Hindus in India and around the globe adorn their houses with lamps, share feasts and exchange gifts to celebrate the festival of Diwali, the festival of lights. According to Hindus, light symbolizes the triumph of good over evil and darkness or of knowledge over ignorance.
In numerous Hindu traditions, the sun- our planet’s source of light- is a source of power and energy, now, as the world seeks to address climate change, and mitigate the harmful effects, Diwali, the celebration of light takes on a very contemporary and important significance. The sensitivity to the environment is also an inherent part of the Hindu’s spiritual worldview. The Ramayana, Mahabharata, Vedas, Smriti, Puranas, Bhagavad Gita, and Upanishads contain the earliest messages for the preservation of the environment and ecological balance. The Hindu traditions and the teachers teaching the ancient ways have always advocated for care and respect for the natural world and resources. As we are growing to become more materialistic, we are in danger of losing this ancient and significant connection to our past.
Indeed, many of the choices made by us have put grave strains on the links between humankind and the environment that we are living in. As winter approaches in India, city dwellers will be bracing themselves for the annual pollution season, the season when most respiratory sickness starts, when extremely high levels of particulate matter raise health issues for the young, the old and those with prolonged respiratory diseases.
It is at this time, this Diwali, that we should consider the vital role of sunlight and solar related technology in solving and mitigating the most pressing environmental challenges we face- generating clean energy on a massive scale.
By the grace of technological advances made in science, we know that by harnessing the power of the sun, we have the potential to provide electric power to billions of people while keeping the water, air, and environment clean. The issues of energy poverty and truly sustainable, equitable development are of tremendous importance now, for India’s shining future.
About eighty million households in India, a number of them in rural communities, currently lack access to modern and reformed forms of energy. During the Paris climate change negotiations talk last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi played a leading role in inaugurating and launching the ambitious International Solar Alliance (ISA). ISA aims to bring together solar resource-rich countries located between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer to address their energy needs. This will improve air quality and mitigate climate change to a large extent.
As of yet, India’s reliance on coal and other non-renewable resources for almost three-fourths of its power supply have hindered the transition to clean energy. A part of the reason for India’s reliance on coal and other non-renewable resources for so much of its power is can be found underground. The country has enormous reserves of the fossil fuel- is the fourth-largest in the world, but, like many other countries, India also has an abundant renewable resource: sunshine.
The Indian mainland is a land bestowed with abundant free and enormous solar energy. By Using the country’s resources such as deserts and farmlands and taking advantage of it’s 300 plus sunny days in a year, India can easily generate around 1,000 gigawatts (GW) of solar power- by using only 0.5% of its land.
Currently, the government of India has set the target of increasing power generated which is presently at 8GW to 175GW of solar energy capacity by the year 2022, which includes 40,000 power (MW) rooftop solar power capacity. It is a part of the strategy to reduce the country’s carbon footprint.
Such kind of progress is vital if we want to achieve and fulfill the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the goals set by the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Owing to India’s dense population and high solar insolation, it provides an ideal condition for the exponential development and growth and of solar power as a future energy resource. With GDP booming at about 8%, solar photovoltaic systems are the only renewable energy resource that can bridge the ‘gap’ between the supply and demand for various energy needs, especially in rural India, where, currently close to 80,000 villages are still not electrified.
Solar energy can transform India and help to bring about the decentralized distribution of power and energy, hence empowering people at the initial grassroots level and thus eliminating the need for costly expansion of transmission of power and distribution mechanism of the same.
India’s dream of clean energy can only be realized by a combination of solar power generation and storage of the generated energy. But getting there will require massive investment. Taking a recent view of BRICS, institution of five nations,(Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Summit hosted by India, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) published a study. The study estimated that BRICS nations are in need of an additional $51 billion annual budget to meet the clean energy demands commitments they made during the Paris Agreement. The Indian subcontinent is falling short by over $16 billion every year. The IEEFA has assessed that the current lending plans of the New Development Bank (NDB), which is set up by the BRICS governments will meet only about 12% of the energy investment gap. The Indian policymakers need to identify significant new public and private financing and funding to cater to their energy goals and to deliver clean, reliable power to the communities. For doing its part, the Indian government has taken several important measurable steps toward solar transition. The Hindu community is becoming much more involved in the process. In an earlier part of the year, spiritual leader and Art of Living community founder Sri-Sri Ravi Shankar joined forces with other spiritual faith leaders and various institutions to launch an Interfaith Solar Alliance to mobilize Hindu religious leaders to solarize ashrams and advocate the benefits of solar to their followers around the world.
As Hindus celebrate Diwali, they should celebrate the progress being made to address these issues, while acknowledging that much work remains is yet to be done. Despite the bold targets on renewable energy, countries like India should strive to do more to address climate change, especially in moving away from the reliance on carbon-intensive coal for electricity more rapidly.
India’s future and the consecutively the world’s future depends in large part on how well we use the ancient gift of the sun, and it’s energy.