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India’s need for developing sustainable energy infrastructure in a carbon constrained future

India faces a challenge in providing sustainable energy access to all its citizens. While India has to bear the burden of global climate change mitigation, our primary goal is and should be of development. To put things in perspective, still 22% of our population has no access to electricity and our per capita energy consumption is a third of the global average. Further global average per capita income (ppp) is more than 6 times as that of India. If per capita energy consumption and incomes can be considered as indicators of progress, then India has to go a long way.

However, this transition has to take place under the mounting pressure of global climate change mitigation. Even though India’s per capita emission is only 1.7 tCO2, it still ranks 3rd in terms of annual CO2 emissions. India can certainly not take large cuts in emissions at the cost of its growth and its per capita annual emissions are bound to increase in the future. Since India is not responsible for historical emissions, India should focus on emission reduction while pushing for technology transfer and financial assistance from developed countries which are primarily responsible for global warming. Various efforts are being taken in this direction but are still at insignificant proportions.

Going forward India will certainly need to adopt an energy policy which takes into account certain environmental externalities while keeping development needs as primary. These environmental externalities will need to account for impacts on a national level as well as global level if we take into consideration the Paris agreement (UNFCCC, 2015). Our energy policy needs to consider our capacity to take voluntary actions in combating these externalities while targeting development goals. With our current low per capita energy consumption we can safely assume that most of our energy infrastructure is yet to be built. Our main goal should be to provide electricity access to all individuals in the nation and at least cost however we also need to achieve this while reducing emissions.

Globally, there is an increasing emphasis on doing more with every unit of electricity produced due to constraints such as fuel availability, cost, and now emissions as well. The new paradigm of energy efficient development requires us to transform existing infrastructure as well as looking at alternative technologies. Solar and Wind energy technology, mainly due to their zero fuel cost and zero carbon emission from generation are being promoted around the world as a solution and India is no exception. As of now, installed capacity of RE power in India is around 20% of the total 330 GW of installed generation capacity while share of RE power in generation has reached 7%. India has further set itself a large RE target of 175 GW which is to be achieved by 2022. It however needs to be taken care that clean energy technologies are expensive and come with specific technical issues of grid integration while at the same time they do promote energy independence and reduce emission intensity. Various efforts are being taken in this direction and a lot more is to be done.

Abhishek Dave is a Renewable energy consultant.


  1. Central Electricity Authority of India. (Installed Capacity)

  2. Indian ministry of environment, forest, and climate change (MOEFCC). “India‟s intended nationally determined contribution”. (2015)

  3. World Bank Statistics. (Emissions, Income, Electricity Access)

  4. Economic Times. (Share of Clean Energy in Total Generation)


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