…And passionate Minister for Power and Renewable Energy, Mr RK Singh; an old friend with whom I have had the occasion to speak at a Conference way back in November, 2014, Mr Eicke Weber who also handled the Fraunhofer Institute and a lot of innovative work in the field of renewable energy in Germany; our colleague and senior leader of the renewable energy sector, somebody who actually held our hand, just like a father figure and taught us what renewable energy is all about, somebody I think you would give an arm and a leg for renewable energy and promoting renewable energy – Upendra Tripathi, the Director General of International Solar Alliance; my colleague, again somebody who bought a lot of dynamism into the Renewable Energy Ministry, Secretary Anand Kumar, Additional Secretary, Praveen Kumar.
Because I see a lot of colleagues from the renewable energy sector here today, without taking everybody’s names, I must say that it’s a sense of homecoming for me to be amongst all of you distinguished ladies and gentlemen. A warm-warm thank you to all of you who have participated in the renewable energy sector, in the RE-INVEST Conference-2018, and to all the distinguished delegates, both from India and abroad.
In some sense, I think this Conference and the second one at that is not about investment alone. While certainly this is RE-INVEST 2018, I was thinking about what this Conference has brought to the table. I was trying to read some of the daily newsletters. I was trying to run through the various agendas that were discussed over the last three days. And if we include the opening session where the honorable Prime Minister spoke, since 2nd October, I think this Conference has been in some sense also a rejuvenation of the entire sector.
In a way, this Conference has also discussed various ways to reform all that we have done so far in the renewable energy sector. Probably, a lot of plans have been reworked during the course of the last 3-4 days. You must have reviewed all your strategies to take this to the next level. I am sure a Conference of this scale and dimension will recharge all the stakeholders in the renewable energy space. This should repower the efforts that all of you are putting in. In a way, it reminds all of us of our commitment towards a better future, a better tomorrow for the young generation. I can go on and on about what we can do about the word ‘RE’, but let’s hope the ‘Renew’ or REINVEST-2018 will help us rewrite history, and when maybe a few decades from now, people look back and see how this journey started.
I think this grand programme, the huge exhibition, the 20,000 delegates, the participation of probably over 70 countries, 40 Ministers coming for the ISA Ministerial General Assembly – all of this put together will be written in golden words as the take off point from which renewable energy entered the next phase of development – somewhat like when you are launching a satellite, after the initial thrust that is given it detaches from the past and then gets into the orbit and flies high, soaring away into the atmosphere, probably trying to reach the sun.
And in some sense, that’s the kind of goal Prime Minister Modi has given Mr Singh when he talks about ‘one world, one sun and one grid.’ And I wish you very well in all your efforts, in all the efforts of this entire team. I remember at one point of time, there was an empire which used to claim that the sun never sets on that empire. India will provide the future where we will provide inspiration to future generations to create one grid around the world so that the sun never sets when it comes to generating power and feeding the millions and millions of people’s energy needs.
And I do look forward to a day when we can have transmission lines crisscrossing continents and oceans, so that the sun can become the primary source of energy – not coal, not oil, not natural gas, it will be the sun, it will be wind, it will be hydro power, it will be hydro power, it will be bio-waste, it will be waste to energy. All of these renewable energy sources actually becoming the source of energy, actually becoming the source which will ensure wheels of development, of progress, in a net zero or a carbon-free world that we are looking at to achieve.
I wish all of you the very best in these efforts to achieve these very ambitious goals. And certainly, I believe that these goals are very much doable. I have yet to come across any target, any aspiration which cannot be achieved, and given the leadership that you have in your sector, I am quite confident the dynamism that we have seen in the last year, the rapid progress where we have almost doubled the country’s renewable energy generating capacity, added 72 GW in a short span of time and are planning to take it up to the next level in a very-very rapid speed. I am sure this collective effort of this team will make this happen and will ensure success in this very-very important programme for this government.
Very often we say solar is transforming India. In some sense, I believe India has also transformed the solar energy sector across the world. I dare say it was the rapid and expansive thrust that was given to solar energy by Prime Minister Modi, particularly, when he scaled up our ambition to expand solar energy from 2.5 GW to a 100 GW, which is 40 times by 2022. He actually showed the world what economies of scale and rapid and transformational journey to achieve big goals can lead to.
The completely transparent equal opportunity and corruption-free auctions that the renewable energy sector introduced in India has not only helped drive down prices of solar energy to below thermal or coal based power costs, but has actually helped the entire world bring down energy costs, given the achievements of the solar power industry in India and given the fact that the world today sees a huge opportunity, sees volumes becoming so big that one can actually produce power at extremely competitive prices.
And I must compliment all of you stakeholders in this sector to have made this happen, to have given a run for money, both to Mr Singh in his job as a Power Minister, handling the thermal power sector also, and to me trying to figure out what will happen to coal in the years ahead.
But as they say, I don’t know, you must have all heard of the acronym ‘BHAG’ – a lot of people in the world today are running away from the real problems of climate change. I don’t want to get into a diplomatic spat, so I would any particular individual references. Minister, the ‘BHAG’ in hindi stands for ‘run’, and there are two ways to look at running.
One is that you can run away from a problem, as some people and some countries are doing. And the problem I am addressing here is climate change. And another is to run to achieve good results to address the problem, and I must say India has chosen the path of running to achieve ‘Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals’ (BHAG), and actually make a difference to the future of the planet, future of the world and not get deterred by any obstacles, any complications that may come up in our ambition to leave behind a better planet for the next generation.
In some sense, India has embarked on probably the world’s largest ramp-up of renewable energy ever witnessed in the past. And we are not going to stand on this. We are hoping that this will only be the base on which we will rapidly expand further, so that we can become largely a renewable energy-driven power sector. We do believe going forward costs of battery and storage are going to become more affordable. And clearly, I do hope it doesn’t become what Tony Seba says that power will be available free of charge and may actually be sold on the corner store in small units available like your mobile talk time.
But clearly, one can see that the days of expensive power are going to be over, going forward. Power is going to become more and more affordable. Minister Singh has embarked on probably one of the world’s most ambitious programme, Soubhagya, by which he hopes to ensure, and I don’t think he hopes, he’s committed to ensure that every single willing consumer, every household in this country gets electricity in the next three or four or five months. And clearly, the progress that has been made in that and the enthusiasm with which the entire country has adopted the Soubhagya Yojana, I am convinced that he is going to be 100% successful. And I wish you and all your colleagues well in this very-very major initiative.
To my mind, for us in India, renewable energy comes very naturally. We have been a nation which has always been very conscious of avoiding waste. We believe that the kind of wasteful use of energy across the world along with large amounts of waste generated in different forms. I mean it could be a simple thing like a uneaten pizza, which ultimately is causing damage to the environment. After all, that pizza was dough-made somewhere or the other, a pizza cooked somewhere or the other, ingredients transported from one place to the other.
If one looks at the entire ecosystem, every element of waste – it could be energy waste, with buildings all over the world, whether it’s Manhattan, whether it’s Tokyo, whether it’s Sydney, whether it’s London – brightly lit 24-hours a day, whether it’s day or night. Despite the fact that the sun may be streaming in, we put vanishing blinds and block the sun and put on lights in the day hours.
In the night, nobody may be working in offices, but you have tall 100-storey buildings brightly lit up, possibly because it looks nice. But all of this waste and waste in every form, it could be food waste, it could be plastic waste, it could be the tonnes and tonnes and tonnes of garbage that we are generating all over the world. All of this waste is damaging the world, is harming society, is harming the human race. And I believe we in India have a duty to show the world a new path, a path that is not something new to us, a path that we have inherited from our ancestors, a path that is very much a part of our heritage, a part of our culture, a part of our tradition where waste was looked down upon.
I remember as a child, I could never walk out of my room, leaving the lights or the air-conditioning on without being taunted by my mother or by my brother that hey, ‘you just go right back and switch off the lights, switch of the fan, turn off the computer.’
I think we need to bring back that consciousness, not only in India but across the world towards waste. I think we celebrate Energy Conservation Day sometime in December, 4th or 5th or 6th December. And I would urge upon you Minister Singh that this year, let us take a massive campaign across the country. And if we can engage with other partner countries around the world, can we make this a year where we remind the world that each form of waste adds up to huge amount of cost, not only economic cost, not only social cost but a huge human cost.
And I think no better year than the year when we are starting to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi – somebody who symbolizes simplicity, somebody who symbolizes cleanliness, somebody who would not let a speck of waste in his whole life to the extent that he had a rule that he would not leave one speck of grain on his plate uneaten, to the extent he would not wear one shred of clothing more than essential, to the extent he would not waste on sip of water beyond what was needed whether it was for sanitation, whether it was for consumption, whether it was to bathe, whether it was the wash his clothes which he did himself.
No better role model than Mahatma Gandhi for this nation to follow and no better opportunity than the year 2018-19 to bring back that vision, that passion that Mahatma Gandhiji had to put an end to waste, wasteful consumption, wasteful expenditure. And I think if we can bring back that spirit in the next generation also, we will truly be doing service not only to our motherland but to the world at large.
Prime Minister Modi has very recently been honored by the United Nations, the highest environment honor that they could give as Champions of the Earth – somebody who has really worked hard to bring back consciousness about the environment, somebody who when the world was talking about the inconvenient truth actually wrote, penned down his thoughts, about convenient action. Somebody who believes that it doesn’t make sense crying over spilt milk or sitting in your office or your home and pointing fingers at somebody else, but who believes that let us be the change that we want to see in the world.
Somebody who was willing to buy solar power even at Rs 17, which is close to 25 cents, way back when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat, realizing full well that in the initial period even if we have to pay more, somebody will have to kick-start the mission, somebody will have to bite the bullet, knowing full well that there will be a day when volumes will come in, when products will be made in India, where economies of scale will come in, where innovation will prevail. And when he announced the 100 GW target way back in 2015 or end of 2014, I believe he had the vision to see that India will lead the world in its journey towards renewable energy and India will show the way of cost effectiveness in making a programme successful, making a programme economically viable, making a programme stand on its own feet without subsidy and showing the world that what is good for India is good for the world and is good for all humanity.
I think no better example of the success of Prime Minister Modi’s vision, and I would say in some sense, I have at least been a management student. I have been a accountant and investment banker. Mr Singh has been a bureaucrat with long years, and I see a lot of persons from trade business and industry here. But it took somebody born in a remote village in Gujarat from a humble background, selling tea at a railway station while he was a young lad, studying in an ordinary school with no great gadgets, learning under a kerosene lamp or possibly a street light if there were any at Vadnagar to be able to visualize what a simple LED bulb can do to the nation, can do for the world.
And the fact that he embarked on a mission to change the entire country’s lighting from the old incandescent power-guzzler bulbs to LED bulbs and set an ambitious goal to save 40,000 crore rupees of our Indian consumers’ electricity bills, reduce the power consumption significantly in our homes, bring down the wasteful use of electricity to light streetlights, homes, offices, factories. Set an another Hairy Audacious Goal of replacing 770 million bulbs in a short span of 4 years.
It was a visionary Prime Minister Modi who set that goal and I think it was the nation of 1.3 billion people who adopted that and I was reading this morning on your Ujala Mobile App that not only has EESL (Energy Efficiency Services Limited) been able to cross the 30-million target themselves, but the private sector has chipped in with about 910 million LED bulbs sold so far. Collectively, 300 million is what EESL has sold, 900 million is what the private sector has sold and 1.21 billion LED bulbs have been sold in India, and 4 years are not yet over from the time we sold the first LED bulb on 1st May, 2015.
Three years and six months down the road, the target of 770 has been exceeded by all of you, the collective effort of Mr Singh, his team and the people of India to replace 1.21 billion LED bulbs, bring down the cost by nearly 87% in the short period. And as many countries have been saying, India actually has led – I am not playing a pun on the LED – but clearly, we have led the world’s efforts to make LED a household product, to make LED affordable across the world. And more and more parts of the world are now moving towards ambitious targets on replacing old lighting by LED lighting.
I can only compliment Minister Singh and the entire team in the Renewable Energy Ministry and all the stakeholders in this sector for all the good work that you have done. While concluding, I would just like to offer my humble contribution towards your efforts to promote renewable energy, to add Indian-made products into India and suggest that the Railways and the Renewable Energy Minister work together on a programme where we can assure over the next five years a 10 GW procurement by the Indian railways of solar power with Made in India products only.
As India respects WTO, without falling foul of any WTO, the railways being a government entity can procure only Made in India products, can stipulate only Made in India procurement of 10 GW in the next five years. If you want to make it longer, we can make it 20 GW in the next 15 or 20 years, which we will assure to pick up. We can run a transparent programme, a transparent bid, invite participants from India and all over the world to come and set up manufacturing in India and give an assured offtake for the Indian railways, which we will use ourselves. And my desire is that in the next ten years the Indian Railways – of course, we will be converting to 100% electricity and it will be the world’s first railway of the size of the Indian railways, there’s no comparable example. Even the United States has only 2% railway running on electricity, the rest is all diesel.
India will be the world’s first large railway system which will be 100% electric. In the next five years and in the next ten years, we want to make the Indian Railway a net zero emitter of carbon. And I invite all of you to participate in this, I hope, another audacious goal. And let’s work together Mr Singh, Mr Anand, Praveenji Bhanu and your entire team. Let’s show the world that what India can do is unparalleled. Let’s lead the world to the next level of clean energy. Let us show the world that we in India care for the world, care for humanity and we can committed to leaving behind for the next generation, for all the young boys and girls in this room a better future, a better planet.
October 4, 2018 Speaking at 2nd IC- TRAM 2018, in New Delhi