Dr. Ajay Mathur has been a key Indian climate-change negotiator, and was also the Indian spokesperson at the 2015 climate negotiations at Paris. He has recently joined the global group of industrial, financial and think-tank leaders to co-chair an Energy Transitions Commission which will suggest ways for companies and countries to move towards climate-friendly energy futures.
Dr. Mathur is Director General of TERI – The Energy & Resources Institute, and a member of the Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change. He is also an invited member of the AEEE Executive Council. Here, he shares his views on the energy efficiency landscape in India, and how India can play a key role in the fight against climate change.
How can the industry and government work together better to put Energy Efficiency at the forefront of change in India?
The enhanced productivity, livelihoods, and quality of life that are at the heart of change in India crucially depend on enhanced energy efficiency. But, as we have learned through the UJALA programme on LED dissemination, the reach, impact and benefits of energy efficiency would have to be very widely distributed (both across the entire geography of India, as well as across all income groups and energy usage sectors) to be effective in providing the kind of change that the country needs. This large-scale dissemination is possible only through a large number of energy efficiency entrepreneurs who are able to meet the needs of very differing markets. Consequently, close interaction between industry and the government is essential for effective policies that support the large-scale replication and entrepreneurial evolution.
Given the rising demand for cooling, coupled with greater purchasing power, what is needed for India to meet its NDC?
Air-conditioning is already the driver for the largest growth in electricity demand in the country. For example, 50% of the increase in peak demand between 2015-16 is probably attributable to the increase in air conditioning load. The constantly increasing efficiency of air conditioning is therefore essential, both for a viable and well managed electricity generation and distribution system, as well as to ensure that the carbon intensity (i.e. the ratio of our greenhouse gas emissions to the national GDP) keeps declining. This will help us to meet our NDC commitment to achieve a reduction of 33-35% in the carbon intensity of our economy in 2030 compared to 2005. Progressive stringency of the appliance labelling programme, making efficiency affordable through bulk procurement of super-efficient air conditioners (as is being done by EESL), and demand response measures (coupled with time-of-day tariffs) are all essential for ensuring that enhanced air conditioning is achieved while simultaneously decreasing the carbon and energy intensity.
How can India benefit from being a part of IEA?
The IEA brings together global experience and enables sharing of lessons of experiences rapidly. This means that we have the opportunity to call on global expertise and experience while innovative programmes are under implementation. This – certainly in the energy efficiency area – would enable us to craft and introduce programmes bringing in state-of-the art knowledge and understanding.
In the light of the US pull out, and that other countries and players continue to stay committed, how can India play a greater role in the initiative for climate change and Energy Efficiency?
The US had, in the past few years in particular, provided global leadership in climate change through a number of measures including the achievement of the Paris Agreement and Global Programmes on Energy Efficiency (such as the Super-Efficient Equipment Deployment Programme). This enabled higher prioritization of climate and energy efficiency (and renewable energy) efforts in most of the major economies of the world, to the point that in many countries enhanced climate action and enhanced energy efficiency are part of the national goals. In India, our NDCs reflect our national commitment for change that enables productivity increases, job growth, and better livelihoods. The Prime Minister has often stated our actions in our NDC reflect an article of faith in this development path and are not driven by the actions (or inaction) of other countries. This is true of many other countries as well. Consequently, with the belief that their climate NDCs are essential for growth, India and many other countries are becoming leaders in climate and energy efficiency action, leading to hundreds of lights in the fight against climate change.