Empowering India

Anjali Jaiswal, director of NRDC’s India Initiative, discusses harnessing the power of clean energy in the country.
Solar panels and satelite dishes in Rangdum, Zanskar Valley, India Happy Together/Shutterstock

What are some of India’s best opportunities to tackle climate change? 

Renewable energy has tremendous potential. Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently announced a solar energy target of 100 gigawatts by 2022—a fivefold increase from the previous goal and the largest of any country. This move will help the nation meet its soaring energy needs and limit carbon pollution while also opening the door to expand the solar market globally. Another big opportunity is energy efficiency. Eighty percent of the buildings and other infrastructure that will exist in India in 2030 have yet to be built, so there’s a chance to maximize efficiency and avoid costly retrofits. And millions of people are purchasing lighting, fans, and electronics like TVs and air conditioners for the first time, creating a major market for the newest, most efficient products. 

How has NRDC’s role evolved since launching the India Initiative? 

In less than five years, we’ve established the organization as a major player in the country’s clean energy market through our partnerships. We’ve been able to bring our considerable advocacy expertise to the table and bolster the ability of local nongovernmental organizations to create effective change.

What recent milestones are you most proud of? 

Last year, we helped enact comprehensive new energy codes in the fast-growing states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, which will reduce energy consumption in commercial buildings by as much as 60 percent. We were involved from the beginning, working with experts in academia to produce case studies on building efficiency. We also consulted with real estate developers, utilities, research institutions, and state governments in the actual code design. We collaborated with public-health institutions to establish India’s first-ever early-warning system for heat waves in the city of Ahmedabad. We’re now working to launch similar initiatives in the states of Gujarat and Orissa, as well as at the national level. As climate change drives up temperatures in India, heat waves are becoming increasingly dire, especially for children, the elderly, and the poorest communities.

What are you excited about for the future?

India’s new solar energy target has the potential to create a million jobs and dramatically cut climate change pollution. To help meet this goal, we’ll be working with our partners to develop innovative financing solutions and scale up the market for renewable energy. Meanwhile, we’re excited to continue expanding access to affordable clean energy in rural areas like the desert salt pans of the western regions, where we’re helping women workers escape poverty by replacing expensive and dirty diesel pumps with more efficient and less costly solar-powered ones.

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