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Didier Reynders , Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister and Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade, Belgium

01 Feb 2014

European nations are increasingly looking forward to tieups with India in the field of renewable energy. Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister and Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade, Didier Reynders speaks to Ankita Sharma about his country’s interests in India and the scope of partnerships. Excerpts.

What are your plans for India and what are your areas of interest?

Our main area of interest is diamonds for which we are signing a deal in Mumbai. We are looking forward to our association in the infrastructure segment as well. We have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for roads and are also looking at airways. The third area of interest is new technologies in renewable energy sector. We are looking at possibilities on how we can partner with India on solar, onshore and offshore wind. Biomass is also a technology of interest. We have one of the biggest solar plants in South Africa. We are working to see if that can also be done in India. We are also looking forward to signing an agreement with the ministry of power to start a framework for sharing technology on the same.

How do you plan to promote trade between India and Belgium?

The idea is to come to India with our industry and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and see what projects are available for cooperation. We have spoken to banks for funding and are in the process of bringing Belgian companies to India and taking back Indian companies to Belgium. In the process we have also generated some funding back in Belgium. We have 160 Belgian companies working in India and 60 Indian companies in Belgium. We are also opening a new consulate in Kolkata for better relations and cooperation.

Are there any particular initiatives by Belgium for tying up with India on the renewable energy front?

Several developments have led to a successful collaboration between Belgium and India in the field of renewable energy. India is witnessing rapidly increasing energy demand and is concerned about its economic and environmental consequences. Ensuring access to energy, enhanced energy security and mitigation of climate change are top priorities for the Indian government. As a critical element in pursuit of these key policy objectives,renewable energy is becoming an increasingly important part of India’s energy mix.

How many Belgian companies in the renewable sector are operating in India? Do they have any specific agenda?

The European Union (EU) is setting the most ambitious targets globally on reducing carbon dioxide emissions with a commitment to meet 20 per cent of energy needs with renewable energy by 2020. The EU is also a leader on technology since it provides 45 per cent of renewable energy patents worldwide. If we look at the European export figures in detail, five countries account for 75 per cent of eco-industry exports: Germany, the UK, France,Belgium and Italy.

In terms of investment, how much are Belgian companies thinking of investing?

Belgium has top research institutes and universities with research projects in virtually all renewable energy sectors. Many Belgian companies have the expertise and also a great deal to contribute in terms of worldwide technology transfer and exchange of best practices, both in wind energy, solar energy and clean technologies for construction and transport.

What kind of collaborations are there between the two countries on the renewable front?

This has been a fruitful endeavour. Successful collaborations between several Belgian and Indian research institutes and Belgian and Indian companies have been set up. Research institutes like Vito and Imec cooperate with Indian partners like Teri and Wipro on water and energy, smart grid technology and solar energy. Several other Belgian companies, like Hansen Transmissions (wind energy), Talboom (geothermal energy), Vincke Energietechniek (biomass), SES Vanderhave (bio-diesel) and Tractebel Engineering thermal power sector, concentrated solar power and hydro power plants have set up joint ventures or other forms of collaborations with Indian partners. Others companies are participating in this mission looking cooperation opportunities.