Why does the economic survey cover energy and climate change?

Sustainable Development, Energy and Climate Change find mention in the Economic Survey for a second straight year. Climate change is in fact mentioned in two chapters, with one chapter looking at the impact of climate change on agriculture. (Climate Change, Sustainable Development and Energy)

Sustainable Development

The government plans to setup a committee with NITI Aayog at the helm to track the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The SDG no 7 , access to energy is a crucial component to India’s progress. In addition to that, affordable urban housing is key and India is likely to have 7 mega cities with population of 10million+ by 2030.

Access to clean energy

The highlight of 2017, was the announcement of Saubhagya scheme, with a target to electrify the 40 million odd households by 2018.

The economic survey identifies another key issue, access to clean cooking which unfortunately is lacking in India.


On the positive side, the percentage of Renewable Energy (RE) has been increasing year on year with a significant contribution from solar power projects which has seen rapid decline in tariffs. (Read more:Solar bids, no more outliers)

SolarTrendShare of RE

Climate Change

It is no surprise that climate change has been covered in two different chapters of the economic survey. The impact of climate change has been increasingly felt in India in recent years especially in the agricultural sector.

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There is one positive on the forest cover change in India, if the survey findings are correct.


Although the economic survey mentions about State level action on climate change there is not much progress on this front at the state level. On a different but important note, Delhi’s woes in tackling air pollution has been a major talking point in recent years.

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Budget 2018-19

One of the key takeaways from the economic survey reports, is an indication towards the annual budget and this year it was no different. The increased budget outlay for smart cities is a clear indication of the economic survey findings on the state of Indian cities. The Ujjwala scheme found mention in the budget speech and also saw an increased outlay, again building up on the findings of the economic survey. Saubhagya as expected featured prominently in the budget speech with the target year being 2018. The air pollution woes of the national capital Delhi also found mention with a special package announced to stop the burning of crop residues.

Overall, the economic survey in the last couple of years has increasingly emphasized on energy, climate change and sustainable development. India is also spearheading the International Solar Alliance which also finds mention in this year’s economic survey. The analysis that looks at the correlation between agriculture and climate change is very interesting and with increasing use of analytic tools the survey documents is definitely a good read.

Reference documents : Climate Change and agriculture; Sustainable Development, Energy and Climate Change


Energy Access for All

If you have been closely following the global electrification drive, you would have heard of the ‘Power for All’ campaign. It is driven by a mission to deliver energy access to all by including decentralised energy solutions, mobilizing capital and delivering high quality energy technology solutions. Power for All is supported by UK Aid, UN Environment, Climate Works among other agencies. Partners associated with power for all campaign include various agencies working on energy access in India and Sub-Saharan Africa.

William Brent, a Director in the Power for All campaign joined in the conversation on Emerging Tech Radio podcast to talk about their objectives, progress and particularly on the opportunities for cross-region collaboration between India and Africa in the space of energy access

Part 1

In the first episode, William Brent spoke about Power for All’s  campaign  objectives work and progress in India and Sub Saharan Africa. He did highlight a few key findings from IEA’s recent publication, Energy Access Outlook for 2017. The report incidentally points out to a lack of progress in electrification in Sub Saharan Africa where it is failing to keep track of the population growth in spite of increased awareness. On contrast in India nearly 500m have gained access to electricity since 2000 i.e. close to 85% of the population have access to electricity in comparison to less than 50% in 2000. With the new electrification scheme, Saubhagya, India has a target of 100% electrification by end of 2018. The power for all campaign has also greatly emphasised on the United Nations Sustainable Development goals, particularly, SDG No 7 which aims to ensure affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. The Sustainable Development Goals aim to achieve the objectives by 2030.

In the second part of our conversation where we discuss the technical collaborations that is happening between India and Sub Saharan Africa in the space of energy access and what are the key challenges to be addressed if the energy access for all is to be a global reality.

Part 2

You can find out more about the topic here.

Emerging Tech Radio Playlist



Economic Survey: Climate Change, Sustainable Development and Energy

Electricity is one the key sectors of the Indian economy and with the emergence of non-fossil power plants unsettling the traditional businesses it was high time to have a comprehensive take on the subject, the recent economic survey tries to do just that. A chapter aptly titled ‘Climate Change, Sustainable Development and Energy’  is a clear indication that the electricity sector today has wider impact on the people than portrayed by the phrase ‘Bijli, Sadak, Pani‘ (Electricity, Road, Water).

Climate Change

The chapter on economic survey clearly brings out the Govt.’s objective to stick to its commitment to the Paris Agreement (Read more on India’s climate commitment). The chief economist goes on to say India will stick to its stand irrespective of what happens with the US’s stance on climate change.

Sustainable Development

Its been over two years since UN released its objectives for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (Know more about SDGs) and India has produced the first review of the goals. As expected the emphasis is on SDG 7, “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”. Incidentally, SDGs also have 2030 as the target year like the Paris Agreement.


The narrative of the chapter is quite clear right from the start, justify the need to transition to Renewable Energy (RE) alternatives by stressing the benefits of climate change and sustainable development. A detailed analysis on the costs of energy and net benefits have been studied and presented in the study. A few of the analysis have been spot on like the one on anticipated RE penetration by 2027, a 43% of the grid total and getting better of coal.


Solar Power

The past year has been a clear indication that rapid deployment of solar power is possible with declining costs (highlighted below). (Solar bids: No more outliers)


The survey interestingly points out to the key factor that determines if a solar power development is really sustainable. I’m glad to be proved right, that the development costs of solar power is high considering land use is impacted especially if the plants are performing below their efficiencies (Read more: Is Solar Power Development Sustainable?) Survey points out the land requirement for solar is 10 times the requirement for coal plants, clearly a loss of opportunity cost.

Need explanation: Social costs

As a surprise, in what looks to be a clear approach to show the net benefits of RE switch is not significant as thought, the economic survey throws up an analysis that points social costs of Renewables is three times that of coal but reduces as we progress to 2030.


Similarly an explanation is needed to justify the lack of accounting of actual costs of stranded assets in thermal power plants while the same has been well accounted for renewables. If there is a valid justification, calculations have to be made public for debate.



It is understandable that subsidies for RE have been high in the past and wind accounted for a major chunk considering the Generation Based Incentives (GBI) were in place until March 2017. How are the budget estimates for 2017-18 FY expected to be close to last year when the major financial incentive of GBI has been waived off? There have been no known policy announcement that can justify this estimate.


National Clean Energy and Environment Fund (NCEEF)

A topic that needs further debate considering that the new proposal of  Govt. is to use this fund for compensating states for the loss of revenues from GST implementation. I had earlier pointed out NCEEF allocation had to be re-looked considering its objectives (NCEEF: A review). The survey points out the NCEEF has been under utilized, no projects have been recommended by Inter Ministerial Group (IMG) to be funded from this corpus for the past two years.


Overall, summaries from a few analysis are highly debatable especially related to social costs of renewable energy. But, the Economic Survey brings out the major topics for discussion in the public domain, a clear indication that the government is actively pursuing these policy objectives. The chief economist has promised to release all the data pertaining to the economic survey in public domain in due course and I’m looking forward to it.

On a personal note, I’m glad that a chapter in Economic Survey talks about Climate Change, Sustainable Development and Energy in the same breadth, the very topics I have been writing about in my website.