Interested in clean, green jobs? Care about the consequences of climate change? Then don’t miss out on this exclusive interview with Dr Arunabha Ghosh, CEO of CEEW.
How would you describe the clean energy scenario in India?
The clean energy sector in India is where the action is at. What India is trying to do in 7–10 years is the kind of transformation that Germany went through over 20 years. Currently we have around 5,000MW of solar power, 26,000MW of wind power, and we are trying to take that to 100,000MW of solar and 60,000MW of wind, plus biomass and small hydropower. So basically we need to reach a total renewable capacity of 175,000MW by 2022. The biggest challenge is speed. Germans don’t play cricket, but in India we are mad about cricket! I connect it to a run rate, and every week that we don’t deploy solar or wind capacity, the run rate to achieve these targets keeps increasing exponentially. The second challenge is financing. While a lot of overseas finance has come in to support the initial rounds of deployment of clean energy, including from KfW [the German Development Bank], we need to develop the financial ecosystem so that institutional investors can invest in larger portfolios of assets. The third challenge is skills. We have estimated that we can create a million jobs in the solar sector alone, but to do that we need a skilled workforce.
What is the most viable clean energy technology for India?
At the moment it’s solar power, because India has more than 300 days of sunshine and we now have an understanding of the technology. Another reason why it’s more viable is the sustainability of policies. The government has used reverse auctioning, which means that with each round of bringing in new projects the prices are being competitively brought down.
Why is the 2015 Paris climate change agreement signed at the COP21 so historic?
The agreement, adopted at the COP21, is important because 195 countries have agreed that everyone will put forward something in the battle against climate change, so in that sense it is a capstone of 20 years of effort. If you look at the fiancing target, a floor has been put under 100 billion dollars, so it’s not a ceiling but a floor. If you look at the stocktake globally, where we collectively
acknowledge how well or poorly we are doing, it is a demonstration that countries want to work together. Paris is also a stepping stone because it has already kicked off interesting initiatives such as the International Solar Alliance, which India is spearheading. It creates a platform where rich countries, poor countries and emerging economies can come together.
What does the outcome of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) mean for India?
The agreement is important because it is endorsing what India is already planning to do: scale up solar energy ambitions to 100,000MW. The fact that the agreement endorses these Intended Nationally Determined Contributions [INDCs] is an acknowledgment of India’s ambitions, but it also puts pressure on it to achieve those targets.
What does the COP21 mean for us on an individual level?
Paris is important for individuals because it puts climate change into the mainstream. It’s no longer something that appears in the headlines once a year when the Conference of the Parties takes place or just seasonally when the air quality gets bad. It puts the onus back on the individual. We should be thinking about our lifestyles. Are our buildings energy efficient? Are our appliances five-star rated? Are we using LED bulbs? What the Paris agreement does is that it tells everybody there is a different economy of the future that will be based on resource efficiency, decentralisation and empowerment of the consumer. energy sources. That has immense demonstration
What role can Germany play in facilitating India’s energy transition?
The one country that has already demonstrated what the future looks like is Germany. Its Energiewende has shown how an advanced industrial economy can generate a majority of its electricity from renewable effect for other countries that are trying to
develop a similar trajectory. Together, Germany and India can look at the engineering capability to deploy renewables quickly. They can also invest in energy storage, since it is going to be the game changer. It will make the difference between a renewables revolution and a much slower renewables evolution. Thirdly, they can improve the quality of the transmission lines and the grid. The fourth area of cooperation should be off-grid solutions.
What are some important contributions Germany can make when it comes to technology transfer?
Germany and India need to pool resources, both public and private. Secondly, a framework where intellectual property gets co-developed and co-owned should be created. You come to the table with the intellectual property that you own and anything new that gets developed jointly becomes co-owned. The third thing is to look at both cash and in-kind contributions, whether from private investors or a research lab that might not have money to provide but might have scientists. All these mechanisms create a platform of equals, a platform where the capabilities of both sides are exploited. German engineering and investment capabilities match with Indian engineering and business model development capabilities.
What is your advice to our readers who want to work in the clean energy sector?
The best place to start is at home! If you are a student, tinker around with a miniature solar panel and see if you can make it light up an LED bulb. The economy of the future is going to be based significantly on clean energy, which means that you have to develop skills. We are entering a future that is different from the past, so I encourage teachers, mentors, parents to consider what a career in clean energy would look like. The same jobs that are there in engineering, public policy and finance can be oriented towards the clean energy revolution. And those who are able to ride this wave are going to have an adventurous time.
Read more about COP21 here.