No material benefit unless renewable energy target of 175 GW is raised, says Purpose Climate Lab
If India wants to move ahead with its target of all-electric vehicles by 2030, and also wants to truly help the environment while doing so, then it will need much more renewable energy than the 175 GW target set for 2022, according to Purpose Climate Lab, a global campaign group focused on climate and environmental issues in India.
Reduce oil imports
“The concept of electric transportation, especially public transportation, is a really good one because it will reduce India’s imports of foreign oil, which is great, since those billions of dollars can then be spent to expand renewable energy programmes here,” Reecha Upadhyay, Campaigns Director of Purpose Climate Lab, said in an interview.
“But on the other hand, you have to recognise that just because the cars aren’t burning fossil fuels doesn’t mean that it is an eradication of pollution,” Ms. Upadhyay added. “Or that it will have a positive impact on climate change, if we continue to burn more coal to power these electric vehicles.”
Apart from the environmental effect, Ms. Upadhyay also highlighted the social impact of simply shifting the fuel requirement from petrol and diesel to coal.
“We cannot just shift the smoke from tailpipes to thermal power plants,” she said. “Coal power plants are away from cities, in communities that don’t always have the power to challenge what happens to them. They are usually poor, and away from concentrations of political and elite classes of people. Every community in the country should have the right to be protected from air pollution.”
She added that urban areas themselves were not entirely protected from the fumes from power plants.
“While people might not always be exposed to the smoke that comes out of power plants, we know that those gases, especially SOx and NOx, travel hundreds of kilometres to urban centres,” Ms. Upadhyay said.
Erstwhile Power Minister Piyush Goyal spoke several times during his term about how the government was planning to move India to a situation where all vehicles in the country would be electric. He was also at the helm of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy that has been trying to achieve the 175 GW target of renewable energy by 2022.
However, according to Ms. Upadhyay, unless the renewable energy target is significantly increased, the target of an entire fleet of electric vehicles will have no material benefit to the environment.
“We did one calculation where, if we get one million new electric buses, which is a very conservative number for a country this size, we’ll need at least another 100 GW of renewable energy to power them,” she said.
“And the fact that we are so focused on private vehicles, if all of them are also to be electric, the amount of energy needed to power a fleet this big is enormous.”
“So, 175 GW of renewable energy is a great target, but if India really wants to leapfrog in development where it actually protects the environment, we will need way more than that,” she added.