New Delhi/ New York, September 23, 2020— At the New York Climate Week 2020, The Nature Conservancy – India launched a tool for helping decision-makers, investors and financiers to make better choices in selecting land for siting solar and wind projects. A free and publicly accessible geospatial decision-support tool — SiteRight — can support siting of new renewable energy projects in places with viable resource potential but away from land areas rich in biodiversity and on which local communities depend. The SiteRight tool has been developed by The Nature Conservancy – India and partners, namely, Centre for Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP), Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) and Vasudha Foundation (VF). Currently, this tool has been developed for two states-Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.
“Our scientific analysis shows that India has the potential to develop ten times its 2022 target of 175 GW if we take steps today to guide the expansion of renewable energy to lower impact areas. Developing guidelines for project siting, identifying renewable energy zones, improving planning and procurement processes, and strengthening environmental and social performance standards of renewable energy financing, are some such steps,“ said Seema Paul, Managing Director, The Nature Conservancy – India.
Broad-based adoption of the SiteRight tool would help India meet its renewable energy ambition faster by de-risking investments, reducing permission delays, avoiding conflicts with local communities and/or environmental stakeholders, while conserving important ecosystems and their services for people.
Satya Tripathi, UN Assistant Secretary-General, and Head of New York Office at UN Environment said, “RE projects are land intensive and siting decisions are critical to success since land is inelastic. Not just RE, but also to our food security, it is vital to reasonably estimate the opportunity cost of alternate means. Hence, such a tool will be important for government and various stakeholders to make decisions.”
Appropriately locating Renewable Energy projects is essential for India to meet its ambitious renewable energy goals without compromising on its environment commitments or delaying the RE projects. By identifying renewable energy development zones pro-actively, state governments could help meet India’s ambitious renewable energy at scale targets by avoiding conflicts and related delays and cost over-runs. The state of Maharashtra has approximately fourteen times the extent of low-risk lands that are needed to achieve its 2022 solar and wind goals of nearly 12GW. In the past, several renewable energy projects in the state have witnessed land-conflicts and delays. These include several wind projects that were proposed in forested areas as well as protected areas such as the Bhimashankar wildlife sanctuary.
“Wide adoption of SiteRight tool would also support India to improve its carbon sequestration goals by avoiding areas with high reforestation potential; protect connectivity between important forests and natural lands, enabling wildlife movement; avoid conversion of forest and agriculture land important for people and nature; avoid impacts to socio-cultural values and livelihoods,” said Dhaval Negandhi, Ecological Economist and SiteRight Project Lead at The Nature Conservancy – India.
Rapid expansion of renewable energy is critical to meeting India’s energy needs and addressing climate change. However, new solar and onshore wind energy projects cannot be poorly sited, for there could be unintended impacts on ecosystems and local communities. Such consequences can come in the way of further growth of renewable energy in the country.
A new paper titled Scaling up renewable energy deployment in India: Pathways to reduced socio-ecological risks, was also released by The Nature Conservancy – India during the launch event at the New York Climate Week 2020.
The paper recommends that siting guidelines support developers in considering social and environmental considerations. The paper also outlines frameworks that should inform financing decisions regarding renewable energy projects through safeguards and due diligence processes. The report shows that such measures can help in more informed land use decisions, thereby accelerating deployment of renewable energy in India while ensuring minimal impacts to rural communities and the country’s natural heritage.
The launch webinar included speakers like: Steve Denning, Former Co-Chair of the Global Board of Directors, TNC and Satya Tripathi, UN Assistant Secretary-General, and Head of New York Office at UN Environment, Dr. Janmejaya Sinha, Chairman Asia-Pacific, Boston Consulting Group, Julia Bucknall, Global Director, Environmental and Social Framework, World Bank, Ms. Gauri Singh, Deputy Director General, International Renewable Energy Agency, Mr. Arijit Basu, MD, Commercial Clients Group, State Bank of India, Mr. Praveer Sinha, MD, Tata Power and Ms. Soma Banerjee, Executive Director – Economy and Energy & Infrastructure, CII.
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