NEW DELHI, June 24 (UPI) -- Clean energy is "one of the greatest economic opportunities of all time," said John Kerry, visiting energy-starved India for the first time as U.S. secretary of state.
In remarks in New Delhi Sunday ahead of the fourth annual U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue, Kerry cited India's rising electricity demand and India's soaring population, saying the number of Indians who lack access to electricity is about the same as the entire population of the United States.
"Access to energy is the essential ingredient of economic development. You can't create jobs in the dark," he said, adding combating climate change and reducing energy poverty are "two interconnected challenges that cannot be separated."
"Staring us in the face today is one of the greatest economic opportunities of all time. It's called clean energy," Kerry said.
India, the fourth largest energy consumer in the world after the United States, China and Russia, is also the world's second largest burner of coal, after China.
"Dynamic, forward-looking India," Kerry said, is not going to find its energy mix in 19th or 20th century solutions or from coal. "India's destiny requires finding a formula in the 21st century that will power it into the 22nd."
India aims to double the country's renewable energy capacity to 55,000 megawatts by 2017.
Kerry also announced the U.S. Agency for International Development was launching a loan guarantee program to support a private equity firm in Mumbai that will help mobilize at least $100 million in private sector financing for clean energy in India.
USAID will partner with U.S. institutional investor Northern Lights Capital Group to facilitate the investment via Indian renewable power investment company Nereus Capital Management, Press Trust of India reports.
"USAID will be able to dramatically leverage large scale funding to help India's transition to a low carbon economy and open-up new development opportunities for enhanced energy access," USAID Administrator Raj Shah, who accompanied Kerry to India, was quoted as saying by PTI.
Noting that it is the first time USAID is partnering with a private investment fund to facilitate an investment, Shah said it would help to smooth the way for U.S. entrepreneurs "to this important emerging market."
Meanwhile, Ernst & Young's latest Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index shows India's ranking slipped to eighth from No. 4 in the first quarter of 2013.
"A high barrier to entry for external investors causes India to score lower than most of its top 10 rivals," said Sanjay Chakrabarti, the firm's Indian partner and national leader for clean-tech, PTI reports.