn’t get as much attention is water usage, Leahy says. Coal uses billions of gallons of good, quality water to provide electricity, while solar and wind require almost none. In a country without sufficient water to grow its crops, this is a major benefit.

India’s massive market has helped drive down the costs of renewable energy, Leahy says. Globally, prices have been falling year after year, and right now, India is getting a lot of financing from banks and financial institutions who see there’s money to be made.

“This isn’t a charity project. This is a moneymaking venture for a lot of companies,” Leahy points out. “Those folks who are installing renewables are power companies who are borrowing money — millions of dollars — from banks, and they are planning on making some profits off of this.”




26 Responses to “India Pushing for Renewable Leadership”

  1. Sir Charles Says:

    Meanwhile, the US Energy Department Closes Office Working on Climate Change Abroad

    The Energy Department is closing an office that works with other countries to develop clean energy technology, another sign of the Trump administration’s retreat on climate-related activities after its withdrawal from the Paris agreement this month.

    The 11 staff members of the Office of International Climate and Technology were told this month that their positions were being eliminated, according to current and former agency employees. The office was formed in 2010 to help the United States provide technical advice to other nations seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    The small office also played a lead role preparing for the annual Clean Energy Ministerial, a forum in which the United States, China, India and other countries shared insights on how best to promote energy efficiency, electric vehicles and other solutions to climate change.

    Word of the closing came right before Rick Perry, the energy secretary, attended the latest Clean Energy Ministerial meeting in Beijing on June 6 to 8, agency employees said.

    The Energy Department did not respond to a request for comment.

    In May, President Trump released a budget for 2018 proposing the “elimination of climate change initiatives” within the Energy Department, including the international climate office. While the budget will require congressional approval, Mr. Perry has authority to reorganize parts of the Energy Department before lawmakers decide on spending levels.
    Continue reading the main story
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    The office is the only one in the Energy Department to have “climate” as part of its name.

    The Trump administration has scaled back the federal government’s involvement on global warming on a number of fronts, scrubbing mentions of “climate change” from a variety of agency websites and unwinding climate regulations at the Environmental Protection Agency.

    Closing the Office of International Climate and Technology could make cooperation on clean energy with other countries much harder, said Graham Pugh, who headed the office from 2011 to 2014. While both the State and Energy Departments still have separate programs to engage with China, Brazil and other countries, the office being eliminated specialized in applying the agency’s technical expertise to other nations’ efforts to advance clean energy projects.

    The office played an important role, for instance, in helping India develop its own lighting efficiency standards and start a program to purchase LED lamps in bulk for consumers. “That program will lead to massive savings in terms of avoided carbon dioxide emissions and air pollution,” said Jonathan Elkind, who was an assistant secretary for the Energy Department’s Office of International Affairs during the Obama administration.

    “Unfortunately there is an incredible dissonance between the declared interest of this administration to continue to lead on clean energy, and their actions,” Mr. Elkind said.

    Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, said a day after President Trump announced the withdrawal from the Paris accord that the United States would continue to engage with other nations on climate change by sharing clean energy technology.

    “We need to export the technology and natural gas to those around the globe, India and China, and help them learn from us on what we’ve done to achieve good outcomes,” he said.

  2. vierotchka Says:

    That’s god news – along with China’s manufacturing of solar panels, these two countries will open a huge market for remewable entergy technology to the world. Since Russia is close to both countries (think BRICS and the New Silk Road, among other things), it might very well join into that movement, stupid baseless sanctions notwithstanding.

    • Sir Charles Says:

      Russia doesn’t care about climate change. Their economy is grossly depending on fossil fuel exports. Putin is looking forward to the Arctic melt as they could easier reach into the ground to suck up more oil and gas.


      Russia is the only big emitter that has not yet ratified the Paris Agreement, and instead has presented a national strategy that may delay ratification until at least 2019.

      • vierotchka Says:

        Absolute nonsense. You feed your irrational hatred of Russia and Putin with fake news from the MSM exclusively and don’t bother to dig for facts and truth.

        “During the question and answer session, Mr Putin said he did not consider the US to be an enemy of Russia and claimed he wanted a “constructive dialogue” with Washington.

        “He cited nuclear non-proliferation, fighting poverty and tackling climate change as areas where the two countries could co-operate, but said any warming in relations would depend on the US.”

        • Sir Charles Says:

          What has your comment to do with Russia not ratifying the Paris accord? That “absolute nonsense” is falling right back to you, “vierotchka”. < a href="" isn’t “MSM”. The Climate Action Tracker (CAT) is an independent scientific analysis produced by three research organisations tracking climate action since 2009. They track progress towards the globally agreed aim of holding warming well below 2°C, and pursuing efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C.

          • Sir Charles Says:

            Sorry. Got the HTML tag wrong. Here the correct link =>

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Right on! Vera’s comments seldom have anything to do with any “truth”, but merely parrot the crap provided to her in her “Russian Troll and Whore for Putin” Handbook.

            For example:

            “Absolute nonsense. You feed your irrational hatred of Russia and Putin with fake news from the MSM exclusively and don’t bother to dig for facts and truth”.

            How many times and in how many variations has Vera made this meaningless, unsupported, and formulaic bald assertion? Putin is a weasel, and what he says on ANY topic is as questionable as what we hear from his puppet The Great Orange Tweeter.

      • webej Says:

        Another great emitter has also not ratified by process of domestic legislation, as have most of the parties ratifying the Paris accord, and that country is the USA. Many dispute whether the USA has ratified it in a valid legal commitment.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          So? Don’t shoot your toes off as you whore for Putin, Dweeby. The USA has not ratified because Putin’s puppet Trump is pushing fossil fuels, and that is due to his wanting to help Putin make the big bucks—-payback for Putin helping him win the election?—–Mueller will get to the bottom of it, and you and Vera will be out of a job.


    An American lobbyist for Russian interests who helped craft an important foreign policy speech for Donald Trump has confirmed that he attended two dinners hosted by Jeff Sessions during the 2016 campaign, apparently contradicting the attorney general’s sworn testimony given this week.

    Sessions testified under oath on Tuesday that he did not believe he had any contacts with lobbyists working for Russian interests over the course of Trump’s campaign. But Richard Burt, a former ambassador to Germany during the Reagan administration, who has represented Russian interests in Washington, told the Guardian that he could confirm previous media reports that stated he had contacts with Sessions at the time.

    “I did attend two dinners with groups of former Republican foreign policy officials and Senator Sessions,” Burt said.

    Asked whether Sessions was unfamiliar with Burt’s role as a lobbyist for Russian interests – a fact that is disclosed in public records – or had any reason to be confused about the issue, Burt told the Guardian that he did not know.

    Several media reports published before Trump’s election in November noted that Burt advised then candidate Trump on his first major foreign policy speech, a role that brought him into contact with Sessions personally.

    Burt, who previously served on the advisory board of Alfa Capital Partners, a private equity fund where Russia’s Alfa Bank was an investor and last year was lobbying on behalf of a pipeline company that is now controlled by Gazprom, Russia’s state-controlled energy conglomerate, first told Politico in October that he had been invited to two dinners that were hosted by Sessions last summer, at the height of the presidential campaign.

    Sessions, a former senator for Alabama who was chairman of the Trump campaign’s national security committee, reportedly invited Burt so that he could discuss issues of national security and foreign policy.

    When John McCain, the Republican senator from Arizona who is a frequent critic of Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin, asked Sessions in a hearing this week before the Senate intelligence committee about whether the attorney general had ever had “any contacts with any representative, including any American lobbyist or agent of any Russian company” during the 2016 campaign, Sessions said he did not.

  4. Andy Lee Robinson Says:

    Australia’s Adani coal mine has to be dead in the water in the light of this news.
    I can’t see any way that it can go ahead.
    Let’s hope Australia wakes up out of its fossil fueled coma asap and starts to see the light, and the wind.

    • Problem is it isn’t about Adani.
      It is about building the railway and port facilities (which Adani will get to keep and charge for use of)
      It is about the massive leases in the Galilee basin by dear weet little poor princess Gina and Forest who truly love and are great benefactors to the LNP, why Barnaby our deputy P.M and bosom buddy of dear Gina would be most distressed if Gina lost her railway and port facilities, heaven forbid that lease would be worthless or she would have to pay for it herself rather than the taxpayer paying a $Billion for the railway.

      We can’t lay that burden on the poor struggling little dear, or at least that is what that human beetroot Barnaby would say

  5. indy222 Says:

    One more time…… the widely ballyhooed “flat emissions for the last 3 years” which the “Stay the course, no need for big changes to our direction” crowd loves to trumpet – is not backed up by the atmospheric CO2 curve, which is rising at accelerating rates during this same time, now over 3ppm per year. And THIS is the only curve that matters. China has been caught under-reporting their emissions . Skepticism trending to outright disbelief is the proper stance on this “flat emissions” claim. The Garrett Relation will continue to hold – global energy consumption rate is proportional to the sum total of all civilization’s inflation-adjusted spending over all time. Renewables are still too tiny to make much of a difference in the friendlier direction, especially in 3 years. Look at US Oil production – rising over the past 8 years now.

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