Issue – Roadmap given by NITI Aayog for growth.
Analysis – NITI Aayog says that the way forward will be by achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. But no mention of environment anywhere in the presentation.
Certain Hard Truths which India must accept – Fossil fuel will dominate the energy sector.
Two vulnerabilities faced by India – Oil supply security and Environmental stress.
How to tackle oil supply security problem – Creative energy diplomacy and balance between Saudi Arab and Iran.
How to tackle environmental stress – Creation of an ecosystem that incentivises collaborative public-private investment.
An Example from US – Robotic vehicles
China’s Experience – Some tangible results
Niti Aayog has placed a document in the public domain setting out a thematic roadmap for quintupling the GDP from the current $2 trillion to $10 trillion and for removing poverty by 2032.
The presentation concludes with a vision statement that the “way forward” will be linked to the attainment of “sustainable development goals”. It doesn’t, however, mention the word “environment” even once.
But it contains suggestion about environmental implication like recommendation of biodegradable packaging systems and there’s the theme of energy conservation and efficiency.
However, there is no focused theme on managing the environmental consequences of 10 per cent annual growth. Thus it would be difficult to realise the vision of sustainable development.
Certain Hard Truths which India must accept
Energy sector would be dominated by relatively polluting fossil fuels for the foreseeable future.
Electricity demand will be met predominantly from thermal power.
Burgeoning transportation sector will be fuelled by gasoline and diesel.
Industrial, commercial and residential establishments will turn increasingly to gas.
Solar and wind energy will account for a relatively small percentage.
Hydro and nuclear will show robust growth but not materially reduce the dependence on fossil fuels.
Two vulnerabilities faced by India
India is dependent on geopolitically volatile Middle-East for its crude oil supplies, thus, issue of oil supply security is there.
Environmental stress will increase because of the increase in use of fossil fuels.
These two vulnerabilities need to be tackled effectively to come closer to the projected targets of the presentation.
How to tackle oil supply security problem
It will require creative energy diplomacy. As several suppliers are there in the region and India is one of the largest buyer of crude oil from market. It should leverage it bargaining power to ge best commercial terms.
It also has to keep balance between two of our most important strategic suppliers, Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran as they are antagonistic to each other. Policy should be such that it doesnot jeopardise our interest in that region.
How to tackle environmental stress
It will require the creation of an ecosystem that incentivise collaborative public-private investment in “greening” fossil fuels and clean-energy innovation and it should be spearheaded by NITI aayog.
Investment in clean energy is not something that is sure to happen or be successful. Governments and public-sector entities have to provide the catalyst.
It has been done by US for years and Chinese are also doing this. NITI aayog should draw lesson from these experiences.
An example from US
The Pentagon wanted to develop robotic vehicles. To harness the scientific and technical talent of the private sector, universities and research laboratories towards this goal, it sponsored a race in 2004 between 15 driverless vehicles across 150 miles of the Mojave Desert in California. They offered $1million prize money. The results were underwhelming. No vehicle completed the race. In fact, none covered more than 10 per cent of the distance. They sponsored a second race the following year. They doubled the prize money to $2 million but set a more difficult route, involving hairpin turns, sheer drop-offs and three tunnels. The results were impressive. Five cars completed. This success triggered private-sector interest and, today, Google and almost every major auto company is investing in the development of robotic, autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles.
Beijing had acquired image of being among the most polluted cities in the world. To tackle this, three years back, the government shifted its energy gears. It put a break on inefficient thermal power plants and provided subsidies for investment in solar, wind and clean energy.
It showed tangible result and its pollution level decreased and its company BYD Shenzhen is the largest marketer of electric vehicles in the world.
Our development model is different but we can take appropriate lesson from other’s experience.
Sustainable growth will require the impetus of government for investments in clean energy and innovation.
NITY aayog should break the connect between energy demand and environmental degradation and thus should develop roadmap for this.