The use of fossil fuel, such as coal, oil and natural gas, as an energy source to propel rapid industrialisation, is well known and documented.
It was only after the world community awoke to the ill-effects of carbon emissions from fossil fuel that attention was riveted on renewable energy sources. The good news is that the sustainability factor is also being evaluated now. Progressive nations are recognising the long term effects of renewable energy in their cost-benefit analysis on three parameters: environmental, social, and economic sustainability.
This requires that every possible renewable energy source should have a positive energy balance and be environment-friendly. The challenge is two-pronged. Fossil fuels receive roughly six times the subsidy that renewable sources can garner and customers relish the resultant “cheap” energy, unmindful of its environmental and health effects.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuels, for example, have contributed significantly to global warming. Hence, scientists use carbon dioxide equivalent, or CO2e—the amount of carbon dioxide required to produce an equivalent amount of warming as a standard for comparative analysis.
A look at the CO2e per kilowatt-hour (CO2E/kWh) gives a clear picture of the menace caused by fossil fuels. The carbon dioxide equivalent generated by burning natural gas, and coal generates 0.6 to 2 and 1.4 to 3.6 pounds CO2E/kWh, respectively.
On the other hand, carbon dioxide equivalent generated (in pounds) by wind (0.02 to 0.04), solar (0.07 to 0.2), geothermal (0.1 to 0.2) and hydroelectric (0.1 to 0.5) is minuscule.
Global emissions of carbon dioxide from industrial activities and the burning of fossil fuel were estimated to be 36.8 billion metric tonnes in 2019.
To minimize the effect of fossil fuels, we need to judiciously utilize the resources from the renewable energy basket. It is equally important to recognise that renewable sources also have environmental impacts, although less than the non-renewable energy sources. It is critical to use efficient technology and understand the geographical landscape, among other factors, to minimize its environmental effects.
Deciphering the economic equation of the world market, we find that at the crux of it lies ever-growing energy demand. To satisfy every dimension of it, we need energy that is reliable, sustainable, and affordable. It again comes down to the investment in the energy sector. As the energy demand is ever-growing, our dependence on non-renewable resources has to be restrained, and our dependence on renewable energy resources should increase.
The benefits of this far outweigh the conventional methods on a long-term basis. It not only will help us in minimizing the global warming effects, but also will create a sustainable environment for the future.
Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has been playing a lead role in the sustainable energy space and has a dedicated CII-ITC Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Development. As 1.3 billion Indians are moving from sustenance to sustainability, regulations such as Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) are raising social awareness.
CII is leading the charge as a protagonist of a circular economy (CE) with two broad business models: slowing resource loops and closing resource loops, duly supported by handholding and technical assistance for India Inc. For this, it has created three verticals: structural reforms, sector deep dive and knowledge production. CII is also leveraging digital technology for accelerating CE by creating three technology clusters of Data Collection, Data Integration, and Data Analysis.
CII is partnering with the Government on the national initiative of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) as a global agency for development and deployment of solar energy in member nations, including executing its plans to organising national/international outreach programmes.
CII has also been working closely with the Government to prioritise policy reforms, mobilise investment, boost manufacturing, and promote sustainable development goals to achieve the ambitious renewable energy target.