There’s A Lot of Light, But What About the Dark?

India leaps forward in Renewable Energy — will millions be left behind?

Bathing in extravagance, Cinderella’s ugly step-sisters dangled their privilege in front of her eyes. They raced for prestige while rag-laden Cinderella was left in the dust. The Energy Security of India is no Cinderella-story, but can we say it’s that far off?

This April, the GRIDTECH 2019 conference was held in New Delhi, India. Its goal? To promote a large-scale, new and renewable energy grid, while deliberating on improved technologies related to transmission, distribution and renewable integration.

India’s Vice President, Venkaiah Naidu urged experts at the conference to improve technologies that harness renewables, pointing to India’s need to fulfill energy demands and its international commitment to “de-carbonize the electricity generation.” Naidu further called for the promotion of “clean and green” modes of transport. This discourse aligns with Naidu’s adamant belief: shifting to renewables would hugely benefit India’s energy security while protecting the climate and reducing pollution— a three-in-one, to put it briefly.

Looking at the flip side of the coin, though, who gets the tail end of this shift to renewables? Electric cars and solar power sound great… but electric cars and solar power for whom? While India ranks 76th of the Global Energy Transition Index and houses one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, it is also a country of energy poverty. Regions such as Assam and Bihar, with rural populations of 155 and 92 million respectively, have disconcertingly low access to electricity with only 10-20% of houses being electrified.

Taking into account the extreme inequalities that exist, India should be wary in spearheading its pursuit of renewables: while modernity, clean energy, and climate protection are key stakes in terms of prestige and involvement at the international level, what do we do for the rural populations who have never known a light switch? Should India leave them in the dust, too?

Zoé Solomon

Indian Renewable Energy Industry Analysis. https://www.ibef.org/industry/renewable-energy. Presentation. Accessed 11 Apr. 2019.

New Ventures |Tools: Clean Energy Access Maps for Uttar Pradesh – Facts & Statistics. https://www.wri.org/upload/energy/identifying-markets-clean-energy-access-uttar-pradesh.html. Accessed 11 Apr. 2019.

“PFS Partners USICEF for Financing Solar Projects.” The Economic Times, 7 Apr. 2019. The Economic Times, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/finance/pfs-partners-usicef-for-financing-solar-projects/articleshow/68763406.cms.

Prateek, Saumy. “Venkaiah Naidu Rallies for Smart Grid as a Solution for India’s Renewable Integration.” Mercom India, 8 Apr. 2019, https://mercomindia.com/venkaiah-naidu-rallies-smart-grid/.

PTI. “India Ranks 76th on WEF’s Global Energy Transition Index; Sweden on Top.” @businessline, https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/economy/india-ranks-76th-on-wefs-global-energy-transition-index-sweden-on-top/article26631544.ece. Accessed 11 Apr. 2019.

“India Ranks 76th on WEF’s Global Energy Transition Index; Sweden on Top – ET EnergyWorld.” ETEnergyworld.Com, https://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/power/india-ranks-76th-on-wefs-global-energy-transition-index-sweden-on-top/68556778. Accessed 11 Apr. 2019.

Photo: NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using Suomi NPP VIIRS data from Miguel Román, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Cente

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