Deadly air, with the stench of apathy

Newsletter - November 27, 2019

The tox-shock: Hospitals in the national capital in recent years have reported a sharp rise in the incidence of respiratory diseases and pulmonary disorders even among non-smokers in the region | Photo: Indiaspend

Deadly air, with the stench of apathy

Critically poor air quality has become typical of winter months in India, especially in northern states. This year, as toxic air once again chokes the national capital and other north Indian states, the administration has been found severely wanting in its efforts to tackle the issue. The exasperation was writ large in the Supreme Court on Monday as a two-judge bench slammed inaction on the part of the central and state governments, implying that the lives of Indians were not being valued by those in power. “Why are people being forced to live in gas chambers? It is better to kill them all in one go, get explosives in 15 bags at one go. Why should people suffer all this?” Justice Arun Mishra told the Solicitor General for the central government after being informed of the recent increase in stubble burning.

The top court’s alarm at the state of affairs is justified, to say the least. After the recent Lancet report highlighted the high levels of air-pollution related mortality in India, it was also revealed in a recent evaluation of G20 countries that India performed the worst when it came to deaths related air pollution —registering over a million deaths annually due to poor air quality.

While it is understandable that air pollution becomes a pressing matter during winter months, the protracted attention seemingly reserved for these months has apparently made air pollution a “winter issue” rather than the year-round menace it really is. While stubble burning and meteorological conditions exacerbate air pollution in the capital, the crux of the problem remains year-round sources of emissions from sectors such as transport, power, construction and power in which emission norms remain lax and poorly enforced.

Data released by the Central Pollution Control Board shows that in the national capital, annual average of PM2.5 levels last year were more than 11 times higher than the 10 micrograms/m3 standard employed by the World Health Organisation, beyond which chronic health effects can be felt. During critical months, levels up to 45 times the prescribed limit were seen. Despite all the clamour about the impacts of crop stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana on air in the NCR, the fact remains that barring a few days each year when biomass burning contributes over 40% of Delhi’s bad air, the share of biomass burning to total pollution levels rarely crosses into double digits even during the active month.

The biggest sources of pollution for Delhi are rather year-round. Three sectors- transport, industry and power, put together account for almost two-thirds of all pollution in Delhi city and over half in the entire NCR. Yet the effectiveness of most significant institutional response- EPCA, has been questionable. Afterall, not a single criminal case has been filed under the powers given to EPCA despite its special powers to initiate prosecution and rampant violations of environmental law in the region.

Even though the government has been revising emission standards for several industries over the past decade, a critical examination of the methodologies reveals loopholes that often result in weaker emission norms compared to those in other nations. The problem is not limited just to particulate matter but extends to gaseous pollutants such as NOx and Sox. Where emission standards are fixed, implementation has been a long drawn out affair. The most notable example of the lack of implementation can be seen in the case of the new emission norms for Thermal Power Plants which were to be implemented by the end of 2017, the deadline for which has now been pushed to 2022. It has also been reported that the government is also set to dilute the new norms.

While there is ample evidence of the need for regional plans to facilitate interstate cooperation to tackle air pollution in the region effectively, and despite repeated calls for the same, India is yet to formulate any kind of blueprint that would function as a regional plan. The National Clean Air Programme identifies 129 cities for priority action but do not consider the larger airsheds within which these cities are located. ‘’While city action plans have been submitted, these should be integrated with the larger airshed management strategy to make an effective plan to deal with the problem of air pollution in the country. Monitoring and compliance are key to success and unless central, state and municipal bodies work in tandem, we will return to these pollution spikes each year. The NCAP entirely lies on the CPCB and the SPCBs but their resources and capacity needs evaluation and enhancement” says Sagnik Dey, Associate Professor at the Centre for Atmospheric Sciences Indian Institute of Technology.

China’s experience in tackling air pollution points to the need for stringent implementation of progressive and tough regulations. Sadly, India’s approach thus far smacks of severe deficits in both political attention and will. As it stands, air pollution is seen as an issue that flares up about 1-2 months a year- hardly a matter that cannot be dodged and survived.

Things are showing signs of changing though, with increased pressure being put on political entities, air pollution is gradually becoming a defining political issue in several north Indian states — one that is contributing to a growing health burden on several tens of millions. It should be only a matter of time that air pollution becomes a true political priority, fought year-round on multiple fronts, and not just on those where action is deemed the easiest.

Climate Science

Where does it stop? The WMO reported that greenhouse gas emissions registered another year of increase in 2018 as CO2 levels in the atmosphere breach 407ppm | Photo: PSmag

Atmospheric CO2 concentration rose again in 2018, no slowdown in sight: WMO

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) this week reported that CO2 levels in the atmosphere breached all records in 2018. The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, released on 25 November, says “globally averaged concentrations of carbon dioxide reached 407.8 parts per million in 2018, up from 405.5 parts per million (ppm) in 2017”. The last time such concentrations were seen on earth was supposedly 3-5 million years ago. The big jump in CO2 concentrations has been attributed to the combustion of fossil fuels.

Third-most dangerous GHG, nitrous oxide, is on the rise, says study

A new study published in Nature Climate Change has found that the levels of nitrous oxide (N20) – the third most important long-lived greenhouse gas that plays a major role in the depletion of the ozone layer – have increased substantially since 2009 and at a rate that is faster than what was estimated by the IPCC. The main culprits are East Asia and South America, according to the study.

The study stated that since the mid-20th century, the production of nitrogen fertilizers, widespread cultivation of nitrogen-fixing crops such as clover, soybeans and peanuts, and the combustion of fossil and biofuels has increased the availability of nitrogen substrates in the environment. This increased availability of nitrogen has made it possible to produce more food, but has also in turn released more amounts of N2O in the air. 

Global warming is ‘supercharging’ Indian’s Ocean’s climate system

What does this year’s bushfires in Australia and floods in Africa have in common? They are both linked to an increasingly dangerous event called the Indian Ocean dipole, the frequency of which, scientists say, is only going to rise because global warming is ‘supercharging’ the event.

The Indian Ocean dipole is similar to the El Niño and La Niña, in that it can cause sharp changes in weather patterns. Researchers said this year’s Dipole has been the strongest so far.  

Climate change to increase infectious disease burden, especially in developing countries: Lancet study

The world’s children, especially those living in India, are bearing most affected by air pollution and the infectious diseases that are brought on due to extreme heat, according to Lancet’s annual global report. The trend can still be reversed if country’s cut down drastically on their emissions, the study stated. According to the researchers, damage done in early childhood will have lifelong repercussions on a person’s health, compromising any gains made in life expectancy, among other health-related factors.

According to findings published in the report, changing weather patterns are creating favourable environments for Vibrio cholerae bacteria, with global suitability rising almost 10% since the early 1980s while the number of days suitable for the Vibrio pathogens has doubled. In India, this climatic suitability has been rising 3% every year since the 1980s. “With its huge population and high rates of healthcare inequality, poverty, and malnutrition, few countries are likely to suffer from the health effects of climate change as much as India. Diarrhoeal infections, a major cause of child mortality, will spread into new areas, whilst deadly heatwaves, similar to one in 2015 that killed thousands of people in India, could soon become the norm”, said co-author Poornima Prabhakaran from the Public Health Foundation of India.  

Venice goes under after five-day flood

Venice went underwater this month after being hit by floods for five days. Images of popular tourist spots, hotels and shops being flooded with water went viral. According to authorities, this was the worst flooding the city has seen in more than 50 years. Venice’s mayor Luigi Brugnaro blamed climate change for the disaster.

The city had designed a flood barrier way back in 1984 to prevent such an event. But the wall has still not been built as the project has been delayed due to corruption, cost overruns, among other issues. Authorities now expect the barrier to be up by 2021.

On the other side of the Mediterrenean, in Greece, a violent weather front resulted in heavy storms and flooding that claimed the lives of three people and left parts of the country devastated.

Heavy rains cause havoc in Kenya, 56 deaths confirmed due to flooding

The deaths of at least 56 people and an unknown number of missing people have been reported from Kenya after unusually heavy East African monsoon rains lashed the country causing heavy flooding and massive landslides. The current rainy season has been branded as unusually heavy by the Kenya Meteorological Department and had already caused more than 50 deaths in the country since the beginning of October.

Climate Policy

Out in numbers: India’s adivasis and forest dwelling communities pressurised the government this fortnight to withdraw proposed amendments to the Indian Forest Act, 1927 | Photo:

India’s tribals fight for their lands; govt withdraws proposed amendment to forest act

Forest land in India is also in danger of being lost to development. But forest dwellers and the tribal population are fighting back, even at the risk of being silenced. This was more than evident when hundreds of forest dwellers gathered in Delhi on November 21 ahead of the Supreme Court’s hearing in the Forest Rights Act, 2006, (FRA) case. During the hearing of the case, at least eight states in their affidavit have said that they did not follow the procedures laid down under FRA when rejecting claims over forest land.

The protest was a culmination of a series of protests by forest-dwellers over two weeks across the country. Their collective voice has most definitely made a difference. The government has withdrawn proposed amendments to the Indian Forest Act, 1927. But not all voices are being heard. Some are being stifled. According to reports, 10,000 adivasis have been charged with sedition for trying to protect their land. The Mizoram government also revoked the Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA) that was meant to protect the forest rights of adivasis and other traditional forest dwellers. Critics of the move allege the state government misused Article 371 (G) to revoke the act.

Deforestation in Amazon highest level in a decade

Looks like Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is making good his poll promise of developing the Amazon. Deforestation in the Amazon has officially hit its highest level in more than 10 years – nearly 10,000 sqkm lost between August 2018 and July 2019, according to satellite data from the Brazilian space agency.

Meanwhile, Brazil’s environment minister Ricardo Salles said this fortnight that the country was looking for more money to fight environmental destruction. Brazil’s plan to protect its forests, however, remain unchanged even as deforestation rises rapidly.   

ECB may consider climate change risks in future bank stress tests

If you need proof that banks are waking up to climate change, here it is. This fortnight, European Central Bank (ECB) vice-president Luis De Guindos said the institution was looking into considering climate change risks in future banking stress tests.

“It is something we are paying much more attention to, especially in terms of financial stability,” he said. A methodology to calculate the risks is yet to be fully developed and is likely to be introduced only by 2022.

German parliament gives nod to climate protection law

In a big boost to Germany’s 2030 carbon-reduction target, its lower house of parliament approved a major climate protection package. Approved after months of back and forth between the government in power and the opposition, critics still feel the package is inadequate and doesn’t address the urgent challenges of climate change.

German cabinet ministers, meanwhile, have urged the EU to take a leading role at the COP25, to be held in Madrid, Spain, next month. The country’s environment minister Svenja Schulze called on the EU to increase its climate ambition and lead by example.

GCF partners with Chilean private equity firm, defaulting Indian bank

Is this a case of blind trust or lazy due diligence? The Green Climate Fund (GCF) has agreed to partner with a private equity firm in Chile, which is in the news for unrest, and an Indian bank mired in financial instability.

The investment company in Chile, Fynsa, manages the portfolio of wealthy clients and luxury real estate as the country suffers its worst social unrest in years, sparked by wealth inequality. In India, the GCF is teaming up with a subsidiary of IL&FS, which is one of the country’s leading infrastructure finance companies, and has been mired in controversy after defaulting on payments. Some GCF board members have expressed their ‘unease’ over the decision.  

Malaysia assures its palm oil will meet EU standards by 2021

Malaysia, which is the second-largest producer of palm oil after Indonesia, has promised regulations that will ensure the country’s palm oil meets the food safety standards being considered by the European Union (EU) by 2021.The country has not exactly been welcoming of the new regulations, It had, last month, said the new EU rules could potentially harm demand of palm oil for food – it is used in bread and chocolate spread, among other products. Malaysia is also concerned about the high costs palm oil producers would have to incur in order to meet the EU regulations. The industry is already struggling to meet Malaysia’s own national green certification standard by next year.

Air Pollution

Inside the blast radius: The Supreme Court this week once again took state and central governments to task over their ineffectiveness in curbing stubble burning and improving air quality in the NCR | Photo: IndiaTVNews

Top court rebukes Centre, states over polluted air: Better to bomb ‘all in one go’

India’s top court has said governments must compensate people if they fail to provide them with clean air and drinking water. The Supreme Court issued notices to all state governments and UTs asking why citizens should not be compensated. The bench said governments of Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and UP should compensate people living in Delhi. The court asked the chief secretaries of all four states to draw up a long-term plan to deal with air pollution. 

The court said Delhi has become “worse than hell (narak).” The judges were unsparing in their criticism as they said, “Why are people being forced to live in gas chambers? It is better to kill them all in one go, get explosives in 15 bags at one go.” 

Amongst G20 countries, air pollution deaths maximum in India: Over 1 million every year

Of the G20 countries, maximum number of air pollution deaths take place in India: over 10 lakh people every year. The report titled Brown to Green, by  Climate Transparency Partnership, based on World Health Organisation (WHO) data, said that G20 countries will have to significantly scale up their 2030 emission targets, and those of climate adaptation and finance in order to meet the Paris agreement 1.5 Degree Celsius goal. The report pointed out that India will have to cut emissions to below 4.5 Gigatonne of equivalent CO2 (GtCO2e) by 2030 and to below 3.2 GtCO2e by 2050 to be compatible with global 1.5°C IPCC scenarios. But since India currently produces 73% of power from coal, its 2030 nationally determined contributions (NDC) would only limit its emissions to 6 – 6.3 GtCO2e, the report said.

Environment ministry seeks Rs1.69 lakh crore to fix air pollution

India’s environment ministry has sought Rs 1.69 lakh crore from 15th Finance Commission to curb pollution across India, with 60% weightage to be given to north India (Indo-Gangetic plains). The ministry proposed to spend the money on “pollution abatement measures: which include controlling crop stubble burning, transition to electric vehicles and procuring e-buses and related infrastructure. the ministry said its current financial resources are less than what they need. The ministry also asked for Rs62,438 crore for catchment area treatment and forest restoration grants and another Rs1.35 lakh crore for improving degraded land and the ground water levels in states.

Green court orders states to set up air pollution monitors, raps pollution watchdogs over letting off polluters, gives Feb 15 deadline

Orders from India’s green court, National Green Tribunal (NGT), are falling on deaf ears it seems. The NGT has yet again ordered state pollution control boards across the country to install air pollution monitoring stations within a year and start submitting quarterly reports to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). The court came down heavily on the states for failing to recover fines from polluters in the 100 industrial clusters across the country over the past 5 years. The court gave CPCB less than three months to complete the task of collecting penalties by February 15, 2020. The CPCB threatened “coercive action” against top officials of state boards if they fail to collect the fines. The NGT had ordered to collect Rs1 crore fine from big polluters, Rs50 lakh fine from medium-scale industries and Rs25 lakh from small-scale industries. Ten polluting industrial clusters are in Gujarat alone. The green court also directed the CPCB to revise and review its mechanism to set up new industries in polluted areas.

7,000 brick kilns closed till Dec 15, Green court says raise fine on bursting firecrackers in Delhi

The green court (National Green Tribunal) said the fine of just Rs 1000 on bursting firecrackers in Delhi is inadequate and is not acting as a deterrent. The court ordered Delhi government to increase the fine according to the class of violators and the frequency of violations. The NGT has also ordered to close over 7,000 brick kilns in the National Capital Region till December 15 and has sought report of their impact on Delhi’s air quality. The court disallowed kilns using cleaner zig zag technology from functioning as well. 

Punjab, Haryana to pay cash incentives to farmers to stop stubble burning

Punjab and haryana governments will pay farmers Rs 25,00 cash incentive per acre to stop them from burning crop residue. Following top court order, the governments decided to offer incentives by calculating the amount on average 25 quintal of crop per acre. Haryana will pay Rs 1000 more if farmers hire technology to hire straw baler units. Farmers want the incentives to be permanent feature and to be offered before the harvest. Haryana produces 50-55 lakh tonne of stubble annually. The state plans to set up Compressed Biogas Plant with Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. to dispose off its stubble. Haryana’s power minister said 24 firms have proposed 38 projects to set up a CBG plant of 234 tonnes per day capacity in Haryana.

Niti Aayog to install tech to decompose crop stubble in situ

Government of India’s policy think tank Niti Aayog plans to install technology to decompose crop stubble in the fields within a year. It has asked the Indian Agriculture Research Institute to conduct field trials as concerns over rising air pollution from stubble burning refuse to leave national headlines. The Aayog will work out a budget for quick adoption of the technology from next year after the field trials. Currently the technology to decompose the stubble in-situ is available only in labs. The technology will involve using decomposers either in form of liquid, or capsules that would decompose the stubble in a couple of weeks. In the first week of November air pollution in Delhi reached 500 mark.

Fine companies, individuals for non-compliance of clean air norms: CII-Niti Aayog report

Individuals, companies and power utilities who own or service any property should be fined 5-10 percent of the project cost if they fail to comply with ambient air quality standards, recommends CII-Niti Aayog report. Air pollution monitoring should be strengthened and those not complying with air quality standards should be punished suggests CII-Niti Aayog report. The report recommends random checks by local bodies and real-time monitoring by state pollution.

Nanoparticles from burning diesel cause brain cancer: Study

For the first time, the ultra fine particles (UFP) produced by burning fuels have been linked to brain cancer in the latest research. The nanoparticles particularly released from diesel vehicles in higher concentrations significantly increases chances of brain cancer, the research said. The research calculats the cancer risk roughly equivalent to moving from quiet street to a busy street that could result in one extra cancer case every 100,000 people exposed. Scientists say that since everyone is exposed to air pollution, the number of cases become a lot. The study offers strong evidence as it analysed the medical records and pollution exposure of 1.9 million adult Canadians from 1991 to 2016. The presence of toxic nanoparticles from air pollution in human brains was made in 2016. Earlier in 2019 research established that air pollution may be damaging every organ and virtually every cell in the human body.

Ola-Microsoft to collect street-level air quality data in Delhi-NCR

Ola cabs will collect real time data on air pollution from Delhi streets through sensors attached on the cabs. This will be done in collaboration with Microsoft research. The data will be made public to help researchers. Ola researchers said unlike their system, most other air-quality sensors do not reflect the street-level pollution. They said that PM 2.5 data along with traffic and speed data can provide information on bad air-quality hotspots in Delhi and the project can be replicated across other cities to support the implementation of National Clean Air Programme.


Forcing change: The AP government remained steadfast in its resolve to reshape its RE policy as it pushed through major reforms including the withdrawal of energy banking facilities | Photo: DNA India

Andhra Pradesh changes renewable energy policy to prevent ‘financial drain’ of discoms

Andhra Pradesh government made key changes in its renewable energy policy, including withdrawal of facility for energy banking, which according to the government was causing a huge financial loss to discoms. The government said the audits have revealed that solar, wind and hybrid power projects reported abnormal spurt in power purchase cost, ruining the financial health of discoms. The changes in the policy are significant in the backdrop of the new government’s policy of reviewing all power purchase agreements entered into by the previous TDP regime with renewable energy companies. The previous government’s policy enabled 100% banking of energy all through the year which was considered as deemed purchase by Discoms at 50% of the average pooled power purchase cost. This caused a loss of around Rs 5,000 crore to discoms, the new Jagan Mohan Reddy government said.

India mulls new law to protect global investors

Following Andhra Pradesh’s decision to cancel renewables energy agreements over high tariffs, Centre is planning to announce new law that will provide for penalties to prevent state governments from taking any such step.  Centre has warned the Andhra Pradesh government against scrapping PPAs signed by the previous government, as it would badly impact India’s ability to attract foreign investments and the sanctity of legal contracts. “Once the Act is brought in by the finance ministry, it will be binding on all states,” the Mint quoted government official.

20,000 MW of renewables projects stuck over land clearance issues, PM steps in 

Indian prime minister has asked his cabinet secretary to intervene and expedite clearances of renewable-energy projects that are stuck over the issues of land, right of way and forest clearances. The Green Corridor Projects worth Rs 10,141 cr for installing 19,000 MVA intra-state transmission have been stuck over clearances in 8 renewable energy rich states of Tamilnadu, Rajasthan, karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, maharashtra, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh. The transmission lines will help evacuate 20,000 MW of clean power by 2020.

Renewables investment dropped steeply last year in India, China: BNEF survey

Latest survey by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) says new investment in wind, solar and other clean energy projects dropped to $133 billion in 2018 from $169 billion in 2017, mainly because of a slowdown in Chinese investment. Investment by India and Brazil also declined, because of lower costs for solar and wind. China’s clean energy investment declined to $86 billion from $122 billion in 2017. The survey of 104 emerging markets and found that developing nations were adopting cleaner power sources, but not enough to limit CO 2 emissions or the impacts of climate change. But, coal power consumption and production rose in developing countries to a new high of 6,900 terrawatt hours (TWh) last year, from 6,400 TWh in 2017.

Solar installations increased in first 9 months of 2019, solar power generation falls

Mercom research says solar installations in India increased 44% in Q3 2019 reaching 2,170 MW, compared to 1,510 MW in Q2 2019. Year-over-year installations increased by 36% compared to 1,592 MW in Q3 2018. Researchers added that solar installations in Q3 2019 beat the declining trend seen over the past five quarters; but Mercom revised forecast down for 2019 as over 1 GW of projects have been delayed. The rooftop market continues to be weak over cash crunch and consistent regulatory issues, Mercom CEO Raj Prabhu said. Projects have been delayed over legal issues, land problems, execution delays, tariff approvals, policy issues of Andhra Pradesh state, Mercom said. Over 200 MW of projects are likely to be canceled due to delays in commissioning, which will result in companies losing their bank guarantees. 

The Central Electricity Authority (CEA) said solar power generation numbers declined by 14% quarter over quarter (QoQ) in the third (Q3) quarter of 2019. Solar power generation in India was at 10,530 million units (MUs). Experts say it is normal in monsoon season for solar generation to fall. Solar power generation numbers, showed increase by 25% year-over-year (YoY) compared to  Q3 2018.

SECI manufacturing-linked solar energy auction receives good response

Solar Energy Corporation of India Ltd’s (SECI) latest auction of 5GW solar energy projects has been received with enthusiasm by developers. Adani Green Energy, Azure and Navyug have submitted bids for a total of 10 GW projects, and a tariff based reverse auction is expected to be conducted by SECI later this week. The news will come as a respite for the state-run entity as investments in renewable energy have slumped over the past year. The new auction is for manufacturing-linked projects in which developers will have to set up solar equipment manufacturing capacity of 1 GW and power generation projects of 4 GW in a project with total capacity of 5 GW.

Cash for consumers? Delhi discom BSES plans solar power trading at individual level

Delhi’s power discom BSES Rajdhani Power Limited (BRPL), is set to launch a blockchain-based platform on a trial basis for consumer-to-consumer solar power trading. This will allow consumers to monetise their rooftop solar power infrastructure. Rooftop solar infrastructure owners can sell their excess solar energy to their neighbours even if they do not have rooftop solar power, said a BSES spokesperson. The discom has collaborated with Australia’s Power Ledger, in the blockchain technology, to launch the consumer-to-consumer solar power trading on a trial basis. No hardware device or investment is needed to sign up to the Power Ledger platform. The technology utilises close to real-time data from smart meters to facilitate peer- to-peer trading.

India seeks $1 billion state loan to clear discoms’ debt

After commercial banks’ reluctance to lend money to debt-ridden discoms, India has asked state lenders to provide $1 billion to help discoms clear longstanding debts to green power firms, Reuters reported. The discoms owe solar and wind power generators including Goldman Sachs-backed ReNew Power and Softbank-backed SB Energy over 97 billion rupees ($1.35 billion), according to the Central Electricity Authority. Centre has asked state lenders Power Finance Corp Ltd, REC Ltd and IREDA to extend short-term securitised loans to the discoms at preferential rates, the report added. 

Foreign investment is key to India’s renewables target- a slowdown in overseas funding could hurt India’s pledge to increase adoption of renewable energy.

Tamil Nadu told to revise ‘irrational’ tariff order, pass fresh tariff order for renewables power

Tamil Nadu has been asked to pass fresh tariff order to procure renewable power, after renewable power lobby complained that the tariff’s were set irrational. The Appellate Tribunal for Electricity (APTEL) has asked the Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Commission’s (TNERC) to revise tariffs after National Solar Energy Federation of India Limited (NSEFI) and Welspun Renewables Energy Private Limited (WREPL), challenged the state’s tariff order saying that the tariffs were irrational, were set arbitrarily, and were not based on sound legal, regulatory, and economic principles. In a separate case APTEL directed Gulbarga Electricity Supply Corporation Limited (GESCOM) to clear all dues of renewable developer Azure Power by November 29, 2019, Mercom reported.

China to cut renewable power subsidy to $807 million in 2020

China has said it will reduce renewable power subsidy to $806.5 billion (5.67 billion yuan) in 2020 from 8.1 billion yuan in 2019. China is withdrawing subsidies to renewable power providers since they are expected to achieve grade price parity with coal plants. China’s first three quarters in 2019 marked 16 gigawatts (GW) of new solar installed capacity. New solar installations in 2019 will be as much as 25 GW, down from 41 GW last year, due to easing subsidies on centralised solar projects, experts said. In 2021 Cina plans to end subsidies for onshore wind projects.

Electric Vehicles

Struggling for mileage: The Rs.10,000 crore second phase of FAME is yet to gain momentum as cash-strapped transport departments fail to make most of the central government incentive | Photo: The Better India

E-bus push scuttled by tough rules and cash strapped state transport utilities

Centre’s push for EV adoption, with Rs 10,000 crore FAME II subsidy, is failing to gain momentum because state transport departments are either cash-strapped, or they are asking high bank guarantees for each EV they procure, resulting in high bids by investors determined to minimise risks. Delhi government, for example, is asking for Rs 20 lakh bank guarantee for each EV bus they buy, as opposed to Rs 2-3 lakh demanded by other states. Some states transport utilities are so cash strapped that they are allegedly paying salaries to their staff from the EV subsidy money. To successfully get the subsidy, states need to finalise tenders within three months and assure delivery of e-buses in 12 months.

Meanwhile India’s Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar informed parliament last week that about 2.85 lakh buyers of electric/hybrid vehicles have been supported with subsidies worth Rs 360 crore under the FAME India scheme.

AP cancels plans to introduce e-buses into state transport fleet

The push to integrate electric buses in to Andhra Pradesh’s public transport was scuttled this week as the state announced that it was dropping plans to introduce 350 electric buses into the Andhra Pradesh State Road Transportation Corporation (APSRTC) fleet. After initially downsizing requirements from 1000 e-buses to 350, the tender floated in September was cancelled altogether on the directions of Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy. The decision was reportedly taken after allegations of favouritism in the tendering process were raised.

Dubai offers free EV charging till 2021

Private EV owners will be allowed free charging till the end of 2021, as per a new initiative by the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA)’s EV Green Charging Initiative. The announcement follows Volvo’s similar announcement of offering free charging for its XC 40 ReCharge crossover for the first year, and the Arabian city expects 10% of new car sales to come from EVs till 2020.

First electric racing aircraft debuts at Dubai Air Show

White Lightning, the world’s first electric racing aircraft, has been unveiled at the Dubai Air Show and is expected to fly at 300 kmph for five minutes at full throttle. The aircraft will be flown at the AIr Race E — which will start in 2020 — and has been developed by the UK’s Condor Aviation, which is backed by Airbus.

Electric aviation is fast gaining prominence, and even Boeing is working with Porsche to develop the first electric flying car. The prototype can ferry two to four passengers for up to 50 miles. 

Mercedes-Benz, Continental to slash jobs over slowing IC engine sales

Germany’s Mercedes-Benz is reportedly planning to slash 1,000 jobs and trim €1.65bn in operational costs as it invests more in EVs and struggles to cut losses over slowing sales of its premium IC engine cars. The cuts will be instituted by 2022 and the firm will reign in investments in equipment, research and property as well. Engine manufacturer Continental too will slash over 5,000 jobs by 2028 as IC engines struggle to meet tightening emissions norms across the EU.

Fossil Fuels

More delay on the cards? The Finance Commission rejected requests by the Power Ministry for Rs. 83,500 crore to fund compliance with tighter emission norms | Photo: China Daily

India: Funding for retrofitting coal plants could be rejected, over half could miss deadline

$11.6billion of funding for retrofitting India’s coal plants, to make them comply with the tighter emissions norms notified in 2015, may be rejected by the country’s Finance Commission. The funds were requested by the Power Ministry and the retrofit must happen by the end of 2021.

Also, private thermal plants that together have a debt of around $11billion have contended that the process is simply too expensive for them to undertake at this time. And Reuters has reported that over half of India’s 166.5GW worth of coal plants could miss the 2021 deadline, as banks are reluctant to lend to already stressed plants, and because the amount of time remaining.

UN Production Gap report releases damning figures

A new report by the UN on global fossil fuel production finds that global coal production by 2030 is likely to be 150% more than what’s compatible with the 2C target for limiting global warming, and 280% more than what’s needed to stay below 1.5C. It has also warned that an increase in natural gas production across the world would negate the fuel’s lower carbon footprint and instead cause a net increase in global warming. Additionally, the report outlines the risk of fossil fuel assets going stranded as and when strict climate policy forces countries to prioritise clean(er) technologies. 

Global coal power set to decline by 3% in 2019

An analysis of the monthly data from the electricity sector from around the world for the first 7-10 months of 2019 indicates that electricity production from coal is set to fall by 3% in 2019- the largest drop yet on record. If trends sustain for the rest of the year, 2019 would become just the third year in three-and-a-half decades to show decline in coal power output. The decline suggests an economic hit for coal plants worldwide due to fewer running hours (set to fall to an all time low) however global coal use and emissions remain much higher than levels required to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.

EIB to end fossil fuel funding in 2021

The European Investment Bank (EIB) has announced that it will end funding for fossil fuel projects by the end of 2021. The decision was previously planned for end-2020, but will nevertheless throttle funding for even natural gas projects. Under the new policy, EIB will require any new gas projects to utilise cleaner technologies, such as combined heat and power (CHP), carbon capture and storage (CCS), and mixing renewable gases with that extracted from under the ground.

China, India adding enough new coal power to negate closures elsewhere

A report by the Global Energy Monitor (GEM) has found that between January 2018 and June 2019, China added 42.9GW of new coal power, and 148GW more is currently under construction. India too added 82GW of new coal power since 2014 (while retiring 7.4GW) and together this could negate the emissions offset by other countries stepping up their coal phasedown. The capacity addition is fully incompatible with targets under the Paris Agreement, and yet, another report suggests India could even expand its coal output by an additional 402 million tonnes per annum by 2025.

India to tweak revenue sharing model to boost commercial coal output

India’s coal ministry has announced it will offer up to 20% reduction in revenue collection from bidders who extract coal from the country’s soon-to-be-opened commercial coal mines, in order to attract operators to start early. The Centre is already considering a minimal entry criteria for eligible bidders for the 15 large coal blocks identified, each of which could produce 4 million tonnes every year.