'India can be key player in energy transition and leader in green hydrogen’: IEA executive director Fatih Birol

Fatih Birol

India can make three types of contributions to global energy transition. It needs to make its
voice much stronger to highlight successful interventions in the last few years – like full
electrification of villages, the Ujjwala programme (to provide LPG connection to poor
households), the LED revolution, and now the solar push. It can be a source of inspiration for many countries.

The second is, it could share its expertise in reaching these goals. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi met US President Joe Biden recently in Washington, there was a paragraph in the joint statement on the support to India for full membership of IEA. I am looking forward to India becoming a member of IEA soon. The third one is, there are many challenges to reaching our energy and climate goals. But the most important challenge is forging international collaborations in a fair and effective way.

There are not many countries in terms of size, convening power, and economy that can build a
bridge amongst all. I think that India can be a pivotal player in the clean energy transition.
How do you see India’s energy demand going forward?

India’s energy demand will be very strong because its economy is growing, and it is getting
industrialised. For me, the biggest challenge for India is, how we find investments in green
energy? In my view, India is perhaps the number one country in terms of foreign investments
for three reasons – you have the rule of law, there is political and economic stability, and
there is huge potential for energy demand growth.

If India is able to simplify the bureaucratic procedures of investment flows, we will see foreign investment flowing in India significantly. The G20 Energy Transition Working Group has agreed on low-cost financing to facilitate energy transition. What concrete measures do you think are needed on that?

Many people understand that the more energy you produce at home, especially clean, the
better it is for security. For example, if you are generating solar and wind, you are going
towards clean energy.

On the other hand, you are going to import less. The driving force
behind clean energy is not only sustainability and climate change but also energy security.
It is the reason clean energy is moving fast, and faster than many people think.

You have advocated for developed nations to support the developing ones in the energy
transition. Do we see any tangible advancement towards it?

Clean energy investment around the world is growing very fast, but in the developing world,
it has been flat in the last five-six years. Around $1.7 trillion investment has been made in
clean energy as of today from $1 trillion in 2015.

But almost all the growth came from the advanced economies and China. To address climate change, we need this everywhere. Emissions don’t have a passport. Not only ethically, but rationally too, it is important that we provide clean energy investments or facilitate those to the developing countries.

Green or low-carbon hydrogen is potentially seen as the fuel of the future, where India aims
to be a leading producer. Do you see it progressing on that?

India is a top runner for green hydrogen because the cost of generating renewable energy
is one of the lowest in the world. But what India needs to do, in my view, is to look at the
manufacturing side of clean energy technologies – it can be solar panels or electrolysers for
hydrogen.

Because it is important not to really on one country to have a dominant position in
clean energy technologies for diversification. India should have its own manufacturing and,
therefore, production-linked incentives schemes should be endorsed. India should produce
its own electrolysers, and also more solar panels…and hopefully soon batteries as well.

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