The world may be investing substantial amounts in renewable energy technologies, but is it doing enough to reduce dependence on fossil fuels? A new report by the UN says nations need to cut down their fossil fuel production by a good 6% for the next decade in order to restrict global temperature rise to 1.5 °C. Just days after the report was published, OPEC decided to increase its production target by a massive 50,000 barrels a day from January. India, the world’s third-largest oil importer, considers this a welcome move.
The national and state policies on electric vehicles have still not influenced the market enough to set a new trend. The key reason is the lack of technology to make electric vehicles an attractive choice. But the bigger problem for India is electricity for e-vehicles and their batteries are generated by burning coal. So, e-vehicles are not truly a cleaner choice unless the electricity production is “decarbonised”. India is the second-largest coal consumer in the world, which means decarbonising is no small task. It is more difficult now as the economy, hit by Covid, is on the brink of a recession.
Coal-based power generation saw its first fall in India in 2019, after a good 29 years. Yet, experts suspect this to be a one-off event. In the aftermath of the pandemic, when industries are looking to ramp up production and sales, power consumption is only likely to increase drastically, much more than current levels. The only way to offset that rise, without upsetting the economy, would be to increase the renewable options in India’s energy mix. The current government has set an ambitious target to increase the share of non-fossil fuel sources to 60% by 2030, compared to the current installed capacity of 39%.
Even as India’s efforts hinge precariously on policy promises, the bigger concern is what the developed West would do in the coming days. Will the US, under Biden, help with technology transfer to accelerate the renewable push? If so, how long would that take? Until these questions are answered, there’s a good chance that our planet will continue to get warmer at an alarming rate.