Race to sustainability

The advantage of employing renewable energy sources or, rather, the dire need of a low-carbon economy is no longer a topic of debate. It is an irreversible fact – and whether or not we accept it, the fact remains unchanged.

Having established that, the next coherent question is how do we make an economy powered by clean energy possible? The escapist route of employing accessible, convertible and rich power density energy sources is conventional, and thus easier. But the transition to technology driven, research intensive and initially expensive clean energy source is anything but simple. It is, after all, human nature to resist change.

Despite slow acceptance, newer technologies in the past have disrupted decades of status quo to establish a new order of functioning. It had taken us decades to perfect the methods of deriving power from coal, oil and natural gas. It took us many more to realize the dangers of driving growth on exhaustible energy sources. Going further, it will be ages before we can even begin to equate energy volumes derived from renewable sources to that of traditional.

But the good media-room/suzlon-in-the-news is that the world is not shying away from the challenge. Economies everywhere are striving to make the best of the technology available. Better still, they are investing in perfecting the technology. Today’s wind industry, for example, is notably different from that in the early 1980s. Wind turbines now are typically 100 times more powerful than earlier versions and employ sophisticated materials, electronics, and aerodynamics; costs have reduced, making wind more competitive and one quarter the cost of solar.

The next revolution is here. The race to sustainability has long begun – and I want to see India emerge as a leader.

There have been various commendable steps taken by our Government in this direction. They are certainly on the right path. Generation based incentives, long-term feed-in tariffs, renewable energy certificates and nation-wide renewable portfolio mandates are just some initiatives that mark the progressive steps that taken.

But a democracy works best when the Government and the private sectors collaborate to achieve common goals. In a future not so far away we will not have a choice but to use renewable energy, as the limited quantities of traditional non-renewable sources rapidly vanish. Every organization would thus not only employ clean energy to power their businesses, but also contribute to research and development of renewable energy – not only to benefit the nation, but in turn to benefit their own businesses.

As a start we have procured technology from the developed nations, but how far can we go on wheels which are borrowed?

I have always believed that R & D is possibly the most important component in any business and, in turn, the building block to an efficient economy. I have applied the principle to my own business. Over the past decade, through highs and lows, we have consistently invested in R & D and established world class research facilities across Denmark, Belgium, Germany, India and The Netherlands. Just recently we launched two more technology centers in Germany, housing some of the most brilliant minds in the industry to develop wind turbines of the future. And last week I announced we would shortly be opening an R &D center in China – the fastest growing wind market in the world. Today, Suzlon is (one of) the first global wind power companies to come from an emerging market – arguably because we provide technology at par with any developed country.

I cannot back my beliefs better than the one in my own backyard. Investment in R & D has been a crucial factor in Suzlon’s growth. I firmly believe that in a developing economy as ours, it is essential that private companies take the lead. We have a long way to go – 47 per cent of the rural populace is still in the darkness. Research and innovation is the only way forward to reach remote areas and provide power at the least possible cost.

We are at the threshold of a new era of sustainability – let‘s secure our place in the future by planting the seeds of progress today