With India home to one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, there is an increasing recognition that its energy needs must come from cleaner sources to help counter the effects of climate change from greenhouse gases.
It is a potentially lucrative market for outside investment, but high costs and bureaucratic and legal roadblocks have stymied most efforts. Now, a project run by the Center for Climate Change Lawat Columbia Law Schoolseeks to change that.
Funded by a $485,000 grant from the Sujana Group, an Indian producer of steel, power and energy, the Clean Energy Investment-U.S. India Project will help facilitate U.S. investment in the clean-energy sector by developing contracts and other legal instruments designed to become standards in the industry.
“There is enormous potential for U.S. companies to not only help India reduce greenhouse gases, but to take an active role in investments that can provide an excellent rate of return,” said Michael Gerrard, the Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice and Director of the Center for Climate Change Law. “But time is of the essence. The longer we wait, the harder it will be to keep greenhouse gas levels within target ranges.”
The project also aims to:
facilitate access of U.S. equipment manufacturers as India begins increasing its power capacity by 80 percent to meet its energy needs in 2030;
allow U.S. banks and investors to profit from clean-energy investment while fulfilling compliance requirements. For example, the U.S. Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation have entered into judicially approved settlement agreements to each establish a $250 million facility devoted to renewable energy projects; and
facilitate access to what a 2009 McKinsey report estimated was $1.1 trillion in investment needed by India to install clean power and reduce substantial CO2 emissions using already-available technologies.
“We recognize that as important as it is for India to grow, it needs to do so in an environmentally sustainable fashion,” said Y.S. Chowdary, chairman of the Sujana Group and a member of the Indian Parliament. “It’s vital that we figure out the most cost-effective ways to achieve that.”
The legal tools developed by the project will be drafted by U.S. and Indian attorneys in consultation with experts in investment, project finance, and clean energy. The aim is to make the contracts and other documents available for free online so they can be readily adapted for projects throughout India.
“Right now, there is a strong desire to pursue many clean-energy projects in India, but too often companies haven’t moved forward because of transaction costs that are both perceived and real,” said Aarthi S. Anand, the project’s director. “This is a way to streamline the process, so companies don’t have to draft contracts from scratch for each project.”
A lawyer trained in the U.S. and India, Anand was previously a director at EcoSecurities Group, a carbon-trading firm and is an expert in alternative energy investment.
Besides the contract-drafting efforts, the 18-month project will also include two international symposiums, in July 2011 and March 2012, to bring together major players in this sector.