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View: India’s startup ecosystem should seek green unicorns

India’s startup ecosystem has become atremendous force for global good. By focusing on delivering affordable and scalable digitisation, India has become the innovation hub for the global South. This ecosystem should now seek to solve the problems associated with climate change and sustainable development.

There are several global green industries developing to provide climate change and sustainable development solutions — distributed energy, green fuels, waste management and material recycling, packaged foods and fleet-based transportation services. If our startups can achieve global leadership in these industries, India will soon have a herd of green unicorns.

Distributed green energy technologies are a vast resource for India. Solar trees situated on agricultural land could generate power for the grid and provide electricity for solar-based irrigation systems. Similarly, rooftop solar can generate household power and charge electric vehicles (EVs). EV batteries can then be used during peak times to feed electricity back into the grid. Aggregating this battery power over millions of vehicles could result in substantial available power and displace expensive, polluting diesel gensets. Our startups need to take these technologies and package them with the right installation, servicing and financing services to deliver highly affordable solutions.

Green hydrogen and biofuels are excellent dense energy sources for various types of vehicles ranging from heavy trucks and earth-moving equipment to aircraft. These new fuels will soon be cost-competitive with fossil fuels. But we are yet to build up the full value chain. Entrepreneurs will have to drive down the cost of these energy sources through R&D and establish manufacturing sites that can scale up green production. These fuels will then have to be made available through our fuelling stations and depots.

The National Green Hydrogen Mission will provide substantial incentives to develop affordable hydrolysers, and different concessional financing mechanisms are available for setting up plants. Since renewables will soon account for most of our electricity generation, India can be a major exporter of these green fuels.

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