2019: Another year on the dreaded climate curve

Newsletter - December 26, 2019

Maximum disruption: Extreme weather and natural disasters, such as cyclone Idai that hit southern Africa, are likely to have displace 22 million people in 2019 | Photo: Public Radio International

2019: Another year on the dreaded climate curve

The second decade of the 21st century will draw to a close in less than a week’s time. And keeping in line with the general theme this past 10 years, the final year has brought with it yet more evidence that Earth is still firmly enroute to a hot-house future. While global average temperatures are set to increase by 3.2°-3.9°C compared to pre-industrial levels, more than double the lower limit set in the Paris Agreement, unless drastic emission cuts are undertaken, the effects of climate change are already ramping up to that crescendo. This year not only saw multiple scientific assessments and observations alluding to this fact, but also unprecedented damage caused by extreme weather and other climate change impacts.

Following the Special Report on 1.5°C that the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released in October last year, two new reports on land and the cryosphere & oceans released this year revealed with greater clarity what lay in store in terms of climate change impacts and responses from the earth system in the coming decades. According to the new scientific assessments, along with the irreversible changes in ecosystems around the globe, millions of people will be at risk of displacement and food insecurity in the 21st century. 

The oceans have been a particularly big worry as rising sea levels have been accompanied by increasingly warm and acidic waters. Ocean acidity has increased some 26% since the industrial revolution, while upper ocean heat content in 2019 is at or near record levels. Cumulatively, these are expanding “dead zones” in oceans where biological activity is much reduced, according to the IPCC report on the cryosphere and oceans.

Scientists have also gotten louder in their warnings over the past year. But despite macabre warnings of an unmitigated catastrophe that could take decades to play out, carbon emissions this year showed no signs of slowing down. After a brief three-year lull in CO2 concentrations, the world saw a second straight year of rise in 2018 as globally averaged concentrations jumped another 0.5% to reach 407.8 ppm. These are the highest levels seen in at least 3 million years, the World Meteorological Organisation noted in its Greenhouse Gas Bulletin released in November this year. The WMO has also stated that based on preliminary data, levels are likely to register a rise again in 2019. At current rates, the global budget for carbon is likely to be exhausted in the next two decades.

Keeping in line with rising CO2 levels, the earth’s temperature, too, continued its climb in the past decade and 2019 is likely to be the third-warmest year on record. According to the WMO, the global average temperature from January to October this year was 1.1°C warmer than pre-industrial temperatures, with July 2019 becoming the hottest month on record. The past decade is “almost certainly” to be the warmest decade on record and forecasts are already indicating that temperatures are likely to continue to rise in 2020. This year we also found that the Arctic permafrost, expected to remain frozen for another 70 years, had already begun thawing and could potentially be releasing hundreds of millions of tonnes of methane, a potent GHG, into the atmosphere.

The heat was palpable all decade and 2019 was no different. Several parts of the world were literally on fire as wildfires ravaged parts of North America, Australia, South America, Southeast Asia and the Arctic region. While the Arctic wildfires caused widespread alarm, equally concerning were the unprecedented fires in the Brazilian Amazon and the Indonesian rainforest, which saw its most significant fire season since 2015, exacerbating drought conditions in the region. Heatwaves and droughts were experienced in practically every continent of the world over the past year. While South Asia experienced its second-longest heatwave on record between May and June, Europe had two major heatwaves in June and July and Australia had its hottest summer on record in 2018-19. The occurrence of drought, too, was widespread over the year with several parts of South America, Central America, Africa, Asia and Australia. Exceptionally dry conditions in southeast Asia brought the 4,500km Mekong river to its lowest level in a century this year, affecting millions of farmers and food security in the region. While Chile in South America has received just 26% of its normal rainfall so far this year, southern African countries are also staring at a deepening drought, which might result in unprecedented food shortages as crop production in the region has declined by 30%.

Even as southern Africa faces drought conditions, over three million people in central and east Africa have been affected by floods due to an exceptionally active monsoon season. The African monsoon comes on the heels of heaviest Indian monsoon witnessed by the subcontinent in 25 years. The monsoon was affected by a month-long delay in arrival and withdrawal and 560 extreme rain events, 74% higher than the number in 2018. While 1,685 deaths were reported across India due to heavy rainfall and flooding, several hundreds were reported dead in neighbouring Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan due to torrential downpours. Tropical cyclone activity also registered an increase in 2019 with the northern hemisphere witnessing 66 tropical cyclones as compared to the average of 56. The Indian subcontinent saw seven cyclones hit the region – the highest number in 33 years and significantly higher than the average of 4.5 cyclones a year. Southern Africa’s precarious food security was delivered a big blow in April this year as powerful cyclones Idai and Kenneth made landfall in Mozambique and recorded billions of dollars in damages. Hurricane Dorian in the Caribbean islands and the east coast of the US was noted not only for its high intensity, but also for its slow movement, which caused heavy destruction, particularly in the Bahamas where it stayed stationary for about 24 hours.

While it has long been suggested that climate change will lead to increased displacement, migration and conflict in the coming decades, evidence of this has begun to surface in the past couple of years. The UN’s World Migration Report 2020 has estimated that over 17 million people were displaced due to natural disasters in 2018. India, with nearly 2.7 million persons, had the highest number of internally displaced people due to disasters and extreme weather in 2018. The WMO estimates, in its State of Global Climate 2019 report, that the number of internally displaced people due to extreme weather and natural disasters is likely to go up in 2019, which had seen 7 million new internal displacements until June. According to the WMO, this number is likely to have more than tripled to 22 million due to extreme weather and hydrometeorological events.

The increasing costs and casualties of climate change, very much evident in 2019, though failed to move world leaders. Despite impacts being felt across the world and repeated calls by scientists to accelerate climate action and ramp up ambition, leaders failed to deliver. The first big sign of apathy on the part of governments came in September at the UN Climate Action Summit, on the side-lines of the General Assembly. After months of imploration by the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres for countries to review and enhance their ambitions for climate actions, including rapid cutbacks in emissions, countries responded with little more than a whimper with none of the major emitters committing to anything more than words over and above their NDCs. The bigger let-down though was reserved for the COP25, which failed to resolve a two-year stalemate over key clauses of the Paris Agreement rule book that could now jeopardise the implementation of the historic agreement. In spite of all the dark clouds that seem to have converged at the horizon, the year was not a complete loss when it came to the fight against climate change. For the first time, as people around the world experienced the dread of climate change that was quickly becoming normal, the issue seems to have seeped into public consciousness. This past year has seen a gradual and continual upwelling of mass movements led primarily by young people that has not only captivated the public, but is also pressurising governments into taking action. On the other hand, protests against government taxes aimed at cutting emissions and increased costs of living associated with energy transitions in several regions of the world have brought attention to the importance of justice and equity in climate action within and between societies. The pressure of mass mobilisation is beginning to make a dent as evidenced by the EU’s unveiling of their broad plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Governments around the world are fast realising that inaction on climate is quickly becoming politically unviable, and one can only hope that this results in progressive ambition over the next year.

Climate Science

Untameable: Unable to contain wildfires which have been raging for weeks and inching towards Sydney, a state of emergency was declared in New South Wales|Photo: Weather Underground

Australian state declares emergency amidst record heat wave, raging wildfires

The Australian state of Victoria shattered its own monthly heat records this month after it sizzled at 47.9°C on December 20, shattering the previous record of 46.6°C set in 1976. The rising temperatures only fuelled the country’s bushfire crisis and the government had to declare a state of emergency in New South Wales.

Fire fighters were seen rushing to put out more than 100 bushfires, which have been blazing on for weeks, three of which are inching towards Sydney, which was engulfed in thick smoke, bringing normal life to a screeching halt. Australian prime minister Scott Morrison was forced to apologise and cut short his Hawaiian vacation after reports surfaced of two fire fighters being killed while trying to put out bushfires.

2020 to be one of the hottest years on record, says UK’s Met Office

Don’t expect any respite from rising heat in the New Year. The UK’s Met office predicted 2020 is likely to be the hottest year on record, with the global temperature forecast expected to be 1°C above pre-industrial levels. This forecast is based on observations of trends over recent years, when temperatures have largely remained 1°C above pre-industrial levels – a ‘clear fingerprint’ of global warming due to human activity, meteorologists said.

Cooling would only be possible in case of unforeseeable events such as the eruption of a major volcano, which would lower temperatures because of the dust thrown into the atmosphere.

50% of Indians believe climate change causes extreme weather events: Survey

One in 2 Indians or 50% of the country’s population believes climate change caused by human activity is the primary cause for the rise in extreme weather events in the world today, according to an IBM survey. In comparison, 23% of the US population believes the same. The study conducted online interviews of 4816 people, including 2,000 each from India and the US, and 400 Indian business leaders and 195 of their US counterparts. 

Amazonian rainforest regrowth may be much slower than commonly thought

A new study, based on the monitoring of Amazonian forest regrowth over two decades, has shown that rates of regrowth in the rainforest can happen much slower than previously thought. Brazilian and British researchers have shown in their research, published in the journal Ecology, that even after 60 years of regrowth secondary forests (forests regrown after clear-felling of trees) hold just 40 per cent of the carbon held in forests left undisturbed by humans. Observed biodiversity in the studied area was also just 56 per cent of the biodiversity seen in undisturbed forests. The findings hold significance for climate action as secondary forests regrown on cleared lands are considered to be an important tool in sequestering carbon from the atmosphere and fighting climate change. The researchers hypothesize that increase in temperatures, climate change and wider loss in Amazonian rainforests may be hampering the regrowth in the region.

Power of future tropical storms underestimated due to missing phase transition principle in forecasts

A new paper published in the journal Theoretical and Applied Climatology suggests that current forecasts might be underestimating strength of future tropical cyclones. Using historical data compiled on Atlantic storms, the author, Edward Wolf, a professor emeritus at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, demonstrated that power and intensity of tropical cyclones or hurricanes increased linearly and rapidly as water temperature increased in the seas. Wolf noted that this was in line with the principle of physics known as phase transition which did not feature in the literature on the meteorology of tropical storms resulting in an underestimation in projections. According to the paper, warming of 2 degrees Celsius could result in a tripling of destructive power of tropical storms off the coast of Africa. The WMO noted in its State of Global Climate 2019 report that “More than 90% of the excess energy accumulating in the climate system as a result of increased concentrations of greenhouse gases goes into the ocean. In 2019, ocean heat content in the upper 700m (in a series starting in the 1950s) and upper 2000m (in a series starting in 2005) continued at record or near-record levels, with the average for the year so far exceeding the previous record highs set in 2018.”

Climate Policy

No deal: Mass protests erupted at the venue of COP 25 in Madrid, Spain as governments failed to make significant headway in the negotiation sticking points | Photo: IISD

COP 25 ends on a disappointing note

Two weeks of negotiations at the COP25 UN climate summit finally wrapped up in Madrid this fortnight with governments failing dismally to respond to the unfolding global climate crisis.

Despite clear warnings from scientists through 2019, record levels of protests and severe climate impacts, the talks fell victim to major differences between countries which are proving hard to resolve. Ambition and action were the two words that summed up the spirit of COP25. However, even till the last draft text, the language around ambition was subpar. From the 197 parties to the Paris Agreement, only about 73 countries committed to enhancing their NDCs before Glasgow’s COP26.

Negotiators failed to reach an outcome on carbon markets under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement. The entire text has been bracketed, which means any consequential decision on the fate of existing carbon credits from the Kyoto Protocol period and how carbon credits in any new regime would be accounted for in countries’ NDCs has been punted forward to the next year.

Poland notwithstanding, EU agrees on ‘Green Deal’ to become carbon-neutral by 2050

In a landmark agreement, EU countries have agreed to make the bloc carbon-neutral by 2050. The agreement came through on December 13 after 10 hours of debate in Brussels. The agreement though is not binding on all countries as Poland has been exempted for the time being considering its heavy reliance on coal. Czech Republic and Hungary were also reluctant to agree on carbon-neutrality but were ultimately persuaded following assurances that nuclear energy could be included in their energy mix. The agreement also includes an increase in ambition to halve GHG emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, up from the current ambition of cutting emissions by 40 per cent. The European ‘Green Deal’ also includes a EUR 100 bn Just Transition Mechanism to aid countries heavily dependent on fossil fuels to move to renewable energy sources.

Decline in LPG refills under Ujjwala scheme: CAG report

A recent CAG report revealed that the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana may have met 90% of its target of delivering cooking fuel to 80 million people by March 2020, but users are not changing their LPG cylinders regularly. The report also found cases with a suspiciously high usage – up to 40 a day. The average annual refill consumption of 19.3 million consumers who had completed more than one year by the end of March 2018 was only 3.66 refills, according to the report.

Possible reasons for the low refill count could be that around 50% of dealers have to travel up to 92 kilometres to deliver the cylinders and up to 17% of beneficiaries had to travel to the dealers’ warehouses for their refills. The report also revealed a mismatch between the names of 1.25 million beneficiaries and the Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC-2011) data, based on which the beneficiaries were decided. 

India’s railway stations must adhere to green laws: NGT

Railway stations across the country must get the necessary environmental permissions because they are polluting hotspots, the National Green Tribunal said this fortnight. The court said all railway stations come under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, and there can be no dispute about that. “The Rules framed under the said Act include solid waste, plastic waste, bio-medical waste, hazardous waste, construction, and debris waste, e-waste Rules. Several activities take place at major railway stations which may attract provisions of the Rules. The said Rules have, thus, to be complied by all the major railway stations, to the extent applicable,” the bench said.

Air Pollution

Flexible intent: Just a fraction of thermal power plants in India adhere to new emission standards despite the extension of the original deadline in 2017 by five years | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

India’s top power generator, NTPC, rejects foreign tech to cut toxic emissions, experts blame power lobby

Documents show that India’s top electricity generator, state-owned NTPC, has rejected the emissions-cutting technology of GE and other foreign firms for its coal-fired plants, blocking an estimated $2 billion worth of installations. According to a presentation submitted by the NTPC to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) last month, pilot tests following talks with major international firms failed to meet key emissions parameters.  GE and Yara representatives, however, rejected NTPC’s claims, saying their technologies were proven worldwide.

India may be reeling under some of the world’s worst air pollution levels, but the country has already pushed back a deadline to cut emission levels to up to 2022, thanks to extensive lobbying by power producers, who cited high costs and technical difficulties. Starting now in December 2019, over half of coal-fired plants in India would miss a phased deadline to cut emissions of lung diseases-causing sulphur oxide. NTPC generates a quarter of India’s electricity. 

A Greenpeace India analysis, meanwhile, found that just 0.8% of India’s total power capacity has been fit with flu-gas desulfurizer (FGD) technology and only 22% of the 1,66,472 MW capacity has been tendered for it. Experts and activists allege that “powerful lobbies” are behind the lethargic implementation of the new emission norms with 98% of governmental and 96% of private thermal power plants yet to implement FGDs.

More plans? India to set up CNG plants, buy crop residue from farmers to run them

Buying post-harvest crop residue from farmers annually, and turning it into biogas, giving farmers 100,000 machines annually to get rid of crop stubble – these are some of the plans India is considering to help cut toxic air pollution. India is planning to set up over 100 biogas plants and provide thousands of farmers with machines to dispose of crop stubble. Reuters reported that the state-supported Indian Oil Corp Ltd will invite private companies to apply to set up 140 biogas plants that will use rice stubble as feed stock. Stubble burning after the harvests have caused massive periodic air pollution issues as mechanised harvesters leave more stubble than crop removed by hand. Experts are skeptical of the efficacy of the plans, saying Centre will have to engage with farmers with consistency, and people should not expect results next year. 

Over 260 Bihar farmers denied benefits over stubble burning 

The Bihar government blocked applications of over 260 farmers seeking state benefits as they burnt crop residue despite a state ban. The government said it was the first such decision to warn farmers not to burn crop residue as it adds to air pollution. The farmers will not be able to avail different schemes of the department through Direct Benefit Transfer. The maximum number of farmers booked for burning crops are from Bihar’s rice bowl districts of Rohtas and Kaimur. The others were from Bhojpur, Buxar, Nalanda, Patna and Gaya. During the first two weeks of December, Bihar’s capital Patna remained India’s most polluted city. Bihar’s farmers get subsidised power supply at the cost of Rs0.75 per unit. They also get a subsidy of Rs60 per litre of diesel, DTE reported. 

Experts shred Mumbai Clean Air Plan as “incoherent” 

The Mumbai Clean Air Plan, submitted by Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), was junked by leading pollution experts, who called it a cut-and-paste job “without reference” and coherence. The experts on transport recommended that the plan should have been built on Mumbai’s existing mobility infrastructure and should have cut down private transport growth. They also said the plan doesn’t talk about options like walking and cycling to move away from diesel vehicles. The panel on air quality data said Continuous Emission Monitoring System data should be made public so industries can be held accountable. Experts studying industry pollution pointed out that the plan is silent about pollution in Mahul, and the fact that 22% industrial emissions are from the Tata Power Plant. Experts said the plan also doesn’t fix responsibility for bulk emissions from construction and demolition work.

Parliament panel: Vehicles carrying goods from other states worsening Delhi air pollution

It was a hugely toxic start to the fortnight for Delhi. Nine out of 35 monitoring stations recorded “severe” level of air pollution on December 10. The average level of deadly PM2.5 particles, was (212.1 ug/m3) over three times the Indian safe limit (60ug/m3). The WHO safe limit is 25 ug/m3. The latest report presented in Parliament revealed how traffic carrying goods from neighbouring states was worsening the air in Delhi more than ever.  Every fifth freight carrier (21.35% of the total) that entered the city in 2018 did so only to reach some other destination, said The Management of Worsening Traffic Situation in Delhi, a report tabled in Parliament. According to Central Road Research Institute (CRRI), half of the over 12 lakh vehicles on Delhi’s roads daily  in 2018 were from other states — up from 10 lakh and nearly 5 lakh respectively in 2009.

U-turn: Maruti quitting diesel? Not just yet

Maruti has given up plans to let go of diesel vehicles because its rivals Hyundai, M&M and Tata Motors continue to sell the same. Maruti will stop selling diesel cars ahead of April 1 deadline to meet new emission norms, but plans to re-enter the market in 2021, ET reported. Maruti has begun work on a 1.5-litre diesel engine that meets BS-VI standards.


Off target: A parliamentary panel has flagged the missing of annual targets for RE installations since and expressed concern over India’s ability to meet its 175GW target by 2022 | Photo: Power-technology.com

Parliament panel concerned about govt missing renewables targets

A Parliament panel report has raised concerns about India’s ability to meet the renewable target of 175GW by 2022, as India has been missing annual targets since 2016. The panel pointed out that government has underutilised renewable energy budgets on an average by over 10%. The panel report said only 89.88%, 92.37%, and 86.97% of the overall allotted budgets in the past three years have been used and the ministry has given the same reasons for the shortfall each time. The panel wasn’t convinced India would meet solar target of 100GW by 2022, saying that only 31GW of solar projects were commissioned by September 2019, and to achieve the rest would be a “huge task”. The panel also said the GST on solar products and services was inconsistent between 5% to 9%, which would negatively impact the growth of the sector. Rooftop subsidies were not reaching the consumers swiftly, the panel pointed out. 

Mercom reported that solar installations in India have crossed the 35 GW mark: nearly 31 GW of large-scale solar projects were in operation as of November 2019, while 4.1 GW of rooftop solar installations were recorded as of September 2019.

Minister says India to invest Rs4 lakh crore to meet 175 GW renewable target by 2022

In the next three years, India expects to invest over $60 billion (Rs4 lakh crore) to meet the country’s 175 gigawatt (GW) renewable energy target, Power minister RK Singh told Parliament, adding that a cumulative renewable energy capacity of 83.38 GW has already been installed in the country up to October 2019. He said non-banking, government financing body, the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA), will raise funds from internal and external sources such as bilateral and multilateral agencies, raising masala bonds from international and domestic market, and by borrowing from banks or financial institutions. The government has also allowed 100% foreign direct investment in the sector.

Meanwhile, IREDA is planning to set up a $100 million (about Rs700 crore) fund for renewable energy projects, around $20 million is being considered for the green window, with plans of leveraging $80 million from other agencies to establish a facility of $100 million.

Rajasthan launches new solar cess between 2 lakh to 5 lakh per MW

Is the sun-rich state of Rajasthan going the Andhra Pradesh way as it introduces a solar cess midway that is likely to hike project costs “exponentially”? Rajasthan has decided to levy cess on all solar energy projects to the tune of ₹2 lakh to ₹5 lakh per megawatt, annually. The state has also proposed to hike the registration fee five-fold. The cess called Renewable Energy Development Fund (REDF), is ironically imposed on solar projects for the promotion of solar energy in the state. Any solar power project that will sell power within the state, will have to pay a cess of ₹2.5 lakh per MW per year. A similar amount would apply to captive solar power units. For plants selling outside the state, the cess is ₹5 lakh per MW per year. Industry players said if one has to pay such a high cess every year, the state should also levy a tariff hike every year. The move is likely to increase project costs in the state, which enjoys low rates due to high solar irradiation.

Maharashtra discom says RPO targets “unachievable” 

Maharashtra’s discom has asked the state power regulator to reduce the renewable purchase obligations (RPO) target of 13.5% by 2025, calling it “stiff” and “unachievable” at the current rate of state solar capacity. Maharashtra needs a total solar capacity of 12,500 MW to achieve the target, while its current solar capacity stands at 4,200 MW. The Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Corporation Limited  (MSEDCL) has suggested revisions to the Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission’s RPO from 2020 to 2025: the policy draft will start at 4.5%, going up to 13.5% over the next five years. Discoms will be subjected to a reduction in the annual revenue requirement at a rate of ₹0.10 (~$0.0014)/kWh for the shortfall in the total renewable power procurement target for each year, Mercom reported.

Chhattisgarh releases tariff norms for renewable projects

As Chhattisgarh decides to dump new coal plants, the state power regulator recently released norms for renewable tariffs for the state. The Chhattisgarh State Electricity Regulatory Commission would determine generic tariffs only for solar PV projects ranging upto 5 MW in capacity. It set a normative capital cost of projects at ₹4.5 crore (~$633,530)/MW and ₹4 crore (~$563,138)/MW, respectively. Operation and maintenance expenses were set at ₹700,000/MW (~$9,854) for the first year of the project. The commission has also set the capacity utilization factor at 19% for solar PV projects, Mercom reported.  The power regulator set up a capital cost of ₹52.5 million (~$739,118)/MW for wind energy projects, for the financial year 2019-20. The norms will be applicable for three years, starting April 2019. 

Only BIS approved solar modules to sell in India

India will certify all solar equipment manufacturers willing to do business in the country. The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and the ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE) will approve the manufacturers and solar modules. Their products will have to make to it the approved list of modules and manufacturers (ALMM), to be eligible for government supported schemes, including projects from where electricity distribution companies procure solar power for supply to their consumers. 

The implementation of the new solar power generation equipment sourcing guidelines will start on April 1, Mint reported. The move is expected to put a stop to the practice by some manufacturers picking up poor quality Chinese solar modules, rejected by developers being sold in the domestic market at a discount. The MNRE team will inspect the manufacturing facility and conduct the production and sale audit before it includes modules and manufacturers in the ALMM list for two years.

Solar manufacturers’ lobby livid over Karnataka’s new rooftop solar norms

Karnataka solar manufacturers’ lobby is up in arms against state regulator’s norms released recently to accelerate capacity additions in the rooftop solar segment. The regulator proposed  various business models, including third-party investment in rooftop solar, to facilitate smaller consumers to install solar systems at an optimal cost. The lobby, Karnataka Renewable Energy Systems Manufacturers Association (KRESMA), said the order has made DISCOMs the sole arbiter, which takes away the right of the consumer to choose his supplier. The government-owned DISCOMs should not be allowed to take away the consumers’ profit from generating through renewable sources, they said. KRESMA alleged that the shift from net metering to gross metering will make solar rooftop installations unviable.

Electric Vehicles

Powering up: Delhi’s new EV policy is set to add 5,000 e-rickshaws to the city and offer incentives to delivery services to switch to electric two-wheelers | Photo: Umirror.com

Delhi approves EV policy, focus on electric autos and delivery vehicles

The Delhi government has approved the city’s much-awaited EV policy. It will introduce 5,000 e-autorickshaws and offer incentives for delivery services to switch their two-wheeler fleets to electric by 2024. Incentives of up to Rs30,000 per e-rickshaw could also be in the offing, and all new private and commercial buildings will be mandated to set aside at least 20% of their charging facilities for charging EVs. 

Most importantly, the government has supported the EPCA [Environmental Pollution (Protection and Control) Authority]’s plea to the Supreme Court for the cap of 100,000 autorickshaws for Delhi to be dissolved. This would allow several more than 5,000 e-auto rickshaws to be deployed on Delhi’s roads. The EV policy itself will go into effect after an official notification. 

UK uni to develop EV batteries for Indian conditions

UK’s Loughborough University is teaming up with two Indian institutes to develop EV batteries that could specifically brave India’s challenging summer conditions. The partnership will test phase change materials-based cooling mechanisms and temperature-resilient battery chemistries, since li-ion batteries degrade quickly and run the risk of overheating at operating temperatures beyond 25°C. 

California may measure, standardise ‘electricity pumped’ into EV chargers

The state of California could mandate that from 2020, all EV chargers in the state must accurately measure — up to four decimal points — the electricity they pump out when charging EVs and inform customers of the same. They may also be required to standardise whether to bill customers over the time needed to charge their EVs, or the quantum of electricity they purchase (in kWh).

The idea has met stiff resistance from players like EV2GO and Tesla over the millions of dollars needed for compliance, and over the assumption that EV chargers can be regulated by the same standards as conventional fuel pumps.

Bhopal to include electric bikes in bike-sharing

The city of Bhopal in India will reportedly upgrade its public bike sharing (PBS) project by including electric bikes in early 2020. The city may upgrade nearly 500 of its bicycles by retrofitting them with battery packs and electric motors, and will also convert more than 100 of the programme’s “docking stations” to fast-charging nodes. Bhopal’s PBS system is India’s first fully automated bike sharing programme and even uses GPS integration.

Fossil Fuels

Stranded and outdated: A new report has revealed that several more of India’s coal plants than the 34 units reported to the Parliament in 2018 could be stranded | Photo: Bloomberg

IEEFA: India’s stranded assets problem worse than reported to Parliament

A new report by IEEFA has revealed that several more of India’s coal plants could be classified as stressed assets than the 34 units reported to the Parliamentary Standing Committee in 2018. The report analyses 12 Non-Performing Assets (NPAs)’ high costs of operation and has found that the equivalent capacity of renewables could have been built at 30% lower expenses. 

One of the 12 NPAs analysed is the yet-to-be-built 4,000MW Cheyyur plant in Chennai, whose modelled tariffs would be around Rs5-6/kWh — with fuel cost escalation an ever-present threat. This is far costlier than the tariffs of under Rs3/kWh signed for solar and wind projects in Tamil Nadu since 2016, which raises questions on the very rationale behind India’s largest would-be coal plant. 

India to be largest fossil fuel consumer by 2030 despite shrinking coal capacity 

India’s minister for oil and gas has claimed that the country will overtake all major economies in fossil fuel consumption by 2030. The claim is a reference to the country’s growing (projected) energy demand, which will mainly be fed by oil and natural gas. At 4.5% per annum, India’s consumption would grow much faster than the global average of 1.4%.

This is because IEEFA estimates that India’s coal capacity addition is likely to fall short of the 266.8 GW target for 2030 by as much as 26GW, as coal plants face high operating costs and battle water stress, stricter emission standards and challenges to land acquisition.  

Payback in mere 7 years if entire world ditched fossil fuels, says Stanford professor

A Stanford Professor has calculated that it would take the world a mere seven years to recover the $73 trillion in investment needed to immediately phase out fossil fuels and switch to renewables. Professor Mark Jacobson’s new study — he was influential in shaping the US Democrats’ Green New Deal — says a part of the recovery would be from the $11 billion the world spends every year on fossil fuel exploration and subsidies.  The claims, however, may be questioned by the clean energy sector itself, as the technical challenges of running power grids entirely on renewables are yet to be ironed out.