For India’s New and Renewable Energy Ministry Secretary Gireesh Pradhan, a gradual integration of renewable energy infrastructure into his country’s utility sector is key to bridging India’s vast electricity usage gap.

“Supplement in the short-term, substitute in the medium-term and replace in the long-term,” Pradhan told The Jerusalem Post, in an exclusive interview in Tel Aviv on Tuesday night. “There’s a trick here. The trick is nobody defines short-term, nobody defines medium-term and nobody defines long-term.”

“But it gives my ministry a roadmap that this is the direction we are taking,” he said.

And the minister has found that Israel can be a critical point along that roadmap – filling in many gaps that India is currently lacking.

“Basically, the circumstances were such that [Israel] was constrained and you had to come up with innovation,” Pradhan told the Post. “We’ve been very impressed with the water management that Israel did and we learned a lot from that. Similarly, on the renewable side, we think that many of the innovations that Israel has done will be beneficial to a country like India, so we hope that we will be able to get Israeli companies to come and set up manufacturing in India.”

To that effect, Pradhan and a delegation from his ministry were in Israel on Monday and Tuesday to explore such opportunities, meet with the innovators themselves and secure government partnerships.

During his visit, Pradhan met with his counterpart in the Energy and Water Ministry, director-general Shaul Zemach, and the two have nearly finalized an official memorandum of understanding between the two countries. This memorandum will give both sides a platform to build business-to-business relationships, encourage partnerships among scientific research organizations and catalyze government- to-government interaction with regular, set meeting times, Pradhan explained.

“The MoU gives you a platform, an overarching umbrella, which will allow you to take forward all these initiatives,” he said.

In addition to his session with Zemach, Pradhan also met with various entrepreneurs individually, conducted a roundtable with around 50 Israeli renewable firms and visited the solar development facilities at the Weizmann Institute of Science.

“The kind of interest that has been generated has made us really happy,” Pradhan said. “It’s a major move toward creating a very ongoing partnership between Israel and India.”

Prior to his current position, Pradhan spent eight years working at India’s Power Ministry, where he said he learned that “what becomes very important in India is energy access.” In a population where nearly 40 percent of citizens have no access to electricity whatsoever, both the Power Ministry and the New and Renewable Energy Ministry are focused on “providing electricity to the larger part of the rural population in India” – be it conventional or renewable, Pradhan explained.

“The consumption of electricity in India is abysmally low,” he added.

“Renewable energy provides you an answer in the immediate context” – first as a supplement, then as a substitute and then as a replacement, in Pradhan’s words.

To help provide that answer, Pradhan said that he and the other delegates will be connecting some of the Israeli innovators they have met during their trip here to entrepreneurs in India.

“We intend to put them directly in touch with the players here,” he said. “Even if out of 10, only two work out, it’s a great thing.”

Pradhan stressed that he looks forward to meeting with a delegation of Israeli renewable experts traveling to India in December, and that in the future, he hopes to bring a business delegation of his own back to Israel.

Aside from Israel’s expertise in renewable innovation and India’s ability to provide a spacious home for such technologies, Pradhan said he felt the two countries meld together well.

“Both of us are democracies. I think both value education and learning quite a lot and both have tremendous regard for each other and respect,” he said. “I think it is natural – plus, it is the 20-year anniversary of relations with India and Israel.”

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