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Indian MPs stress tapping renewable energy

Mar 21, 2013

As members of the Climate Parliament in India, a group of Indian lawmakers are all set for an important debate on new and non-renewable energy as part of the budget discussions in Parliament.

While at the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit last year, Hollywood star and two-term Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger made a defining statement. “Independence from the grid means freedom for the people,” he had said, in part, contributing to the discourse on democracy and, in the same vein, holding forth on helping people generate clean electricity on their own.

A press conference in New Delhi today, addressed by Indian lawmakers, Dr Sanjay Jaiswal and Jayant Chaudhary echoed the Schwarzenegger’s message. Speaking under the banner of the Climate Parliament, a network of less-than-partisan parliamentarians engaged in dialogues to accelerate transition to a low-carbon economy, they spoke on the expectations from the union budget announcements made by India’s finance minister, P Chidambaram.

Users installing their own solar panels could evolve alternatives to challenges plaguing India’s renewable energy sector, Chaudhary and Jaiswal, argued, stressing on the challenge of subsidies not translating to work on the ground or the huge financial demands to enable the power grid to absorb the power generated by windmill power farms or the array of solar panels.

India needs an additional Rs 420,000 million (or USD 7,700 million) to build the capacity of the power grids to source and distribute power coming from the renewable energy sector.

“Incentives for the renewable energy sector,” Jaiswal, who is also Convener of the Climate Parliament Group in India, argued, “are on grid-connectivity, not for off-grid generation.”

Chaudhary offered the example from Bangladesh’s off grid applications, citing its efforts to reach a million homes with solar energy where the government, NGOs and the private sector were offering a million families electricity to escape the dark dawns dotting their lives.

The Union Budget 2013-14, outlining the Indian government’s financial plans for the coming year, proposes to significantly increase the budgetary outlay for renewable energy, up some 32 per cent in over the year gone by. The MPs, however, aren’t entirely satisfied.

“The budget does not take into account the recommendations of the Estimates Committee’s report with respect to increasing the allocation of renewable energy ministry to 1 per cent of its total allocation,” Jaiswal, also a member of Parliament’s Estimates Committee, says.

Chaudhary, however, feels the government has to put the funds from the National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF) to sincere use. The fund comes from a cess on coal used for generating electricity. “The allocation of funds from the National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF) to the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) to facilitate low costs financing to renewable energy projects and allocation of Rs 800 crores (approximately USD 145 million) for wind energy through the reintroduction of generation-based incentive scheme, require further thought and work,” he says.

More importantly, the young MP says, there has to be a mechanism to put the NCEF money into use. “This would be enabled if the money were to sit in the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy rather than the finance ministry where the money is lying now,” the lawmaker says.

According to Jaiswal, “the achievement of 15 per cent renewable energy in the total electricity mix of the country by 2020 and the target of achieving 30,000 MW by 2017 are challenging ones.” These, he says, demand adequate budget allocation for renewable energy.

India’s economic and development targets are based, among other criteria, on planning through five-year plans developed, executed and monitored by an autonomous Planning Commission. The twelfth five-year plan has set the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), an ambitious target of generating 30,000 MW by 2017.

In the midst of all this, a delighted Jaiswal has an achievement Climate Parliament in India can be proud to hold forth: For the first time ever, India’s Parliament will discuss the non-renewable energy scenario during its budget session currently under way.

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