Beyond Sun and Wind: India’s CoP26 Commitments

In addition to renewable energies like solar power, India needs to focus on green building, nuclear power and hydel to meet its CoP26 commitments

By Vinayak Chatterjee & Abhilesh Babel
Now that COP26 has been completed and dusted, six important conclusions have emerged. All of the commitments taken together appear to have positively reduced the forecast of 2.5 ° C global warming in 2100 by possibly 0.30 ° C. Around the middle of the century, other countries agreed to Net Zero. The 1.5oC goal is not abandoned.

The pledges from the sectors – coal, automobiles, methane and forests – have been significant and next year’s meeting in the Egyptian resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh will once again cross the borders. Eventually, the need for more financial aid to help poorer nations exit fossil fuels was clearly recognized. India, the world’s fourth largest emitter of carbon dioxide after China, the USA and the EU, made its own commitments.

It has pledged to reduce the CO2 intensity of its economy to 45% by 2030 and to cover 50% of its energy needs with renewable energies by 2030. India will reduce total projected emissions by 1 billion tons of CO2 by 2030. It would achieve net zero status by 2070. It would increase its non-fossil energy capacity (see renewable energies plus nuclear plus hydropower) to 500 GW by 2030. This means that nuclear energy and hydropower inevitably go beyond coal, oil, sun and wind.

There are three smaller but important areas of change that still need to receive full attention. They are construction, nuclear and hydropower. Take the construction. According to the Carbon Brief, around 6-7% of CO2 emissions are due to the steel and cement that is embedded in the construction of a building. If the global cement industry were counted as a country, it would be the third largest emitter in the world after China and the USA. For a rapidly urbanizing country like India, efforts must be directed towards “green” cement and steel production by mandating the use of renewable energies, especially hydrogen, in the production processes. Hydrogen alone is not a green energy carrier, but an effective carrier of renewable energy that is used to produce “green” hydrogen.

So reducing the cost of green hydrogen quickly is clearly a laudable national goal and deserves government support. The Union government plans to implement the Green Hydrogen Consumption Obligation, similar to the Renewable Purchase Obligations (RPO), together with possibly a production-linked incentive system (PLI) for the production of electrolysers for the production of green hydrogen.

The 2021 draft electricity rules enabled the purchase of green hydrogen to meet RPOs. It can be reliably assumed that the Union government will take serious action in this area by issuing bids for 4 GW of electrolyser capacity, which is to be increased to 20 GW in the medium term. India has done a lot to award contracts for energy efficient lighting. A similar approach is required for air conditioning. Annual cooling and heating loads can consume 1,000 to 1,200 kWh in a typical household – and generate around 1 ton of CO2 per year if it’s made from coal.

“District cooling” must be prescribed for offices, institutions and condominiums; and the use of variable refrigerant flow / volume (VRF / VRV) in medium-sized homes over 2,500 sq ft should be encouraged. The current green building certifications are not ambitious enough to require the use of more environmentally friendly materials. In addition, the solar energy on the roof needs far more “push” than is currently the case, especially when it comes to the implementation of “net metering”, in which discos show a lukewarm attitude. Another area that is less talked about these days is nuclear power.

India cannot meet its net zero emissions targets without nuclear power, said Anil Kakodkar, eminent nuclear physicist and former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission. India has 23 reactors with a total capacity of 7,480 MW, including the 700 MW KAPP-3, which went online in January 2021. In addition, there are plans to build a fleet of 10 units of 700 MW pressurized water reactors which would add another 7,000 MW.

And 8,000 MW nuclear power plants are in various stages of construction, including the four Kundankulam blocks and the 500 MW prototype fast breeder reactor. The government expects the country to have 22,480 MW by 2031. Hydropower is a good source of peak demand. It improves energy security, diversifies our energy mix and is sustainable, safe, clean and reliable. In addition, it offers multi-purpose benefits for irrigation and flood protection and provides cheap electricity over a 50-year life cycle. India ranks fifth in the world in terms of installed hydropower capacity. As of March 31, 2020, India’s installed hydropower capacity on a power plant scale was 46,000 MW, while the country’s hydropower potential is estimated at 148,700 MW. However, the share of hydropower in the electricity mix has unfortunately decreased over the years and now accounts for around 10% of generation.

Many current hydropower projects have been slow to develop due to delays due to complex planning procedures, lengthy land acquisition and relocation, lack of infrastructure including transfers, insufficient market breadth and long-term funding. Environmental and religious issues have also contributed to the headwind. Significant reforms in recent years include the 2008 hydropower policy, which encourages private sector participation, and the 2016 national tariff policy. The Central Electricity Authority (CEA) and Department of Energy also have priority programs, particularly the 50,000 MW hydropower initiative, actively monitored and monitored accelerated.

The government officially recognized large hydropower as renewable in 2019. It is expected that draft directives in preparation could support blocked hydropower projects and private sector takeover, and could include measures to make hydropower tariffs more competitive. The quiver of achieving the COP26 goals has many arrows. Construction, nuclear, and hydropower are important arrows that must be aligned in order to shoot at their targets.

Chatterjee, an expert in the infrastructure sector, chairs the National Council on Infrastructure of CII and Babel is the CEO. Feedback InfraViews are personal

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