India will do better to invest in solar and in wind power than in nuclear energy, said German green economist Ralf Fücks. Nuclear energy was economically unsustainable and needed government subsidies to survive, he added.
“We should not consider nuclear power as green. We are even more confident that nuclear energy is the wrong path, and that we don’t need it. It is inherently high-risk. If something goes wrong then it can be catastrophic like Chernobyl and Fukushima,” Dr. Fücks, president of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, said.
There was also the problem of nuclear proliferation, he added, saying there was a very thin wall between civil and military nuclear applications.
The most important issue with nuclear power, Dr. Fücks said, was the cost of plants. “The cost is growing. Nuclear power will not be able to survive without government subsidies. If you let the market decide, then nuclear is out,” he said. Dr. Fücks said this in answer to a question on India’s increased trade in civil nuclear equipment with France.
Regarding the Narendra Modi government’s plan on smart cities, Dr. Fücks said they were a promising development but that they should not be limited in scope. “Self-sufficient smart cities are a very promising development. However, they should not be limited to data management and smarter technology, but must also include high-tech urban farming, powered by solar and wind energy, so as to increase employment in the cities, reduce fertilizer and pesticide usage and put a check on water consumption,” he said.
According to Dr. Fücks, smart cities must also be made more accessible for commuters who choose to walk or cycle. In addition, urban transport must be based on alternative, renewable energy.
Dr. Fücks lauded the Indian government’s National Solar Mission. “This is quite a promising task. Globally, you see a dramatic reduction of cost in this sector. Solar module costs have come down by 80 per cent. It is becoming cheaper every month, and the energy is virtually unlimited. For developing countries, renewable energy provides great opportunities for all those not connected to the central grid,” he said.
However, India was experiencing a contradiction in policy. “India is trying to increase its coal capabilities as well as its solar. This can work in the short term, but they are fundamentally different energy systems and India will have to choose in the longer term,” Dr. Fücks said.
In the light of the Volkswagen scandal surrounding the company’s cheating on emission tests, Dr. Fücks said companies must be responsible for not only their revenues but also their environmental impact. “The company’s environmental footprint must be included in the accounting system, and so this requires a change in regulation.”
‘If something goes wrong then it can be catastrophic like Chernobyl and Fukushima’