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The Energy Transition Dialogues: Advancing People Positive Energy Transition In India And The World

The Energy Transition Dialogues, is being held in Delhi from November 1-3

Addressing the energy crisis was high on the G20 agenda and a consensus was reached on various aspects of energy transition and building global cooperation towards sustainable and clean energy development under the New Delhi Declaration. The G20 leaders committed to accelerating clean, sustainable, just, affordable, and inclusive energy transitions. The baton on the energy transition has been picked up by the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet (GEAPP). How can the global energy transition be people-positive, especially given the complexities of the Global South and the need to include marginalized communities? This is the question that Energy Transition Dialogues, being held in Delhi from November 1-3, hope to address. Saurabh Kumar, Vice President - India, GEAPP, spoke to NDTV about the initiative.

NDTV: How is this initiative going to contribute towards inclusive energy transition?

Saurabh Kumar: The whole intent of this initiative is to create a roadmap that can help countries like India lead from the front and devise solutions towards making the energy transition people positive. India championed the cause of a just energy transition through the G20, and the declaration emphasised the process. I would like to highlight some far-reaching elements of the declaration here. The first one is the commitment shown by G20 countries, which represents almost 80-90 percent of energy use in the world. Most importantly, their plan is to triple renewable energy capacity by 2030 and double energy efficiency by the same time. That is why The Energy Transition Dialogues are a unique initiative to focus on energy efficiency along with increasing renewable energy capacity. The second important element is access to finance.

Under the aegis of GEAPP, around 20 alliance partners have come together to focus on six thematic pillars with a special focus on mobilising finance to support the Global South towards a just energy transition. Along with its three founding partners and set of alliance partners, GEAPP has also brought Multilateral Development Banks (MDB) on board. So, we are getting everybody together to achieve the goal of clean energy and sustainability.

NDTV: What are the critical challenges and opportunities in energy transition and how will they be addressed through TETD?

Saurabh Kumar: I would like to give a practical example of the challenges and opportunities in the energy transition. India has committed to achieving 500 gigawatts of non-traditional energy capacity by 2030 during COP26 in Glasgow. As of now, we have achieved 200 gigawatts. To reach the target of 500 gigawatts in the next six years, we need to upscale from 10-12 gigawatts to 50-60 gigawatts. That's a five-time jump. That is why the Government of India has been focusing on decentralised renewables to triple the capacity of renewables. However, the growth in decentralised renewables has not triggered the same way as utility scales renewables have.

GEAPP is supporting many Indian states in solarisation of the agriculture sector, which will add around 150 gigawatts. Further, we want to cater to small and medium enterprises. Rooftop solutions are good for the climate as well as for small, medium, and micro enterprises. Today, these enterprises are paying about 10 to 12 rupees per unit as the capacity of grid power gets reduced to about half. Through these Dialogues, we are creating roadmaps by bringing all partners and stakeholders together and also understanding how we can create a capacity of 50-60 gigawatts per annum and beyond by 2030.

NDTV: Looking at the genesis of the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet, how do you plan to create a synergy between stakeholders?

Saurabh Kumar: I would like to detail how this alliance came into being. We will celebrate our second anniversary at the upcoming COP. GEAPP was announced at Glasgow. Three philanthropies in the world- the Rockefeller Foundation, the Bezos Earth Fund and the IKEA Foundation came together to set up this alliance. They committed one and a half billion dollars to this organisation and also brought in about 20 alliance partners such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB), Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and others who also committed another 10 billion dollars. The idea is to accelerate climate action and work on providing energy access. The philanthropic fund doesn't need any return on investment and the alliance can further leverage it for various purposes. Our presence in India is critical. Besides, we are also present in six other emerging economies in Asia and Africa. We will be expanding our horizons further. Our intent is to create ecosystems by providing catalytic capital and private investments in the energy sector.

NDTV: In the process of creating these collaborations, how are you supporting state and central governments in achieving their vision and goals of a clean energy future?

Saurabh Kumar: To begin with, we have been supporting two state governments in installing one gigawatt each of decentralised renewables. These states are Odisha and Maharashtra. In my last 20 years in the power sector, I have not seen any entity ever commit to setting up one gigawatt of decentralised renewables. The first tender of 100 megawatts has already been issued by Maharashtra. We are not only funding it but also helping in the development of institutional capacity. There is enough funding available. For instance, under the Central Government's scheme Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha Evam Utthan Mahabhiyaan (PM-KUSUM), 4 billion dollars of capital are unutilised because of a lack of capacity in the state governments to aggregate projects. You have small projects of half a megawatt and one megawatt spread across rural areas. So, we are using digital processes, like Geographic Information System (GIS) maps and drone technologies, to create a template and aggregate land parcels and then put them out for bidding.

Also, the same thing happens in the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) clusters; for example, the numbers are high, the roof sizes are low. We are using technologies to aggregate the demand and then put this out for bidding. Another issue in the SME space is high counterparty risk. To mitigate these risks, we are putting together a risk guarantee fund. Through these dialogues, we are bringing all stakeholders together, including regulators, state governments, the federal government, and other developers and financial institutions.

NDTV: Could you briefly talk about ENTICE, one of your flagship programmes. What is the idea behind it and what is its aim?

Saurabh Kumar: ENTICE spreads across our entire portfolio of work. India has a brilliant ecosystem for startups. We have put out four contemporary challenge statements that are focused on decarbonising and clean energy goals. And this cuts across decentralised renewables and battery energy storage. We put out these challenges through partners and also set up a consortium of partners. Many people and partners, such as the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser, industry associations, and financial institutions, are part of this. We received 400 entries for this challenge. We have a set of independent jury members consisting of highly qualified and well known experts in this field. They will select four or five of these startups. This is one part of the ENTICE challenge.

Secondly, if you look at the way the venture capital industry in this country is working, given that we have a massive startup ecosystem, climate ranks ninth in terms of priorities for venture capital and within climate action and clean energy is even lesser. It's not hard to understand because the tech industry has grown so quickly. We are also setting up a venture capital fund using catalytic capital. Attracting other funders into this so that ENTICE becomes a funnel through which we get high quality startups. We provide them the funding to scale up, not just in India, because these are problems that every nation has to solve, including developed countries. And I'm saying this in so many words: yes, including developed countries, we need innovative and unique solutions. That's the focus of the ENTICE challenge.

NDTV: What are some of the other problems and challenges on a more fundamental level that you're sort of hoping to address through ENTICE?

Saurabh Kumar: The first problem is the platform; second is the funding,; and third is the access to markets. So it's a compliment that we are giving the first market access. And therefore, let's see how we can solve this problem. ENTICE will hopefully become an international platform for GEAPP and solve problems in Africa and other parts of Southeast Asia.

NDTV: Why is it important to fast track progress towards climate change goals?

Saurabh Kumar: We can see what's happening around the world. It's no longer a hypothesis. We have seen what has happened in New York and the floods in Sikkim just a couple of days ago. Climate change is now real, and it will affect a large number of people. So I think there's no doubt in anyone's mind globally that we need to act, and we need to act as quickly as we can. And that's why this whole movement towards making good progress on climate is critical.

NDTV: How to essentially scale up? What is the path forward as far as scale up is concerned? Which are the sectors where renewable energy can really be a game changer according to you?

Saurabh Kumar: There are many. I mentioned decentralised renewables. If you look at India's energy use, I'm now including other forms of energy than electricity. Electricity is only 20 percent and about 30 to 35 percent is transport. Transport is an extremely important element because you can decarbonize it easily if you turn it into renewable lead. It also reduces your energy security because 85 percent of our oil is actually imported. So we are also focusing on public transport because of its impact on a huge number of people. The Government of India has put together a program, where 50, 000 electric buses will be deployed in the next three to four years. This is an ambitious program. I would like to compliment the Government of India, the Ministry of Heavy Industry and the Ministry of Power. It will catalyse investments in 50,000 electric buses - private investment. And that's worth about 10 billion dollars. So that's the power of an ecosystem change versus funding the thing directly.

Secondly, is battery energy storage. The country will need 50 gigawatts of batteries by 2030 and today we have none. So how do we get to that situation? We want to show a real thing that is a commercially viable battery system. One of the challenges in ENTICE is to create a battery energy system that is affordable, quick, and can be deployed on a large scale. These examples will then lead to their replication across the world. How can this be applied to any other country in the Global South? India's G20 leadership has given a push to this.

NDTV: COP 28 is coming up next month. What can we really look forward to from it?

Saurabh Kumar: Many things. Of course, for the first time, as a run up to the COP, I think the $ 100 billion promise is coming true. And I think there should be also, we hope to see some sort of acknowledgement, not that I'm saying that we are trying to do that, but a catalytic capital like us can really make an enormous difference in the way climate goals are pursued in a country. And finally, I hope to see how certain examples can be replicated around the world. I hope to see that it gets more attention. Through The Energy Transition Dialogues, we hope to create a roadmap that will be presented at COP28.

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