Emerging building integrated tech can shine new light on India’s solar energy sector

Newsletter - May 7, 2021

Easing the pane: The development of light weight and flexible solar cells could kindle a resurgence in the BIPV space as design possibilities expand | Photo: Researchgate

Emerging building integrated tech can shine new light on India’s solar energy sector

Advances in technology are bringing flexible, light weight solar panels closer to scalability. Will India’s fledgling BIPV sector be able to capitalise? 

In 2019, away from mainstream attention, Mumbai’s cityscape was undergoing a small but significant upgrade. One of India’s largest data centres, CtrlS Datacenters Ltd, began replacing the entire façade of its Mumbai facility with solar panels. By mid-2020, the four walls of the data centre were covered with a total of 5,000 sqft of panels. The resulting 1MW capacity system, used to run the centre, is estimated to provide CO2 reductions equivalent to 7,000 trees.

Buildings currently account for almost a third of India’s total energy consumption. But with nearly 70% of the buildings that will stand in India in 2030 yet to be built – at 700–900 million sqm each year in new developments – the deep energy footprint of the country’s buildings needs urgent addressal.

In response, zero-energy building technologies are steadily gaining traction. Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV), as was used in Mumbai’s CtrlS building, is among the more popular approaches to making zero-energy buildings. But while the BIPV concept has been expected to take off in the country for some years now, there has been little progress in real terms.

Rooftop’s issues, BIPV’s loss

To promote solar power in India, the Ministry of Power started an initiative – Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission – in 2010. The mission has been revised twice and, at present, boasts a target of 100 GW of solar PV by 2022. It was also fixed that out of 100 GW, rooftop PV should produce 40 GW by 2022.

However, rooftop installations in India fell to a four-year low in the first half of 2020. According to data from renewable energy consultant Bridge to India, only 473MW of new rooftop systems were installed between January and June against 1,534MW in the same period a year ago. A report by consulting firm Mercom Capital Group, further revealed that rooftop installations incurred a 35% drop year-over-year.

India’s rooftop solar industry was particularly hard hit by the supply shocks due to last year’s lockdown and the import duties imposed on Chinese solar imports. In addition, uncertainty regarding the net-metering for rooftop installations and fears regarding the viability of rooftop metering for power distribution companies has further throttled India’s BIPV market. But while regulatory issues continue to threaten growth of the space, conventional solar technology itself has been a major bottleneck for developments.

Conventional silicon crystalline cells ill-suited to BIPV

With excellent stability, low generation cost of electricity and high efficiencies of above 20%, crystalline silicon solar is dominating the PV market. However, the carbon footprint generated by traditional solar technology has become a cause for concern.

In the manufacturing of traditional solar panels, metallurgical-grade silicon is purified into polysilicon, which creates silicon tetrachloride. While recycling tetrachloride to extract silicon needs less energy, the reprocessing equipment required is quite expensive, and produces potentially toxic by-products.

Since BIPV designs have weight limitations, standard crystalline silicon solar panels, which weigh 20-30kg each on average, are ill-suited for vertical integration on walls. In addition to being heavy, conventional panels are also rigid and delicate, which make them especially cumbersome to work with as a construction material.

As a result, there is a lot of interest in alternative photovoltaic materials. A few promising new materials include organic photovoltaics and perovskite solar cells.

Organic solar cell (OSC): A cleaner technology

Like traditional solar cell technology, OSCs convert the sun’s energy into electricity. They are made up of multiple layers, one of which is the acceptor layer. When an OSC is exposed to sunlight, an electron is released from the layer of organic molecules. The acceptor layer’s job is to pass that electron onto the electrode. This leads to a build-up charge, which generates electricity.

The most common material used for acceptors in OSC is fullerene – a molecule composed of 60 carbon atoms joined together in a tight molecular structure. However, the efficiency with fullerene acceptor is limited to 10%, prompting many researchers to look for non-fullerene alternatives.

Dr Soumitra Satapathi, associate professor at IIT Roorkee, told CarbonCopy that currently, the development of low bandgap polymers and non-fullerene acceptors is receiving significant research attention. In addition to these, small molecules which are capable of showing singlet fission – a molecular energy multiplication process – significantly improves efficiency and performance of OSCs, he said.

The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)-National Physical Laboratory has undertaken many research and development activities for the advancement of “efficient stable solar cells”.

According to the data, CSIR group has started working on the design and synthesis of donor and acceptor materials for organic solar cells to improve the power conversion efficiencies and lifeline of devices.

Many institutes in India are also working on OSC. Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, have developed 12×12 cm2 sub-modules from organic solar PV cells on a paper substrate. It can be used to power flexible electronic devices under an indoor lighting environment.

When it comes to OSCs application in BIPV, OSC as a plastic foil with a surface density of less than 1kgm-2 can be used because it weighs at least 10 times less than crystalline silicon modules. Since the weight of cells is a crucial factor in designing BIPVs, OSCs are a more appropriate match than silicon modules.

According to Dr Karl Leo, professor at Technische Universität Dresden, Germany, “They [OSCs] are addressing very different markets where lightweight and flexibility are the features that are asked for – for example in building integration.” They can be printed and stuck onto buildings, car windows and can also be used for mobile charging.

Despite being limited to some niches, it is interesting to speculate whether OSCs will be able to enter the mainstream PV market. According to Leo, “In the very long term, if organics would reach very high efficiency, they might compete, but this is not very likely in the near and mid-term.”

A study published last year pointed out that OSCs can only compete with crystalline silicon if it reaches the following parameters – “module efficiency around 20%, lifetime of more than 20 years, and cost well below silicon.” Results from laboratories and companies show that of these, OSCs can reach the ‘20-year lifetime’ parameter most easily.

Cost-wise, the study notes that OSCs are more expensive than mainstream crystalline silicon solar technology. The cost difference, however, is not surprising since OSCs are still far from reaching economies of scale unlike silicon PV, which has been commercially available for decades.

Additionally, in comparison to silicon solar technology, OSC’s carbon footprint is less. According to Leo, OSCs can reduce carbon footprint “dramatically, and it has a super-low CO2 emission.”

A study by the German testing institute TÜV Rheinland revealed that organic solar films potentially allow recovery of carbon arising during the entire life cycle (from manufacture to disposal) in just 3 months.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, market trends were also painting a positive picture for OSCs. According to Fortune business insights report, the global organic cells market size was $55.63 million in 2019 and it was projected to grow from $44.9 million in 2020 to $101.29 million in 2027 at a CAGR of 12.30%. However, due to the pandemic, the global organic solar cells market will exhibit a huge decline of -19.2% in 2020, it said.

Perovskite solar cell: A game changer

Perovskite is a rapidly expanding class of solar cells. It consists of a perovskite structured compound, most commonly a hybrid organic-inorganic lead or tin halide-based material, as the light-harvesting active layer. There has been a lot of research going on because of its high efficiency – even higher than silicon in some cases.

At the molecular level, perovskites are crystalline structures. But unlike conventional silicon solar cells, which have rigid structures where atoms are held tightly in place, perovskites are very soft. This allows for greater possible motion at the atomic level without compromises in structural stability. It also allows for much greater efficiency than conventional solar cells. In addition, perovskite structures allow for layered applications, which makes it very flexible.

Lately, perovskite developed by Oxford PV – a start-up set-up by Oxford University – reached a record-breaking efficiency of 29.52% last year. While standard silicon cells have an average conversion rate of just 15-20% and a practical maximum conversion rate of around 26%, perovskite has been independently proven to convert 29.52% of solar energy into electricity.

Perovskite was found viable for PV 10-12 years ago, said Don Scott, business development director at Power Roll, a UK-based flexible solar film developer. Since then, the amount of research and average efficiency has gone up dramatically – from 1-2% to 16-17% – in the labs, he added.

“Compared to any material in the history of PV, the curve of perovskite has seen the fastest advancement in efficiency in the shortest amount of time,” he said.

India is also promoting research in perovskite projects. Last year, the Department of Science & Technology (DST) published the list of solar and energy storage research projects, which will be carried out jointly with Israeli researchers. One of the projects is novel electron and hole transport materials for perovskite solar cells by the CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology.

Perovskite has also performed well in the market. According to market research firm Reports and Data, the global perovskite solar cells market size was $450.1 million in 2020 and is expected to reach a value of $3,926 million by 2028, and register a CAGR of 30.8% during the forecast period.

The report highlighted that further research and development and continuous technological advancements might support growth of the global perovskite solar cell market during the forecast period.

Apart from the positive market trends, perovskite offers many benefits when compared to traditional solar technology. It uses a smaller quantity of material to absorb the equivalent amount of light in comparison to crystalline silicon and the materials required for it are cheap and easy to produce. Additionally, they can be semi-transparent/transparent cells, which makes them suitable for aesthetic business application.

In a significant upgrade to conventional solar technology, perovskite reacts to various different wavelengths of light, which lets them convert more of the sunlight into electricity. Researchers are certain that such characteristics will open up many more applications for solar cells.

However, there are some major bottlenecks related to perovskite. One of them is stability. They are highly sensitive to ambient air and moisture and they break down quickly on exposure. To protect them, they have to be put inside an encapsulation film as soon as they come out from the plant.

The use of toxic lead is another concern that scientists are seeking to resolve.

Will OSC be overshadowed by perovskite?

Considering the increased efficiency and market growth of perovskite, some might wonder whether it would overshadow OSC? Scott is not sure of this, but he emphasised that a lot of research is going on to overcome the challenges of perovskite.

“Perovskite has super-high efficiency, but currently, it contains lead, which is unacceptable for many. Furthermore, there are stability issues,” says Leo.

According to Satapathi, “Perovskite has reached a spectacular efficiency in a very short span of time. As the working principles are quite different, they will be developed at their own pace.”

Potential of emerging BIPV technology in India

India receives sunshine for around 250 up to 300 days per year, which puts it in a good position to harness solar energy to meet the rising electricity demand. The country receives approximately 5,000 trillion kWh solar energy annually.

It has pledged itself to fast and large-scale renewable energy capacity addition. Under the nationally determined contributions (NDCs), India aspires to achieve 40% share of installed power generation capacity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030.

The country wants to increase its solar capacity to 280 GW by 2030-31 from about 39 GW currently, making it over a third of its overall power requirement. India is chasing a renewable capacity target of 175 GW by 2022 and 450 GW by 2030, from about 93 GW currently, as part of its commitment under the Paris Climate Accord.

With an efficiency of above 20%, crystalline Si solar cells rule the market. However, these cells consume a large amount of energy in the manufacturing process – extremely hot furnaces of around 1,500°C are needed to develop high purity silicon. This increases the payback time.

Compared to conventional solar technology, emerging technologies like OSCs and perovskites are less energy-intensive and owing to their thinness and flexibility they can be manufactured by simply printing the layers of the cell onto a backing such as paper and plastic.

“Emerging thin films usually have lower energy payback time [a few months] than silicon solar cells [2-3 years] considering the cost-effective fabrication process,” said Satapathi. “Therefore, India has huge potential in this technology,” he added.

For developing countries that do not have access to electrical grids and the finance to build one, OSC and perovskite are a great alternative. With low upfront investment and certainly low product shipping costs, they can provide electricity in smaller quantities required for mobile charging, home lighting and in textile industries.

Additionally, if PV solutions require very skilled engineers for installation, it is going to be a problem for people living in rural areas and farmers because of the complications and cost involved, said Scott.

According to him, “For a developing country like India, we need to bring the cost way down and bring ease of use way up. If we are able to do that, we can enable new markets and new applications of emerging thin solar films right at the grassroot level.”

Climate Science

Toxic future: A recent study marked regions that are likely to become CO2 hotspots because of mangrove loss, even in a ‘business as usual’ scenario | Photo: IAS Express

Study maps future hotspots of CO2 emissions due to mangrove loss

A new study mapped out future hotspots of carbon dioxide emissions as a result of mangrove loss. It identified six regions, which includes the Bay of Bengal, that were vulnerable to this change in a ‘business as usual’ scenario. The study, led by Australia’s Griffith University, estimated the emissions from this loss to be 2,391 Teragram carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent by the end of this century. The highest emissions were estimated to be in southeast and south Asia because of conversion to aquaculture or agriculture followed by the Caribbean because of clearing and erosion of mangroves. The Andaman coast (north Myanmar) and north Brazil also made it to the hotspot list because of erosion of mangroves in the regions.   

Study updates estimates of carbon emissions and removals from forests

A recent study revealed a significant drop in global emissions from net forest conversion, from a mean of 4.3 in 1991–2000 to 2.9 Gt CO2 yr−1 in 2016–2020. The study, published in Earth System Science Data, also found that while forest land was a significant carbon sink globally, it decreased in strength between 1990 and 2020, from −3.5 to −2.6 Gt CO2 yr−1. The study also found that between 2011-2020, forest the net contribution of forests to atmospheric CO2 was very low – a sink of less than −0.2 Gt CO2 yr−1. This finding is significant as this is the first time an estimate for the past decade has been published.

Global glacier loss accelerated rapidly in past 20 years: Study  

Globally, glaciers lost 298 gigatonnes of ice annually between 2015 and 2019. The study, led by ETH Zurich and the University of Toulouse, analysed around 2.2 lakh glaciers, excluding Greenland and the Antarctic ice sheets. Between 2000 and 2019, the world’s glaciers lost 267 gigatonnes of ice per year on average, the study found. But this rate accelerated rapidly by the turn of the century. The melt led to 21% of the observed rise in sea levels between 2000 and 2020. The contribution of glacial melt to sea-level rise was 0.74 mm per year.  

Forest fires in northern hemisphere likely to speed up climate change: Study

Current models underestimate the impact forest fires and drying climate have on the northernmost forests of the world, a new study stated. The study, published in Science Daily, observed 30 years of NASA satellite imaging data, to find that forests will not be able to sequester much carbon in the future if emissions are not reduced urgently. According to the researchers, fires in these regions are increasingly taking out more forest land, which could account for the rising drop in biomass in these forests. The finding is significant as the northern forests absorb a huge chunk of the world’s CO2 emissions.

Climate Policy

Greenwash: Despite announcements of net-zero ambitions from several banks and financial institutions, a new report has found only a fourth of these institutions report their financed emissions | Photo: Therevelator.org

Financial institutions underestimating their climate risk: Report

Global financial institutions seem to be tumbling over each other in the race to make their net-zero announcements. But scratch the surface and you will find they are grossly underestimating their climate risks. A CDP report revealed that half of these financial institutions are failing to report their climate risks. According to the report, they do not conduct any analysis to find out how their portfolios impact the climate. Only half of them were willing to disclose a low-carbon transition plan, while a quarter of them reported their financed emissions. 

India, UK chalk out roadmap to fight climate change by 2030

India and the UK committed further to combat the effects of climate change by 2030 this week. In a virtual meet, the leaders of the two countries agreed to collaborate on clean energy transition and forest protection. They also agreed to work together on creating climate resilient infrastructure. The UK-India roadmap also includes arriving at an ambitious outcome at the Cop26 to be held in the UK later this year.

After Supreme Court rap, Germany pledges to become carbon neutral by 2045

Germany increased its climate targets significantly this week. It moved net zero targets forward by five years, by pledging to be climate neutral by 2045. The country raised 2030 emissions cut targets up from 55% to 65%, and pledged to reduce emissions by 88% by 2040. 
The announcement comes after Germany’s top court ruled the country must update and tighten its climate law by next year in order to lay the groundwork on how it plans to achieve its net-zero by 2050 target. The court was hearing a case by a woman who argued that her family farm would be destroyed as a result of rising sea levels. The court opined that the 2019 law did not look beyond 2030 when it came to emission cuts.

Air Pollution

New norms allow companies to expand operations by self-certifying that they won’t pollute

The Centre’s new rules allowing companies to expand operations leaves room for the misuse of compliance norms, reported HT. The environment ministry has allowed some of the most polluting industries, including those involved in coal washing, mineral processing, manufacturers of pesticides, fertilisers, paint, cement and petrochemicals, to expand their operations by simply providing a ”no increase in pollution load certificate”.

Experts said trusting companies to self-certify, especially with a poor monitoring regime, is an open invitation to non-compliance and abuse. The ministry claimed it has received several requests from processing, production and the manufacturing sector for permitting increase in production capacity without having to go through the entire environmental clearance process again. 

Top panel to monitor Delhi-NCR pollution formed again, through ordinance

Drawing flak that it is not serious about tackling air pollution in the Capital, the Centre has reconstituted the Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region (NCR) and Adjoining Areas. The commission had shut down after the government failed to pass the Bill in the budget session of the Parliament five months after it was announced through ordinance. The newly constituted commission continues to have sweeping powers in controlling air pollution in Delhi-NCR. It has been reconstituted again through ordinance, as the House is not in session. 

MM Kutty, former secretary in the ministry of petroleum and natural gas and former chief secretary of Delhi, remains the chairperson. Ashish Dhawan of the Air Pollution Action Group is the only NGO member, while Ramesh KJ, former secretary, earth sciences, is the only full-time technical member. New panelists include members from farmer bodies, the construction sector and industry. Serving professionals can also become members. Earlier, only retired professionals were included. The Centre dropped the clause of penalising farmers, HT reported. 

‘Policy failure’: Delhi, Kanpur air witnessing spikes in NO2, PM2.5 levels, says UK study

The air in Delhi and Kanpur is witnessing increasing levels of fine particles (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) revealed a study based on satellite data analysed by the University of Birmingham and University College London. Scientists attributed it to the rise in vehicle ownership, industry emissions and weaker compliance and implementation of air pollution control policies. In contrast, the levels of PM2.5 and NO2 showed a declining trend in the city of London, reflecting the success of policies to curb sources emitting these substances, the study said.

PM2.5  from burning natural gas, wood for heat and electricity is killing 46,000 Americans annually: Study

A new Harvard study found that burning natural gas and wood instead of coal for heating and electricity is killing 46,000 Americans annually even though it is better for the climate. The study stated that burning gas in at least 19 states plus Washington DC, kills more people than coal because of exposure to fine particulate matter PM2.5 that damages the lung tissue.

The study found 47,000 to 69,000 premature deaths each year, which could be attributed to emissions from buildings, power generators and industrial boilers. Of that, fumes from gas, wood and biomass were responsible for between 29,000 and 46,000 deaths respectively. The study highlighted the benefits of eliminating coal. In 2008, when coal produced nearly half the nation’s electricity, emissions from the power sector caused between 59,000 and 66,000 premature deaths. By 2017, that fell to 10,000 to 12,000 deaths when more coal was retired. The research revealed the health risks linked not just with replacing coal power plants with gas units, but continuing to burn gas or wood for heating, cooking and industrial purposes.

French court stops deportation of migrant, cites killer air pollution in home country 

A landmark ruling by a French court for the first time cited air pollution in an extradition hearing. The court stopped the deportation of a Bangladeshi man with asthma after his lawyer argued that he risked the possibility of premature death because of the dangerous levels of pollution in his homeland. The appeals court in Bordeaux overturned an expulsion order against the 40-year-old man because he would face “a worsening of his respiratory pathology due to air pollution” in Bangladesh, reported the Guardian.

A 2020 ruling by the United Nations human rights committee stated that it is unlawful for governments to return people to countries where their lives might be threatened by the climate crisis.


Stepping up: A government proposal that aims to back the manufacturing of high-efficiency solar PV modules in India and cut solar imports through incentives got final approval this fortnight | Photo: The Hindu

India approves $605 million production-linked incentive to boost manufacturing

The President of India approved the government’s proposal to implement ₹45 billion (~$605 million) production-linked incentive (PLI) to back the manufacturing of high-efficiency solar PV modules in India and cut solar imports. The Implementing Agency — the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) – will get 1% of the PLI amount disbursed as an annual fee. IREDA will also submit a progress report every quarter along with details of disbursement claims received for PLI and the amount disbursed.

Beneficiaries will be selected through a transparent bidding process. To qualify, the manufacturer will have to promise minimum integration across solar cells and modules. Higher capacity plants will get preference. A manufacturing plant of a minimum 1 GW capacity  should be proposed, and manufacturers will also have to meet the minimum module efficiency of 19.50%.

Covid-19 second wave to delay 4 GW of solar, wind projects under 3-4 months extension

Current covid-19 related lockdowns across the country are expected to delay commissioning of  solar projects. Experts said if the government grants solar developers a three- to four-month extension, an estimated 4 gigawatt (GW) of solar and wind projects will be delayed and will be expected to get commissioned in 2022. The Centre extended the deadline to sign PPAs for distributed solar projects to May 31, 2021, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Developers asked for a blanket project extension by four months. Experts also warned that companies might face a liquidity crunch because the rooftop solar market is expected to face payment issues with uncertainty looming over full or partial closure of manufacturing and business units. Experts said COVID-19 restrictions are going to impact site preparation, engineering, financing, procurement and construction of projects. 

India to set up integrated day ahead market at exchanges for RE and conventional power

India will set up an integrated day-ahead market (DAM) at the power exchanges with separate price formation for RE and fossil fuel power by June this year. The DAM is expected to unlock the untapped renewable energy potential. There will be a separate (G-DAM) green-day ahead market before the current day-ahead market along with separate products for different types of renewables, Mercom reported.

The government is also replacing the long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs) by the medium-term, short-term, day ahead, intraday, and real-time markets where the day is divided into 96 time-blocks of 15 minutes each. Efforts are underway to fine-tune the blocks to five minutes in order to achieve highest accuracy of predictability.  

Today, power traded at exchanges make up for 5.5% of the total energy consumption in the grid. The sale of the Renewable energy certificate (REC) at the exchange helps companies meet their renewable purchase obligation (RPO). The Centre decided to launch the integrated DAM to offer the market multiple options in renewable energy, which will be competing against each other. 

Germany to expand renewables, increases 2030, 2040 climate targets

Germany agreed on higher tender volumes for next year’s wind and solar PV installations, reported Clean Energy Wire. The government will also propose to reduce emissions by 65% by 2030 (from the current goal of 55%). 

Germany’s finance minister Olaf Scholz said his government will introduce a new target of an 88% reduction by 2040. He said the government will expand the infrastructure because the country’s entire future economic performance depends on more renewable electricity. The court’s “cool ruling” had made possible “a new push”, Scholz said.

US solar industry releases guidelines to block solar imports produced from forced labour 

To rid America of solar imports built with forced labour, the US Solar Energy Industries Association issued voluntary guidelines to solar panel manufacturers. Some US lawmakers had flagged the issue of  polysilicon imports, linked to work camps in China’s Xinjiang region. China, the world’s largest maker of solar products, denied all accusations of abuse.

The guidelines did not mention China specifically, but recommended that rigorous descriptions and documentation be included with products as they proceed through factories and are shipped to the United States. Companies have been issued guidelines to identify the sources of a product’s input materials and trace their movements through the supply chain, Reuters reported. Solar companies have their implementation of the procedures audited by a third party.

Electric Vehicles

Gets better with age: EVs might get considerably safer on the road as older EV batteries are much less prone to catching fire due to their reduced charge capacity | Photo: Arc Publishing

Austria: EV batteries’ risk of fire lessens with age

New research from Austria’s University of Graz found that the risk of EV batteries catching fire decreases with age, thus making them safer the longer they are in operation. Technically labelled a “thermal runaway”, the risk of fire incidence in the older batteries drops with their lower potential to hold charge, and they are also mechanically stiffer due to the repeated charging and discharging cycles they undergo over thousands of kilometers. 

Accidental fires have been a safety issue in EVs — the Hyundai Kona EV, for instance, will no longer sell in its home country of South Korea after 13 fire incidents — but the new findings were derived through crash tests and heavy vibrations and acceleration to prove the safety of the older batteries. 

Uber inks deal with Arrival to develop ride hailing-specific EV

Uber teamed up with London-based EV platform manufacturer Arrival to develop an electric car for the specific use of ride sharing, and the car will be first used in London as part of Uber’s Clean Air Plan. Design input on the car will be sought from Uber’s network of drivers, who may also be assisted in getting financial assistance to upgrade their current vehicles to EVs. Uber plans to fully electrify its London fleet by 2025, and the rest of the UK, Europe and the US by 2030. 

In China, too, top ride sharing service Didi Chuxing teamed up with BYD last year to develop the D1 — an electric car specifically designed for the practicalities of short haul, shared mobility. Its features include sliding doors (to prevent occupants from dooring cyclists or other cars in tight spaces), and generous legroom in the back seat. 

Bosch chastises EU’s “fixation” with EVs

IC engine ignition and fuel systems maker Bosch came down with heavy criticism of the EU’s apparent “fixation” with the electric vehicle, saying that “climate action is not about the end of the internal-combustion engine”. The components manufacturer is a world leader in making spark plugs and fuel systems, and has even insisted that modern petrol and diesel engines do not have any appreciable impact on air quality. Its criticism may also be directed towards the proposed Euro-7 fuel standards, which would impose far heavier limitations on emissions from combustion engines in Bosch’s primary markets and make it difficult for the technology to survive for much longer. 

Interestingly, Bosch has invested €5 billion into EV technologies, but plans to stay committed to the IC engine for at least 20-30 years. 

USA: 20% of Americans discontinuing use of EVs 

A survey conducted between 2015-2019 found that one in five Americans (about 20%) discontinued the use of their EVs over two issues: driving range and lack of access to level 2 home charging. The study found that only about 29% of the respondents who discontinued their EVs to switch back to gasoline had level 2 home charging (which charges EVs faster) — even though they had few complaints when it came to the EVs’ on-road reliability, safety and charging costs. 

Also, the UC Davis survey found that Tesla and GM EV owners held on to their vehicles the most — only 11% and 14.2% of the group switching back to gasoline cars, respectively — and the rate of discontinuation was curiously lower in women.

Fossil Fuels

The new short haul: Germany's railways has agreed to ferry 20% of the country's domestic flight passengers on its feeder network to large cities, and thus significantly cut carbon emissions | Finanz-reporter.de

20% of Germany’s domestic flight passengers to be ferried by trains

Germany’s aviation industry and its railways, Deutsche Bahn, agreed for the railway network to ferry 20% of the country’s domestic flight passengers in a move that was termed by the latter’s manager as “active climate protection”. The move could cut the nation’s CO2 emissions from its domestic flights by a sixth. As in 2019, 15 million of its flights were purely domestic. However, flag carrier Lufthansa will continue to fly domestically, despite calls by environmentalists to ban all domestic flights and replace them with train journeys. 

The move also comes in quick succession to France banning domestic flights where the distance can be covered by train in 2.5 hours or less. 

Poland signs agreement to phase out coal power by 2049

Poland agreed to shut down all its coal power plans by 2049 in a landmark agreement with its dominant coal industry, even though the country still derives around 70% of its power from the fuel. The agreement will compensate all affected workers and also create alternative jobs for their reemployment, as coal’s share in Poland’s power mix is expected to be throttled to 11% by 2040. The agreement was termed as “historic” since Poland’s coal lobby is hugely influential in its energy policies and had so far firmly resisted a change in status quo. The country is also the EU’s largest coal consumer. 

Japan cancels last-ever coal plant, Greece to exit coal by 2025

A 1.3GW coal plant in Japan, proposed by Marubeni Crop. and Kansai Electric Power Co., was cancelled over the government’s stricter environmental laws and the lack of financing from Japanese banks. The plant was supposed to go online in 2024 but its cancellation could mean that the country has cancelled its last-ever proposed coal plant, even though some other new units are already in various stages of construction. The country’s flatlining energy curve and the growth of cheaper renewable energy also led to the cancellation of another, 1.2GW coal plant recently, and the new government under Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has pledged to go-carbon neutral by 2050

Meanwhile, Greece’s largest power company, Public Power Corp. (PPC), announced that it would repurpose its proposed Ptolemaida 5 from lignite to natural gas by 2025. The plant was supposed to burn lignite and come online in 2022, but the decision may have been influenced by the rising cost of EU’s CO2 emission certificates. The shutdown would make Greece the 10th EU nation to fully exit coal and lignite, even though it is the block’s fourth-largest lignite producer. 

India: Jindal Steel to divest from coal power subsidiary

One of India’s largest private steel producers, Jindal Steel, announced that it would divest 96.42% of its holdings in the Jindal Group’s subsidiary, Jindal Power Ltd., in a bid to lower its carbon footprint and debt obligation. Instead, the company aims to become one of the top 10 cleanest steel manufacturers in the world, and the decision possibly marks a key shift in India’s steel industry, whose annual carbon emissions are projected to triple to 837 million tonnes by 2050.