Tatsat Chronicle Magazine

Get Rid of Red Tape and Bureaucracy For Green Energy

Denmark Ambassador to India, Freddy Svane, talks about helping India advance its green goals

Ambassador of Denmark to India, Freddy Svane (right) speaking at the recent Youth 4 SDGs Policy Dialogue, organised by Raisina House in association with The Royal Danish Embassy, New Delhi, supported by Tatsat Chronicle, in New Delhi

According to His Excellency Freddy Svane, every individual living on our planet is responsible for the pollution and climate change that have reached critical levels. He is optimistic, though, as India has pledged to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2070, as announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at COP26 Summit, Glasgow, and the focus has now shifted to strategies and solutions to help the world’s largest democracy move ahead to a greener future.

Svane, in an exclusive interaction with Tatsat Chronicle, talks to Editor, Jyoti Verma, about the highlights of the Indo-Danish Green Strategic Partnership. Excerpts:

Overcome red tapism and pessimism
Denmark has been a frontline runner in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and using clean, renewable energy. Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are our core discipline in Denmark. More than 50 percent of the energy consumed in Denmark comes from renewable energy sources. However, there are people here in India who say that it is not possible to shift to green energy, or that the wind patterns in India are different, and there are other issues.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking at COP26 Summit in Glasgow

I can tell you that all of these are not true. Today, we have technologies to achieve this transition. When such solutions are applied in India, this shift will prove to be a gamechanger, provided the country gets rid of the red tape, bureaucracy and views that hamper the progress of India in this direction. Denmark is already there, and that’s why we have the Green Strategic Partnership with India, and skills and technologies to share.

Having said that, we are not telling India to buy our products, services and skills; we don’t care from where the solutions come, but we are interested in helping India introduce the solutions that promise a reliable, future-oriented, renewable energy mix. I am interested to see a better quality of life and livelihoods in India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently made a landmark speech at COP26, Glasgow. We need our political leaders, not only here in India, but also back home in Denmark or any place else, to take action, to commit themselves.

Back in the 1970s, Denmark faced an energy crisis. Our systems ran on imported fossil fuels, and everything came to a standstill, our lifts, escalators and whatever, and at that time visionary politicians, business leaders and researchers decided to reinvent and develop the wind industry. Today, it is a double-digit billion-dollar industry, so we know that it can be done.

Now, the government has decided to phase out our oil and gas fossil fuel dependence. It was also based on the law adopted by our Parliament that we are no longer going to explore for oil and gas. While we have already capped most of our oil wells, we need to take political initiatives, such as Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA).

We also tried to bring in the Indian side in this alliance, but I did not think we were successful. We tried to really inspire them, showing the kind of technologies we have developed to reduce our dependence on these fossil fuels. Developing nations like India must develop strategies for such changes, like phasing out coal.

“We have technologies to shift to green energy, provided India gets rid of red tape, bureaucracy and views that hamper the progress in this direction.”

India, power to drive change
In a huge country like India, with a population of 1.3 billion, even a small drop in behavioural change can leave a huge impact on the planet. When the prime minister of India, in his first Independence Day speech, talked about the issues that nobody wants to hear and launched Swachh Bharat, we realised it to be a gamechanger and saw it as an opportunity to contribute and to bring in our skills, technologies and solutions.

Hence, we built the Green Strategic Partnership with India. The core of this strategic partnership is our dialogue, where we do not preach, but we share our catalogue (of products, services and expertise) with India and present the many ways we can help. The four core areas of this partnership include energy-everything from offshore wind to smart energy rates; water, both upstream and downstream; finance, which the rich countries committed, but did not deliver; and climate change.

The Jal Jeevan Mission takes a critical resource–water–to the doorstep, providing much-needed access to it in the remotest parts of the country (Photos: PIB.GOV.IN)

India has the scale, we have the skills, which India too has. Now, we must bring in speed. Then, there is scope. Now, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has added another S, of sustainability, to the list. In India, there are several issues, like water efficiency and non-revenue water (water loss), which are huge, like 50 percent and higher in many places. This takes a lot of investments to change, but first these need behavioural change.

Mega change in the making
It is my second tenure in India, and I have seen the changes that have taken place in the country in real time. I have criss-crossed India even during the Covid-19 pandemic. I am quite optimistic about India’s ability and capacity to change. I have been to many places in this country, from remote areas to cities to Tier-3 towns, and have sensed the commitment among people to change, and that’s why I am so focused on individual responsibilities. The situation cannot change overnight, and surely needs a vision and many missions.

water in village

India is, perhaps, the only country where a mega development project is taking place. The Jal Jeevan Mission aims at providing safe and adequate drinking water through individual household tap connections by 2024 to all households in rural India. It will implement source sustainability measures as mandatory elements, such as recharge and reuse through grey water management, water conservation and rainwater harvesting. The mission will be based on a community approach to water and include extensive information, education and communication. It aims at reaching about 19.2 crore households in remote corners with not only tap water, but good-quality water. When you visit the Dashboard of the mission, you see the status of the last drop of the water, which is remarkable. This Dashboard is based on transparency and accountability, which makes me optimistic.

“Water needs our attention”

We are not telling India to adopt certain technologies. We are good in green hybrid, water management and other areas. Like, in Denmark, the consumption of water per capita has halved since 1980. All the drinking water comes from underground, so there is no desalination and we have to protect our water resources, but to bring down the consumption of water per person to half takes a lot of effort. Talking about non-revenue water in India, which is a huge issue, the distribution is with the public sector and there are problems like endless leakage, etc, making it well beyond 50 percent in some places. In Denmark, it is 4-5 percent; this takes a lot of effort, but the foremost is behavioural attitude.

India-Denmark Joint Action Plan (2021-26)
On 28 September 2020, Prime Minister of India and Prime Minister of Denmark, Mette Frederiksen, after the India-Denmark Virtual Bilateral Summit, issued a joint statement on the establishment of a Green Strategic Partnership between the two governments. The partnership expands and strengthens bilateral relations and cooperation. It builds on a whole-of-government approach, involving a range of sectors and authorities on both sides.

We have a joint committee and 10 working groups representing different segments. The Joint Working Groups are working in diverse areas of energy and climate change; environment, water and circular economy; sustainable and smart cities; business, trade and investment; maritime cooperation; science, technology and innovation; food and agriculture; health and life science; cultural exchange, people-to-people relations and labour mobility; and multilateral cooperation.

“Jal Jeevan Mission aims at reaching about 19.2 crore households in remote corners with not only tap water, but good-quality drinking water.”

Private sector is a key driver
In the context of this partnership, we are trying to push concrete, tangible projects. Both prime ministers during their meeting also insisted on building a mechanism on how things must move, if there are any challenges. Since it is government-to-government projects, there are many layers in the process. Thus, we must ensure that the private sector is involved in the mechanism.

Our prime role is to help in addressing climate change and accomplishing SDGs with the private sector as the driver. During her visit, our prime minister was accompanied by many business leaders, who brought in cutting-edge technologies to the missions out here. India’s Reliance Industries Limited and Denmark’s Stiesdal have signed a cooperation agreement for technology development and manufacturing of hydrogen electrolysers in India. The agreement between the two companies was signed during the state visit of Denmark to India and announced in the presence of both prime ministers. With such alliances, the most important (like green technologies for storage, installations or green hydrogen) and modern technologies will come to India. It is right to ask conglomerates to spearhead the change in the country and we are doing that.

Clean, potable water is a priority area across India

Our Action Plan is active till 2026, and then we must move on. We have a separate work plan for aspects like water and there is a Steering Committee to monitor the programme. We keep on looking at ways to make the progress smooth and understand and address future challenges, to ensure we are moving and not just talking. It is always a challenge to keep things moving. We would like more of our companies to come here and do business, so the Ease of Doing Business index is always an issue in different places.

Our alliances mainly involve technology transfer. We also assist the federal government in regulatory issues through our work with various ministries such as Ministry of Power and Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. We bring in experts wherever they can help and assist in developing sectors such as wind and solar. We constantly keep looking for newer avenues and opportunities. We have recently engaged with Haryana on wastewater management support, are having in-depth talks with the Tamil Nadu government on many issues and are taking our work in Rajasthan to state level.

“In our journey, we realised that we must not only give nice speeches, but must also walk the talk, the green talk.”

Global responsibility, local execution
Let’s accept the foremost aspect of previous climate summits, we did not deliver on financing. However, we have moved forward with optimism and the announcement of Prime Minister Modi at COP26 has engaged us in a future-oriented trajectory; roadmaps are coming out now. The net zero goal has been declared, which has lifted a red line (in India’s climate change stand).

It shows India’s global commitment, and more can be changed here to make the country a clean and green economy, which will in turn have a huge impact on all of us. It is not easy to change a country with a massive population and diversity. India has to bridge seven centuries at one time, but I am quite optimistic about all the missions launched by the government. In Glasgow, the prime minister has set a direction that will have a bottom-up approach. As for Denmark, I can say that we are ready for a dialogue.

By Jyoti Verma

The writer is a media professional based in Delhi. She has been writing on diverse subjects, including sustainable businesses, environment and climate change, health and education and others.

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