Work with India on transfer of technology

Reposted from the Poughkeepsie Journal

Jed Wolf (R) with Dr. R.K. Pachauri (L), general director of TERI and the chairperson of the IPCC

At the U.S.-India Energy Partnership Summit, a distinguished panel, including academics, CEOs, and high-ranking government officials, discussed the barriers to technology transfer between the U.S. and India and how these barriers may be overcome in the coming years.

Much of the day’s discussion centered around the role international treaties, institutions, property rights and laws play in developing efficient, reliable and affordable technologies that will help shape India’s energy future.

Although international treaties build ties between nations, they have to be followed through to create change. Historically, the U.S. has not fulfilled its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol to assist India financially in implementing the technology required for sustainable development.

One reason that follow-through has not occurred could be because some U.S. officials hold an isolationist attitude that, “the U.S. is the only one that has anything to offer and will lose from collaboration.”

It’s clear that for international treaties such as Kyoto to be successful, this attitude must change.

Some believe that collaboration between India and the U.S. is advantageous for both nations, and this has been demonstrated in programs such as ARPA-e, a government initiative to fund innovation in energy research. For mutually beneficial partnerships to succeed, there must be cooperation among countries, but also between different sectors of the economy. Under this model, government, business and academic sectors share the costs and benefits of development and deployment of new technologies.

Keynote address by Schwarzennegger at the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit; image via innovationnewsdaily.com

Development of new technology is expensive. Likewise, purchasing the intellectual property rights can be a barrier to implementing these technologies in India. India does not so much lack funding as it does intellectual property. However, by creating partnerships with U.S. government, firms and institutions, these costs can be lowered. India’s goals are not only to benefit from new technologies but also to create them. If the U.S. and India can work together, they can achieve great advancements in technology.

Wind energy in India; image via theglobaljournal.net

As for the business sector, it is crucial to establish mutually beneficial long-term partnerships that foster collaboration in implementing and refining energy innovation projects. The rate of returns for energy projects is often too low for U.S. foreign investment, which could be caused in part by the nature of India’s energy sector – approximately 20% of the energy in India is free and another 20% stolen. More stringent regulation of energy markets is needed to insure that the energy created generates both power and profits.

Although rules and regulations can provoke investment, they can also deter it. Drawn-out bureaucratic processes and requirements can create prolonged negations that discourage foreign investment. Conversely, U.S. companies accustomed to working a certain way that is unlawful in India can make it difficult for Indian officials to work with foreign corporations. Therein lies an opportunity for collaboration between the two nations in tweaking and developing business plans to succeed within a different culture.

In the words of former U.S. Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash., “Good ideas, good people and good inventions can come from anywhere in the world, and when they do we all benefit from them. There are a lot of good people and good ideas in India. The more we share that, the better off we’ll all be.” Although barriers to technology transfer exist, if both nations utilize government, business and academic innovation to fund, research and deploy energy technologies, cooperative partnerships can lead to a clean energy future.

Jed Wolf is a graduate student at the Bard Center for Environmental Policy enrolled in the new Climate Science and Policy program. He recently attended the U.S.-India Energy Partnership Summit 2012 in Washington, sponsored by the Energy and Resource Institute and Yale University.

About Jed Wolf