Renewable Solutions

IVLP alumna Astha Gupta talks about her learnings from the exchange program and how they can help support her work in India.

The use of renewable energy sources is increasingly being deemed as one of the most effective strategies to ensure a sustainable future. Many researchers are, thus, focusing their efforts on expanding this sector. One such researcher is Astha Gupta.

Gupta works as a clean energy consultant in New Delhi. She has worked at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), New Delhi, and has more than five years of experience in the area of renewable energy and energy access. She has worked on projects related to review and analysis of renewable energy and energy access policies, techno-economic feasibility studies, conducting baseline studies and resource assessment. Gupta has also conducted training and capacity building programs. During her term at TERI, she was selected for the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) on “Renewable Energy and Sustainability.”

Excerpts from an interview.

Access to clean energy for the masses is need of the hour, given the alarming level of pollution in major cities across the world. What solutions would you suggest?

Access to clean energy for the masses has become one of the priorities for the Government of India. It is really important to implement clean energy solutions, considering the current levels of pollution and related environmental degradation. For example, clean cooking solutions like LPG, which may reduce the impact of indoor air pollution in rural areas. Solutions like promoting rooftop solar PV technology in the commercial and industrial sectors, promoting use of clean fuels for transportation (CNG, electric vehicles for two- and three-wheelers), utilizing bio-waste for decentralized energy production and use, and reducing the use of conventional fuels like diesel and kerosene in transportation, buildings, industries and so on, can be useful for making cities more livable and sustainable.

How can biomass become an important component in the energy sector in India?

Biomass is not only an excellent energy source, but a solution to help waste management as well. Utilization of the agro-residues burnt in fields and organic waste generated in the cities can not only be economically attractive, but also environmentally sustainable. The use of biomass for energy purpose can help reduce the pollution caused from its direct open burning in agricultural fields. Biomass energy solutions can help improve rural energy access through the conversion of biomass through decentralized energy generation and use of energy for thermal and power applications. These solutions may also lead to increase in employment generation in rural areas, as people can work on the operation and management of biomass-based power plants.

Please tell us about your experiences during the IVLP.

I got an opportunity to be a part of the IVLP on “Renewable Energy and Sustainability” in August 2018. My experience during the program was very good. I got a chance to interact with people from different countries, and understand their work and initiatives undertaken in the renewable energy and sustainability sectors in their respective countries. Also, there was a lot of learning from U.S.-based organizations on the ongoing programs and initiatives as well as future targets and plans to promote clean energy, with interesting discussions around policy and regulatory structures across the United States. The IVLP also gave an overview of the social, cultural and governmental structures of the United States. This was very useful to get a complete understanding of the country.

What would you say were the main takeaways from your IVLP visit?

My main takeaways from the IVLP visit were as follows:

First, cross learning, among the countries, of challenges and good practices, innovations and models to progress in the renewable energy sector and become more environmentally sustainable.

Second, great exposure to the sociocultural aspects and administration of the United States.

Third, in-depth understanding of how the different states within the U.S. are proactive in leading the way in the renewable energy and sustainability space, by setting ambitious targets of more than 50 percent renewables in the energy mix and working across institutions and agencies, such as municipalities and utility commissions, to achieve these targets.

Please tell us how your experience during the exchange program helped your work in India.

The IVLP has improved my overall understanding of the work done in other countries across the globe. My understanding of the good practices of the U.S. case studies have helped me build awareness among the various stakeholders in the Indian energy sector. IVLP has also given me an international exposure to the happenings in other countries. New learnings and international networks have helped me grow in my career.

What are your future plans regarding your work in this sector?

India is blessed with renewable energy resources such as solar, wind, hydro and biomass, and their use can benefit the urban and rural population and their living environment, leading the way toward a sustainable future. I would like to work in advising for appropriate policies toward deployment of renewable energy solutions across various states in India, in a manner most suitable to their energy requirement and demand.