Supporting India’s Energy Governance


UNDP is a nodal organization involved in furthering the developmental agenda across the world. Along with supporting programs fighting poverty, it works for furthering democracy, enhancing national capacities and protecting environment. A big part of the cause of environmental protection is supporting efficient and innovative energy programs that minimize environmental damages. This includes capacity development, interventions on policy matters and creating awareness in various countries in which it operates. The Governance Today spoke to Jaco Cilliers, Country Director of UNDP for India to know about the various energy related initiatives of UNDP in India. Edited excerpts:
Jaco Cilliers
Jaco Cilliers, Country Director of UNDP

Could you elucidate UNDP’s role on governance challenges and threats to energy sector in India.

In the recent years, India’s energy consumption has been increasing at one of the fastest rates in the world. With a targeted GDP growth rate of nine per cent, the energy demand is expected to grow at 6.5 per cent per year. Governance of energy management through appropriate energy policies is a huge challenge. We think the new government’s decision to group the relevant ministries together such as Ministry of Power, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and Ministry of Coal with one Minister could bring cohesiveness in policies and governance. Another challenge is the management of use of noncommercial energy such as use of firewood, whose unsustainable harvesting for the purpose of meeting energy requirement is said to be the cause of deforestation. LPG/ Kerosene are thought to be clean fuels that can replace these non-commercial fuels but making them available to remote rural areas at affordable prices is a challenge. Renewable energy products such as biogas, solar cookers have the
potential to meet this requirement but have not yet penetrated to the desired levels. Making these energy available to remotest areas at affordable rates is a great challenge. UNDP supports India in addressing these governance challenges and threats to energy sector in the following way:

  • UNDP supports Indian government in identifying key challenges to energy sector, design pilot projects, demonstrate solutions, scale them up and help the government in mainstreaming them through policy or market based approaches.
  • In addition to providing small financial support from UNDP’s core funds for key initiatives, UNDP supports Indian Government in leveraging international funds such Global Environmental Funds [GEF] to demonstrate key initiatives for climate change mitigation and adaptation. UNDP is also preparing to help Government in availing new opportunities and leveraging funds from Green Climate Fund
  • UNDP facilitates leveraging international expertise and technology transfer
  • UNDP supports south-south cooperation for knowledge sharing and implementation support

What have been the areas of UNDP’s intervention in energy sector of other countries?

We support and advocate an energy sector market transformation market-led solutions need to be complemented with strategic use of public money (national and international). In those circumstances public funds need to be leveraged supporting comprehensive energy market transformations.

What are the key energy goals for UNDP, especially for India?

UNDP’s objective in this area is to expand access to clean energy and help build the capacity of communities to manage natural resources and withstand climate change and disasters through a consultative process with Government and communities. UNDP supports initiatives that increase access to clean energy for domestic and productive uses in offgrid, under-served rural regions. strengthen livelihoods.

Some of our important involvements in India include supporting Indian Railways in reducing its energy consumption and working with the Ministry of Urban Development to strengthen government capacity to plan, finance, implement, operate and manage climate friendly and sustainable urban transport systems. We are also supporting energy efficiency in small scale secondary steel industries to reduce specific energy interventions by introducing energy efficient technology packages in reheating furnaces, the rolling mills and the induction furnaces.

UNDP has been consistently contributing to developmental practice areas, particularly in poverty reduction. What are your plans in mainstream other developmental activities including energy, efficiency and environment?

Poverty reduction is one of most important thematic area in UNDP. However, our work in Energy and Environment is also very significant. UNDP is working with more than ten central and state ministries to mainstream actions relating to energy, efficiency and environment. We work towards piloting actions, build evidence, replicate and mainstream the outcome through market based developments or through policies. For example, UNDP worked with Ministry of Steel in demonstrating energy efficiency in small scale steel rerolling mill. There are about 1800 such mills contributing to about 30 million  tonnes (40 per cent) of India’s steel production. A reduction of 30 per cent in specific energy consumption in about 34 steel mills was achieved there by.

What is UNDP’s take as well as step towards supporting or investing in technology that enables communities to gain access to

We support actions to enable communities to gain access to energy. We think three A’s are very important  to enable communities gain access to energy. They are Adoptability, Availability, and Affordability.

Just to cite an example, we have supported ‘Green Mandals’ in few villages in Orissa and ‘Shakti Kendra’ in few villages in Chattisgarh where renewable energy products such as solar lights, efficient Cookstoves were made available and linked with banks who would finance. With a small finance of Rs. 10 lakhs, the entrepreneurs have generated a turnover of over Rs. 100 lakhs and most importantly the households are benefited. Now children can study in comfortable lights, persons who are carrying out household enterprise like screen printing can carry out their tasks more reliably and complement their incomes.

Nearly 833 million i.e. 69 per cent of 1.21 billion people in India live in rural areas. Lack of access to reliable, affordable and clean energy is an impediment to rural livelihoods sectors in India. UNDP is working on various initiatives such as developing the market for Renewable Energy Technologies for Rural Livelihoods [RETPRLs] in three selected states of Assam, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh. Through this program, solar and biomass waste powered micro grids are set up for common facilities for local communities.

What are your future plans for India in terms of adding to the country’s renewable energy development?

India has made tremendous progress in accelerating and promoting use of renewable energy technologies. But there are still many challenges in energy sector such as filling the energy deficit, providing access to electricity to 300 million people who are not yet connected, providing clean energy to micro-enterprises that depend on costly and polluting diesel. Recognising that renewable energy solutions can address some of these challenges, the new government has increased the targets for renewables significantly.

We highly appreciate the vision and the initiatives of Government, and are committed to support the Government of India in meeting ambitious targets such as 100,000 MW power from renewable energy sources and providing electricity to all the unreached villages. We also support in developing smart cities and accelerating access to clean energy in particular.  UNDP is working with MNRE in demonstrating and upscaling renewable energy based solutions for microenterprises in off grid regions, demonstrate applications of solar concentrators for industrial heating requirements, develop skill sets of youth in promoting renewable energy, advocate for policy /fiscal support based on the lessons and develop capacities of potential entrepreneurs and service providers on RE based energy solutions for off-grid applications.

We have supported MNRE in accelerating the market for solar water heaters and contributed to tripling the solar water heater installation. In collaboration with MNRE, we aim to further accelerate and exploit the solar potential in meeting the hot water, steam and hot air requirements in domestic, commercial, hospitals, hospitality and industrial set ups, thereby reducing the use of electricity, furnace oil, and other precious petroleum fuels and thereby help businesses to contribute to reducing greenhouse gases emissions. Also, we are developing programs to accelerate use of renewables around forest fringe areas, waste to energy, solar cookers, solar PV products, etc. These initiatives, we believe would go a long way in furthering the cause of renewable in India.