India's minister for power, coal, new and renewable energy, Piyush Goyal, has often been referred to as among the most energetic ministers in the Narendra Modi Cabinet. As someone who thrives on meeting India's energy targets before time, he is now keen to move the debate towards how India can play a leadership role within the context of Modi's International Solar Alliance (ISA). 'India Global Business' caught up with the minister during a recent visit to London, where he spoke about redefining the Africa story and affordable energy access for every citizen of India and the world. Can India play an active role in the African power sector I feel sorry for the way the story of Africa has been looked at so far. Some of the western world feel they can give one solar lamp with a battery and that will make some big impact. To my mind one bulb is really not any transformational achievement. The western world should wake up to reality.
The aim of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) is to reach places like Africa, who would have otherwise been left behind. African countries would benefit immensely by joining the ISA. India is also keen to work on enhanced engagement of Indian companies for solar projects in Africa, through the line of credit (LoC) route. India and Africa can deepen partnerships for the development of micro grids and off grids as we collectively move towards meeting the UN′s Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) well before year 2030. How do you see India's role globally in the energy sector We are finding a lot of traction and interest in participating in the International Solar Alliance because it will provide a platform to bring the best of class of technologies, low cost funding, long-tenor funding, and support for each other in the initiatives to take solar global. There are many parts of the world which may not be able to afford large quantities of solar and therefore may be priced out. But if we dove-tail that with India's own solar plans, we can give them the benefit of low-cost equipment and low-cost technology because we are enjoying economies of scale. And, then maybe we can help other parts of the world enjoy the benefits that India is enjoying, being a large market. In fact, during a visit to the control centre of POSOCO [Power System Operation Corporation Limited], which controls the entire national grid of India, I was so impressed with the set up that I have told them let's train 500-700 young engineers and provide service gratis to all the less developed countries to help them create similar robust energy infrastructures so that they are not entirely dependent on the private sector and private technologies, which could be unaffordable for them. India believes it has a role to play in the evolving developing world. Is the developed world on board with India's efforts The developed world, which is responsible for the problem in the first place as it has for the last 150 years spewed all this carbon into the atmosphere causing agonising damage to all of us, is hardly contributing to resolving this problem. In fact, causing impediments and roadblocks in many cases. I think having recognised that terrorism and climate change are two biggest challenges before the world, all the people of the world and all the governments of the world must come together to ensure affordable energy access in a sustainable manner to all the citizens of the world, much faster than 2030 as planned by the United Nations as Goal No. 7 of the Sustainable Development Goals. India is willing to play a leadership role in that. India will support every such effort whole-heartedly. India will provide its best of technologies and whatever support we can give - human or financial - to the developing world to ensure that citizens of Africa and other developing economies also enjoy the fruits of sustainable development along with us. In terms of your goals, how do you see the energy sector in India The vision was for affordable energy access 24/7 for every citizen of the country by 2022, especially for the farmers of the country. Today I feel empowered to say that we can actually do that by 2019 itself, three years ahead of our schedule and 11 years ahead of UN schedule as part of Sustainable Development Goals. My own father in the 1940s, probably studied below street-lights because there was no power in the house. Imagine in 2016 there are still billion plus people in the world who don't have electricity in their homes. We are currently in the midst of a village electrification programme to bring power to the remotest corners of India, and the sheer joy on those people's faces is heart-warming. What are some of the key international tie-ups in the sector We have discussed with the UK government the first ministerial summit on energy to be held sometime in June-July in India. The final dates will be worked out jointly and we have invited the energy ministers of the UK to come to India and participate in the first-ever summit, which will help us to further strengthen the ties between the UK and India on the energy side. India and the UK share a rich history that we are natural partners in any and everything we do. In that sense, the energy partnership can also in years to come become the defining feature of a new engagement at an absolutely different scale. We will soon tie up with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US to develop clean coal technologies. Coal will remain the mainstay of our energy, but as a responsible nation we are looking at cleaner coal technologies so that we don't do what the West has done to the environment over the last 150 years.