New Delhi, Feb 14 (IANS) Investors, policy makers, bureaucrats and representatives on Tuesday discussed three key challenges to make the renewable energy (RE) sector ecologically safe, rights-respecting and socially just. They favoured that the RE sector must lead responsibly.
Delivering the keynote address, Rajnath Ram, Advisor, Energy, NITI Aayog, said, “In the budget, almost Rs 1 lakh crore was announced as allocations towards green growth initiatives, but the challenge for the renewable energy sector is to ensure the community participates and gets great benefit from it.”
Bharath Jairaj, Executive Director (Energy), WRI India, said, “The Responsible Energy Initiative (REI) was built on a set of principles that we and our partners agreed upon. These are based on lofty universal values but that’s what we need right now to ensure the RE sector is socially just and environmentally sound.
“Over the past few months, we’ve attempted to translate these principles into actionable pilots on land use, circularity, and financing, because these principles must not be just goals but actions for the RE sector must take forward.”
As the Union government’s recent budget allocations suggest projects like the 13GWh solar-wind hybrid in Ladakh getting primacy over other forms of RE, like distributed renewables and off-grid, concerns have been expressed by communities living in these regions over loss of livelihoods, and lands for grazing and allied activities.
Finding land that is increasingly scarce for installations of grid-scale wind and solar energy is beginning to become a challenge.
Moreover, concerns about permanently altering land use patterns in rural India, loss of livelihoods of communities that hitherto used these lands as village commons, farmlands, water catchment areas, or as sacred groves, is leading to a pushback by communities where these RE projects are sited.
Speaking at the panel on land use, Shirish S Garud, Senior Fellow and Director, TERI, said “The REI aims to set new norms and guidelines for land use and land ownerships. We are proposing pilots to evaluate the options and impacts of renewable energy projects on farmlands.”
“Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s recent budget announcements made clear the need to seek the RE sector to become more responsible. The RE sector must seize this opportunity to ensure it leads by not committing the mistakes that mark the fossil fuel industry, which is extraction and inequity,” said Anna Biswas, Managing Director (India), Forum for the Future.
And as the RE sector grows, it will need significant natural resources, and it will generate waste at an unsustainable level, unless circularity is introduced into the production process.
The day-long event, called the Responsible Renewable Energy Summit, is led by REI’s core partners World Resources Institute India (WRI India), The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and Forum for the Future (Forum) and supported by expert partners, including BHRRC, CEEW, Consensus Building Institute, Climate Group, Landesa, WWF India.