PHILADELPHIA — Courage amidst complexity is the theme of today’s Carnot Prize lecture and award ceremony. This afternoon, the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy bestows its highest award to India’s Shri Piyush Goyal.
As former minister of power and renewables, Goyal fast-tracked the electrification of 18,000 remote villages in India—bridging the country’s vast energy divide. Now, as the current minister of railways and coal, Goyal faces the complex balancing act of keeping villages energized with reliable power, while delivering energy in the most sustainable way.
“This is a teaching moment at Penn and in the United States” said Mark Alan Hughes, founding faculty director of the Kleinman Center. “In 2017, 18 percent of U.S. primary energy was generated from coal. In the U.S. most of that coal combustion happens because we are being protected from clean energy disruptions. In India, on the other hand, coal is being burned to end energy poverty.”
“Today we explore the ideas behind a just and sustainable energy transition and the common but differentiated responsibilities among nations to mitigate effects of energy systems on climate change,” said Hughes.
Just Energy Transition
The International Energy Agency (IEA) reports that in the year 2000, less than half of India’s population had access to electricity. Now, more than 80 percent of the population has access to electricity. If this pace continues, India will have universal electrification by 2020, “one of the largest successes in the history of electrification.”
Goyal has been instrumental in reforming India’s power markets and expanding renewable energy in an effort to meet the country’s Paris Agreement targets. While India has relied heavily on coal to power up the country—like China in recent years and the United States decades ago—India’s coal expansion appears to have peaked and the permanent transition to cleaner energy is underway.
Goyal has successfully retired outdated coal plants while launching an ambitious renewable energy expansion program. Although India is the world’s fourth top CO2 emitter, the country is currently at 20% renewables and is on solid footing to reach a 40% renewable mix by 2030.
“We applaud the Honorable Minister Goyal for his courageous work in crafting policy capable of meeting the biggest challenges in energy,” said Frederick Steiner, dean and Paley Professor at the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design.
“It is a testament to the visionary leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that this work energizing the lives of 1.3 billion Indians is being globally recognized with the Carnot Prize by the University of Pennsylvania,” said Goyal, who is using his award money to create a new energy prize in India. Goyal is partnering with the International Solar Alliance to award Indian institutions that maximize solar—particularly those that work with special needs children.
Another highlight of today’s ceremony is a lecture by Penn’s Aaswath Raman, assistant professor of electrical and systems engineering. Raman will share his research on harnessing the cold of outer space to cool the earth. Raman recently shared some of this research in a TED talk.
As part of today’s events, Goyal will also record a podcast with Energy Policy Now host Andy Stone, meet with Penn students with interests in energy and India, and be the featured guest on Knowledge@Wharton, a radio talk show.
Piyush Goyal is a member of India’s upper house of parliament and serves as the minister of railways and coal. He previously oversaw power, coal, new and renewable energy, and mines.
During Goyal’s tenure, India has seen transformational changes in its power sector—including the electrification of 18,000 villages in some of the most remote and inaccessible parts of the country. Goyal’s other projects include rolling out a comprehensive power sector reform plan, the world’s largest LED bulb distribution program, and the world’s largest renewable energy expansion program.
Over his 34-year political career, Goyal has held several positions in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), where he served as national treasurer and also head of the party’s communications committee during India’s 2014 general elections.
Goyal studied accounting and law at Mumbai University. In addition to public service, he was an investment banker and advised top corporations on management strategy and growth. He also served on the boards of the State Bank of India—the country’s largest commercial bank—and Bank of Baroda.
His father, the late Vedprakash Goyal was India’s union minister of shipping and the BJP’s national treasurer for over two decades. His mother, Chandrakanta Goyal, was elected three times to the Maharashtra state legislative assembly.
Goyal is married to Seema, who is a social worker, and he has two children who currently live in the United States: Dhruv works in New York, and Radhika studies at Harvard.
ABOUT THE CARNOT PRIZE
The Carnot Prize is named in memory of French scientist Sadi Carnot, who in 1824 published Reflections on the Motive Power of Fire, which is recognized as the first statement of what is now known as the second law of thermodynamics. Carnot recognized that the power of the steam engine would produce a great revolution in human development. The Carnot Prize is intended to honor those leading revolutions in energy policy to further progress and prosperity.
The Kleinman Center for Energy Policy operates within the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design. Its mission is to create the conditions for policy innovation that support a just and efficient transition to sustainable energy.
The mission of the Weitzman School is to prepare students to address complex sociocultural and environmental issues through thoughtful inquiry, creative expression, and innovation. As a diverse community of scholars and practitioners, we are committed to advancing the public good—locally, nationally, and globally—through art, design, planning, and preservation.
Director of Communications
Kleinman Center for Energy Policy