July 2, 2008

Climate Action Plan Pushes for Solar Energy

NEW DELHI: PM Manmohan Singh on Monday released the much-awaited National Action Plan on Climate Change which aims to boost solar power generation in the country besides launching seven other programmes in mission mode towards greenhouse gas reduction and adaptation to inevitable climate change.

TOI had earlier reported about the eight missions which the first draft of the plan had laid out. The essence of these remains intact in the final document. But the most interesting addition to the draft is a clear signal that India will not budge from its position in the international arena that these voluntary steps are being taken at a domestic level. India will continue to fight for an "equitable" global compact that demands greater and mandatory emission cuts from the rich countries.

The release of the plan had earlier got stalled with PM's council on climate change debating how much of the country's international stance should be incorporated in the document. Some had suggested that the plan should be looked upon as a purely domestic document while others were keen to ensure that the domestic plan be written in the context of the global negotiations that seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The latter group seems to have got its point across more emphatically in the final version.

"The plan could have been more aggressive in laying out a roadmap for the entire world, demanding heavy and immediate cuts by the developed countries. At the moment, this remains its weakness," said Sunita Narain, a member of the PM's climate change council.

While developed countries have emission cut targets under the existing UN regime, they want India and other developing nations to also agree to cuts. The US has even suggested that India's domestic action plan become the base for its international commitments.

But the domestic plan makes it clear that India is only taking these steps as part of a scheme that "promotes development objectives while also yielding co-benefits of addressing climate change effectively".

Out of the eight missions, the emphasis on solar energy is bound to generate the most excitement as the solar power sector has been lagging behind even as the wind power segment of the renewable power portfolio got a boost. "Now the solar sector will, primarily based on private sector investments, create 1000 mw of power generation capacity by the end of the 12th plan period (2017)," said V Subramanium, new and renewable energy sources secretary.

Besides the push for solar energy, the plan also suggests making it mandatory for power grids to purchase renewable energy from producers and sets up progressive targets to do so over the coming years. While the move towards solar and solar derivatives is bound to reduce the dependence on fossil fuels, the plan also puts as much emphasis on demand side management - reducing consumption levels in both industry and housing sectors. The government envisages saving 10,000 mw by 2012 through energy efficiency measures.

It has also laid out a blueprint for market-based tools to be used to achieve these goals while giving fiscal incentives to move industry, manufacturers and consumers towards a low-carbon path. Appliance manufacturers rated as more energy efficient would get tax benefits just as industries would be aided to move to better technologies.

(c) 2008 The Times of India. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.