Newsletter - December 27, 2017
Coal in trouble2017 witnessed solar and wind energy tariffs falling lower than fossil fuel tariffs, both in India and in other countries. Over 20 countries pledged to phase out coal. Oil major BP for the first time said 2030 would be the year when global coal use peaks. Air pollution caused by coal plants, brick kilns, use of petcoke, furnace oil and diesel went off the charts in Delhi.
EVs all the wayIndia, UK, Norway, the Netherlands, France, and other countries and cities, declared they want to phase out petrol and diesel vehicles. The year also triggered a scramble for Lithium-ion batteries and cobalt – a critical component in each lithium-ion battery.
Record temperatures, deforestation, fires and floodsThe year was the third warmest year on record without an El Nino event – which has usually been a factor for years that have registered unusually high temperatures. A new study found that deforestation and land degradation have turned tropical forests into big emitters of carbon, rather than being a carbon sink. Methane emissions from livestock were found to be 11% higher than previous estimates suggested. The year witnessed a growing number of extreme weather events – the floods in Asia, hurricanes in the US and the Caribbean and the forest fires of Amazon and California.
Climate action and Talanoa dialogueThe Emissions Gap Report was released, that said that current commitments make a global temperature increase of at least 3°C above pre-industrial levels by 2100 very likely. Climate talks at COP 23 in Bonn resulted in the formulation of the final “approach” of the 2018 Talanoa dialogue, which aims to help raise ambition on national climate pledges, and raise recognition that more focus is needed on “pre-2020 action”.
No money to buy laser beam monitors, ASEAN looms
Stay at home levels of air pollution are back in Delhi, after Delhi’s AQI went off the scale twice recently. But the Central Pollution Control Board – the top pollution regulator – seems helpless; it doesn’t have the money to install monitoring towers fitted with laser beams. CPCB wants to counter air pollution ahead of ASEAN summit in January in Delhi. In November, it was partly due to West Asian dust storms, but now particles from Afghanistan salt mines are also pushing up the PM2.5 levels in Delhi.
PM’s task force releases air pollution draft action plan
The plan includes coordinated action between states to fight stubble burning, launching an anti-pollution app for citizens to report violations, NOx curtailment measures in NCR power plants, migrating brick-kilns to zig- zag technology and policy support to encourage electric vehicles.
Varanasi, 20 times worse than Delhi
Meanwhile, in Varanasi air pollution was 20 times worse than Delhi, while it slipped to ‘poor’ in Mumbai. The five worst AQI levels included Delhi (332), Lucknow (346), Faridabad (306), Gurgaon (331), and Noida (344). Each of these indicators was in the Hazardous category.
Juvenile Delinquency, Cancer epidemic
A new study says bad air is destroying children’s brains, causing juvenile delinquency. A 2017 survey based on 2012 data recorded 115,000 deaths in India from pollution from coal plants and an economic loss of $4.6 billion. According to experts, an epidemic of lung cancer is waiting to erupt.
Govt lets industry dodge norms, wants top court to dilute norms?
Coal plants have ignored a December 7, 2017 deadline and a 2015 law to clean up their emissions, but the environment ministry wants Supreme court to dilute emission norms and give coal plants 5 more years to check emissions, apparently as part of a plan by the ministry of coal and the power ministry to dodge the December 7 deadline.
Debunked: Retrofitting too costly, takes too long
A 2017 study has revealed that if the coal industry had implemented the new norms, emissions from thermal power plants could have fallen by 70-85%. A 2016 study has calculated that clean up costs would cause merely a 3% increase in tariff and the 2-year deadline was decided mutually between the environment ministry, the power ministry, the power industry and the Central Pollution Control Board. Activists have filed a plea in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to set up a committee to oversee compliance and punish the violators.
Lessons from China
Analysts say seething public anger prompted Prime Minister Li Keqiang to declare war on pollution in 2014, but in India the outrage is seasonal, and the government “remains largely silent while leaders squabble”.
China to make polluters pay
China plans to make polluters pay by tightening oversight of land, water and air pollution, and holding companies accountable for the clean-up costs and restoring the ecological balance after major accidents. China has shut down some factories and is holding officials accountable after central inspections. It has also launched an unprecedented campaign to switch millions of households from using coal to natural gas for heating this winter.
Eyeing an all-EV fleet by 2030, Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari has said the Centre plans to invest Rs 5,000 crore in electric buses and bus ports across the country. The state government of Delhi is also planning a policy shift away from fossil fuels and is keen to induct e-buses. The Centre has also been urged to subsidise e-buses and the power that will be used to charge them.
Smart EV charging stations for India
India is likely to get nearly 150 smart EV charging stations over the next year, as Fortum India launched Delhi’s first smart EV charging station. It will be powered by electricity from NTPC, the largest power generator in the country. The chargers will be able to identify EV owners using radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology.
All-EV by 2030 ‘not viable’, e-cars ‘won’t be cheaper than petrol vehicles’
Meanwhile Mercedes-Benz and Maruti Suzuki (India’s largest car manufacturer) aren’t very optimistic about India’s 2030 all-EV target. R C Bhargava, CEO of Maruti Suzuki, has said electric cars won’t be cheaper than fossil fuel cars “for a long time” unless the government promotes mass-adoption of EVs, and that the Indian car market will grow to around 9-10 million units annually by 2030, of which “only around 40% will be electric”.
Mercedes-Benz India MD Roland Folger has said the 2030 target looks rushed, and that over the next two decades the whole world will be driving hydrogen cars, and not electric cars.
BMW hits 100,000 EV target for 2017, aims 500,000 by 2019
German carmaker BMW aims to more than double the number of electric and hybrid vehicles it has sold to 500,000 by the end of 2019. It has hit its target of selling 100,000 fully electric cars this year. Meanwhile, Toyota plans to market over 10 EV models in the early 2020s.
Move over lithium-ion, solid state batteries ‘safer, cheaper’
Honda Motor is considering developing all solid-state batteries for EVs. Toyota and Volkswagen are also developing all solid-state batteries, which offer more capacity and better safety than conventional lithium-ion batteries by replacing their liquid electrolyte with a solid, conductive material.
EV shift: Good old spark plug to go solid-state battery way
Sensing the imminent end of gasoline engines, NGK – the world’s biggest maker of spark plugs – is turning its focus to electric vehicles and planning to make next-generation solid state batteries.
China dumping subsidised e-bikes in EU?
The European Commission is investigating whether Chinese manufacturers of e-bicycles imported into the EU have benefitted from excessive state subsidies. The investigation is yet another addition to existing enquiries into dumping of Chinese e-bikes into Europe.
Over 120 electric cars models, anyone buying?
Experts say ‘panic & promise’ is driving automakers to unleash a barrage of more than 120 electric car models that no one seems to want yet. There will be more than 100 different battery-powered vehicles out in five years, seemingly ‘despite little demand’.
Grocery retailer books 125 Tesla semi-trucks, largest public pre-order yet
United Parcel Service (UPS) is buying 125 of Tesla’s all-electric Semi-trucks. At nearly $200,000 for each truck, the order amounts to about $25million in Tesla’s coffers.
Solar tariffs readjust to market uncertainty
The latest solar power auction for 750MW in Rajasthan saw solar tariffs readjust to Rs. 2.47/kWh and Rs. 2.48/kWh, up slightly from the record low of Rs. 2.44/kWh in May. The upward adjustment is likely influenced by power developers factoring in costlier module prices in China, India’s possible imposition of anti-dumping duty on Chinese and other countries’ modules and the imposition of a 7.5% customs duty on imported modules at Chennai and other ports.
Govt’s 20 GW invite to boost domestic manufacturing
Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) has called for Expression of Interest (EOI) from solar PV module manufacturers to set up manufacturing units in India that would together be worth 20GW of manufacturing capacity. The invite is part of the Centre’s plan to boost domestic module manufacturing, and its 175 GW target by 2022, which will include 77GW of solar power plants worth Rs 3,50,000 crore by 2020.
Replacing coal plants with renewables will help save Rs 54,000 cr: Greenpeace
Greenpeace India’s study has claimed that India can lower air pollution and save up to Rs 54,000 crore by replacing expensive coal plants with renewables. The study sourced CEA tariff data of 2015-2016 and compared it with an “assumed” renewable tariff of Rs 3/kWh.
Maharashtra to generate 25,000 MW power through solar
Maharashtra plans to generate around 25,000 MW of solar power as part of its renewable energy plan for 2021-2030, a part of which will be provided to the state’s farmers.
‘World’s largest’ solar power plant in MP
Work will soon commence on the Rs. 45,000 crore, 750MW ultra mega solar project plant at Gurh in Madhya Pradesh. 24% of the plant’s power output will be provided to Delhi Metro. The plant is set in around 1,600 hectares of land.
Yes bank, EIB to back India renewable projects
The European Investment bank (EIB) and Yes bank will together provide India $400 million in finance to help it meet its renewable power targets. EIB will fund $200 million of the 15-year loan, while the other half will come from Yes Bank and other financial institutions.
EU’s 2030 renewable energy targets announced
EU environment ministries have agreed to produce 27% of EU’s power from renewables by 2030, which is up 7% from its 2020 target of 20%. The European Parliament wanted to hike this target to 35% earlier in October.
1/3rd of UK’s energy from renewables
Nearly a third of UK’s power now comes from renewables, as its share in UK’s power generation grew to 30% in 2017’s third quarter.
Wind power tariffs fall to Rs 2.43 per unit
Wind power tariffs dropped further to Rs 2.43 per unit in 500MW auctions in Gujarat, lower than October’s Rs 2.64/kWh and February’s Rs 3.46/kWh. Six companies won the bids. Falling prices have left the industry nervous as many more wind auctions are in pipeline.
The Indian Wind Energy Association (IWEA) earlier filed plea in Supreme Court saying falling tariffs under competitive auctions are not good for equipment manufacturers and that government’s power purchase guidelines were not final.
Government issues guidelines for wind power procurement
Chasing a tough 175GW by 2022 target, the government has issued new guidelines allowing transparent bidding, standardised processes, compensation for grid unavailability and cancelling of agreement, secure payments, and risk-sharing between power generator and off-taker. The norms will revive the sector in the windy states as it allows them to go for the bidding process themselves.
Wind tariff competitiveness to remain a challenge: ICRA
Rating agency ICRA has said that under the Centre’s competitive bidding programme, the backing down or haggling over PPAs by states will be a major challenge. The government proposes to issue bids for 5,000 MW by March 2018, 10,000 MW each in FY 2019 and FY 2020, so as to meet its 60,000 MW target by FY2022.
IEA: Global coal demand subdued next 5 years, but not in South Asia
IEA has said that world coal consumption will grow at merely 0.5% annually over next 5 years, primarily due to falling consumption in China, along with falling demand from the US, Canada and Europe.
India’s consumption, on the other hand, will grow at 3.3% each year till 2022, as well as its imports of coking coal. Pakistan and Bangladesh will also contribute to South Asia’s growing coal consumption.
However, IEA predicts that India’s thermal coal imports will be significantly curtailed, owing to the Centre’s policies to reduce dependence on imports. India’s net coal demand will strengthen due to growing power demand and rising industrial output, even as the rate of growth in demand itself halves – from IEA’s prediction of 215Mtce for 2014-2022 last year, to this year’s 115 Mtce. The Centre expects to satisfy this demand by ramping up output from Coal India.
Newcastle: Largest Coal port dumps coal
The port of Newcastle in Australia – the world’s largest coal port – is preparing to abandon coal. In 2016 coal formed 96% of its trade, but the port hopes to diversify into becoming a container port to import and export high-end products. It is also considering transforming into a cruise terminal for tourists.
China’s ambitious carbon trading scheme
China launched the ambitious carbon trading scheme to make the polluting firms pay for their emissions. The scheme focuses on 1,700 fossil fuel plants. Within a set carbon emission limit, polluting companies will have to buy “carbon credits” from their less polluting counterparts.
Reliance will be big renewable energy provider
Reliance Industries owner Mukesh Ambani said his organisation plans to become a major renewable energy provider in India. Earlier this year it tied up with BP to meet India’s fuel and renewable energy demands.
Major setback to World Coal Association, BHP Billiton quits group
BHP Billiton announced it will exit the World Coal Association (WCA), possibly to shield itself from any backlash over the environmental impacts of its coal mining operations. As one of the world’s largest coal miners, its exit from the WCA could severely impact the coal lobby’s power to influence government policy.