18 Communicators and 8 Journalism Students Attend a Renewable Energy Workshop in Maharashtra, India

People photograph solar panels
18 Communicators and 8 Journalism Students Attend a Renewable Energy Workshop in Maharashtra, India

India’s commitment to net zero emissions by 2070 rests heavily on the shoulders of the renewable energy sector. In the decade leading up to 2030, the government has pledged to increase the non-fossil energy capacity to 450 Gigawatts (GWs), which it claims will help fulfil 50% of energy requirements of the country.  

While decarbonization targets are often set at a national level, operationalizing these often falls to state governments.  

Maharashtra has made strides towards the achieving this goal. Recognizing its huge solar potential, the state launched a Renewable Energy Policy in 2015 to support innovative schemes through decentralization, including solar irrigation and rooftop solar. However, in 2021, the State Economic Survey pointed out that despite ranking fourth in terms of installed renewable capacity, the state had failed to tap even 50% of its potential capacity. That same year, Maharashtra launched its Unconventional Energy Generation Policy to fast-track capacity addition of 17,360 MW of renewable power projects by 2025. 

With Maharashtra being a front-runner in the rapid expansion of renewables, EJN organized a workshop from 5-7 October to give local journalists and energy communicators a chance to come together to learn more about these targets and what they mean for the state. To reach local communicators more effectively, the workshop was conducted in the heart of the state, at Chhatrapati Sambhaji Nagar, erstwhile Aurangabad.  

“It is important to hold such workshops in relatively small towns. That is where the energy transition is really happening, and reporting on it really helps spread the word,” said EJN's India manager Joydeep Gupta. 

The tone for the workshop was set by Professor Shyam Asolekar from IIT-Bombay, who advocated for the constitutional principles that underlie a push for cleaner energy. He extrapolated that a right to life, enshrined in the constitution, must imply a right to live in a clean environment.  

Ashwin Gambhir from Prayas, a non-governmental organization, noted that the state needs to devise an energy strategy that is based in the principle of justice. Energy policy, he pointed out, must be multi-dimensional not just to boost production in general but through targeted, need-based production that can simultaneously bolster the agriculture and health sectors, among others.  

From the Maharashtra Energy Development Association, Vinod Shirsat detailed several schemes that the Maharashtra government has set out to achieve, and the challenges related to finance, distribution through discoms and bureaucratic loopholes.

a man presents to a classroom
Vinod Shirsat from MEDA speaks to workshop participants / Credit: Manasi Pinto.

Elaborating on the urgency, Rushabh Soni from World Resources Institute India, stated that the government’s push for renewables is the country’s best bet for mitigation. Still, he noted that renewable energy is not completely clean or emission-free, and that research and development to reduce these costs is important.  

On the second day, participants visited a solar farm run by Aditya Green Energy in Vihamandwa village. The project is a private enterprise which sells power to the grid. The participants met with workers at the farm and in surrounding agricultural areas.  

two people interview someone at a solar farm
Communicators at the solar farm / Credit: Manasi Pinto. 

On the last day, Kartik Chandramouli from Mongabay led an interactive session on mobile journalism. Finally, EJN media trainers Joydeep Gupta and Atul Deulgaonkar from EJN helped participants build their story ideas, to improve the reports they would produce as a result of their participation in the workshop. 

 

group photo
Workshop attendees at the solar farm / Credit: Manasi Pinto.

Banner image: Participants document a robotic solar panel cleaner in action, while a solar-operated drone captures an image of them from above / Credit: Manasi Pinto.

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