Seeing India’s energy transition through its States

Context: In the upcoming G20 forum, India is planning to propose a multiple energy pathways approach to accommodate the diverse contexts and development trajectories of countries. The Pledge & Ambitions:
  • The diversity of India’s States, which necessitates multiple pathways, will determine its own domestic energy transition.
  • India’s global climate pledges — 50% non-fossil electricity generation capacity by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2070 — are backed by domestic energy targets at the national level.
  • States are critical actors in India’s energy transition as there is a multi-tier governance of energy production and usage.
  • An effective transition will require bridging the ambitions and implementation gaps between the Centre and the States.
  • Simultaneously, national ambitions need to factor the varying incentive structures, processes, and institutional capacities at the State level.
Why States matter?
  • India’s achievements on its 2022 target for 175 GW renewable energy offer some insights into the complexities.
    • While it achieved a significant portion of the target, only Gujarat, Karnataka, and Rajasthan met their individual targets. Moreover, about 80% of the current renewable energy capacity is confined to Six states in the west and south of India.
  • In a federal setting, States matter for four functions critical to energy transition.
    • First, States as spheres of implementation are critical to the realization of national targets. While the Centre may set goals, the realization of these goals often depends on how they are aligned with State priorities and capabilities.
    • Second, the legacy issues in the electricity sector, if left addressed, could be exacerbated by the transition. These are embedded in the State political economy and must be addressed at the State level.
    • Third, States as laboratories of policy innovations have been instrumental to India’s energy transition. For example, early initiatives by Gujarat and Rajasthan on solar, and Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu on wind energy technologies, have contributed significantly to renewable energy uptake at the national level.
    • Fourth, States could also be roadblocks to national goals, particularly when the goals are perceived to be misaligned with State priorities.
  • While India has set laudable goals for its energy transition and has been working towards creating incentives and enforcement mechanisms, a critical next step is to engage with diverse State contexts, capabilities, and priorities. 
    • These are shaped by the interplay between multiple drivers, barriers, and enablers, including available techno-economic options, fiscal space, and social and political imperatives.
  • An effective transition requires multi-scalar planning and execution strategy, consideration of inter-linkages and implications, and cross learning.
  • States are important entry points to engage with policy visions, plans and actions. Central mandates to update the State Action Plans on Climate Change, recommendations to set up State-level steering committees for energy transitions, and regular meetings of the Central and state energy ministers reinforce the importance of States.
Need for a State-level framework:
  • It helps to broaden the transition discourse from a narrow set of outcomes and to include the processes that shape the outcomes.
  • It leads to greater transparency which could enable participation of stakeholders in the processes and ensure public legitimacy and buy-in to complex decisions.
  • Seeing the energy transition through State preparedness would create a greater sensitivity to State-level diversities on priorities, capacities, and opportunities in the national policy discourse, and thus enable more evidence-based policy choices towards a pragmatic, yet accelerated, scale and pace of energy transition.
News Source: The Hindu

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