India, Sri Lanka to deepen collaboration in clean energy

World Sunday 10/March/2024 06:35 AM
By: ANI/agencies
India, Sri Lanka to deepen collaboration in clean energy

New Delhi: The first meeting of the Joint Working Group (JWG) on Renewable Energy was held on March 11, 2024, in Colombo. The JWG was constituted following the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to collaborate on renewable energy which the two countries had signed in July, 2023.

Representatives from India's Ministry of New & Renewable Energy, Central Electricity Authority, and the High Commission in Colombo attended. They were joined by a 17-member delegation from the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), representing major Indian renewable energy companies. Sri Lanka's delegation included members from their Ministry of Power and Energy, Ceylon Electricity Board, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This meeting signified a commitment from both countries to deepen their collaboration in clean energy India presented its achievements in renewables, government incentives for investment, and green hydrogen mission.

Sri Lanka requested capacity-building support to evaluate proposals and train officials. India agreed to provide technical assistance in solar, wind, biomass, and grid connection through training programmes at prominent Indian institutions.

Earlier on March 2, India and Sri Lanka joined forces on a renewable energy project to improve Sri Lanka's access to reliable power and promote clean energy use. The project will bring solar and wind power generation with battery storage to three islands off Sri Lanka's Jaffna peninsula. These islands have historically struggled to get electricity from the main power grid. This innovative system ensures a reliable power supply, even during periods of limited wind or sunlight.

India's investment of $11 million in this project marks its third significant contribution to renewable energy initiatives in northern and eastern Sri Lanka. This endeavour underscores India's unwavering dedication to supporting neighbouring nations while championing environmental conservation.

This initiative holds significant importance for Sri Lanka's energy trajectory. Presently reliant on costly imported fossil fuels, Sri Lanka faces the challenges of their unreliability. This pioneering project will facilitate Sri Lanka's journey toward energy autonomy by embracing cleaner energy sources, thereby diminishing its dependency on fossil fuels.

An Indian clean energy company is also involved in the project, which allows India to share its knowledge and experience with Sri Lanka. It will also help Sri Lanka develop its own renewable energy sector in the long run. The project is a great example of India's "Neighbourhood First" policy, which focuses on helping neighbouring countries. By providing Sri Lanka with reliable energy, India is strengthening its relationship with Sri Lanka and promoting good will in the region.

Sri Lanka, with a population of 22 million and universal electricity coverage, confronts a significant energy transition challenge. Despite ample renewable energy resources like hydropower, the country heavily depends on imported fossil fuels.

 However, Sri Lanka possesses vast untapped offshore wind potential, estimated at 92 GW, presenting a unique opportunity. To leverage this potential, Sri Lanka should explore diverse applications for offshore wind energy, such as producing green hydrogen—an invaluable commodity in today's markets—or exporting surplus electricity to neighbouring India through a dedicated transmission network.

The nation aims for a substantial shift towards renewable energy sources, with ambitious targets to meet 70% of its electricity needs from renewables by 2030 and 100% by 2050. While hydropower currently dominates, solar and wind energy are rapidly gaining traction. The government has initiated several measures to bolster solar power, including tendering for a massive 100-megawatt solar park and plans to add another gigawatt of solar capacity by 2025. Collaborative efforts with India on a 100-megawatt solar plant project underscore the commitment to renewable energy expansion.

Moreover, wind energy holds immense promise. Sri Lanka's significant offshore wind potential is being tapped through ongoing project developments, with support from India in establishing wind farms. Despite challenges, Sri Lanka is progressively transitioning away from conventional fossil fuels towards a future powered by solar and wind energy, with potential regional leadership in combating climate change.

India, as a regional powerhouse, can play a pivotal role in addressing energy challenges across South Asia. By alleviating energy hurdles, India could uplift over 20% of the SAARC population. Access to clean energy is pivotal for economic advancement, with widespread availability poised to boost GDP and market potential throughout the region. This approach offers a dual benefit, addressing energy crises while positioning Sri Lanka as a leader in environmental stewardship.

India's commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2070 and sourcing half of its electricity from renewables by 2030 marks a significant milestone in the global fightagainst climate change. India's rapidly evolving economy, characterized by urbanization and poverty alleviation, has historically relied on fossil fuels for growth. However, its ambitious clean energy targets, surpassed renewable energy goals, declining solar power costs compared to coal, and bioenergy production expansion positions India as a frontrunner in the global clean energy transition.

Furthermore, India is poised to lead in clean energy technologies like renewable batteries and green hydrogen, potentially creating a substantial new market valued at up to $80 billion by 2030. This paradigm shift towards clean energy not only aligns with sustainable development goals but also presents a lucrative economic opportunity for India and the broader South Asian region.

However, international collaboration is crucial to help India achieve its ambitious goal of net zero emissions by 2070. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that India needs to triple its current investments in clean energy to $160 billion annually by 2030. Many Indian companies have set their own goals to reduce emissions through technological advancements. Their focus areas include renewable energy sources like solar and wind power, storing that energy with batteries, and developing cleaner transportation options like electric vehicles.

The Indian government launched the National Green Hydrogen Mission (NGHM) in January 2023 with an ambitious goal of producing 5 million metric tons of green hydrogen (H2) per year by 2030.

To achieve this, they are offering financial incentives for both green H2 production (up to Rs 50 per kilogram) and the manufacturing of electrolysers, the machines that create green H2 (up to Rs 4,440 per kilowatt capacity). The mission's main focus is on transportation. They aim to make green hydrogen a mainstream fuel for various vehicles, including cars, buses, and trucks. To jumpstart this transition, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has allocated a budget of Rs 496 crore up to the fiscal year 2025-2026 to support research, development, and infrastructure related to green hydrogen technology.

In a separate effort to reduce emissions, India has established a carbon credit trading system. This creates a market where companies can buy and sell credits based on their emissions, with guidelines set by the government. As a result, businesses across various industries will need to meet stricter emission standards set by the Ministry of Power and Bureau of Energy Efficiency. In line with India's commitments at the COP26 climate conference, many Indian companies are setting ambitious goals to cut their emissions.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the electricity sector is a bright spot for the renewable energy sector. This is thanks to the booming solar and wind power industries, on top of the long-standing contribution of hydropower. However, this sector only covers a small fraction of the world's energy use. The IEA emphasizes the importance of expanding renewable energy to transportation and heating in order to fully switch to clean energy.

India's proactive stance in global clean energy initiatives was prominently showcased at the COP-28 summit in Dubai, where Prime Minister Modi spearheaded the launch of LeadIT 2.0 alongside his Swedish counterpart. This strategic partnership underscores India's commitment to facilitating a seamless transition towards cleaner practices, adopting technological innovation, and extending vital support to developing economies in their pursuit of sustainable industrial growth. As the leader of the Global South, India's pivotal role in promoting renewable energy integration across sectors highlights its enduring dedication to a cleaner, greener future for the planet.

Dr.Divya Rani is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science, BHU, Varanasi. She has recently visited Sri Lanka for academic research and presentations, enhancing scholarly insights and fostering collaborations.