Solar Snake Oil

Length Estimate: Medium (500 < words < 1000)

In last week’s post, I began an inquiry into India’s energy situation and the feasibility of its ambitious plan to install 100 GW of solar power by 2022. One of my primary concerns is how such a massive infrastructural program will be financed and whether this investment represents the least wasteful way to lower the country’s carbon footprint. Consequently, I have been researching the topic of climate finance extensively and there are some interesting aspects of that issue that I will flesh out in future posts. Currently, I am getting the impression that we are approaching climate change in a manner akin to the passengers of the Titanic rejecting lifeboats in favor of building an entirely new-and-improved, iceberg-proof Titanic from the parts of the existing ship. In this post, however, I want to highlight the difficulty of replacing conventional electricity with solar using an example that is representative of the challenge that faces the Indian solar effort.

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India’s Contradictory Energy Policy

Length Estimate: Long (words > 1000)

“Whenever I talk to my officers, I say the environment is non-negotiable. But there is no viable alternative to developing more coal. Energy requirements have to be met.”

The above quote is from a detailed 2015 Guardian report on Indian electricity production, and captures perfectly the environment-growth dilemma that characterizes the serious contradictions contained in India’s approach to energy use.

Debates surrounding carbon emissions of India and China typically rely on argument that  developing countries should not be subjected to the burden that is largely a result of fossil fuel-powered Western development. Having only recently recovered from the deleterious history of colonialism, the developing world is in no mood to again sacrifice its prosperity because of apparent Western greed and myopia. In fact, the impetus is on the developed world to cut its emissions drastically and let the developing world have its way with the planet.

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