Budget 2022: Nirmala Sitharaman may offer boost to ‘green’ growth for a sustainable future

Union Budget 2022-23: The journey of decarbonization will need to have a sharp focus on hybrid plants to ensure renewable power

Mahesh Palashikar January 28, 2022 22:09:09 IST
Budget 2022: Nirmala Sitharaman may offer boost to ‘green’ growth for a sustainable future

Indian Union Budget 2022: Field and wind turbines in India. Vestas/Wikimedia Commons

The global economy, after rebounding in 2021, is projected to slow down this year. India, however, is a bright spot — the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to grow at 9 percent or more during the current financial year as well as next. That means a lot of eyes will be watching how the Budget, on 1 February, presents a platform for India to be at the forefront of the global post-pandemic recovery.

There is another reason why all eyes will be on finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Budget Day. In today’s context, growth has become intertwined with sustainability. In that respect, the framework for this year’s Budget may have been, to an extent, set on 1 November, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi made global headlines by declaring India’s commitment to attaining net-zero by 2070.

As India moves towards its target of attaining a GDP of somewhere between $8.5 trillion and $10 trillion by 2030, the intervening Budgets may focus on ‘green’ shoots of growth in more ways than one. For, it is green energy growth that will lead India, and the world, into a sustainable future.

Fuelling green growth

We expect the Budget to pave the way for a sharp reduction in carbon emissions in keeping with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement at COP26 in Glasgow that India would reduce its carbon intensity — carbon dioxide emission per unit of GDP — by 45 percent by 2030, more than the previous goal of 35 percent reduction. We can also expect the Budget to take forward the Hydrogen Mission announced by the Prime Minister.

We have strong indications that this journey of decarbonization will have a sharp focus on hybrid plants to ensure round-the-clock renewable power and address the trilemma of reliability, affordability, and sustainability.

Smart grid balancing critical

As we move forward, storage solutions must be introduced into this mix. That brings into focus hydropower assets, which lend themselves well to pumped storage hybrid solutions. The role of the smart grid balancing becomes critical in accommodating the new generation of renewable power and managing it without disruptions. Digital technologies and data analytics will play a big role in that.

There is also a societal and human side to decarbonization. The fortunes of many companies and the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of individuals are directly or indirectly linked to the coal economy. Therefore, the energy transition needs to be managed sensibly.

We must recognise that India’s transition to renewable energy needs to be complemented by natural gas power as a solid bridge for a seamless transition. GE’s gas turbine technology can provide energy security through the production of reliable, flexible, and sustainable energy. With decades of experience running our fleet of gas turbines on varying levels of hydrogen — and with a path towards running on 100 percent hydrogen — GE has considerable expertise in operating hydrogen safely.

India also has an existing fleet of 200GW of coal power plants. Here, we can use technology, such as GE’s flue gas desulfurization, to reduce harmful emissions and upgrade these plants.

Partners in transition

On 25 January, McKinsey & Co released a new analysis that said the global economy would need to spend $9.2 trillion every year on average on physical assets through 2050 to achieve net-zero. This is $3.5 trillion more than what is being spent today. The gap is equivalent to half of global corporate profits and one-quarter of total tax revenue in 2020.

The Council on Energy, Environment, and Water released a report in November saying India needs cumulative investments of $10 trillion to attain net-zero by 2070. This needs a collective global campaign and a close partnership between governments and the private sector. The private sector could significantly contribute with solutions through technology innovations.

SAF will play a big role in the future of flight

We have prioritised Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS) and other technologies to deal with and dispose of carbon and other pollutants. We see Sustainable Aviation Fuel playing a big role in the future of flight, which will be defined by how the aviation industry innovates to lower emissions and improve fuel efficiency.

The author is President, GE South Asia. Views are personal.

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