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TED Talk Proposes A Three-Step Plan for India’s Clean Energy Transition

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On Saturday, Varun Sivaram — senior research scholar at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy — spoke at the TED Countdown Global Launch, a global initiative to champion and accelerate solutions to the climate crisis. The event featured roughly 50 leading thinkers and doers, spanning world leaders such as UN Secretary-General António Guterres, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and former US Vice President Al Gore, and including celebrities such as Mark Ruffalo, Priyanka Chopra, and Chris Hemsworth.

varun sivaram
Varun Sivaram, senior research scholar at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, recently spoke at the TED Countdown Global Launch, a global initiative to champion and accelerate solutions to the climate crisis.

Sivaram’s TED talk, titledIndia’s Historic Opportunity to Industrialize Using Clean Energy,” was hosted by Jane Fonda and Xiye Bastida during a session on transforming large energy systems. In the talk, he warns that “India’s energy choices could make or break the global fight against climate change. If it chooses fossil fuels to power its growing economy, its emissions could explode, making it the world’s number one emitter later this century… it would be a disaster for everyone, not least local populations vulnerable to pollution, climate change, or rapacious new coal mining.”

Drawing from his on-the-ground experience as chief technology officer of ReNew Power, India’s largest renewable energy company, Sivaram laid out a plan for India’s energy future. He argued that “India can make renewable energy the beating heart of its future economy by achieving three truly audacious goals, all at the same time. It’s a route no country in history has pulled off. But it’s possible, and this moment demands it.”

“First, India will need to build wind and solar power at an unprecedented scale and speed, replacing coal-fired power plants,” said Sivaram. “Second, it must find ways to extend the reach of renewable energy into energy-using sectors of the economy, such as transportation and industry, that haven’t traditionally used electricity. And third, India must become radically more energy-efficient.”

Sivaram is a physicist, bestselling author and clean energy technology expert with experience spanning the corporate, public and academic sectors, and is nationally recognized for his accomplishments in clean energy innovation. At the Center on Global Energy Policy, he leads the Global Energy Innovation Initiative, and recently released Energizing America: A Roadmap to Launch a National Energy Innovation Mission, a detailed guide for federal policymakers to raise energy innovation as a core national priority and triple federal funding for clean energy innovation in 5 years—to $25 billion by 2025.

For more information about the TED Countdown Global Launch, visit the website here.

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3 years ago

I think this path to renewable energy could have a significant effect on upgrading slums in the long-term. Recent papers have found that a more cost effective solution to upgrading slums after they’ve been built (building roads, public parks, land-title reform,…) is to engage in urban planning and basically begin laying the groundwork for additional urbanization where slum growth is expected. Planning ahead like this was found to be 1.5 times more cost effective. If implemented responsibly, this could potentially have a similar effects to improving rural quality of life in that it will reduce migration and density in existing slums (this has yet to be studied). If this path to renewable energy were used in laying that groundwork the cost-effectiveness of renewable energy investments could be increased motivating greater direct investment. I hope something like this might work in Peru.