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Better education and living conditions can lower emissions in India

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Kolkata: Improving education and creating favorable living and working conditions are essential for India’s transition to a society with minimal greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

A buzzword in climate negotiations, the concept of low carbon society or development, has its roots in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) adopted in Rio de Janerio in 1992 and is now generally expressed using the term ‘low-emission development strategies’.
For India, the way ahead is through exploiting the low carbon (or low emission) renewable energy sector which would be in the best interest of the people and the economy, according to Heinz Schandl, senior principal scientist at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

“The biggest resource India has is obviously its people; investing in education and supporting decent living and working conditions would unlock this resource, which in turn would support a knowledge-based low carbon development path for which India is better suited, perhaps, than other countries,” he said.

Schandl is the chief author of the recently released United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report “Indicators for a Resource Efficient and Green Asia and the Pacific”. He believes that for “inclusive human development in the country without accelerating emissions”, renewables are key.

India, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has set ambitious renewable energy (RE) targets of 100,000 MW of solar power, 60,000 MW of wind power, 10,000 MW of energy from biomass and 5,000 MW from small hydroelectric projects (175 GW of total renewables) by 2022.

Currently, India’s clean energy capacity is 33,000 MW.

Schandl said India’s thrust on RE is of “utmost importance.”

“Allowing India to service its growing energy needs with renewables will help mitigate climate change and hence reduce costs and interruptions of the Indian economy through climate impacts that can only become more severe and costly if climate mitigation fails.

“Investing in low carbon renewable energy is in the best interest of the Indian economy and its people,” said the scientist.

This will take India on par with the world’s average per-capita energy use, which stands at 75 Giga Joules (per capita energy use for final consumption). India lags far behind at a mere 20 GJ.

“This gap cannot be filled with traditional energy generation relying on high-carbon energy sources of the past but needs investment into modern, renewable energy that, once installed, comes at a very low additional cost,” Schandl pointed out.

This investment is crucial because energy use and GHG emissions are set to shoot up as people move to higher-paid jobs and demand better and more reliable energy sources. Schandl also drew attention to the non-availability of electricity in many parts of India.

Also, from examining the trends in industrial transformation of countries, it can be said that India may go through a similar transition process as China, resulting in much higher per-capita resource use and emissions in the future, Schandl suggested.

But India is in an advantageous position in terms of pumping in money to develop higher efficiency infrastructure (buildings, transport systems and manufacturing capacity), courtesy the know-how present in the country, he said.

“Such green investments in good quality public infrastructure will also support a more inclusive development path as they favour lower income households disproportionately,” he explained. (IANS)

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How telecom has become driver of economic change in India

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The country's hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front.
The country's hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front. Wikimedia Commons
  • India has done well to stay ahead of the curve in the technological revolution
  • The sectoral change in productivity has been the highest in the telecommunications sector since the reforms of 1991
  • India has managed to provide the cheapest telephony services around the world

For the most part of human history, the change was glacial in pace. It was quite safe to assume that the world at the time of your death would look pretty much similar to the one at the time of your birth. That is no longer the case, and the pace of change seems to be growing exponentially. Futurist Ray Kurzweil put it succinctly when he wrote in 2001: “We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century – it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).” Since the time of his writing, a lot has changed, especially with the advent of the internet.

India has done well to stay ahead of the curve in the technological revolution. The country’s hyper-competitive telecom sector has led the revolution from the front. In fact, according to Reserve Bank of India data, the sectoral change in productivity has been the highest in the telecommunications sector since the reforms of 1991, growing by over 10 percent. On the other hand, no other sector has had a productivity growth of above five percent during the same period. It is no wonder that it has also been one of the fastest-growing sectors of the Indian economy, growing at over seven percent in the last decade itself.

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Such an unprecedented pace of growth has been brought about the precise levels of change that Kurzweil was so enthusiastic about. Today’s smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Meanwhile, India has managed to provide the cheapest telephony services around the world, which has hit rock bottom after the entry of Reliance Jio. This has ensured access to those even at the bottom of the pyramid.

A rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country.
A rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country. Wikimedia Commons

Even though consumers have come to be accustomed to fast-paced changes within the telecom sector, the entry of Jio altered the face of the industry like never before by changing the very basis of competition. Data became the focal point of competition for an industry that derived over 75 percent of its revenue from voice. It was quite obvious that there would be immediate economic effects due to it. Now that we’re nearing a year of Jio’s paid operations, during which time it has even become profitable, we saw it fit to quantify its socio-economic impact on the country. Three broad takeaways need to be highlighted.

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First, the most evident effect has been the rise in affordability of calling and data services. Voice services have become practically costless while data prices have dropped from an average of Rs 152 per GB to lower than Rs 10 per GB. Such a drastic reduction in data prices has not only brought the internet within the reach of a larger proportion of the Indian population but has also allowed newer segments of society to use and experience it for the first time. Since the monthly saving of an average internet user came out to be Rs 142 per month (taking a conservative estimate that the consumer is still using 1 GB of data each month) and there are about 350 million mobile internet users in the country (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India data), the yearly financial savings for the entire country comes out to be Rs 60,000 crore.

To put things in perspective, this amount is more than four times the entire GDP of Bhutan. Therefore, mere savings by the consumer on data has been at astonishing proportions.

Today's smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Wikimedia Commons
Today’s smartphones have the power of computers that took an entire room in the 1990s, and the telecom sector has had to keep up with a provision of commensurate internet speeds and services. Wikimedia Commons

Now, this data has been used for services that have brought to life a thriving app economy within the country. So, the second level of impact has been in the redressal of a variety of consumer needs — ranging from education, health and entertainment to banking. For instance, students in remote areas can now access online courseware and small businesses can access newer markets. Information asymmetry has been considerably reduced.

Third, a rise in internet penetration has distinct positive effects on economic growth of a country. These effects arise not merely from the creation of an internet economy, but also due to the synergy effects it generates. Information becomes more accessible and communication a lot easier. Businesses find it easier to operate and access consumers. Labour working in cities has to make less frequent trips home and becomes more productive as a result. Education and health services become available in inaccessible locations. Multiple avenues open up for knowledge and skill enhancement.

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An econometric analysis for the Indian economy showed that the 15 percent increase in internet penetration due to Jio and the spill-over effects it creates will raise the per capita levels of the country’s GDP by 5.85 percent, provided all else remains constant.

Thus, India’s telecom sector will continue to drive the economy forward, at least in the short run, and hopefully catapult India into 20,000 years of progress within this century, as Kurzweil postulated. The best approach for the state would be to ensure the environment of unfettered competition within the industry. Maybe other sectors of the economy ought to take a leaf out of the telecom growth story. The Indian banking sector comes to mind. However, that is a topic for another day. (IANS)

(Amit Kapoor is Chair, Institute for Competitiveness, India. He can be contacted at Amit. Kapoor@competitiveness.in and tweets @kautiliya. Chirag Yadav, a senior researcher at the institute, has contributed to the article.)