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Photo: Bloomberg
Photo: Bloomberg

US programmes a plus for india’s energy playbook

Over last two decades, US-India energy cooperation has constantly evolved

The Indian power system is the third-largest in the world with 373 gigawatts (GW) generation capacity and 300 million customers. Of this, about 300GW was built in the last 25 years, and India’s progress on the renewable energy front has been very impressive. Now, we have about 80GW of renewable energy resources, the majority of which was added in the last 10 years. In this journey, India was richly assisted by the US, UK, Japan and Germany via bilateral energy partnership programmes. Among these, the US-India energy partnership is the longest-running and has been continuously expanding in both scope and impact.

Over the past two decades, the US-India energy cooperation has constantly evolved and progressed despite government changes in both countries. This relationship has only strengthened as both parties see value in it. We hope to further strengthen this with the newly elected government in the US.

The US-India Energy Dialogue started between US Department of Energy (DoE) and the then Planning Commission in 2005, and was rechristened as US-India Strategic Energy Partnership (SEP) in 2018. The SEP is co-chaired by US energy secretary and India’s minister of petroleum and natural gas. The technologies implemented at large scale for clean energy, smart grid projects, distributed renewable energy and energy storage brought down the costs by over 90% in the past 10 years. The Partnership to Advance Clean Energy-Deployment (PACE-D 2.0) programme by USAID and the US State Department with India’s ministry of new and renewable energy needs special mention as it is attempting to accelerate the deployment and use of clean energy.

However, the initial momentum that put the US at the forefront of clean energy technologies has decelerated owing to budget cuts and changed priorities. We hope this will soon be addressed by the new government and the US will revive its clean energy leadership on fast track which would benefit India and other developing nations.

Presently, there are over a dozen programmes running under Strategic Energy Partnership, such as PACE-D 2.0, Greening the Grid, Market Integration and Transformation for Energy Efficiency, Smart Power for Advancing Reliability and Connectivity and South Asia Regional Initiative for Energy Integration. The programmes have strengthened Indian initiatives for cross-border energy trade. A case in point being SARI/EI that undertook feasibility studies and detailed project reports for interconnections of the electricity networks in South Asia and contributed towards the creation of electricity interconnections between India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh, helping India’ energy diplomacy in its neighbourhood.

Besides, under the SEP, there is another set of programmes between US’s DoE and India’s department of science and technology. Under the Indo-US Science and Technology Forum, a Joint Clean Energy Research and Development Centre (JCERDC) was established in 2012. The JCERDC in its first phase undertook three programmes successfully—Solar Energy Research Institute for India and the US (SERIIUS), Second Generation Biofuels; and Energy Efficiency in Buildings.

The Greening the Grid programme has one important component, renewable integration and sustainable energy, which is being executed by US energy agency along with the national renewable energy lab of the DoE. Other agencies, such as US State Department, US Department of Commerce and US Trade Development Agency, are also involved in various programmes and projects in the energy sector in India. USAID is also expected to announce the South Asia Regional Energy Program, which will focus on clean energy resources, electric vehicles and energy storage. This bodes well for India’s energy security playbook.

India Smart Grid Forum in collaboration with the US Department of Commerce, USAID and USTDA have been conducting US-India Smart Grid Workshops every year since 2014 with key stakeholders from both countries. These dialogues have contributed to shaping many of the above programmes.

Reji Kumar Pillai is chairman of Global Smart Energy Federation and president of India Smart Grid Forum

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