Since 2020, EJN’s Renewable Energy reporting project in India has supported 29 journalists with story grants and reached many more through seven webinars, with generous funding from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
India is now the world's third largest user of renewable energy, a market that has grown exponentially over the past decade. It also has the world's most ambitious renewable energy development goals, which it is struggling to meet. This project aims to improve media coverage of RE issues in the key states of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Karnataka so that these challenges are debated openly, and policymakers can take corrective action.
In the final year of the project, we were finally able to return to in-person activities, limited thus far as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Twenty-two journalists were selected to participate in a media workshop on the prospects and challenges of renewable energy n Kanyakumari, India.
Over three days, from July 18 to 20, journalists gained a deeper understanding of the renewable energy (RE) sector in India today, through interactions with RE industry experts and entrepreneurs, and field visits to a nearby RE solar park and wind farm.
Kanyakumari is a coastal pilgrimage town known for its temples, beautiful sunrises and sunsets – and more recently, as a center for renewable energy generation. Located at the southernmost tip of the country, Kanyakumari has an abundance of sunlight and strong wind.
The first day of the workshop was packed with in-depth presentations by six guest speakers. Ulka Kelkar, Director, Climate at World Resources Institute, India set the stage with a discussion on the rapid growth of the sector, and the way forward to achieving India’s ambitious 500 GW renewable energy goal by 2030 and net zero by 2070.
In the next session, on the promises and pitfalls of RE, Surya Prakash Sethi, Professor Emeritus from The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) School of Advanced Studies in India, an educational institute which specializes in the field of sustainable development, offered a macro view of the sector and advised: “90% of the energy sector’s focus is on the supply side. Why? We need to address and prioritize the consumption side.”
Glad to participate & share insights with media friends in Renewable Energy Media Workshop organised by @earthjournalism in Kanyakumari, today! I also had the opportunity to learn from other imminent speakers #EJNREIndia https://t.co/EY9P7H2o9V pic.twitter.com/TJoSL6awk0— Vibhuti Garg (@Vibhuti_D_Garg) July 18, 2022
Vibhuti Garg, energy economist lead from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, India, answered some big questions: Where is the money for renewable energy coming from and what are the prospects for renewable energy investment in India?
“The Finance of RE session by Vibhuti was exciting and opened new doors on investigating RE implementation, while each page of Ulka's presentation had a story idea to be explored,” said Naresh Green, one of the workshop participants.
Jayasurya Francis from the Global Wind Energy Council, Dr. Anita Varghese from Keystone Foundation and Dr. S. Nagarathinam from Madurai Kamaraj University also offered key insights on topics such as the growth of wind energy, how local NGOs and communities look at renewable energy projects and how to cover renewable energy, with a focus on Indian language media outlets, respectively.
Dr. S. Nagarathinam from Madurai Kamaraj University in #EJNREIndia: "Why only financial and economic times cover #renewableenergy? There's a need to report on RE news for our local audiences and media outlets!! It should be regular, frequent and always to be followed up."— Aarushi Tanwar (@at_dowh) July 18, 2022
“I definitely won't shy away from writing explainers now. This workshop opened up for me the till-now unchartered territory of business journalism and how to look at things from both lenses: business and environment, said Ravleen Kaur, a freelance journalist and former EJN grantee. “I plan to be more inclusive of these two perspectives in my stories from now on.”
The highlight from day two was an immersive experience at the largest onshore wind farm in Muppandal near Kanyakumari. At the field visit to Ramco wind farm, journalists had an opportunity to interact with SV Subbaraj, Assistant General Manager, Ramco Cements Limited, to learn more about power generation in Muppandal district.
“The field trip to the wind energy farms was extremely helpful because we've visited solar farms many times and the strategic location of the workshop at the hub of wind energy made it brilliant” said Smitha TK, a workshop participant who primarily reports for The Quint from Tamil Nadu.
Journalists then made their way to a solar farm in Tirunelveli where R. Arul Balan, director of CALS Renewable Energy India, briefed them about the challenges faced by small-scale solar farms in Tamil Nadu and emphasized the need for robust RE reportage in the country.
On day three, journalists took part in an interactive story idea development session with EJN trainer Joydeep Gupta, who leads the Renewable Energy Reporting in India project. “The move from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources is imperative to save ourselves. But it's also imperative that renewable energy projects do not make the same mistakes that energy and infrastructure projects have made for over 150 years” he advised to journalists at the workshop.
“Policymakers, entrepreneurs, financiers and communities have to work together, agree on the inevitable tradeoffs and ensure that no stakeholder ends up a loser. That's why it's very important for journalists covering renewable energy to look at all sides of the story. A workshop like this provides that opportunity.”
Ravi Srinivasan, former editor of The Hindu Business Line, who co-facilitated the training, asked participants to work in groups to prepare story pitches on renewable energy, inculcating the learnings they garnered from the workshop.
"What is the story about? Why is the story important? And why should I care about the story? Build a connection with the reader,” he advised.
The three-day workshop concluded with a fun excursion to the nearby Vivekanand Rock Memorial in Kanyakumari via a quick ferry ride. At the participants’ request, EJN staff created a WhatsApp group for journalists to keep in touch and share their work with each other.
“I plan to file a story on the challenges of repowering wind turbines, as well as the prospects of recycling windmill parts in India,” said Simrin Sirur, a journalist from The Print. As a result of their participation in the media workshop, journalists have published eight stories in English and Hindi so far – with more to come.
As part of the project, EJN will be offering another round of story grants to journalists in India to report on prospects, challenges and solutions of renewable energy in India with a particular focus on states like Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Apply for the story grant opportunity here.
Banner image: Group photo on day one of media workshop / Credit: Aarushi Tanwar.