Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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In a short span of time, industry leaders and country heads will soon convene at the upcoming COP27. This has been the ideal platform to discuss the active strategies for SDGs across nations and large firms. One of the biggest concerns for firms is their path towards decarbonisation. Achieving net-zero targets requires the synergy of several systems from energy to agriculture and much more.

Anil Kumar Chalamalasetty, Founder, CEO & MD, Greenko, an energy transition and decarbonization solutions company, shares the best about the industry perspectives on sustainable solutions. Through his views, we get a deep dive into the numerous strategies to achieve net-zero targets across sectors.

How can businesses be encouraged to stay on track to meet their net-zero goals?

As an energy transition company, we recognize the importance of leading by example. That’s why in 2021 Greenko signed up to The Climate Pledge, joining more than 200 companies around the world that have pledged to achieve net-zero carbon by 2040. We are one of only eight Indian companies to have signed the pledge and our approach spans greenhouse gas mitigation, climate risk management, conservation and restoration of habitats, as well as circular economy initiatives. Our business also gives us a unique opportunity to go far beyond our own climate impact,  by helping companies and entire industries in their decarbonization journeys. One way we are currently doing this is by focusing our efforts on building long duration energy storage of about 50 GWh per day by 2024. Our growing, grid scale capacity in several states including Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, and Rajasthan will use India’s robust national grid to balance the additional renewable energy we produce more effectively and deliver affordable and reliable clean power across India. We are also working on the manufacturing architecture for zero carbon molecules to deploy carbon-free energy 24×7, as well as cost effective electrolysers, made in India, for use in a range of industries across the clean energy chain, including the production of green ammonia, methanol, and other sustainable fuels.

Can emissions be controlled as the economy grows? How can industry and the public afford to live sustainably?

India is expected to remain the world’s fastest growing large economy for several more years, which means emissions will rise as our economy grows. But growth need not necessarily be carbon intensive. While the developed nations must repair and refurbish their carbon intensive infrastructure, India can decarbonize its growth. By scaling infrastructure, such as renewables, energy storage, zero carbon fuels and chemicals, circular economic approaches to manage materials economy and finally carbon capture, India can maintain a healthy growth that is significantly less carbon intensive. India has an opportunity to become an exporter of Net Zero Fuels and Chemicals and be the destination for low carbon-intensive manufacturing.

What are the most significant decarbonization opportunities you wish to see addressed in the coming years?

Decarbonization of growth will be the target in India. The new energy demand and some old energy demand will have to met with dispatchable electricity delivered from RE and Storage Assets.

India’s energy market of approx 200 Billion USD of which Electricity comprises 18%  and in which RE market is about 4 Billion USD while the rest is Oil and Gas which is over 80%. I believe in great opportunity for decarbonising electricity, in parallel to electrifying newer energy in oil and gas use cases, will be a critical step in India’s decarbonisation journey and it offers a multiple scale growth opportunity and global positioning. However, there are significant low hanging opportunities which the country and the industry can harness in near term

India’s current energy consumption of 1.4twh  and going to 2.5 TWh by 2030. The current RE is 12%. Given the opportunity in role to play in decarbonising future needs, the growth opportunity for RE Assets and energy storage is amazing..

India blessed with the non-competitive geographical advantage of the Himalayas, Deccan plateau and southern peninsula with one grid is a great resource to fulfil our addition of 300 GW of RE capacity till 2030 can comfortably meet the growing electricity needs of the country and can be a new energy exporter.

The progress in green fuels and molecules will be another key lever for decarbonization. It also creates an indigenous energy supply chain that is in line with Atmanirbhar Bharat and is all too important considering the evolving geo-political risks.

Electrifying transport with RE and zero carbon fuels present a tremendous opportunity for India to be both energy-independent – and become an exporter of Green Fuels and Molecules.

How does renewable energy save money?

As the RE and Storage technology progress, the RE Costs are coming down and becoming comparable to or more attractive than new coal-based power plants. Further RE and Storage based on Pumped Hydro use natural and local resources and hence the operational costs are low, inflation proof and cut import bills.

Long Duration Energy Storage using Pumped Hydro Storage can deliver dispatchable electricity at 50-60 USD/MWh in comparison to the new coal-based power plant at 55-90 USD/MWh and RE with battery-based storage at 90-110 USD/ MWh.

What is your advice to companies that are going through the process of setting net zero targets?

True zero carbon energy is critical if companies and India want to achieve their net zero goals. As renewable energy usage and decarbonisation efforts deepen, it is important that every kilowatt-hour of electricity consumption is met with carbon-free electricity sources in every hour, on every grid where electricity is consumed. Carbon neutral organizations often offset their emissions by purchasing carbon offsets intended to reduce or prevent future global emissions. RE 100 organizations purchase enough renewable energy to match their annual electricity consumption. Carbon neutral and RE 100 energy architecture and framework will not be able to displace the fossil peakers and can only partially decarbonize the grid.

Progressive companies across the world have adopted carbon free energy in their decarbonization journey and net zero goals. Unless companies in India also adopt carbon free energy at the system level, we will fall short of achieving decarbonization despite the tall claims of individual businesses.

Businesses and regulators must adopt the correct decarbonization approach immediately otherwise storage assets may not grow in line with RE capacity additions. This path can result in non-viable operations of RE and fossil power generators and stress on electricity transmission and distribution.

The adoption of carbon free energy remains essential for green hydrogen or green ammonia production according to numerous international standards for green fuels and chemicals. Adoption of the CFE approach is essential in becoming the preferred supplier of green molecules for global consumption while it also aligns to the Make in India philosophy.

It is essential that storage and RE capacities develop concurrently to achieve RE and carbon intensity goals. Accordingly, companies must adopt every kilowatt-hour of electricity consumption that is met with carbon-free electricity sources in every hour, on every grid where electricity is consumed. This will make India an attractive destination for global manufacturing and an exporter of zero carbon fuels and molecules.

Many hard to abate sectors such steel and aluminum have already adopted carbon free energy and many other businesses for commercial and industrial use are considering this transition. While the EU and some developed nations are finding it challenging to deliver carbon free energy and are diluting standards, India is in a sweet spot: we have the capabilities to deliver energy and industrial decarbonization ahead of other nations.

Do you think India is on track to reach sustainable goals by 2030?

India is making tremendous progress to reach the climate goals that it announced at COP26 last year. Today, it is a top three market for energy, electricity, hydrogen, and base materials. The growth trajectory of India’s economy will likely make India the leading market for clean energy in a decade.

Today, electricity counts for just 15-20% of the USD 200 billion energy market; the rest comprises oil and gas-based energy, the core of what needs to be decarbonized. 236 GW of current installed electricity generation capacity in India is fossil fuel-based, while 164 GW is non-fossil fuel based. Overall, the pathway to decarbonise will rest on key pillars of renewable energy, storage, zero carbon molecules, a circular economy and carbon capture, utilisation, and storage. Each one of these pillars is interconnected.

For example, India plans to add 300+ GW of RE capacity by 2030 which will help meet its growing electricity demand in a cleaner, more sustainable manner, but only if supplemented, in time, with adequate RE storage infrastructure. Configuring greater storage capacity would help India exceed its non-fossil fuel electricity generation capacity goals, as well as its greenhouse gas emissions intensity reduction target under the Paris Agreement.

The point on storage is critical because renewables-based electrification will be a principal driver for decarbonization, expected to reach 50% from 20% currently. So India will require not just additional RE generation but also the appropriate make-in-India Grid scale energy storage capacity for stable continuous clean energy if it is to realise its goals in areas such as electric mobility and manufacturing of electric molecules required for zero carbon fuels. Electrifying transport and producing zero carbon fuels present a promising opportunity for India to become energy independent and even consider the potential of becoming an energy exporter over time.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members