Promoting India’s Sustainable Growth

Project Expert

Varun Sivaram
Varun Sivaram

Philip D. Reed Fellow for Science and Technology

About the Project

The world’s fastest-growing economy, India could lift millions out of poverty, prop up a lackluster global economy, and advance geopolitical stability in Asia. To do all this, it will need a lot of energy—for example, the International Energy Agency predicts its power needs will quadruple by 2040. But if India continues to produce more than 70 percent of its energy from fossil fuels like coal and oil, smog will increasingly choke its cities, it will remain energy-insecure, and it could become the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. Fortunately, under Prime Minister Modi, India for the first time in its history released a climate action plan, and it ratified the Paris Climate Agreement in 2016. And the Modi administration has set an ambitious target for solar power: 100 gigawatts (GW) by 2022, nearly half of all the solar in the world at the end of 2015. Still, India is a long way from a truly sustainable energy policy, and I study ways that it can ramp up its use of renewable energy, take advantage of other low-carbon sources like natural gas, and reduce its energy demand (three-quarters of India’s buildings in the year 2040 are yet to be built—there is a huge opportunity to design buildings and whole cities to use less energy). For more, see my report, “Reach for the Sun: How India’s Audacious Solar Ambitions Could Make or Break its Climate Commitments,” published through Stanford University’s Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance.