Mark Kenber (photo credit: The Climate Group)
What is the Clean Revolution campaign about and how will it affect a country like India?
By mid-century, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions need to have been reduced by around 80% of today’s level. Change to a low carbon economy needs to be rapid and ambitious, which is why we launched the Clean Revolution campaign at the Earth Summit in Rio, in June this year.
The strategy for the Clean Revolution centres on the idea that there are a number of leaders around the world that have the power and influence to set the economy on track to meet this ambitious challenge. The Clean Revolution will work to target these influencers. One of the key elements of the Clean Revolution campaign is its global reach. This is not a campaign that focuses on the developed world only. We believe that countries like India, which has a very important and constantly rising clout regionally and internationally, can and should be Clean Revolution leaders. Investment in innovation, renewable energy and smart technologies will create jobs, sustain growth, increase prosperity and enhance energy security.
What are the basic aims of the Clean Revolution campaign and how do you plan to achieve them?
To encourage leadership, decisionmakers must be given a clear, realistic and undeniable set of arguments on the economic, political and environmental advantages of the low carbon economy. The Climate Group’s Clean Revolution campaign aims to do just that. Over the coming three years the Clean Revolution will illustrate to the world’s decision-makers that this transformation is not only necessary and possible, but also that it is the key to raising living standards, creating long-term employment and raising productivity.
What kind of response did you get from different business leaders in the sixth India Members Meeting in New Delhi?
The sixth India Members Meeting was hugely encouraging; there were senior level representatives from Alstom, Mahindra Reva, Carbon Disclosure Project, RBS Foundation, Dell, CBRE, GE, IFC, Tata BP Solar, Phillips and the British High Commission. There was an overwhelming desire from all attendees to grow India’s green economy.
Contributors to discussions included Sunand Sharma, country president for India and South Asia, Alstom, who spoke in detail about the company’s energy efficient initiatives and Pavan Sachdeva, general manager for sales and marketing, and Mahindra Reva, who focused specifically on the challenges and opportunities for electric vehicles (EVs) in India. The subsequent corporate engagement discussion saw participants debate key issues including energy efficiency in the telecoms sector, financing barriers for low carbon solutions, and success and failures of carbon credits.
In the sixth India Members Meeting in New Delhi, you spoke about the LED street light pilots that are being undertaken to redefine public lighting in Indian cities. How do you think will it help in cost cutting and saving energy?
Lighting accounts for nearly 6% of global CO2 emissions or 1,900 million tonnes of CO2 per year. Startlingly, this is the equivalent of CO2 emissions from 70% of the world’s passenger vehicles. The solution is simple; when operated with smart controls, LED (light-emitting diode) lighting can cut CO2 emissions by between 50 and 70%. A full switch to LEDs could also reduce energy consumption for lighting by 40% worldwide, translating to 130 billion euros in running costs and 670 million tonnes of avoided CO2 emissions per year.
LED streetlights illuminate the road next to the Kolkata Municipal Corporation building in Kolkata (photo credit: The Climate Group)
Results from a survey by The Climate Group investigating the effects of LEDs installed across the Indian city of Kolkata, have found that nearly all residents are reaping big environmental and economic benefits from the low energy lighting. Results show that more than 90% of Kolkata’s road and park users find LEDs to be a better lighting option than conventional lights. Among shop owners, more than 80% of the respondents prefer LEDs, and more than 75% of the pedestrians that frequently visit roads with LEDs installed “strongly recommend” them.
You have stressed that electric vehicles (EVs), which help in reducing emissions, should be launched on Indian roads. Please elaborate on the kind of opportunities EVs will create in India and what challenges are likely ahead.
A fast transition to EVs will require partnerships between car makers, battery manufacturers, utilities, banks and governments at all scales. The Indian transport infrastructure will need to be adapted to deal with EVs. The Indian government has shown great enthusiasm by proposing a National Mission for hybrid and electric vehicles. A report last year also said that the Union Government’s plans for 7 million EVs on India’s roads by 2020 can expect to see a return on investment of between 7 and 8 billion USD. So that clearly spells out the government desire and the enormous opportunity that lies in the EV sector in India. The challenges, however, are many, including higher cost of EVs, challenges in battery technology, limited range of EVs, lack of infrastructure and the consumer mindset, to name a few.
We understand that there are a lot of barriers related to greater adoption of EVs in India but very similar was the scenario when we began our work on LEDs in India and slowly, things have changed. Being optimistic enough, we expect the same to happen with EVs as well. We are in touch with some industry experts and a pilot on EVs is something that The Climate Group is very keen to do in India.
I have reasons to be optimistic that India will go ahead to achieve its EV dreams. There is a growing awareness amongst the public of the need to switch to sources of sustainable, clean energy. In some cases, this may have been prompted by the increasing costs of fossil fuels in India and beyond.
How can renewable energy be used to enhance rural lighting in India and elsewhere?
We absolutely believe that lighting from low-carbon sources can be used both in rural and urban situations. We have run LED lighting projects in demanding cities including New York, Sydney and in some Indian cities, as well as installing solar-LEDs in rural locations such as Pengzhou village in Chengdu, in the Sichuan province of China. So there is certainly a great deal of potential for renewables to lead the rural lighting revolution.
Have you come up with any scalable model to deal with problems related to climate change?
The Climate Group has had great success with the LED pilot programme; we are now seeing cities scale up this low-carbon technology. For instance, the Haldia Development Authority (HDA), which became the third Indian city to install LED streetlights as part of a pilot, has now shown interest in upscaling. HDA now plans to install 404 LED streetlights in one of its major roads. Similarly, following a pilot in the Australian city of Sydney, it was announced that LEDs are to be fitted to the majority of the city’s outdoor lights as part of an A$7 million three-year project.
Given the fact that the Copenhagen meet in 2009 made “limited progress”, with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh saying that no one was satisfied with the outcome, what steps have you taken for the development of various technology related to carbon emission mitigation?
As answered in my first question, The Climate Group in India has been working very closely with business and government leaders in mainstreaming the LED streetlighting option. We now plan to have similar pilots for the EVs as well. With the global Clean Revolution campaign underway we are also bringing leading climate leaders and a few of them will certainly come from India. So with a multi-dimensional approach, we are making efforts for a resource-productive low-carbon world, and India certainly has a great role for this dream to happen. – Canary Trap
Biodata of Mark Kenber
• Was instrumental in developing The Climate Group’s global network and operations in India and China
• Previously The Climate Group’s deputy CEO (2010) and international policy director (2004–2010)
• Before joining The Climate Group, Kenber was senior policy officer for WWF’s International Climate Change Programme
• Worked in Ecuador as director of planning at Fundacion Natura, the country’s largest environmental organisation
• Was a climate change advisor to the Ecuadorian government
• Married, with one daughter.