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US-India Pact on Renewables Will Help Keep Coal in the Ground

RP Siegel headshotWords by RP Siegel
Leadership & Transparency
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President Barack Obama and Indian President Narendra Modi signed a pact last week, extending a commitment originally established in 2014, to join forces to combat climate change with a huge commitment to renewable energy.

The pledge acknowledges commitments made in Paris last year at the COP21 climate talks and defines a path for both countries to achieve their nationally determined contributions (NDCs). In particular, the U.S. has pledged to support India, the world’s third largest carbon emitting country and second fastest growing economy, in its ambitious goal of deploying 175 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2022. That would bring it up to a level of renewable capacity comparable to the U.S. today.

The sweeping announcement contains a wide array of initiatives including:


  • Cooperation on rooftop solar in three Indian states

  • A Greening the Grid initiative designed to accommodate the integration of renewables

  • Developing enhanced solar resource maps for India

  • Investments exceeding $3.5 billion targeting an additional 4.5 GW of additional solar

The two U.S. solar companies who will be developing these projects are 8minutenergy and Sunlink.

Eight minutes is the amount of time it takes for energy to reach the Earth from the sun. The company named after this time interval will be providing 4 GW of solar in India. They currently have solar portfolio of 3,000 megawatts, with extensive holdings in California. They are beginning to expand into Latin America and India.

Sunlink will be partnering with domestic Indian companies to provide an additional 1.4 GW of solar capacity.

The pact also includes a substantial number of financing initiatives. These include a Clean Energy Financing Hub, a US-India Clean Energy Finance Task Force, initiatives from US-based philanthropic organizations including the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Jeremy & Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, with matching funds from the government of India.

In addition there are the US.-India Clean Energy Finance initiative, U.S.-India Catalytic Solar Finance Program, a memorandum of understanding between the US Export-Import Bank (EXIM) and the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA), and Promoting Energy Access through Clean Energy (PEACE) to incubate off-grid enterprises. It’s going to take a lot of money to make all this happen.

The pact will also include US support for six nuclear reactors in India by 2030, updates to the Energy Conservation Building Code, and an advanced innovation program targeted at solar energy, building energy efficiency, and advanced biofuels over the next five years, as well as a public-private research effort focused on the smart grid and storage.

If all that wasn’t enough, there was also a program for solar job skills training with a target of 50,000 solar professionals, a climate fellowship program, efforts on air quality, heavy duty vehicles, some work on fossil fuels including gas hydrates and refinery improvements and a number of environmental stewardship programs.

The reason this pact is so important is that India is looking at tremendous growth in energy demand as millions of people gain access to power for the first time. Given India’s enormous soft coal reserves and their financial challenges, without support like this they would have no choice but to rely on coal to build their future upon, putting the entire planet at risk.

On the day of this writing, India just announced the cancellation of four proposed coal plants with a combined capacity of 16 GW. These would have produced a tremendous amount of carbon emissions and should be cause for collective relief for all (except perhaps those planning to build the plants). The entirety of this capacity will be offset by plans to install 12 GW of solar, 4 GW of wind, 400 MW biomass power, 250 MW of small hydro, and 10 MW of waste to power. An added benefit is that most of these renewable plants can be brought online more quickly than coal plants.

Image credit 8minutenergy Renewables

RP Siegel headshotRP Siegel

RP Siegel, author and inventor, shines a powerful light on numerous environmental and technological topics. His work has appeared in Triple Pundit, GreenBiz, Justmeans, CSRWire, Sustainable Brands, Grist, Strategy+Business, Mechanical Engineering,  Design News, PolicyInnovations, Social Earth, Environmental Science, 3BL Media, ThomasNet, Huffington Post, Eniday, and engineering.com among others . He is the co-author, with Roger Saillant, of Vapor Trails, an adventure novel that shows climate change from a human perspective. RP is a professional engineer - a prolific inventor with 53 patents and President of Rain Mountain LLC a an independent product development group. RP was the winner of the 2015 Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week blogging competition. Contact: bobolink52@gmail.com

 

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