A boost for clean energy . . .
On February 1, India announced a new budget that contains more generous allocations to support solar energy and clean air as well as a commitment to close down coal plants that fail to meet emission requirements. The budget will allow 2 million new farmers to install stand-alone solar pumps, and will also provide another 1.5 million farmers with solar pumps that are connected to electricity grids. These steps will reduce farmers’ dependency on diesel and kerosene, and will enable farmers to sell surplus energy. The new budget also stipulated a 5 per cent increase in the budget of the Ministry of Environment and a 10.6 per cent increase in the budget of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE).
Funding for coal still much higher . . .
Even with increased MNRE funding, its budget (about C$3.6 billion) is still less than half that of the Ministry of Coal (about C$7.4 billion). Questions also remain around the effectiveness of some of the budget’s green measures, including a lack of clarity on which ministry is to manage the C$820 million for new clean energy programs. Indian ecologists have also raised concerns that having new solar pumps might lead farmers to over-exploit water in a country that is drought-prone.
Budget’s green limitations . . .
While new funding for clean energy is a positive step toward climate and environmental stewardship, India remains hampered by embedded economic realities. The country relies on 30 million diesel/electric water pumps and coal remains a major component of its energy mix. Political and economic considerations might also slow down the new green initiatives. India’s coal sector fuelled 76 per cent of the country’s electricity generation in 2017 and provided employment to more than 350,000 people. Currently, India’s economy is slowing down while unemployment and inflation are on the rise. Considering the centrality of the coal sector in India’s energy supply and the existing economic conditions, transition to clean energy in India is likely to be incremental.