'We cannot save the planet without India on board': Danish ambassador

India has the ability to make technology affordable and resilient, said Freddy Svane

56-Freddy-Svane Freddy Svane | Amey Mansabdar

India and Denmark launched a green strategic partnership back in September 2020, focused on cooperating and promoting sustainable development. Freddy Svane, the ambassador of Denmark to India, says the partnership is ready to take off now like a rocket, with many initiatives and projects already under way. Excerpts from an interview:

Energy efficiency is a low-hanging fruit, and one company I have to highlight here is ROXUL ROCKWOOL, which is doing technical installations.

Q Could you tell us more about the India-Denmark energy partnership?

A Denmark and India have embarked upon a special trajectory. We established the green strategic partnership back in 2020. And now it is really taking off. We have quite a number of significant initiatives, projects, some completed and others are in the making. The whole idea is to combine all the missions of the Indian government with whatever we can do and bring enough skills from our side. Energy is a very important part of it. And energy efficiency is a low-hanging fruit, and one company I have to highlight here is ROXUL ROCKWOOL, which is doing technical installations. And instead of investing in huge infrastructure, you can do a little bit yourself by using that kind of thing. Denmark and India, we are on the same track, we are working to secure that this world will be able to fight climate change.

It is important to understand that Denmark is only six million people whereas you are 1.4 billion. But you have the right to develop. India's energy demand will triple towards 2040 or so. We can't just tell Indians stop using more electricity because the world is going to collapse. Therefore, we bring in our skills, so India can grow in a sustainable way. We bring in what we have from our side, and especially the private companies, and they are the leaders; they have the technologies, they have the products.

Q When we talk about sustainability and clean energy, which are the areas in which the two countries are looking to deepen cooperation?

A It is plentiful. Of course, the generation of renewable energy is important. That can be water, solar, biofuel, biogas, and so forth. Denmark is a clean nation. But, there are also many other things. You have green buildings, but you need to make sure that green buildings are not overspending energy. So, in that context there are a lot of things that can be done. How do you spend energy in a more efficient way? That's not only about switching off the light, but also bringing in new ways of saving energy. Energy efficiency is definitely something where Denmark has a strong position. We have a number of companies that have already invested in India. They are going to invest even more.

Q When it comes to transition towards clean energy, what are the challenges you see in this shift, because the progress has been fairly slow?

A Right you are. Things are not always moving as fast as we would like to see them move. Politicians have to be visionaries. Prime Minister Modi has set out very important targets at COP 26 in Glasgow. Hopefully, India will be able to achieve them.

I am pretty sure that we will see a huge development that will pick up the pace. India is known for its scale, but India is also known for its ability to take established technology and develop and make it affordable and resilient.

Q Can we become fossil fuel free in the near future?

A If it is five years from now, that is impossible. If it is 10 years from now, perhaps to a large extent. It is about setting a direction. In Denmark, we were forced to give up our heavy dependence on fossil fuel in the early 1970s. At that time, we were 100 per cent dependent on oil and gas. Suddenly, the supplies were stopped. I was young and I could see how difficult it was because we could not use our cars. I was born on a farm. We were not allowed to use our tractors, lifts or escalators. And that forced us into a green transition. That led to the redefinition of an old technology based on wind. We developed a double-digit US billion dollar industry, the wind industry, and it created jobs, it developed new technologies.

You can take energy efficiency, you can take insulation, things will move and India is a pace setter and a game changer. So it will come. Your prime minister has set 2070 as the date for net zero. I am pretty sure that with the ability that India has, these targets will be met far earlier than anticipated.

Q What percentage of energy is now coming from renewables in Denmark?

A We had more than 70 per cent of electricity generated from wind and solar. Then, we have biofuel, we have other renewable energy forms. We are no longer dependent on imported gas and oil. I admit that Denmark is a small country. But we are smart people and think about all the youngsters you have here in India. They are sharp, they have a hunger to change, and they want a better life. So, they can do it and they will do it. So, India will set the agenda. Without India on board we cannot really save the planet.

Q Do you think India should set more ambitious targets?

A Politicians will have to set targets and set the direction. We can always ask our governments to do XY set on our behalf. But, who is using the water? Who is using electricity? You and I. If we do not take individual responsibility, change our lifestyle, then it will be difficult. So, you can do more, I can do more, and all those who are listening to this can do more. Think about a small drop of water that can be saved, for instance, by 1.4 billion Indians. That will add to a huge amount of water that could be saved.

Q How are the current geopolitical tensions affecting the economic and business environment?

A See the prices of fuel, the shortage of fertilisers. Food, fuel and fertiliser are big challenges. We also had the pandemic; it was destroying the social fabric, the societies, economies, the livelihood of many people. Have we overcome that? Yes, to a large extent. We still fight with some of the consequences. But, we also grew stronger from the pandemic. See how India really developed the Covid vaccine platform and how many doses were administered here.

The unprovoked attack by Russia on an independent sovereign country is continuing to have devastating consequences. But, the more we cooperate, the more robust we will be in order to cope with the challenges coming from a pandemic or geopolitical tension. There is no alternative to cooperation and collaboration. We stand for that.


 ROXUL ROCKWOOL looking to increase production in India

ROXUL ROCKWOOL, a company that makes technical insulation products for industrial units and buildings, is looking to expand its production capacity in India, at a time when demand is rising and the existing capacity is nearing full utilisation.

The Copenhagen, Denmark-headquartered company operates a factory in Dahej, Gujarat, with an annual capacity of 33,000 tonnes, according to Vinay Pratap Singh, business unit director, ROXUL ROCKWOOL Technical Insulation India.

"We are currently selling around 30,000 tonnes, so we are almost through. That is why we have started thinking about the next phase of expansion," Singh told THE WEEK.

While the company has started discussions with the board on the future expansion, plans haven't been finalised yet, he said.

ROXUL ROCKWOOL India makes and supplies a full range of smart and sustainable insulation products for the construction and process industries. It uses volcanic rock to make stone wool insulation. 

While such insulation products have been used by industries for equipment like boilers and storage tanks for several decades now, it's only in the recent years that awareness towards using these products for buildings has started increasing, especially in the wake of growing awareness towards reducing carbon emissions and bringing down energy usage. Singh expects demand in the next five-six years will only increase as more buildings adopt insulation products.

"I am confident in the next four-five years, we will see a huge expansion in India," said Singh.

While in the initial years, almost 70 per cent the production at its plant in India was exported, now nearly 90 per cent of it gets sold in the country itself, he said. The growing local demand has changed the group's perspective towards India.

"The group perspective has changed in last four-five years and they are seriously looking at Asian markets. We have six factories in Asia, including in Japan, China and India. Within Asia, India is on top from a group perspective," Singh added.