Equitable energy transition is the only better and meaningful way

DJE News, June 26, 2021

Amidst the growing competition for the adoption of renewable energy in the world, experts believe that it is very important to balance the social, economic and environmental concerns in this task of energy conversion necessary for a better future and the government and various parties concerned should take this matter. I have to work with utmost sincerity and sensitivity.

In a webinar organized by CUTS International and Climate Trends on Friday, experts elaborated on various aspects of ‘just transformation’ of energy. In this webinar focused on Rajasthan, experts discussed extensively on issues related to the interconnectedness of climate change, energy sector, economy, society and ecology.

Rohit Gupta, Managing Director, Rajasthan Urja Vikas Nigam Limited said in the webinar that we also have to see that the cost of adopting renewable energy by leaving conventional energy should not be paid by any one section of the society. This is a big challenge before us. Before fully implementing renewable energy conversion, it has to be seen that what will happen to the livelihood of those who are associated with the coal based economy.

He said that agriculture is a very important sector. In energy conversion, we also have to see that the rates of that energy are within the purchasing capacity of the farmers and renewable energy can meet all the electricity related needs of the agriculture sector. Apart from this, it also has to be seen that what will be the effect of renewable energy rates on industries and domestic consumers.

Stressing on the need to define the right definition of equitable conversion of energy in India’s perspective, Swati D’Souza, principal researcher, Climate Action Wing, National Foundation for India, said that when we talk of energy conversion in India, we are talking about financing technology. And let’s look at the economic aspects only, but everyone knows that the era of coal and lignite is about to end. We have to first look at the definition of ‘coal transition worker’ in India. There are a large number of workers in the coal sector who work on contract or they are daily wage laborers so it is important how we look at this unorganized sector when we define coal transition worker or lignite transition worker.

When we decide the definition of fossil fuel transition worker, then those who are well-trained workers get the benefit, But those who are not are deprived of benefits. Only if the exact number of such workers is known, it will be possible to get an idea of what the cost of energy conversion will actually be.

He said, “When we talk about the equitable transformation perspective of energy, we have to include the elements of environment and employment in that also. We have to include it in the regional industrial policy and state industrial policy.

At the same time, it has to be seen that there is continuity in this work.

Amit Kumar, Senior Director, Social Transformation Department, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), while discussing extensively on other aspects of energy transformation and what is needed to justify this exercise, said, “Generally speaking, the opinion of the society in development projects Unless we ensure the participation of communities in development decisions, it cannot be said to be just.

He said that when we talk about energy conversion, we only talk about electricity conversion. By doing this we very easily ignore other uses of electricity. Whether it is an experiment in the field of transport or in cooking or in MSME. Similarly, when we talk about the social cost of energy conversion, we are mostly talking about the sectors that depend on coal for their economic development, but I believe that we should also consider the issues of energy power and energy access in energy conversion. They should be included and resolved.

Giving the example of Rajasthan, Kumar said that the per capita per year energy consumption in this state is about 1300 kW, which is almost half of Gujarat, so there is a lot of potential for better penetration of electricity in Rajasthan. Under the Ujjwala scheme, gas connections were given to crores of women, but most of its beneficiaries did not get much benefit due to lack of capacity to refill their cylinders. In fact, we should also assess the future of energy conversion. I believe this is a national issue. Together we can work towards justifying energy conversion.

Amol Kulkarni, Research Director, CUTS International said that renewable energy has attracted the attention of India as well as the whole world with its great potential. India has set an ambitious target of producing 450 GW of renewable energy by 2030. But it is equally important to take cognizance of issues related to energy conversion. It is very important to have a strong strategy to listen and understand the concerns of the various stakeholders affected by this transformation. For this, the scope of discussions will have to be taken to the local and state level.

He said that the livelihood of thousands of families depends on the coal sector. In such a situation, it has to be seen that what will be the cost to be paid for energy conversion. While doing the conversion it has to be ensured that the future of these families is secure. We are working to get an idea of what the effect of energy conversion will be. Renewable energy is definitely a must for a better future. Technological up-gradation and increase in investment are very important aspects which will have to be worked out in a very systematic manner.

Referring to the possibilities of clean energy generation offered by Rajasthan, Kulkarni said, “Rajasthan has set an ambitious target of 30 GW of renewable energy generation. The state also has the world’s largest solar power project. The point is that we are doing this. How can we ensure that Rajasthan will find a way for equitable conversion of energy?

Sarthak Shukla of CUTS International, giving a presentation, threw light on the current status of clean energy transformation of Rajasthan. He also mentioned the status of the state’s energy sector and the main challenges faced by the energy sector during its transformation with the aim of a clean and pollution free future. He also stressed on the need to ensure complete transparency and accountability in the process of adopting renewable energy instead of coal in Rajasthan.

He said that during energy conversion, a balance has to be struck between the interests of power distribution companies, industries, government, consumers and various user sectors. This transformation has to be financed in an inclusive manner. At the same time, coal power stations will have to be phased out in a equitable and phased manner. Apart from creating unique business models as well as technological optimization of hydrogen energy, electric vehicles, battery storage, policies will have to be made keeping the interests of consumers, workers and general public at the center.

Aarti Khosla, Director, Climate Trends, said that any kind of conversion has its own cost. As far as adopting renewable energy from conventional energy is concerned, then a price will have to be paid for it too. But this transformation has to be carried out for a better future. We have to devise such measures that it has the least impact on the sections and areas affected by this transformation and they can recover from it soon. At the same time, they also get a better future.

Simran Grover, CEO, Basque Research Foundation, while referring to the state of the power system in Rajasthan, said that despite having additional generation capacity, power companies are buying power from the open market. Not only cheap but expensive electricity is also being bought. This is a wonderful thing. As far as renewable energy is concerned, the current distribution capacity is very poor. On the financial side, the situation is even more complicated.

Karthikeya Singh, Program Director, Stitching SED Fund, said that at present, the government itself depends on the coal economy. State governments have to think about how they can successfully carry out energy conversion. In the event of energy conversion, a large number of people’s jobs will be lost, in such a situation, the government will have to make full arrangements that this conversion is balanced and just.

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