by Tulsi Tanti
“Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.”
- Neil Postman
One of the perks of my job is the opportunity to interact with, and influence, the future generation. I recently enjoyed such an opportunity at The Energy and Resources Institute’s (TERI) University, where I addressed a gathering of students on the occasion of Earth Day. Also in the audience were leading academics, Noble Laureate Dr RK Pachauri – Chancellor of TERI University and Chairperson of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Mark Kenber, CEO of The Climate Group. I spoke to the students about energy poverty – the greatest challenge facing India today – and the opportunity for us to work towards a sustainable energy economy. Through renewable and green technologies, we can address our energy needs along with arresting harmful emissions.
UN Secretary – General Ban Ki-moon noted at the launch of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative: “Our planet is heating. We need to turn down this global thermostat”. While addressing temperature rise, we are also faced with a growing population and a growing need for energy. Lack of access to energy perpetuates all forms of poverty including malnutrition, hunger, lack of access to clean water, and several other social problems. Approximately 400 million people in India live without access to electricity and 600 million people depend on traditional biomass for cooking. These numbers account for about a quarter of people in energy poverty worldwide. Energy is essential for the delivery and provision of basic needs such as food, clean water, shelter, health and educational services.
My journey into the world of renewable energy was driven by the need to find a solution to intermittent and expensive energy for my family business. Through Suzlon, I am now able to offer a solution to the world’s energy needs, in an economically viable fashion. The International Energy Agency report in preparation for the United Nations Year of Sustainable Energy for All (2012), has estimated the cost of ending energy poverty to be $48 billion a year – about three per cent of the yearly global energy investment. The report estimated that expanding electricity by the correct means to about 1.5 billion people would add less than one per cent to the world’s emissions. This spread could be driven by the private sector, with proper incentives from governments.
In my book Let’s Save the Planet, I’ve discussed simple measures to end energy poverty by 2020. On the assumption that 50 GW is the installed capacity by 2020, wind could by itself generate as much as 650 TwH in the next 10 years. Wind power will secure India approximately $23 billion by reducing the dependency on imported coal and fossil fuels. Including renewable energy in the mix will have a threefold effect:
1. Make affordable energy accessible to all: Wind is actually not an expensive technology. Improved technology and instillation of larger MW machines have brought down the costs of generating a kilowatt-hour of energy from wind
2. Reduce carbon emissions: A single 1.5 MW turbine can produce over 4,491 MWh of electricity per year and reduce CO2 emissions by over 3,000 tons – equivalent to planting 85,514 trees. Wind installations in India have resulted in reducing CO2 emissions cumulatively by 91 million tons
3. Create employment opportunities leading to growth: Every megawatt of new wind capacity creates 15 jobs on a direct and indirect basis. In total, 219,000 job-years have been created due to the wind industry thus far. By 2020, the wind industry is expected to create more than one million jobs
My message to the university students was that with the right policies, investment and public-private partnership models, we can bring energy poverty to an end by 2020. The tools are already with us – we are blessed with enough wind, sun and tides to meet our needs and that of the future generations. Now we must all unite – government, industry and citizens – in making sustainable energy an immediate and urgent priority. I was very heartened by the enthusiastic response from my audience and I look forward to many more such conversations with the nation’s future.
Tulsi Tanti is the Chairman and founder of Suzlon Energy, one of the world’s leading wind energy companies. An avid technocrat, he has been a pioneer of renewable energy in India. Having been named the ‘Champion of the Environment’ by the United Nations, Tulsi Tanti is a passionate propagator of sustainable development and eradicating energy poverty.