The interlinkages between the energy transition and the contest for political power are particularly visible in South Asia, especially between India and China, according to European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS). In South Asia, the energy transition strategies are likely to add to rather than alleviate regional tensions, according to a Netherlands-based think tank.
The energy transition, a shift from fossil-based systems of power production to renewable, strategies in China and India have increased the focus on exploring and exploiting the Brahmaputra River System. For China, the energy transition is a considerable challenge for its manufacturing-heavy growth model. As China is highly dependent on fossil fuels and it will create significant costs in a shift towards renewables.
Another challenge for China is their preferences for particular renewables and the strategy concerning renewable energy sources has become openly linked to other short to mid-term political, social, and economic objectives, according to European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS). This implies an international dimension: as the world’s largest polluter in total terms, Beijing faces significant international pressure to reduce its emissions.
At the same time, China’s growing economic influence and investment in renewables, both domestically and internationally, also creates a platform at which China can take an increasingly leading function, reported EFSAS. Recently, China announced that it will aim for carbon neutrality by 2060 and seeks to be at the forefront of energy innovation. China’s President Xi Jinping announced that China will seek to peak its emissions before 2030, a highly ambitious target that requires considerable investment in renewables (Hepburn et al., 2021).
Meanwhile, India set a target of 40 per cent non-fossil fuel power generation by 2030. Between 2010 and 2018, India doubled its renewable energy capacity. In its prioritization of domestic development objectives, India has also explored various renewable transition strategies. Compared to China, wind and solar energy play a more significant role in the Indian energy transition and account for most of the increase in renewable capacity (Hennig & Magee, 2021).
India has the fifth-largest hydropower capacity, reported EFSAS. India’s growing focus on hydropower on the BRS as a key renewable is buttressed by two underlying trends. Firstly, climate change and the resulting energy transition create an increasing demand for renewable energy and a higher focus on hydropower exploration. Secondly, the growing liberalization of the electricity market leads to increased importance of profit margins and less attention to local and regional concerns regarding large-scale projects that are outweighed by the transition goals of the central government. Ultimately, New Delhi has become warier of the growing Chinese impact on the river while simultaneously deprioritizing Bangladeshi concerns, as per EFSAS.