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New Delhi: Finally, after the COP26 in Glasgow, there are movements on the official front following the declarations of India there. Previously, a joint committee of the Ministry of Energy and the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy was announced to develop a detailed action plan to increase India’s renewable energy capacity to 500 GW by 2030 Last week, it was the turn of the Ministry of Petroleum to set up the Advisory Committee on Energy Transition to develop a roadmap for the energy transition of the oil and gas sector as a preparatory exercise to move forward. ‘The goal of net zero emissions by 2070. The point of calling a committee formed to examine only the oil and gas sector a The’ Energy Transition ‘committee is a misnomer; at first glance, it seems that India is continuing with its fragmented approach: several ministries working on different pieces of the big puzzle of decarbonization.

While this is not surprising, it is certainly disappointing as this historic and transformative opportunity could have been (and could still be) used to move to an integrated command structure for the country’s energy sector. Moreover, the kind of energy transition needed to achieve net zero emissions – whatever the timetable – necessarily requires a holistic and unified approach. Based on past experiences, rather than thinking coherently, different ministries tend to take a narrow view and protect their territory more. Moreover, politically, their focus remains on how to satisfy their respective constituencies and interest groups. Stakeholder consultation, on the other hand, remains more of a pro forma exercise. Not so long ago, a turf war between the ministries of heavy industries, surface transportation and the Office of Energy Efficiency effectively held back the introduction of energy efficiency standards for cars.

The nature of the task at hand, decarbonizing different sectors of the economy so that the country achieves net zero emissions in a timely manner, is such that working in silos can be counterproductive. Let us take a very simplistic example: if the production of green hydrogen can be administered administratively by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, the fact remains that it requires renewable energies for clean electrolysis, which according to the current scheme is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Renewable Energy. Or for that matter, clean charging of electric vehicles so that they not only support final emissions, but also help reduce emissions as a whole. Each element of decarbonization is thus closely linked to the others; it is best not to have multiple agencies with their own sets of rules and regulations, bureaucratic processes, and egos working collectively against the grain. While the need to have an integrated energy ministry in India was stressed from time to time, until 2018 a proposal to create a single energy ministry was raised by NITI Aayog to ensure better coordination between different energy sectors such as petroleum, electricity, renewables and coal.

Studies in several European countries have highlighted that low-carbon development involves managing multiple goals and challenges that transcend traditionally rigid administrative boundaries to achieve workable and multidimensional solutions. On the other hand, the existing administrative structures and procedures tend to favor a partial view of the problems at the outset. And anyway, a single energy ministry is not a single proposition. The UK as well as the US already have similar provisions. Globally, the trend is to bring the whole energy spectrum together with climate change / climate action. In fact, to promote further integration, while the UK has a Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the German Federal Department for Economic Affairs and Energy has recently been renamed Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Action – a super ministry of economics and climate. protection, responsible for renewable energies, the electricity sector, energy networks and the federal law on climate action. Compare this with India where there are five energy ministries / departments viz. coal, oil and natural gas, electricity, renewables and atomic energy in addition to another for the environment and climate change. The list will be endless if ministries dedicated to energy consuming sectors are also included. The practical practice of passing the buck or spreading the blame – the antithesis of desired transformation – may well flourish in such a compartmentalized structure. It is time that our governance structure also reflects the changing times and is designed to lead the country through a transition of a nature and scale unprecedented in the past. The innovations and creativity necessary for this transition to occur can only be unleashed by first transforming the governance structure and the underlying thought process itself. And a real integration of all the ministries and departments related to energy is the prerequisite for the success of the energy transition of the country. Efforts to decarbonize the economy require an integrated and holistic approach rather than the piecemeal approach to which we are accustomed. Perhaps such a transformation will require more political capital than that of technological transformation alone, but then it will lay a solid foundation for a transformative India.

[This piece was authored by Amit Kumar, Former Senior Director, Social Transformation & Knowledge Management, The Energy & Resources Institute (TERI)]

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