In conversation with

12 JAN 2017

Vinay Rustagi, Managing Director, Bridge to India

  • India has pledged 175GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022, up from around 43GW today, and for non-fossil fuels to be 40% of total generating capacity by 2030, which equates to 300GW of capacity. Are these targets realistic?

This is obviously a very steep target and I would say that it is more of an aspiration right now. But the Indian government is very serious and they have announced an array of operational and financial measures to support the growth of renewables in India. It is also worth noting that India has all the fundamental drivers for renewables in place – growing energy demand, huge resource potential, competitive costs and an urgent need to reduce carbon emissions.

  • The theme of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week in 2017 is ‘Practical steps towards a sustainable future’. What are the practical steps that India should be taking towards delivering on its ambitious renewable energy goals, particularly with respect to the key challenges of accessing affordable finance, technology and outdated distribution infrastructure?

India has already been taking many practical measures to drive the growth of the renewable sector. The UDAY package has improved the finances of some of the weakest utilities in the country and improved their offtake risk. The solar parks policy where the government is developing 20,000MW of solar park infrastructure (land, transmission, transport connectivity etc) and providing it to developers on a ‘plug and play’ model has also been very helpful in dealing with the operational concerns of developers. There are many ongoing initiatives on the transmission side including the green corridor programme and national smart grid and storage missions. We have also seen pilot storage projects being tendered by various state governments.

In my view, upgrading the transmission and distribution infrastructure and making it sufficiently robust to deal with the fluctuations in renewable energy output is the biggest practical challenge for the sector. This requires proactive government support and planning, billions of dollars in investment and high-tech intervention.

  • Financing 100GW of solar and 60GW of wind requires, according to industry estimates, a massive capital injection of nearly US$300 billion. How much money is the Indian government prepared to spend? What will be the contribution of Indian financial institutions? Where are the main foreign investments coming from, and how much foreign investment has been pledged so far?

The Indian government does not have the capacity or willingness to spend this amount of money. The good news is that the private sector is increasingly willing to do so provided there are appropriate systems and policy mechanisms in place. On the power generation side, we see huge investment interest in the sector from around the globe. Some of the leading international utilities, private equity funds and corporate houses are active players in the sector. I believe that out of the total solar installed plus the pipeline capacity of 25GW, approximately 20% is sponsored by international investors.

On the debt side, more than 80% of capital is coming from Indian lenders comprising banks, financial institutions and private finance companies. The government’s role is restricted to being a catalyst by providing seed capital, capital subsidies and tax incentives to selected target segments. The Government of India has very recently announced a US$2 billion equity fund specifically for the sector.

The government is also playing a more active but indirect role in the financing of the transmission system where most of the national state level transmission companies are owned by different arms of the government.

  • How can overseas investors and stakeholders, including those from the Middle East & North Africa, support India’s renewable energy transformation? What is the role of the private sector?

Middle East investors have been looking at this market with increasing interest. Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) has a substantial minority stake in ReNew, one of the largest renewable IPPs in India. FRV has also been bidding successfully in the Indian market. These investors can bring much needed capital to the sector but also contribute by transfer of international technology and project development expertise. We also see a great commonality of interest between MENA and India from a renewable energy consumption, technology development and investment perspective.

  • How can the private sector and government collaborate more effectively in realising India’s energy transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy?

We believe that the current government, particularly the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), is already working very closely and proactively with the private sector. One area with substantial scope for improvement is for the different state governments to learn from each other and share best practices. That will go a long way in streamlining administrative processes and helping the private sector. There also needs to be more dialogue on addressing key long-term issues such as building skills for the sector.

  • India recently announced US$750 million in funding for a 30% capital subsidy for rooftop solar installations, mainly to improve energy access for India’s poorest communities. How will the subsidy scheme work, and is it the right strategy?

This subsidy is actually targeted towards residential and institutional consumers. Some major changes have been announced in the subsidy scheme whereby instead of the central government providing subsidies directly to private installers through an open window process, funds will be channelled to state level nodal agencies and utilities, who will then be disbursing subsidies to lowest cost bidders decided through a tender process. The government is trying to improve the process but we believe that this process will again be highly inefficient and controversial. Running a well-structured tender process with adequate safeguards is a very time consuming and costly exercise wiping away much of the subsidy benefit.

We believe that these funds could be put to much better use in other ways, for example, skill building initiatives, setting up standards, training utilities and regulators on various aspects of distributed generation, net metering and grid management.

  • Why is ‘Bridge to India’ attending ADSW 2017? What will be your message to visitors and delegates?
We are keen to attend the event to meet international stakeholders, understand their perspective and share our views on the Indian renewable market. We want to give a balanced and independent perspective and hopefully address some of the investment related concerns of MENA investors in this market.


14 JAN 2017

ADSW and Festival at Masdar City come to the corniche

It’s been a weekend of family fun on the Abu Dhabi Corniche, as Masdar and Abu Dhabi Municipality teamed up to bring ADSW and Festival at Masdar City to local residents. The past two nights, children have been treated to an activation, or sneak preview, of what’s in store for the 20-21 January Festival at Masdar City. On the East Plaza, where Khallej Al Arabi and Corniche Steets meet, a large Masdar booth greeted guests who were strolling upon the Corniche.

Children can color and design t-shirts with sustainability messages; or have a smoothie, which they would mix themselves by peddling on a stationary bicycle; or assemble, and then race, a model solar-powered car while they learn the basics of renewable energy. Younger children also had a corner where they could color and draw images of solar panels and wind mills. “I’m so glad we came by during our walk this evening,” said Nigel, a United Kingdom national who has lived with his family in Abu Dhabi for three years. “I’ve heard the adverts on radio and have seen some signs, but having this area right in the middle of the Corniche ended up making this an even nicer evening for us.

Now we definitely are keen come to Masdar City next weekend and explore the Festival.” The activation at Masdar City has its final evening tomorrow, 14 January, from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Festival at Masdar City will occur Friday, 20 January, from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., and Saturday, 21 January, from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Activities include a do-it-yourself crafts zone, arcades and carnival games, a bazaar selling foods and handicrafts, science experiments as well as arts and entertainment. We look forward to hosting you there!


13 JAN 2017

Masdar announces Fifth Annual ‘Engage’ social media contest winner

130 entries from more than 40 nations discussed the most critical solutions to mitigate climate change risks over the next decade

Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy company, has announced the winner of its fifth annual Engage Social Media Contest.

This year’s contest received 130 entries, a record level of participation in the five years of this competition, with submissions coming from 45 nations across six continents. For the first time, the contest welcomed submissions in formats other than blogging posts, which led to entries that included videos, slideshows and Tumblr updates.

The theme of this year’s Engage Social Media Contest challenged participants to make a case for the solutions that, in their view, could be most effective in mitigating climate change risks over the next decade. The goal of the contest was to connect the momentum gained from the November COP22 climate talks in Marrakech, Morocco with the enthusiasm building for the annual Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, which launched on 12 January.

Conclusions drawn from Masdar’s recent GenZ Global Sustainability survey also shaped this year’s theme, as the survey’s results found that global citizens aged 18 – 25 believed that climate change posed the greatest challenges to their future security and prosperity. Contestants were encouraged to debate their opinions within the Engage site, as well on social media platforms, using the hashtag #WorldIn2026.

This year’s winning post was submitted by Seva Karpauskaite of Kaunus, Lithuania. Her video, filmed with iconic Washington, DC monuments as a backdrop, explored the need to develop green financing structures that would allow clean technologies to expand and scale in order to reduce climate change risks over the next decade.

Ms. Karpauskaite is the first European and second woman to win the contest. A graduate of King’s College at Cambridge University, Ms. Karpauskaite completed her bachelor’s degree in politics, psychology and sociology. Currently she is continuing her studies at the School of International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC, where she is pursuing a master’s degree in International Economics and International Politics with a focus on Energy, Resources and Environment. Amongst Ms. Karpauskaite’s long-term goals is to combine theoretical insights with practical experience into a future career in sustainability advocacy and consulting.

As the winner of this year’s Engage competition, Ms. Karpauskaite will be Masdar’s VIP social media influencer at the 2017 Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW), which this year runs from January 12th – 21st.

“We’re very pleased to see the record level of participation this year’s Engage Contest generated,” said Masdar’s Anca Westley, Director of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week. “At a time when Masdar’s recent GenZ Youth Survey showed just how passionate young citizens worldwide are about addressing climate change, the contest raised many ideas of how society can ensure sustainable development over the next 10 years. We at Masdar were impressed with the wide range of opinions, as well as the high level of discussion that has continued on social media.

“The enthusiasm shared by both the contest’s participants and readers showed just how important this topic is to people around the world. The volume of comments on many of the postings, and the ongoing conversation on social media, revealed the many challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in the next decade. And as a segue into the events that will soon launch during ADSW, this discussion enhances the event’s reputation as one where solutions can be found to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy and sustainable technologies. The contest served an important purpose: to help build excitement for the coming week, and showcase why Abu Dhabi has become a leading global energy hub.”

During this year’s ADSW, the Middle East’s largest gathering on sustainability, Ms. Karpauskaite will have the opportunity to cover the event’s official Opening Ceremony and Global Action Day. Ms. Karpauskaite will also report on the tenth World Future Energy Summit, the ninth Zayed Future Energy Prize Awards Ceremony, the fifth International Water Summit, the fourth annual EcoWaste Summit, the second Women in Sustainability, Environment and Renewable Energy (WiSER) side event, the second Student Exclusive event, and the first Global Energy Forum, in addition to other ADSW activities.

The contest’s runners-up were offered a complimentary pass for ADSW, which included access to all of the conference’s events. The participants who were also considered as the contest’s finalists were:

  • Evan Rankin, USA
  • Girish Shivakumar, India
  • Samuel Stephens, United Kingdom
  • Mark Bessoudo, Canada
  • Lenka Kollar, USA

This year’s Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week is projected to gather more than 37,000 participants from 170 countries, including global decision makers in research, policy, industry and finance, to address the interconnected challenges and opportunities of sustainable development, renewable energy and water security.


13 JAN 2017

Seva Karpauskaite time to accelerate innovation and action

As this year’s winner of Masdar’s Engage Global Competition, I am excited to have this unique opportunity to attend thelargest gathering on sustainability in the Middle East as a guest blogger and social media influencer. During Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW), I look forward to participating in and covering a series of exciting events, exhibitions and conferences, including the Global Action Day, the World Future Energy Summit, the International Water Summit and, of course, a visit to Masdar City.

I entered the contest because I am passionate about sustainability and climate. I come from a small country, Lithuania, that is vulnerable to climate change’s impacts. After I finish my master’s, my goal is to become an advocate for sustainable development and environmental protection by making the business case for clean technologies. Studying Energy, Resources and Environment at SAIS, Johns Hopkins University has enabled me to hone my theoretical knowledge on diverse energy and environmental issues. To that end, diving into ADSW will integrate me within the global community as it debates and addresses the most pressing issues related to climate change, at a time of uncertainty in the global energy landscape.

Here are the facts: there are two certainties regarding the phenomenon of climate change. First, the science makes clear that it has already started - and, indeed, it is mind-boggling. One of my goals during ADSW is to highlight the borderless and multidimensional nature of this complex issue. I strongly believe that all of us need to reframe and broaden our understanding of climate change.

While we can clearly grasp the science behind global warming, I cannot emphasize enough that it is also a global security threat, exacerbates inequality and also is detrimental to sustainable development.

So let’s pursue a two-pronged approach: innovation and action. The development and deployment of the physical capital based on scientific research and technological innovation is crucial. So is the growth of social capital, catalyzed by reaching a global consensus that can be transformed into collective action.

We already see encouraging signs that community building is underway. For example, Masdar’s Gen Z sustainability survey revealed that young people see climate change as the biggest threat to the world over the next 10 years and that they seek to be proactive in ensuring a more sustainable future. The next step is engagement: channelling their passion for activism into opportunities to advance sustainable development. ADSW events like the Student Exclusive offer a platform for such youth-industry cooperation, so I am keen to meet youth from the UAE and worldwide who are also passionate about the issue.

Greater awareness is the crucial next step. The fact is that global leaders and institutions have historically focused their work on climate science and economics. Consequentially, we have significantly advanced in our technical ability to address sustainability issues. In some parts of the world, including the UAE, solar is price-competitive with electricity from conventional sources; cities are implementing smart & sustainable solutions to boost their infrastructure; clean technology R&D is creating new business opportunities for start-ups and corporates alike. Nevertheless, the world must accelerate implementation of renewable and sustainable technologies. We must find new ways to narrow this chasm between ability and action to shape and spread knowledge of sustainability issues that engage and empower.

Women represent one of the key stakeholders that exemplify the need for a more nuanced understanding of global warming. We are greatly underrepresented in climate change science, negotiations, policy-making and adaptation efforts. Yet women, especially poor women, are also disproportionately affected by climate change. Strengthening our capacity to deal with climate change relies on grasping the intersection between gender and climate change. We must acknowledge the impact that global warming has on women, and strive to inspire them to become powerful agents whose knowledge, innovation and skills play a bigger role in the climate change crisis. That’s why I’m keen to attend and report from the Women in Sustainability, Environment and Renewable Energy (WiSER) event at ADSW.

I’m grateful to be included within this week-long conversation, which promotes cooperation and innovation as the next ten years are crucial to harness climate change risks and transform them into opportunities. I am thrilled to be part of the dialogue and cooperation that sparks the development of the financial and social capital necessary as we shift towards a more sustainable world. Follow me on Instagram, and Snapchat for daily musings, happenings and snapshots from ADSW 2017! Also, track my journey with the hashtags #WorldIn2026 and #ADSW2017.