Will the tycoon's $100 billion loss hurt India's hopes for green energy

In this illustration from December 9, 2022, the Adani Green Energy logo and miniature electric power transmission ...

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled his audacious plans to turn India into a global leader in renewable energy two years ago.

By 2070, he promised to achieve net zero emissions or become carbon neutral, which means that greenhouse gas emissions will have stopped. India is the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world even though its emissions and power demand are lower than those of Western nations. Mr. Modi also pledged to reduce projected carbon emissions by a billion tonnes by the year 2030 and to have half of India's energy come from renewable sources.

Gautam Adani, one of Asia's richest men and the head of a vast port-to-energy conglomerate with seven publicly traded companies, including a renewable energy company called Adani Green Energy, is a businessman who is essential to Mr. Modi's green energy plans. By 2030, Mr. Adani, who is already among the biggest solar players in the world, wants to invest $70 billion (£58 billion) in renewable energy and dominate the world market. This money is anticipated to be used to increase solar energy production, create batteries, utilize wind energy, and create green hydrogen.

However, Mr. Adani's recent issues have prompted questions about whether this will jeopardize India's lofty energy ambitions. Following the publication of a report by the US-based investment firm Hindenburg Research accusing it of decades of "brazen" stock manipulation and accounting fraud, seven listed companies in his group have lost about $120 billion in market value. The group has denied the accusations, calling them an "attack on India," and characterized them as malicious and untrue.

Art school teacher Sagar Kambli gives final touches to a painting of Indian businessman Gautam Adani (L) highlighting the ongoing crisis of the Adani group in Mumbai on February 3, 2023.
Allegations of financial fraud have been refuted by The Adani Group.

As soon as it became clear that investors were becoming uneasy, TotalEnergies, a French oil and gas company, postponed a $4 billion investment in a green hydrogen project with the Adani Group. (Total has already contributed more than $3 billion to the group's energy projects.). The group has assured investors that there are no "material refinancing risks or near-term liquidity issues" affecting its companies. We do not anticipate changes to [the Adani portfolio's] energy transition plans, an Adani Group spokesperson told the BBC.

Emails sent to the group asking if any of its plans for green energy might be affected received no response.

According to experts, it is still too early to tell how recent events will affect India's climate plans. In the field of renewable energy, the Adani group is a major player. Some of the new investments might experience delays. Green energy investments that were initially planned may be affected if they are unable to raise additional funding, according to Vibhuti Garg of the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. "However, the trend toward renewable energy will persist. ".

India will experience the largest global energy transition in the ensuing decades. The nation still needs to connect large swaths of the population and the last holdouts with power despite having 1 point 4 billion people. India's urban population grows by a city the size of London each year. There is an uptick in industrial activity. Heatwaves are one example of the more extreme weather conditions. The demand for electricity will increase as more people switch to electric vehicles.

It should come as no surprise that the electricity regulator believes that demand will double over the next five years. The second-largest producer and consumer of coal in the world is India. Coal is used to generate 75% of the nation's electricity, and thermal power plants are still being built in India. However, it is anticipated that the majority of the extra capacity will come from renewable sources. Additionally, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that India will require $160 billion annually between now and 2030 in order to achieve net zero emissions by 2070. That is three times the investment level of the present.

Coal is used to produce 75% of the electricity in India.

The Ambanis are another significant player in green energy, in addition to the Adani Group. Gujarat, a state in western India, will receive $80 billion in renewable energy projects from Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Group, the country's largest corporation. The massive Tata Group is stepping up its clean energy initiative. But according to experts, India needs a lot more players to meet its insatiable energy needs.

According to Ashwini K Swain of the Delhi-based think tank Center for Policy Research, "If we need to meet so much of the energy demand, we need many more private players, a few big and many small.". He thinks there needs to be more domestic green energy players. The player asserts that "we cannot work with half a dozen players and a few players who are disproportionately big.".

According to Tim Buckley of Climate Energy Finance, a company based in Australia, the difficulties facing the Adani Group may actually present a chance for other players in the renewable energy sector. According to him, other national players have a "huge potential capacity to step up, leveraging their domestic skills and capacity, combined with expanding global capital access and interest in investing in Indian renewables and grid infrastructure.".

India currently generates 400 GW of both clean and dirty energy, and by 2030, it plans to generate 500 GW of clean energy only. It is an ambitious goal. It won't be simple to make such a large-scale transition in a nation that has historically relied on coal and oil to meet its energy needs.

Mr. Swain thinks India should stop increasing its coal production and start using cleaner sources to fill some of its growing demand. For instance, India needs electricity to irrigate its sizable farms, so running the farms on solar energy during the day could benefit everyone. "India has made incredible strides in the field of renewable energy. The growth of renewable energy should not be hampered by any delays or slowdowns, according to Ms. Garg.

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