Filed in New Delhi, India.
May 17, 2010 - Michael Eckhart
May 7, 2010‐‐It has been eight years since I have traveled to India, following an intense period in 1997‐2001 when I came here 3‐4 times per year and worked about 50% of my total time on mobilizing financing for solar PV in India and South Africa. It is good to be back.
The city of New Delhi has changed. There are new super‐highways from the airport to the city center. The autorickshaws have been converted from diesel and kerosene to CNG – the air is much cleaner. There is no longer any slum to be seen from the airport to the city. No longer do the poorest of the poor live in cardboard shacks and sleep under the lights on airport road. The smell of garbage, sewage and smoke is 10% of what I recall it was – now just a faint smell that is the same but so much lighter. Traffic in the city is less than it was – not sure why. The whole scene, while still being a metropolis in a developing country with all those issues, is amazingly upgraded from what it was just 8‐10 years ago.
Renewable energy is catching on in India, but then, it has been catching on here for over 20 years since they established a special Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) and the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) in 1982. In wind power, India has a considerable windpower manufacturing base with Suzlon, RRB Energy and others, and a market of about 2,000 MW per year. In solar, they have a broad base of manufacturers led by Tata/BP Solar, and a market that is struggling to get going. India has an emerging market for solar water heating, and embryonic interest in solar CSP. India also is big on hydropower. India has a huge base of biogas and other bio‐energy facilities. However, like most developing countries, there is a more powerful set of interests in coal‐fired power, which is their major source of power, and in nuclear power for which the U.S. signed a cooperation agreement two years ago.
The U.S. has influence here ‐‐ U.S. Ambassador Timothy Roemer, former Congressman from Indiana. He is basing a lot of his work in India on the clean energy economy and connecting companies in the U.S. with the opportunities in India.
There is great leadership in India. R. K. Pachauri, head of The Energy Research Institute (TERI) of India and also Chairman of the IPCC and recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace is a calm and courageous man in the center of a storm, leading the charge on scientific evidence about global warming, and taking the heat from the opposition. We talked about calling on every elected official to declare themselves on climate, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has asked every scientist to do.
In a meeting with V. Abdullah, Minister of New and Renewable Energy Resources, a ministry of the Indian government, and we exchanged ideas about how to plan and promote the upcoming Delhi International Renewable Energy Conference (DIREC 2010), to take place October 26‐29, 2010 in New Delhi. It's good that India is hosting the next global meeting of governments on renewable energy following the WIREC 2008 meeting that drew 8,600 officials, executives, and professionals to Washington, DC in 2008. It is vitally important that officials from around the world meet every two years to assess where things are, what policies are working, and how to take renewable energy adoption forward.
The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) convened a high‐end investment and finance conference here this week. I gave a presentation on the development of solar and other renewables in the rural areas of the developing countries, on ACORE and other global organizations, and on a new
concept called Global Development Bonds (GDBs) that would be a new class of bonds that U.S. investors could buy, thus providing capital to renewable energy projects around the world.
One has to keep perspective. In India, there is a huge opportunity for renewable energy, but they are having a hard time getting it going. In the U.S. there is a huge opportunity for renewable energy, but we have lawyers fighting it out in legislatures and in courts. In China, there is a huge opportunity for renewable energy and they are making it happen so fast it makes your head spin.
India and the U.S. have something in common – great opportunities to put renewable energy in place, and great leaders like Pachauri and Abdullah in India, and Kerry, Lieberman Graham in the U.S. – but we also share the fact that China is blowing past us. The U.S. and India both need to crank it up on renewable energy. We need to do it now.