The world over, businesses and industries are seeing immense opportunity in the transition to green, low-carbon economies, and more than ever before they are becoming leaders in environmental protection. This has been true of many corporate players in the United States, and an event I attended last week underscored that this is also increasingly true of businesses in emerging markets like India.
At NRDC, over our forty year history, we have been extremely successful at working with a diverse range of private sector partners in the United States – including the most prominent and powerful corporations – towards the shared goals of sustainability, environmental protection and reducing the threat of climate change. I was thus eager to interact with many leading players from the private sector in India who are strong advocates against climate change, including the power industry association, which has been championing regulations that curb greenhouse gas emissions. I had an opportunity to do so at a day-long conference titled “The Politics and Economics of Climate Change: A Perspective on India and the U.S.”, organized by the Independent Power Producers Association of India (IPPAI).
The discussions at the event as well as remarks by IPPAI founder and Director General Harry Dhaul reflected the enthusiasm with which the Indian independent power generation industry is embracing a low carbon future. It is clear to everyone following the trends that the transition to a cleaner, low-carbon economy in India is an immense business opportunity. Businesses recognize that not only is it in the economy’s larger interest to stave off crippling future costs of climate change, but that it is in their own immediate interest to invest in the next growth sectors – clean technology, renewable energy and energy efficiency. In fact, those speaking at the conference estimated this market in India to be a $3 trillion opportunity.
It was heartening to see that many important climate-mitigation initiatives in India have been driven by industry interest in clear and predictable regulation. Experts at the conference shared insights on how industry was a participant in the design of market-based initiatives like India’s unique Perform, Achieve, Trade (PAT) energy efficiency trading scheme and the soon-to-be-launched Renewable Energy Certificates (REC) trading scheme. Non market-based efforts that were discussed included India’s Solar Guidelines under the National Solar Mission and the Electricity Act of 2003’s mandate for renewable energy levels in various Indian states’ energy mix.
The conference also highlighted trends in renewable energy and energy efficiency in the United States. Several current and former U.S. energy regulators spoke about existing measures in U.S. states to incentivize investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency – for instance the California’s AB 32 Global Warming Solutions Act and New York State’s Renewable Portfolio Standard- as well as barriers to the accelerated spread of such efforts. U.S. participants expressed disappointment that Congress had been unable to pass comprehensive climate and energy legislation this year, since that would have provided further impetus to renewables and energy efficiency. In multiple sessions, U.S. speakers noted that India was in some respects ahead of the U.S. in exploring innovative solutions for climate change, and that businesses and industry in India were “ahead of the curve” in adapting to a low-carbon economy.
The underlying theme of all conversations at the conference was that industry in India (including the power industry, manufacturing and other commercial sector entities) has a clear recognition that “going green” is good for business. Not in terms of mere green-washing and marketing efforts to be viewed as green, but in terms of the increased level of investments that businesses are making in renewable energy and energy efficiency, and the growing profits from low-carbon technologies.
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