Remarks by Ambassador Richard Verma at the India Energy Access Summit

Le Meridien Hotel, New Delhi

(As Prepared for Delivery)

Good Morning ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests. Thanks to the CLEAN Network and the Climate Group for sponsoring this conference and inviting me back this year.  I don’t believe I am overstating it when I say that we are poised at a transformational moment in history.  It seems like there are many changes happening in the world right now and many of them are unsettling.  But there are also some tremendously encouraging developments that are cause for great hope.  And so today, I would like to highlight three important transformations that will reshape the future in profound ways.

Paris Climate Change Agreement 

The first transformation is the political one that we witnessed in Paris last December with the signing of the Climate Change Agreement.  The hope generated there recognizes we are the caretakers of this planet and we are capable of making the hard choices and collective sacrifices necessary to leave a better world for our children.   In Paris, it was gratifying to see the critical roles that the leaders of our two countries played in bringing that agreement to reality.  President Obama and Prime Minister Modi showed great vision and leadership in helping to map out a path to a low carbon future.  Their vision aims to bend the arc of history – no small task – but one that starts with this shared commitment to reduce man-made changes to our climate.  But for all that was accomplished in the Paris Agreement, the hard part is following through on those commitments.

That is why President Obama and Prime Minister Modi have agreed over the course of three major summits to strengthen and expand our U.S.-India Partnership to Advance Clean Energy.  This partnership has made tremendous strides in recent years and includes a very strong focus on energy access.  Here is where organizations like CLEAN, the Climate Group, and MNRE play a critical role.  These groups, and the many experts here today, will be the change makers who create the breakthroughs that will bring to reality the political vision represented by the Paris Agreement.

Clean Energy 

Which leads me to the second transformation: The remarkable progress in the field of clean energy.  The rapid advancements in efficiency in the way we generate and consume energy; new digital technologies that make our energy system smarter than ever; lower costs in solar, wind and other renewable energy sources – these are all breathtaking, and generate a lot of excitement.  I suspect the next Bill Gates will not make her mark in the field of computers, but in unleashing the renewable energy revolution.  For all we know, that young entrepreneur could be sitting in this audience today because the United States and India are leading the charge to unlock that future.

Energy Efficiency Innovations

At this year’s Energy Access Summit, we’re excited to see this transformation in clean energy play out in three ways.  First, with its incredible work to deploy close to 150 million LED bulbs, the Indian Government is a global leader in demonstrating the tremendous power of energy efficiency innovations that can save money while cutting pollution.  And now we’re very excited to see that so many people here are working to bring this efficiency revolution into the energy access discussion.  On Friday, we look forward to working with several partners to support an “Efficiency for Access” day to dig into this issue in more detail.

PACEsetter Fund

Second, last year at this event, I had the privilege of announcing the PACEsetter Fund – another example of how the United States and India are working together to support clean energy.  The Fund supports innovative rural energy solutions to improve the viability of off-grid renewable energy businesses.  I am pleased to report that we received 139 “Expressions of Interest,” and in May of this year we awarded funding to nine of those proposals.  There were many excellent proposals and choosing the winners was tough.  But I’m happy to announce that we will be accepting “Expressions of Interest” through October for the next round of funding – spread the word!  We know that many of you here today have innovative ideas and I hope that you will apply to the Fund to make those ideas a reality.  Even if you did not get selected last year, consider reapplying this year.

Solving energy challenges takes creative thinking, and the PACEsetter Fund is all about supporting innovation.  We rely on your scientific and business acumen to formulate new ideas for off-grid energy solutions; small sparks that can scale up and have huge impacts.  By intention, the structure of the Fund allows for great flexibility in choosing projects.  It might be a new finance model; an innovative revenue scheme; a cheaper technology component; or a different mechanism for delivering energy services.  And remember, progress does not only stem from scientific advances.  It can also grow from innovative approaches to financing and more complex understanding of human behavior.

Mobilizing Capital

And third, for all of the excitement around the field of renewable energy, the revolution that must take place is not just in engineering and science, but in the way we mobilize capital.  So I’m glad to see a session on the agenda for this afternoon on financing, because without innovative and more affordable approaches to financing, our efforts to develop and market the cutting-edge technology needed to meet the Paris goals, will fail.

The Role of Economic Development 

The third transformation that gives me great hope is the pace and scope of economic development currently taking place in India.  This transformation has the potential to lift hundreds of millions of people into the middle class in coming years, making India, and this entire region of the world, more prosperous, stable, and productive.  This prospect is, without a doubt, a positive development for all of humanity.  But it also has the potential to further aggravate pollution and resource depletion in India and exacerbate global warming.

Expanding access to energy in India is fundamental to the development that needs to and will happen in coming years.  Without electricity, it is simply impossible to create the necessary jobs, homes, factories, offices, schools, and other necessary infrastructure.  Estimates suggest that if India succeeds in meeting its ambitious development goals, the country’s energy consumption, which has doubled over the past 15 years, may triple or even quadruple in coming decades.

Therefore, the challenge is clear for all of us: to pioneer a path toward a more sustainable future.  The vision is also clear:  India and United States build on a strong partnership and take a leading role to pioneer a new and more sustainable path to development.

Congratulations on your willingness to take up this challenge, and to be part of the solution.  I offer you my best wishes, as well as the full support of my team here at the Embassy in your efforts to transform India’s energy markets, and create a cleaner, more sustainable world for future generations.  Thanks!