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About

Ashoka Centre for a People-centric Energy Transition (ACPET) was launched in March 2023 to fill a critical knowledge gap in India, and the global south, with a state-of-the-art research center focused exclusively on the daunting challenge of achieving an energy transition that is both context-responsive and advances the three pillars of sustainable development.

The Centre seeks to address itself to the challenge of “how-to” design systemic transition strategies and programmes so as to stay on track to meet nationally defined climate and sustainability goals while keeping the human dimensions of such pathways in clear focus. It would achieve this by:

  • Delineating, and identifying the inter-linkages between, various levers of change, by
    sector and scale of transition action sought
  • Identifying the barriers to, and unintended consequences of, transition actions
  • Designing scenarios that will help inform debate and policy choices, develop business models at scale for application and short term adoption, conduct analysis on future trends and needs for India
  • Exploring the enabling frameworks that would drive transition actions

Rationale

  • India has committed to becoming net-zero by 2070. Being the largest contributor to the emissions of greenhouse gases, the energy sector would have to transition from its current fossil dependence to a carbon-free energy system in a short period of 50 years.
  •  This would entail transforming both large and small consumers, directly or indirectly contributing to energy-related GHG emissions, with relatively low-hanging abatement opportunities as well as the hard-to-abate sectors.
  • In doing so, it is critically important to stay on track with the sustainable development goals, which are integrated and indivisible, as well as build the adaptive capacity of the most vulnerable to both the energy transition and the impacts of climate change.
  • The fine balancing challenge this entails is a combination of innovative business and growth models suitable to India’s needs, a careful management of environmental resources, and a deliberate effort to integrate employment creation for a sustainable and successful transition to a net-zero economy.
  • It also requires all stakeholders, across scale and geography, to the transition to be informed, actively engaged, and equipped with the solutions that would lead to a net-zero, sustainable society.

Leadership

Focus Areas

Decoding Energy Transformations 

Country goals to achieve system transformations can be successfully achieved by understanding (a) multiple pathways and their drivers (b) analysing the complexity of interactions amongst these drivers – both the synergies and trade-offs, and (c) appreciating the likely differential timelines to effect desired changes in identified drivers. The Centre would complement scientific knowledge with practitioner-informed reality-checks to better inform policies and strategies to achieve transformative changes.

Transition-related reparatory measures

India, and the world at large, has increasingly declared ambitious goals for transforming energy and related systems. As we define the pathways to transition to new systems, the sharp focus on achieving the same may exclude a specific consideration of the fall-outs or unintended consequences of resulting actions. This focus area of the Centre would facilitate a deeper spatial, temporal and equity related understanding of the implications of transition actions, reparatory measures to be established and the capacity building measures that would need to be instituted.

Social tipping dynamics

It is well recognized that both innovative, or indeed disruptive, technologies as well as well-intended policies by themselves may not sufficiently bring about desired transformations. Societal choices and preferences, driven by multiple considerations, have a huge role to play to ensure wide, deep and long-lasting transformations. Deploying a range of analytical tools, including the use of scientific surveys and Data Science applications, the Centre aims to strengthen the leveraging of a key driver of transformative change.

Financing Energy Transitions 

Climate finance, and the derivate energy transition finance, has been the focus of intense global debate for decades now. Additionally, we also need to focus on the effectiveness of use of such finance, the opportunities it could create and the inequities it could exacerbate. From deciphering the design of finance-related policies and related programmes to evaluating the actual flow of finance and implementation outcomes, the Centre hopes to place a spotlight on the SDG outcomes of strategies to finance energy transitions.

Transition Technology Assessments

Technological innovations and disruptions are holding great promise for humanity to substantially mitigate the impacts of climate change. The major part of the focus on technological advancements is on mitigation action although there exists a huge potential to harness technology for adaptation and resilience building as well. In any case, it would be prudent to not treat any technology as a silver bullet – rather it has become imperative that each technology be evaluated for its efficacy, applicability and sustainability (in all its dimensions). The Centre would adopt a trans-disciplinary approach to undertake such evaluations in a speedy, yet robust, manner bearing in mind the specific contexts within which the technology is to be deployed.

Strengths

  • Clearly focused on delivering actionable strategies towards a just and sustainable energy transition
  • Based in a liberal arts university that has inter-disciplinarity in its DNA
  • Ability to draw upon state-of-the-art methods and tools to inform current urgent challenges – from technical, economic, social as well as policy perspectives
  • Flexibility and agility to respond to contemporary challenges in a systemic manner
  • Strong relationships with Government, industry and civil society
  • Access to a student body passionate about sustainability and inclusion.
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