Renewable Energy projects in India: Not a “Holy cow”! (Watch This! #5)

By Falguni Joshi, Gujarat Forum on CDM

India is one of the biggest CDM host countries in the world. More than 2000 CDM projects are either already registered or under validation. More than 800 from these projects are wind power plants, 396 are biomass projects, 247 hydro power projects and 129 solar power projects.

The Gujarat Forum on CDM is a network of individuals and organisations working on environmental issues. It is also the Carbon Market Watch Network’s focal point in India. The Forum specifically monitors CDM projects and developments in Gujarat, India.

These projects have impacted India, being a developing country, in many ways. Many questions about implementation of CDM projects remain open. One of such questions is whether renewable energy projects are
really harmless to environment and society.
Do they have only positive impacts on the environment and socio economic development without a single negative impact?

Once a CDM project is registered, the only follow-up process relates to monitoring of emissions reductions. Under UN rules, social or environmental impacts that might occur during the implementation of the project are not subject to validation. To get a better understanding of the real impacts of CDM projects, the Gujarat Forum on CDM
undertook an analysis of the project documents and compared them with the real situation on the ground during field visits of selected CDM projects in India. Selected projects included solar, wind and biomass related renewable energy projects.

The reality of sustainable development of CDM projects

There is a common understanding that sustainable development is something that leads to overall development of all sections of society and everyone equally benefits from it. It meets the present needs along with preserving nature for meeting future needs.

However, our field visits to the CDM projects showed that the objectives of sustainable development as highlighted by the Indian Designated Authority for approving the contribution of CDM projects to sustainable development are not being met. The four major parameters used are social, economic, technological and environmental benefits.

What we found indicated the opposite! For example, although surrounded by CDM wind power projects, a village near Surajbari area (Kutch region of Gujarat) is still in darkness because the wind farms only supply energy to the grid.

Our findings make it loud and clear that renewable energy projects are not a ‘holy cow’ as they are being promoted!

Another example is the darkness of Shiyalbet village in Amreli district of Gujarat state. It is a small island still without access to electricity. This village is suitable for producing solar as well as wind power but no project proponent has shown interest in this option. The situation is very clear – every project wants to earn carbon credits but does not want to think about sustainability criteria.

Lack of requirements to assess effects on local population and local environment

Under the Environment Protection Act of 1986, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification, 2006 exempted wind and solar power plants from requiring an Environment Impact Assessment study.

This has huge consequences because it means that projects do not even have to conduct a social impact assessment because it is a combined process with the EIA. However, it is impossible to assess the real damage that is caused by this loophole because due to the lack of social impact assessment, the problems associated with local communities caused by such projects have never been examined.

This preliminary research shows very worrying signals. Even renewable energy projects, which are important for our future energy supply, need to be conducted in an environmentally and socially sound way. Our findings make it loud and clear that renewable energy projects are not a ‘holy cow’ as they are being promoted!

 

Read more from Watch This! NGO Voices on Carbon Markets #5