Hot climate for innovation in India

Hot climate for innovation in India

The third week of September was hotter than usual in Delhi for this time a year (almost 38 degrees Celcius). It was also a week of seeing how hot India is becoming in climate and energy innovation.

We had many eye-opening meetings and an innovation award event honouring four outstanding examples of Indian innovation, business models and entrepreneurship to combat climate change and enable energy access to more people:

-  Pay-as-you-go solar energy for energy-poor households by Simpa Energy

-  Reaching 200 000 people with solar energy through Hub & Spoke business model by Onergy

-  PLUGnCHILL - Electrified mobile cold storage avoids diesel going up in smoke by TESSOL

-  Switch from fossil energy to biogas and manure with a two years payback by BioUrja

Ajay Mathur, Director India’s Bureau of Energy Efficiency, used the Domestic Efficient Lighting Programme as a communication example for all climate entrepreneurs to learn from. Check on-line on and you can see that 14 558 520 LEDs have been distributed, saving 1 917 486 kWh/day, saving 9 056 767 INR/day and reducing 1572 tCO2/day.

By the time you read this, more LEDs will have been distributed – the counter is updated every 30 minutes. Ajay Mathur also expressed that these entrepreneurs show what can be done and what is the future and expressed that the Climate Solver programme is challenging us all to think how we can do things differently.

One absolute highlight this year was when Minister Prakash Javadekar said that he would like to know from these entrepreneurs what more they have to offer. Bringing awareness of the many solution providers to the highest policy arena was one of the purposes of setting up Climate Solver in the first place.

The Minister also congratulated WWF for highlighting the importance of entrepreneurship as a way of combating climate change and energy poverty and thinks the presence of Climate Solver in India will go a long way in having more solutions coming from the country in the years ahead. We hope it is true and after this week we are more confident than ever that the Indian cleantech innovation journey is only just starting on a long and exciting journey.

The Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) is about to set up a 10th Centre of Excellence – On Start-Ups. A major business association opening up space for disruptors to have a central role can only be good news in constantly challenging conservative thinking internally, for ex in climate policy advocacy.

A very interesting initiative to watch is the Global Innovation & Technology Alliance (GITA) set up in public-partnership between CII and India’s Technology Development Board. Jointly funded development of cleantech already happens between India and Finland, Israel, UK, Spain and Korea on this platform. The kind of technology cooperation that we need to see more of and start-up generator countries in cleantech that are hungry for India’s huge market should not sit on their hands but get onboard if they are interested in strengthening commercialization opportunities for their business communities. Possibly even more innovative is the recently established Technology Acquisition & Development Fund (TADF) for "Green Manufacturing" where Indian companies can get direct funding support for Technology Acquisitions, indirect funding support through Patent pools and more.

The Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship in Ahmedabad is a key Orchestrator in the Indian cleantech innovation landscape. They are continually hosting 20 or so of India’s prime cleantech innovation leaders having gone through a very thorough screening process. And their more open cross-sectoral innovation call “Power of Ideas” with Economic Times and Ministry of Science & Technology generated 16 000 idea submissions last year. India’s got talent!

The creaming of the event cake was Ecolibrium. The company received a Climate Solver award two years ago as they presented their inspiring journey towards becoming a hardcore energy analytics company employing 550 people in 10 cities and saving energy every day they grow, which is already way outside Indian borders.

Five years ago they were only 2 people starting up a business in the Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship in Ahmedabad and they testified that the recognition by WWF Climate Solver and UNFCCC’s Momentum for Change awards has served as an enabler for scaling up. Ecolibrium symbolised India’s position as a Strong Commercialiser in the Global Cleantech Innovation Index which was one of the areas we presented from WWF.

India is not yet creating as many start-ups (GDP related) as many western economies but how many European cleantech companies have seen an equivalent growth curve to Ecolibrium over the last few years?

So after all this, we do not read in too much in India ranking 81 on the INSEAD/WIPO Global Innovation Index (at least for those of us who are more keen to see fast scaling of energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions than patents. This is also reflected by India scoring very high in Innovation Efficiency also by INSEAD/WIPO – very good at creating outputs as jobs and growing businesses from the inputs made into innovation infrastructures.

Using this quality, India has the potential to get existing and emerging technologies onto market through good policy and smart business models. For example, to realize the recent renewable energy roadmap released by WWF-India and WISE for the Palakkad District in Kerala provides a vision for a renewable and sustainable energy supply by 2030.

This district level study is a sequel to the earlier global, national and state level studies on 100% Renewable Energy by 2050. The district of Palakkad has a high potential for renewable energy resources, especially wind and solar. Considering the specific energy profile of the district, the focus is more on interventions in sectors such as transport, industry and domestic.

The study assesses a curtailed energy demand scenario that factors in aggressive interventions in energy conservation, energy efficiency and fuel substitution which lead to a reduction of 36 per cent in overall energy demand by 2030. Here again, the point is proven that energy efficiency and energy conservation measures are essential to reduce the overall energy demand, and the remaining energy demand can then be met by renewable energy sources. The same opportunity that we can grasp in Kerala, India, we can grasp wordwide and beyond COP21.

Dr TS Panwar, Director, Climate Change & Energy Programme at WWF India and Stefan Henningsson, Senior Advisor Climate Innovation, WWF International 

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