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Case Study

[Cover Article] Empowering Sustainable Energy Solutions and Infrastructure in India

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Case Study Series 3    Energy and Infrastructure

An average person in India used some 1,250 kWh of electricity last year,[1] or one-tenth the average in the United States.[2] Annual carbon emissions, at 1.5 tonnes per person,[3] are less than a quarter of the average in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).[4] Yet collectively, India emits more greenhouse gases than any country apart from China and the United States. This situation of low energy intensity and high fossil use, and the precarity of South Asians faced with extreme weather and food and water insecurity has led climate action in India to focus on making affordable clean energy available to the vast population, particularly for farms and manufacturing workers, and lower the need for fossil energy in transport, cooling, irrigation and house electricity. Taking an integrated approach, they generate higher incomes and employment, especially for young people and women, to make the clean energy transition practicable and sustained. Projects are underway across the country to increase energy efficiency, the adoption of renewable energy, and create decent work that can further propel climate adaptation and mitigation.

Trend 1: Reducing energy intensity

A project to replace fluorescent lights with LEDs in apparel factories found significant power consumption savings of 85%, along with lower ambient temperatures that enhanced worker comfort and productivity. These savings saw firms regain their investment in less than a year, and now the team is working to improve the energy efficiency of steam boilers used in small textile factories in Uttar Pradesh to reduce their energy use and emissions of fine particulates that are harmful to productivity and health. In slum households in Gujarat, a project mentors women’s collectives to demystify the science of climate warming and raise awareness of the impacts already affecting their communities, such as polluted air, floods and vector-borne disease. The collectives help mitigate these impacts by solarising workplace and household appliances and installing LED lights to cut electricity bills. They also create heatproof ‘cool roofs’ for houses that use reflective paint and resin-coated bamboo mats to reduce the need for cooling. Their work has been incorporated into building codes and heat action plans in several cities, paving the way for systemic change.

Trend 2: Decentralising renewable energy

In the hill state of Meghalaya, cloudbursts, landslides and floods make it difficult for people to access health facilities located in the towns, whilst the rural facilities often have dated equipment and frequent power cuts, harming patient outcomes. The extreme weather also damages the electric grid in ways that can take months to repair. As these facilities are the backbone of public health in India, a project in the state is supplying them with clean energy systems and basic medical needs: rooftop solar panels, equipment for diagnostics, maternal and childcare, vaccine storage, lighting, and administrative needs. They maintain these systems and train staff workers, and help governments develop guidelines for climate-resilient health facilities. Besides lowering emissions, better patient outcomes are expected to lower the burden of referral to larger hospitals, as the impacts of global warming increase the patient load.

In the farming plains, a project trains farmers, especially women farmers, to operate and maintain renewable energy equipment such as solar-powered irrigation pumps. The team also teaches sustainable ways to use non-renewable resources like groundwater and incentivises banks to extend debt to farmers to buy renewable energy equipment. They help lower farm expenses on diesel and grid electricity, and have increased farm productivity, enabling farmers to diversify into growing more lucrative crops. And they are creating a support system for renewable energy by training young people in rural areas to work as solar technicians along with government agencies, as they incorporate renewable energy in the farming, fisheries, textiles and horticulture value chains.

Trend 3: Decent work

Besides improving the work conditions and incomes of farmers and factory workers, another project offers full-time paid employment to people in rural areas to work as solar operators, farm entrepreneurs, and sales and collections assistants. They lease solar pumps, produce mills and cold storage units to smallholder farmers, replacing diesel along the value chain. Farmers are charged by the volume of groundwater pumped or the weight of produce milled or stored, and the facilities available at farmgate and marketgate help reduce their travel time and associated costs. The team report they have increased the incomes of over 18,000 farmers in five years by 50-100%, and also mentor farm workers in sustainable agronomy, scientific input use, and diversifying towards higher value climate resilient crops.

A project initiated at hundreds of ‘climate flashpoints’ globally notes that 1 in 5 young people have not been in education, employment or training in the past decade.[5] It employs young teams of climate activists around the globe in an ambitious effort to show greenhouse emissions can peak and decline at speed. In the coastal town of Vizag in India, one such team has worked to avert the emissions caused by food waste, transport and energy use over four years.

They began by diverting food waste from landfills and processing it organically, and have since expanded into the rejuvenating wasteland for small-scale food production, a zero-emissions transport network using electric auto rickshas, and leased land to operate biogas units that generate clean energy. They are creating local employment, especially for women workers in organic food and waste processing, and distributing the food they grow amongst lowered-income households in the community. The teams’ progress is monitored on an open database, and the information is used to secure financial support by trading their work for ‘supercredits’ for sale on the carbon market. Thus, climate activists gain part-time paid employment that directly lowers emissions and is helping ensure local food and energy security.

 


 

[1] Government of India, from https://pib.gov.in/PressReleseDetail.aspx?PRID=1883915 

[2] US Energy Information Administration, from https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=97&t=3

[3] International Energy Agency, from https://www.iea.org/countries/india

[4] World Bank, from https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EN.ATM.CO2E.PC?locations=OE

[5] ILOSTAT, from https://ilostat.ilo.org/topics/youth/

References

A. Environmental Stewardship
To protect the environment, we organize programmes like mangrove nursery and Reforestation, Coastal and River Clean-Up, Community Based Environmental Solid Waste Management, Environmental IEC Campaign and Eco-Academy

B. Food Security and Sustainable Livelihood
To ensure a sustainable livelihood for the community, eco-tourism include Buhatan River Cruise Visitor Center Buhatan River Mangrove Boardwalk are run by the community. Others include Organic Vegetable and Root crops Farming, Vegetable and Root crops Chips and by-products Processing and establishing a Zero waste store.

C. Empowered Communities
To empower the community, we provide product and Agri-Enterprise Development Training, Immersion and Learnings Exchange Program, Earth Warrior Training and Community Based Social Entrepreneurship Training

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