Nothing to see here: India's old, polluting coal plants may be given a new lease of life if its power ministry's proposal for cheap power is accepted, despite even the DISCOMS wanting out | Photo: Indian Express

India: Power ministry suggests old coal plants may sell power beyond PPA timelines

India’s power ministry has suggested that the country’s old coal plants be allowed to retail power “in any mode” to keep electricity costs down for the consumer. The proposal would affect the lifespan and market relevance of several gigawatts of old, inefficient coal plants, several of which have been earmarked for closure by the country’s environment ministry as they were not in compliance with the latest emission norms. Yet, the power ministry clarified that only inefficient units — the ones that have high power tariffs — will be marked for retirement. 

On the other hand, the DISCOMS of Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Delhi are keen to exit their contracts to buy power from such units after 25 years because of their high tariffs and the availability of excess power. Nationwide, DISCOMS are reportedly keen to offload contracts for 5.5GW worth of coal plants for similar reasons.  

Netherlands: Shell dragged to court, activists demand stronger action on cutting emissions 

Oil and gas giant Royal Dutch Shell has been dragged to the courts in the Netherlands by climate activists on behalf of 17,000 Dutch citizens, who are demanding that the driller take much stronger action on cutting its global emissions. The activists want Shell to slash its total greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030 (relative to 2019), but Shell has so far only committed to trimming the emissions intensity of its products by 30% by 2035 (over 2016). 

The activists also alleged that Shell is well aware of the climate impacts of its operations and that by not doing more, it acts as a threat to human rights (of protection against climate change). The case is one of the several important legal challenges to oil and gas drilling around the world, such as in Norway, and could have widespread implications for the industry. Shell’s chief counterpart in the industry, BP, has, meanwhile, started to invest heavily in renewables

Czech Republic votes to phase out coal by 2030, target criticised as being “absurdly late”

The Czech Republic’s coal commission has recommended that the country phase out coal by 2038, the same date as Germany, even though the decision was not unanimously agreed to by the commission itself. The target is also non-binding, and environmental activists have criticised it by calling it “absurdly late” and that it ignores climate realities, given that the country could make the shift by early as 2030. The proposal has also been called out for not having done a proper (socio-economic) impact assessment and for being out of sync with the Czech Republic’s commitment under the Paris Agreement. 

Japan’s ruling party suggests lowering role of fossil fuels to less than 50% by 2030

A group of lawmakers from Japan’s ruling party has proposed that the country’s share of fossil fuels in its power sector be brought down from the mammoth 75.8% (for coal and gas in March 2020) to less than 50% by 2030. The shift, if approved, could see its share of renewable energy surge to almost 50% from its modest 18% at the moment. The proposal is also in line with the new government’s pledge for Japan to go net-zero by 2050, despite Japanese banks being one of the primary financiers of new coal power in South Asia

The country is, additionally, investing in hydrogen for its heavy industries due to its lower emissions and its potential to be fully green. 

Denmark to end all North Sea oil and gas drilling by 2050, cancel latest licensing round

The EU’s largest oil and gas producer, Denmark, has agreed, with a majority in parliament, to end all fossil fuel exploration and extraction in the North Sea by 2050. The agreement comes after the country’s already trailblazing climate target of curbing emissions by 70% by 2030, and it will see the government cancel its latest round of licensing for new projects. The move is expected to cost the Danish crown $2.1 billion in lost revenue, but the government has been advised by an independent agency to exit all investments in North Sea oil and gas if it was to meet its climate targets. 

Incidentally, Denmark is a world leader in wind energy consumption and sourced 47% of its energy from the fuel in 2019. 

Trump White House rushes to auction drilling licenses in Alaska before Biden takes office 

The Trump administration is reportedly rushing to issue drilling licenses in the ecologically sensitive Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska, and it will put up sale notices for oil and gas leases two weeks before the process was supposed to commence. The current administration is strongly in favour of expanding the US’s oil and gas output and the new licenses may be issued just before its next President, Joe Biden, takes office in January. 

The move is vehemently opposed by Democrats, indegenous populations and environmental activists and is expected to lead to a flurry of new legal challenges. However, there has not been much interest in the ANWR from drilling companies themselves. The formalities required to eventually start drilling in the region may take months after the leases are approved, and major US banks have refused to finance any drilling in the Arctic.

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