By Ravindra Khaiwal
On February 1, Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the Union Budget for the year 2023. Honouring India’s commitment to achieving a zero carbon footprint, the budget allocated Indian Rupees 35,000 crores for priority capital investment towards achieving energy transition and net zero objectives in the country.
This allocation is meant to support the development and deployment of clean energy technologies and infrastructure. The objective is to shift towards a more sustainable and environmentally friendly energy mix, with the goal of reaching net zero emissions. The step should be taken as an opportunity to drive the country towards a more sustainable and low-carbon energy future.
Proper utilization of the allocation
To make the most of this allocation, the government’s thinking must be governed by a set of strategies.
Firstly, it should develop a comprehensive energy transition plan. A clear plan outlining the goals, strategies, and implementation steps for the energy transition is essential. This plan should take into account technical, economic, social, and environmental considerations.
Secondly, the government should also encourage investment and innovation in clean energy technologies. That can help to overcome technical challenges and drive the development of new, more cost-effective solutions.
The government should promote public-private partnerships which can help to leverage private sector expertise, resources, and innovation to support the deployment of clean energy technologies and infrastructure.
But that shouldn’t come at the cost of social and environmental concerns. The deployment of clean energy technologies should be done in a way that minimizes negative social and environmental impacts and ensures that local communities are consulted and involved in the process.
The attention should also be given to investing in training and capacity-building for workers in the energy sector/ It can help to build the skills and knowledge needed to support the deployment of clean energy technologies and infrastructure.
Besides, a supportive regulatory environment, including clear policies and incentives, is essential to encourage investment and innovation in clean energy.
By taking a strategic and coordinated approach, the allocation of ₹35,000 crore can help to drive the country towards a more sustainable and low-carbon energy future, while promoting economic growth, job creation, and improved energy security.
However, it would be unwise to negate the challenges ahead if we have to truly transition towards a greener and cleaner future.
Clean energy technologies, such as wind and solar, are still in the early stages of development and deployment, and there may be technical challenges in scaling them up to meet the energy demand of the country. Then, there’s the element of cost involved. Clean energy technologies can be expensive, and there may be concerns about the affordability of such technologies for households and businesses, especially in rural areas.
At the same time, the development of clean energy infrastructure, such as transmission and distribution networks, can be complex and challenging, requiring significant investment and coordination.
Therefore, the success of this allocation will depend on a supportive policy and regulatory environment that encourages investment and innovation in clean energy.
The plan may have certain costs on the environment as well. The deployment of clean energy technologies may raise concerns about potential impacts on wildlife and natural habitats, as well as the displacement of local communities.
Having said that, the entrenched usage of fossil fuels may not be an easy competitor for the transition. Clean energy will face competition from conventional fossil fuels, which are well-established and have a strong infrastructure in place. The shift towards clean energy will require overcoming significant economic, political, and cultural hurdles.
Impact on the country
The energy transition and net zero objectives are expected to have a positive impact on the country in several ways.
Primarily, the allocation is likely to result in an increased focus on the development and deployment of clean energy technologies, such as solar and wind power, leading to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and an improvement in air quality.
The proposed allocation can also be favorable to the economy in multiple ways. While the development of clean energy technologies and infrastructure can create new job opportunities in the energy sector and related industries, a transition to clean energy can drive economic growth by attracting investment, promoting innovation and competitiveness, and reducing energy costs.
By reducing dependence on fossil fuels, the country can improve its energy security and become less vulnerable to fluctuations in global energy prices and supplies.
Finally, the shift towards clean energy can help to mitigate the impacts of climate change, both domestically and globally, by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.
( Ravindra Khaiwal is one of the topmost health environmentalists in India and is currently a Professor, of Environment Health, at the Department of Community Medicine and School of Public Health, in north India based Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education & Research)