NEW DELHI: It might take US President Donald Trump a few more years to complete the formalities to pull out of the Paris climate accord. But many experts at the Clean Energy Ministerial in Beijing this month suggest President Trump's walking out of the deal might not be such a big setback as was feared initially. Economics, they argue, was already driving countries towards a cleaner, greener future.
The two big gainers from the Paris Accord, at least from President Trump's perspective, China and India are already on track to rapidly expand their renewable energy capacities.
China, the world's top energy producer, accounted for 40 per cent of all renewable energy growth last year.
In India, the price of solar energy is at a record low, dropping by 40 per cent in over two years. This makes it easier to change the country's energy mix, and reduce the dependence on coal and polluting thermal plants.
Reacting to Power Minster Piyush Goyal's announcement in March this year, that India would get nearly 60% of it's power from renewable sources by 2027, Christiana Figueres, Convenor of Mission 2020, said 'India is not doing this to save the planet, neither is anybody else, and I think that should be clearly understood'
And Christiana should know, as the Chief Secretary of the UN's climate body UNFCCC in 2015, she had got disagreeable nations to come together and sign the Paris Agreement.
While adding that everyone was switching to renewables "in their own interest," she said, "So India's very recent announcements that they want to be 60% renewable by 2027 that's not because they want to save the planet, it's because solar power in now cheaper than coal and they want cheap reliable clean energy because it's better for the city, health and economy."
No one could have foreseen the prices of solar and wind energy falling so rapidly in the last couple of years. It could fall even further.
"In the next decade solar photovoltaic will come down by 60%," said Adnan Amin, DG, International Renewable Energy Agency, "With a few more breakthroughs, it could come down even further."
However, some experts, who have a more cautious approach to the renewable energy euphoria, say that it will take time for projects to settle, till then, the dependence on coal will continue. Since both India and China are using clean coal technology, it will bring down emissions.
There are also reports of a significant amount of China's solar and wind energy going to waste as the power grids can't handle it.
"We think it is too early to say that all renewable energy projects make perfect economic sense" cautioned Fatih Birol, Executive Director, International Energy Agency. He added, "Some of them do, some don't. To be able to say that all renewable energy projects across the board are making perfect sense , we have to be very careful before making such an assessment."
But what is quite clear is that renewable energy is surging ahead. While President Trump may continue to champion coal, the economics are evidently in favour of green energy.
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