NITI Aayog here’s a challenge for you. According to Jayanth Varma, a member of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) who voted to tighten monetary policy, the ongoing global transition to green energy faces a major danger of causing a series of energy price shocks comparable to those seen in the 1970s. According to the minutes of the latest MPC meeting, ‘this suggests that the upside risks to long-term inflation and inflation expectations have become more severe.’ Varma is correct in his concern about energy price shocks during the low-carbon transition, but he is incorrect in his assumption that the best approach to combat such inflation is to tighten demand. During the transition, price shocks caused by a lack of fossil fuels should be kept to a minimum. Investment in fossil fuels must increase gradually.
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Since 2014, global investment in fossil fuels has decreased. While renewable energy investment has increased, and the amount of renewable energy in the entire energy mix has surpassed that of gas and is now well over a quarter, it is still insufficient to replace dirtier fuels.
So, until renewable energy production is large enough and the means of storing renewable energy – such as pumped storage, green hydrogen production, storage batteries, or more esoteric methods like heating large chunks of salt that, when gradually dipped into water, release steam in sufficient quantities to rotate a turbine – are sufficiently advanced, coal and gas investment will be unavoidable.
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Technologies exist to reduce emissions from power plants that utilise such fuels, and they must be implemented. Both the technology and the cash required for this should ideally come from the wealthy nations, who have pledged to fund the global south’s green transformation. However, if the wealthy fail to keep their promises, a country like India should contribute its own finances to reduce emissions.
The most difficult task is determining how much to invest in fossil fuels in comparison to increased investments in renewables and storage. Your goal, NITI Aayog, is to model various situations in order to figure this out.
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