Last month the Science Museum announced plans for a bold new gallery about the future of the global energy system, but it has been greeted by some campaigners with misleading claims about the main sponsor which could threaten the deployment of wind and solar power in India.
Energy Revolution: The Adani Green Energy Gallery will “explore the latest climate science and the energy revolution needed to cut global dependence on fossil fuels and achieve the Paris targets to limit global warming to around 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels”.
I was delighted to be invited to be an adviser on the new gallery because I think it can play a significant role in educating and informing the public about the huge opportunities and challenges we face as the era of fossil fuels comes to an end.
I also knew from my experience as an adviser on the museum’s ’Our Future Planet’ exhibition about carbon capture, utilisation and storage that the design and content will be formulated by the excellent staff, taking into account the guidance of its advisers and without any interference from the sponsors.
However, I have been very disappointed to see false claims about the sponsors which have been circulating through the traditional and social media. Even the Museums Association has published a blog that wrongly suggests “Coal giant Adani to sponsor Science Museum’s green energy gallery”.
This claim is not true. Some people clearly do not agree with the museum’s position on sponsorship, including some of its former advisors. Robust debate is healthy, but it is vital to get the facts right.
The new exhibition is being sponsored by Adani Green Energy Ltd, which is India’s largest renewable energy company. It is currently operating or developing (including under-construction, awarded and assets under acquisition) more than 20 gigawatts of renewables capacity.
To put that into perspective, that is equivalent to more than 42 per cent of the 47.8 gigawatts of the UK’s total renewables capacity in 2020.
It appears that many campaigners who have criticised the sponsorship of the Museum’s new exhibition have confused Adani Green Energy Ltd with Adani Mining Pty Ltd, an Australian mining company that is developing the controversial Carmichael coal mine in Queensland. Although Adani Green Energy Ltd and Adani Mining Pty Ltd both belong to the Adani Group, they are separate companies. Other Adani businesses focus on the manufacture of solar panels, the building of roads and railways, and the operation of sewage treatment plants, all mainly in India.
Adani Green Energy Ltd has set a target of becoming the world’s largest renewables company by 2030. It is playing a major role in India’s efforts to rapidly ramp up its clean energy capacity, as it enters a new phase of its economic development, and seeks to raise the living standards of its population of about 1.38 billion people.
Last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a historic announcement at the COP26 United Nations climate change summit in Glasgow that India would achieve net zero emissions by 2070, with 500 gigawatts of clean energy capacity installed and half of its energy needs met from renewables by 2030.
India has a large and growing population which has driven a massive increase energy demand. Energy consumption has doubled in the period since 2000, during which 900 million people have been given access to electricity for the first time.
More than 80 per cent of India’s energy is supplied by coal, oil and solid biomass, which has meant that it is the fourth largest annual emitter of carbon dioxide, behind China, the United States and the European Union.
At present, wind and solar provides only 7 per cent of India’s electricity, whereas coal supplies close to 70 per cent. India is one of the world’s major importers of coal, even though it has the world’s fifth‐largest reserves.
However, India’s renewables sector is also growing quickly. According to the most recent assessment of India by the International Energy Agency (IEA): “The rise of solar PV in particular has been spectacular; the resource potential is huge, ambitions are high, and policy support and technology cost reductions have quickly made it the cheapest option for new power generation”.
Nevertheless, the IEA warns that “important structural, regulatory and institutional challenges that could hamper further growth” of renewables in India, including “the poor financial position of many state distribution companies, difficulties in obtaining access to finance and in acquiring land, grid congestion, and uncertainties over grid infrastructure development”.
In his speech at COP26, Prime Minister Modi pointed out that “when India has resolved to move forward with a new commitment and a new energy, the transfer of climate finance and low cost climate technologies have become more important”.
The chief executive of Adani Green Energy Ltd has pointed out that the company’s ability to attract investments is “testimony of the confidence of global investors in the world’s fastest growing Renewable Energy platform and Adani’s capability to set up a world class clean energy business”.
Unfortunately, ill informed attacks on the sponsorship of the Science Museum’s new gallery may damage the company’s reputation and make it more difficult for it to attract further investment, undermining efforts to replace coal with renewables in India.