I-Day Special | Making of a global cleantech leader

M Ramesh | Updated on August 14, 2021

Despite not getting much help from the rich world, India did a lot on its own   -  Getty Images

Thousands of business enterprises, NGOs, scientific research labs and individuals are doing something to fight global warming

A start-up called Bounceshare is revolutionising commuting in Bengaluru. Commuters book a ride on an app and find a yellow-colored electric scooter not more than a few tens of meters from their location. For ₹6 per km, they ride the scooter to their destination, and leave the vehicle there. In less than three years, even during the pandemic, Bounce has seen 35 million rides, mostly in Bengaluru. Its vehicles are charged at hundreds of local, mom-and-pop stores, and 10 million EV-kms have been clocked through this network.

In Varanasi, Preetam Singh, a professor at IIT BHU, has designed a process for producing hydrogen for free. The gas is free because the other products that come out of the biomass-reactor, such as biochar and methane, pay for the costs. Big companies like Indian Oil Corporation are tying-up with Singh’s Biezel Green Energy. Since Singh’s process uses agricultural residues, it has the potential to put some money into the farmers’ pockets too.

In Gurgaon, a company called Weather Risk Management Services guarantees yield to farmers, which means that if the farmers don’t get the promised yield, the company compensates them. This is, of course, for a small fee. But free of yield-risks, farmers are in a position to invest in agriculture and get into contract farming with food processors, like Pepsico.

These are three disparate happenings but an unseen common thread runs through them — all contribute to climate action in India. Far away from the glare of banner headlines, thousands of business enterprises, NGOs, scientific research labs and even individuals are doing something that goes towards fighting global warming.


This may be true of many places elsewhere in the world too, no doubt, but for sure there are very significant things cooking in India. The point is, India is a provider of ‘push’ to global climate action, and not a drag, as some countries are.

The developed world, which is responsible for the climate mess, has consistently short-changed the developing countries in climate action. They promised $100 billion a year to developing countries, only a tiny fraction of it has been committed. They (developed countries except the US) promised to buy carbon credits; India is among the countries that are sitting on piles of Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) with no means of selling the instruments — and now they are saying the CERs could be extinguished. No meaningful technology transfer is happening to help developing countries. Despite not getting much help from the rich world, India did a lot on its own.


Decarbonising energy is India’s biggest challenge. Coal is the country’s energy mainstay, but burning coal is inviting the devil into your parlour. The Central Electricity Authority proposes to phase-out 48 GW of coal plants by 2027— a fourth of India’s coal power capacity; only 36 GW of new plants are to be built — a sizeable portion of them is not likely to materialise. All the new plants have the more efficient supercritical technology.

Renewable Energy

India’s renewable energy capacity has crossed the 1 lakh MW-mark. Wind and solar account for 41,092 MW and 41,077 MW respectively. To put the solar capacity in perspective, India had none in 2010. The rooftop solar sub-sector, which had limped along for many years, is now picking up. Against the annual target of 2,000 MW for the current financial year, 1,924 MW was set up in the first quarter alone.

India will miss the 2022 target of 175 GW of renewable energy — but what has been achieved is not insignificant.

Energy-saving lamp

India’s public sector ‘energy services company’, EESL, which replaces energy-guzzling equipment at its cost and lets the customer pay for it from his savings, has been hailed by the International Energy Agency as one that is fit to be followed by other countries. EESL began with replacing incandescent bulbs with LED lamps, letting the customers pay from the savings in their electricity bills. The achievement is stunning. As many as 368 million LED bulbs have been distributed, resulting in energy savings of 48 billion kWhr of electricity annually worth around ₹20,000 and avoided carbon emissions of 39 million carbondioxide equivalent.

PAT scheme

The ‘Perform, Achieve, Trade’ scheme of the Bureau of Energy Efficiency, is another good example of India’s achievements. Under this scheme, ‘designated consumers’ are to meet certain prescribed energy efficiency standards. If they over-achieve, they get market-tradable Energy Saving Certificates (EScerts), which are bought by those designated consumers who could not meet the targets.

The ‘designated consumers’ have invested about ₹70,000 crore during the two rounds of the scheme’s implementation. This scheme has been phenomenally successful, in that it has resulted in energy saving worth ₹40,000 crore and avoided 92 million tons of carbondioxide emissions. If you add up the efforts of hundreds of start-ups, it is clear that India, despite being resource and technology constrained, is at the vanguard of climate action.

Published on August 14, 2021

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