Why Will The Developing Nations Not Consume Cleaner Renewable Energy At The Stake Of Their Economic Growth? 7216

Why Will The Developing Nations Not Consume Cleaner Renewable Energy At The Stake Of Their Economic Growth?

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Shuvechchha Ghimire shares another interesting article about the roadmap of developing nations towards emission controls and adopting renewable energy. She is a graduate in Electronics and Computer Engineering from the University of Brighton and is also the founder of UNITEC Solutions Ltd which provides customised enterprise automation solutions.

In his address to the UN in September 2020, President Xi Jinping made an unconditional commitment that China would reach net zero emissions by 2060. India likewise has ambitious plans to generate 100GW solar power by 2022.
These initiatives are widely seen as indications that the developing countries might shift gears to meet the net zero emissions targets. However, the ground enthusiasm towards net zero differs significantly from the policies. To understand the discrepancies, I looked at three developing countries at varied stages of economic growth - India, Nepal, and China.
  1. Decentralised fossil fuel consumption pattern
Comedian NEMR candidly described the decentralised grassroot fossil fuel consumption in Lebanon in one of his performances: “we get [highly pressurized gas cannisters] from trucks [for domestic heating] which we connect manually [to our heating systems].” A decentralised fuel consumption pattern is a reality not just in present day Lebanon but the wider developing countries.
In addition to the gas cannisters, coal was widely used for domestic purposes when I was growing up in Nepal. It still is. Coal is much cheaper than electricity because it remains one of the largest minerals produced in the Indian subcontinent. In India, coal powers more than 75% of thermal plants. As such, replacing coal with renewable energy at grassroot levels will require expensive mass awareness and infrastructural investments. Furthermore, any market-oriented tax schemes to limit the use of widely available minerals might not be economically and politically desirable.
  1. Challenges in energy generation and storage
Rewa Ultra Mega Solar plant is one of the largest solar power plants in India. “The 750MW power plant meets the Delhi Metro’s day-time electricity consumption”, said Sourabh Jain, a renewable energy specialist at Rewa.
During our conversation, Mr Jain outlined the scale of transition for net-zero in India, “a terawatt scale installation of wind and solar power is required.” While the solar and wind energy can penetrate up to 60% of India’s demand, he believes, anything beyond would bring significant technical and grid-stability challenges. “To mitigate these problems, a mature storage technology is required, which [unfortunately] is still in its infancy”, he said.
Furthermore, designing complimentary backup systems for the green renewable energy is expensive for the developing world. The bell curve of the solar energy systems and the U curve of wind energy systems need to have reliable compliments that can guarantee uninterrupted power supply. As such, a major research and development budget is required to analyse renewable energy profiles and design complimentary systems.
As opposed to the developed nations which experience uniform energy demand and use old age fossil generation fleet approaching retirement, developing countries have growing demands for power supply. This creates a different market dynamic for the developing nations whose priorities will be an uninterrupted, reliable, scalable, and risk-free energy systems.
  1. Expensive Transmission and Distribution (T&D) technologies
In 2018, the MDPI journal on Sustainability reported that a 30% of the renewable power produced in Xinjiang and Gansu of northwest China was not used. Similarly, in Vietnam, due to limited transmission and distribution technologies, the production of renewable energy was curtailed. T&D remains a challenge.
The current T&D methods, including batteries, ultra-high voltage lines, pumped-storage hydroelectricity, and thermal storage, is another major investment for the developing economies. This can significantly increase the cost of electricity for users in the developing world, thus discouraging their usage.
  1. Job risks
I spoke to Abhishek Mishra, an Energy Vertical Researcher at an Indian thinktank. He pointed out that the domestic concerns around job security largely impacts the adoption of renewable energy in India. “Green energy is likely to use less manpower than the fossil fuel industry”, he said. An effective manpower retraining and retaining plan, he added, might be economically challenging to execute in a labour market predominantly consisting of semi-skilled and unskilled labour forces.
Similarly, the lack of enthusiasm for green energy also stems from a political argument that the developed world achieved economic growth by overusing the fossil fuels. “The developing nations, with significantly lower [current and historical] emissions per capita, cannot [face increased unemployment by being] denied the use of emissions-hungry grey infrastructures as we work towards economic growth”, Mr Mishra said. Instead of decommissioning the current grey infrastructures, a more realistic approach he believed is to optimise the available systems and ensure job security.
  1. Volatile market dynamics
Rishab Shrestha, a senior research analyst in the field of renewable energy, pointed out during our conversation that the Asian developing nations suffer from policy uncertainties, renegotiation of awarded projects and power theft. “Investment environment is risky and attracting cheap capital for renewable energy projects is very difficult. Utilities who buy power also have a weak financial health and are a weak link in the power sector”, he said. “Only with proper management of utilities, efficiencies and losses of both the commercial and the technical nature can be improved to attract investments.” Governments of developing nations, he believes, have a challenging responsibility to step in, make policies and “depoliticise the action plans”.
Another major adoption challenge, Mr Shrestha believes is the fact that it is difficult to calculate proof points at which one can predict the effectiveness of net zero emission action plans. A lack of quantitative measures, owing to slow climate processes, can quickly make net zero a secondary priority in most developing countries.
That said, if the developing countries across the world gear up for emissions peaks at variable timelines, or worse, fail to articulate their emission controls, the net impact of the emissions control by the developed world might be miniscule. Given the immediate climate threats we face, we cannot afford to have different expectation of developed and developing countries. In COP26 event this year, perhaps financial incentives can be provided for the developing nations to remove conditions around their net zero emission targets.
 
Blog IET Sussex Network 08/04/2021 12:24pm BST

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