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View from India: Clean energy initiatives to de-carbonise the economy

Technology has contributed towards the country’s economic development, but now it's important to leverage tech solutions to make the future green, sustainable and habitable. Strategic measures for mitigating climate change, shared mobility, and better usage of water and electricity can help make this a reality.

Organisations are chalking out newer technologies and innovative approaches to create a sustainable future. This could well contribute towards India’s vision of achieving net-zero emission by 2070. “The integration of science and engineering can help in ushering smart auto and smart cities. All this may strengthen the sustainability quotient. Our company has announced the establishment of four new Giga factories to generate renewable energy. We are working on a process that could capture carbon dioxide. This adsorbent could be cost effective as the technology also stores carbon dioxide,” said Ajit Sapre, group president R&T, Reliance Industries, at the DST-CII Technology Summit.

Not just companies but even airports have unveiled a clean energy map. The Cochin International Airport Limited in South India, for example, is solar powered, making it the world’s first fully solar-powered airport with a total capacity of 40MW. It also intends to run hydrogen buses from the airport to Thiruvananthapuram.  

On its part, the government’s National Hydrogen Mission (NHM) aims to make the country a global hub for the production and export of hydrogen. The NHM would facilitate the production of hydrogen from green power sources to de-carbonise the economy. Hydrogen is expected to be leveraged by verticals such as transport and aerospace and various other sectors, and traditional biomass is likely to be phased out gradually to create a demand for hydrogen, which can lead to large-scale production. This will not only lower production costs but also lead to clean energy companies, wherein renewable energy such as solar could dominate the electricity mix. This could also be a move towards building an electricity-based economy, which could depend on the development of renewables including solar and wind. If we are aiming at a low-carbon electrification, it could be backed by investments in renewables. “We need to invest in eco-friendly innovation to take ownership of a sustainable future. India is working towards climate calls; green energy initiatives like the Solar Mission are being rolled out. The government is working on programmes to protect the Himalayan ecosystem,” reasoned Dr Anuradda Ganesh, chief technical adviser and director at Cummins Technologies India Private Limited. 

The sustainability goal of ‘no poverty and clean energy’ can be achieved through a combination of industry efforts, innovative ideals and sound infrastructure. And it needs to be cost effective for mass adoption. LED bulbs is one such example. When the bulbs were introduced, it became a second option of choice; but when large-scale manufacturing softened the price, it resulted in mass deployment. So, can we look at raw materials, especially the inexpensive ones and scrap waste? Can they be recreated and put to better use to contribute to a circular economy?

To think of it, as far as possible the production of low-carbon products could be encouraged... maybe finance companies and banks could back such entrepreneurial eco-warriors through carbon finance schemes.

At another level, Covid has spurred a hybrid working model whose thrust is on virtual connectivity. The focus on customer centricity is much more accentuated than before. Naturally the perspective on the consumption of water and electricity has changed: “We are working on energy transformation scenarios as lifestyles are changing. Our concern for the environment led us to leverage tech solutions. The pandemic further reinforced our concern. This led us to introduce three scenarios which we identify as waves, islands and skill 1.50,” said David Hone, chief climate change advisor at Shell.

Waves is about rebuilding the economy, and islands reflect scenarios in which nations becoming more insular. Skill 1.50, an outcome of the pandemic, focuses on the wellbeing of individuals. The manner in which electricity is consumed becomes crucial for the country’s move towards the net-zero mission. This may be achieved through minimal electricity usage and its management to de-carbonise the economy.

Covid has taught everyone a lesson at varying levels. Different research labs and academics have collaborated their efforts to find mitigation strategies for the virus. “Now once again we will have to work together and rollout integrated solutions to lower greenhouse gas and explore alternate sources of energy. When we look at the water scenario, India was once a water surplus country. From having sufficient water, we have come to a stage of scarcity and now trickled to a deficient level,” observed Dr Shekhar C Mande, director general at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. This may be a clarion call to address water management issues; the manner in which water is used needs to be cleverly managed.  

Here’s wishing you a Happy New Year.

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