Transitioning to green: China's power crisis lesson for India & world
The acute power shortage in China, which could even dent the country's economic growth, is a wake-up call for the world including India
The acute power shortage in China, which could even dent the country's economic growth, is a wake-up call for the world including India. While it is critical to keep an eye on the climate goals set under the Paris agreement, energy experts said that the transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy must be done in a calibrated and scientific manner. A hurried and half-hearted approach to switch to renewables by cutting down usage of conventional energy would have far reaching implications and may even be counter-productive.
China is the largest producer and consumer of coal. Its power generation is primarily dependent on coal. A surge in coal prices following a drastic slash in the import of this energy source amid Chinese President Xi Jinping promising to reduce carbon emission has created worries not only for Beijing but across the globe. China's factory output reduced due to the extensive power outage.
Analysts said that while China needs to focus on reducing its coal consumption, the increased clampdown has been prompted by the Winter Olympics that the country is hosting. Bloomberg in a report also said that "China's energy crisis is partially of its own as Xi "tries to ensure blue skies at the Winter Olympics in Beijing next February and show the international community he's serious about de-carbonizing the economy."
One of the analysts India Narrative spoke to said that in an attempt do so, policymakers in the country have taken knee jerk decisions which have led to a shortage of coal supply and a rise in its price. The result is a dent in economic growth.
Xi Jinping has set a target to reduce energy intensity and bring carbon emissions to a peak by 2030 and to net zero by 2060.
"Renewables need to be prioritised and fast-tracked, but not at the cost of conventional fuels like oil, gas and coal. The world will need to handle this energy transition scientifically and not emotionally. Even a little mistake can disrupt equilibrium and cause the kind of energy crisis you see today in Europe and China," leading energy expert Narendra Taneja told India Narrative.
Need to move towards green energy
China Power wrote that Beijing's economic growth has primarily been powered by coal, which constituted an average of 69.9 per cent of the country's energy consumption between 1985 and 2016. "Burning coal comes at a steep environmental cost, as it produces up to twice the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) as other fossil fuels," it noted.
According to the Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions, renewables -- solar energy, wind, bio energy, hydropower among others -- made up 26.2 percent of global electricity generation in 2018.
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) noted that renewables could supply four-fifths of the world's electricity by 2050, massively cutting carbon emissions and helping to mitigate climate change. But to achieve that level, solar and wind power have to be fully integrated, with sustainable bioenergy providing another key part of the mix.
"All this means speeding up innovation in business and technology. Above it all, it means taking action to promote renewable energy today," it said.
The lesson therefore is to put in place well thought out strategy enabling a smooth switch to greater usage of renewable energy, which would not only help in boosting greener environment but also provide adequate ecosystem for economic activities.
India's plans for renewable energy
India is planning a $ 3.5 billion package "for the auto sector to boost production of electric vehicles," as the government "seeks to cut greenhouse gas emissions as part of the Paris climate accord."
Sources said that though the government has said that the move will help India "leapfrog to environmentally cleaner, electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles" there could be other problems. "India needs to watch what is happening in these countries and take a few lessons," Taneja said.
At a time when the world is just recovering from an unprecedented economic shock, policymakers across the globe need to carefully carve out policies.