BENGALURU, India (AP) — More than 500 energy heavyweights and 30,000 attendees will descend on the southern Indian city of Bangalore on Monday to discuss the future of renewable energy and fossil fuels at India Energy Week, the first major event of the presidency of the country the Group of the 20 main economies.
Speakers including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Saudi Arabian Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman and International Energy Agency Executive Director Fatih Birol will discuss the need to accelerate clean energy transition. But the overwhelming presence of oil and gas industry stakeholders has raised questions from climate analysts.
“This event will showcase India as a global powerhouse for energy transition,” said Hardeep Singh Puri, India’s oil and natural gas minister. Puri’s ministry is organizing the event.
But Puri added that “India’s clean energy goals must be weighed against the growth of the country’s economy and rising energy needs.” The country is set to become the world’s most populous nation this year.
India is currently the third-largest emitter of global-warming gases, but has pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2070 and dramatically increase its renewable energy capacity.
Ahead of the event, the IEA’s Birol praised India’s climate efforts, saying the country “can help lead the global agenda on clean energy transitions and energy security, with its focus on addressing technology gaps.” , ensure diversified supply chains, scale up clean fuels for the future, and mobilize investment.”
Most of the Indian attendees at the event belong to government-owned or private fossil fuel companies, prompting concerns from climate experts.
“Gas expansion, which at least in the context of India doesn’t make much sense, needs to be looked into,” said Aarti Khosla of the New Delhi-based climate think tank Climate Trends. “As India Energy Week talks about the role of gas as a bridge fuel to energy security, there is evidence that there are risks…banks are not lending too much to gas and global investor sentiment is also slowly drifting away from gas.”
But others say it’s important to keep the conversation going with fossil fuel interests as they remain key players in the energy sector.
“A country like India currently needs fossil fuels to keep the lights on,” said Bharath Jairaj, who leads the energy program at World Resources Institute India. “We can’t just assume that some sectors shouldn’t or can’t be discussed, not until we find reliable, convenient and safe alternatives.”
Stakeholders from clean energy companies will also be in attendance. Sumant Sinha, CEO of Renew Power, one of India’s largest renewable energy companies, sees the energy week as a forum to understand the viewpoints of various stakeholders.
“Many global energy companies that we can potentially partner with will be in attendance,” Sinha said. “And look, the reality is that even oil and gas companies are shifting to renewable energy. Therefore it is important for us to engage. It’s always nice to see what the rest of the energy ecosystem is thinking.”
India Energy Week will take place from 6 to 10 February and will coincide with the first meeting of the G-20 Energy Transition Working Group. As part of the event, the Asian Ministerial Roundtable on Energy will also be held in Bangalore, where the energy ministers of the main Asian countries will meet.
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