Sustainable Energy in Emerging Markets: India as a Model

In the words of Manoj Kohli—"This next decade, India’s mission will be tested.”

India is aiming to have 40% of its electricity come from renewable energy sources by 2030. This goal translates to 450 GWs of renewable capacity—which will “require $300 billion of investment just in this sector.” [1]

Where the Indian Power Sector Stands Today [2]

India’s success in achieving these ambitions will not only be important for India’s development as a country, but also for the energy development of the world. This sentiment was best expressed by the International Energy Agency’s 2021 India Energy Outlook:

“India will account for nearly one-quarter of the global energy demand growth from 2019-40—the largest of any country”[3]
India’s energy choices matter. They have direct and far-reaching effects on the lives of a growing population, and major indirect effects on the rest of the world through their impact on energy markets, emissions, and flows of technology and capital”[4]

The growth in India’s energy demand over the next few decades will largely be driven from India's growing demand for electricity. Today, electricity accounts for just 19% of India’s total final energy consumption—heat and transport make up much of the rest. By 2050, electricity’s contribution is expected to climb to 49% of India’s total energy consumption—this is because buildings and cars will increasingly use electricity instead of fossil fuels [5].

Ultimately, India's renewable energy industry will be called upon to meet this rise in demand for electricity and thus provides a phenomenal opportunity for collaboration. The Honorable Indian Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Sandhu, summed it up best in our conversation:

“Renewables for India is neither a compulsion nor just an option, but it’s a passion. And why I am saying that is because we believe in following the green path to growth. My Prime Minister has written a book titled, Convenient Action. India has huge energy needs which provide huge opportunities for US companies. We welcome US technology and investments to fuel our future.”[6]

During my Fulbright research experience with IIT Delhi, I interviewed 40 leading experts across the cutting edge of India’s renewable energy industry—and plan to interview many more. The objective of this series is to deconstruct the opportunities, challenges and risks inherent in the Indian solar sector—which I believe will serve as a model for other emerging markets. In addition to releasing a weekly podcast episode, I also will write blog posts highlighting my key learnings from this experience. The first two episodes of the Fulbright ZENERGY Podcast[7] were released last week, featuring the Honorable Ambassador to the US Taranjit Sandhu and the Head of SoftBank India Manoj Kohli, and received tremendous response.

If you have not had a chance, please listen to my most recent conversation with Inderpreet Wadhwa, who is the founder of Azure Power which was the first energy company in India to IPO on the US stock exchange [8]. Thank you and see you next time!

[1] Manoj Kohli, Head of SoftBank India, interview

[2] Extracted from this report – Central Electricity Authority, February 2021

[3] Bloomberg - IEA report

[4] International Energy Agency – India’s Energy Outlook 2021

[5] Ashish Khanna, President of Tata Power, interview- release date April 8th (quoting BNEF) [6] Honorable Indian US Ambassador Taranjit Sandhu interview [7]


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