Absence of renewable energy focus in budget disappointing
The government's recent announcements on abandoning coal-based power generation and shifting towards cleaner energy was welcomed across the board, as it demonstrated its commitment to tackling the climate emergency for the sake of future generations. However, it is hugely disappointing to see that, so far, these commitments are existent in word only—the latest budget for fiscal year 2021-22 did not, in any way, reflect the plan to shift towards a coal-neutral economy. In fact, coal-based power plants are still being financed—the annual development programme (ADP) allocation for the incoming fiscal year includes nine coal-fired power projects, whereas none of the projects under the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (SREDA) have been included in it.
In a report printed in this daily, experts expressed their concerns and urged the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources to put a stop to all kinds of activities related to coal-based power generation, particularly those which are in the pipeline. They also pointed out the imprudence of the latest budget allocating even more resources to power generation when the country is already burdened with overcapacity, whereas only 38 percent of the ADP allocation for the power sector is enhancing the country's transmission and distribution capacity—the dearth of which is one of the major reasons for load shedding.
It is disheartening to see the government not make good on its promise to shift towards renewable energy and, once again, shrug off the recommendations of experts. According to the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), the extension of tenure of most of the quick rental power plants—despite the official stance on gradually phasing them out since most of them remain unutilised—makes it all the more difficult to create space for demand for renewable energy in grid areas. At a time when the whole world is shifting towards cleaner energy, why are we failing to take even the simplest steps forward, despite experts recommending us to do so for ages?
It is high time for the involved authorities to put their money where their mouth is. A shift towards renewable energy is not only good for the environment, but can lead to improved public health, stable energy prices and supply, better resilience and more. We urge the government to review the budget of fiscal year 2021-22 and include provisions for renewable energy-based power generation and demonstrate a strong commitment to phasing out coal-based power plants.