In a world grappling with the multifaceted challenges of climate change, environmental degradation, and disruptions in the pursuit of sustainable development, India stands at the crossroads of an energy transition critical for its future and the planet's well-being. Given India’s growing economy and rising population, its energy needs are expected to quadruple in the coming decades. The country faces the unique challenge of having to balance its ambitious clean energy targets with the economic development needed to ensure prosperity for its 1.4 billion citizens.
At COP26 in 2021, India pledged to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2070, which will require sharply increased reliance on renewables and clean technologies over fossil-fuel-based energy. India is aiming to achieve an installed renewable capacity of 500 GW by 2030 and has declared plans to add 50 GW annually for the next five years to realise these targets. The country has also committed to reduce its carbon emissions by 45 percent compared to 2005 levels by 2030.
Technological developments, investments in climate-friendly fuels, steady policy support, and a vibrant private sector will be critical in accelerating the pathway to clean energy. This will require greater political and policy space for collective action and solutions than what is currently available. At the same time, India must create the right conditions for sustainable economic growth and ensure a people-positive energy transition, particularly salient in the context of communities that are dependent on fossil fuels industries.
Achieving these goals will require a massive scaling up of green finance, and cumulative investments of approximately US$6–8 trillion will be required between the period 2015–2030. It will be imperative upon the different levels of government to shore up unprecedented collaborative efforts, and work in concert with industries and civil society. Essentially, energy transition factors will need to be incorporated into strategy at every level of government—national, state, and local. Energy transition considerations also need to be mainstreamed into the conversation around jobs, growth, livelihood, and quality of life in India and other emerging economies.
However, substantial hurdles persist including volatile commodity prices, financially ailing electricity distribution companies, lack of reliable electricity supply, and increasing energy security risks. To create the right conditions for an inclusive and pro-people transition, knowledge gaps will have to be bridged across multiple areas of the energy transition space. These, in turn, will inform efforts to overcome existing policy and regulatory gaps. These include: identifying plausible and cost-effective strategies for achieving carbon neutrality through modelling and scenario-building; identifying appropriate regulations and instruments to increase investment by global private sector capital in clean energy solutions; creating favourable industrial policies for green technologies; and creating newer economic opportunities for those reliant on fossil fuels.
This compendium, Powering India's Future: Towards a People-Positive Energy Transition, delves into the complex landscape of India's energy transformation journey. This collection of essays hopes to serve as a guide, offering insights, analyses, and innovative ideas that can shape India's path to a cleaner, more equitable, and sustainable energy future.
In Section 1, the essay, "Household Energy Transitions in India: Lessons from the Past and Future Prospects," delves into the historical transitions in household energy use. We explore how households have evolved in their energy consumption patterns, drawing vital lessons from the past that can inform future strategies to decarbonise household electricity and cooking fuels. We also address "The Role of New and Emerging Technologies in India's Path to Net-Zero," underscoring the transformative potential of innovation and technology in propelling India towards carbon neutrality. The third chapter in this section, "Transforming Eastern India's Electricity Sector to Meet Renewable Energy Goals," illustrates the pivotal role that regions like Eastern India play in the country’s pursuit of renewable energy while ensuring a just and inclusive energy transition.
Section 2 opens with the article, "Financing a People-Positive Energy Transition in India: Options and Challenges," which highlights the criticality of finance in India's energy transition. It scrutinises the options available and the challenges to overcome as the nation seeks to redefine its energy landscape. We also discuss "The Central Bank's Role in Energy Transition," emphasising the critical role of regulators in shaping energy policies and providing the necessary policy signals that are required to attract global finance in green sectors. The piece, "Transition Finance: Supporting India's Net-Zero Goals" then delineates the importance of transition finance and explores innovative financial solutions that can facilitate India's ambitious journey towards net-zero.
In Section 3, the first essay, "Green Industrial Policy for India's Energy Transition" emphasises the role of green industrial policies in not only fostering economic growth, but also prioritising sustainable development and the creation of jobs and markets. "The Promise of Affordable Renewable Energy" then analyses the opportunities that affordable clean energy sources provide to India. Additionally, "Ensuring a People-Centric Energy Transition: The Case of Informal Workers in Coal Regions" underscores the importance of inclusivity and addressing the needs of the most vulnerable and marginalised in the energy transition journey.
In Section 4, we delve into the significance of "Building Resilient Solar Supply Chains" to underline the importance of international partnerships and creating reliable and robust supply chains to support renewable energy proliferation. The essay, "A Global Climate Alliance for Accelerated Climate Action" then unpacks the concept of a global alliance for concerted climate action as a collaborative approach to problem-solving. We conclude with the essay, "Mobilising Climate Finance: The Transformative Role of Multilateral Development Banks," emphasising the role of international financial institutions in facilitating the climate and energy transition goals of emerging economies.
As India seeks to power its future, this compendium aims to act as a guiding light, showcasing the way forward and urging a holistic approach that considers environmental sustainability, social inclusivity, and economic growth. It is a testament to the synergy between innovation, policy, finance, and grassroots efforts in shaping a cleaner, more equitable energy future. As we explore the many facets of this transition within the pages of this compendium, may it inspire and inform, driving us all towards a future where the power of energy is harnessed for the well-being of people, leaving no one behind.
We extend our sincere gratitude to the contributors who have shared their expertise and insights to enrich this compendium. Their dedication to the cause of a people-positive energy transition is evident in the depth of their research and the vision they present in their essays.
Read the report here.
 Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India; Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Government of India.
 Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India.
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Mannat Jaspal is an Associate Fellow with the Geoeconomics Studies Programme at ORF. Mannat is deeply interested in exploring matters on sustainability and development – ...Read More +