How far can India lean on a dwindling global carbon budget?

Newsletter - September 17, 2020

No room to expand: Unless the West leads rapid decarbonisation efforts, it remains highly unlikely that India and other developing countries will get their fair share of the carbon pie | Photo: Constructionknowledge.net

How long can India lean on a dwindling global carbon budget?

The global pandemic may have given us a glimpse into what a low-emission world would look like and renewed hopes of a better future amidst all the doom and gloom. But the United in Science report, published by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) last week, has dispelled this unfounded optimism by revealing just how far away we are from flattening the climate curve. 

The report, a collation of previously published literature along with updates, has flagged the 2016-2020 period as the warmest five-year period on record — a trend which is likely to continue. It further highlighted major increases in the global population vulnerable to floods in coming decades. Polar ice melt, it said, was pushing sea levels up by one metre every year, placing coastal populations across the world at increasing levels of risk. The report also flagged changes in land use and predicted major disruptions in agriculture and the food supply chain as climate impacts and extreme weather conditions worsen.

But the most worrying trend is the rise of global GHG emissions. Global CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels are still rising, according to the report. The rate of growth of fossil fuel CO2 has fallen to close to 1% per year in the decade since 2010 compared to 3% per year in the preceding decade. This should be good news, but it fails to inspire confidence when seen in contrast to the reductions that would need to be met in order to achieve Paris Agreement goals. Total human-induced emissions in 2019 were found to be around 42.9 gigatonnes of CO2 (GtCO2). 

Carbon emissions are directly correlated with the earth’s warming trend. So the cumulative carbon budget is basically a box, the dimensions of which are determined by levels of warming — the lower the acceptable level of warming, the tighter the dimensions and vice-versa. With allowable carbon fixed at a certain volume, if one country overshoots its carbon budget, others have to compensate by forfeiting parts of their share, if the accepted limit of warming is to be met. The West, especially the EU and the US, has consistently overshot its budgets, posing a problem for developing countries such as India, which are trying to achieve high economic growth while also being amongst the most vulnerable to climate change. But there may be a way out of this conundrum — it entails delinking carbon with growth. India’s coal separation anxiety, however, may prove to be a hindrance.

Where does the global carbon budget stand?

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on 1.5°C warming (IPCC SR 1.5), released in 2018, the world has a cumulative budget of 770 GtCO2 before the warming limit of 1.5°C is breached. In the past two years alone, more than 11% of this budget has been spent. At current levels, the entirety of the budget will be exhausted in about 16 years in the absence of rapid expansion of capacities to suck carbon out of the atmosphere. Adding to the uneasiness that these numbers provoke is the fact that global emission profiles and budgets do not account for natural variations in GHG emissions through events such as wildfires and permafrost melt, which are likely to eat up substantial chunks of the remaining carbon space.

Simulations included in the IPCC report show that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require CO2 emission reductions by up to 45% relative to 2010 levels by 2030. Since 1990, the rate of CO2 emissions has been rising at more than 0.5 GtCO2 every year. Reductions recommended in SR 1.5 imply that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require emission levels to drop to 18.63 GtCO2 per year by 2030, a reduction of nearly 57% compared to 2019 levels.

So just how well has the world responded to this challenge? Not very, according to the Global Carbon Project report from late last year. Although the US and EU, which together represent about a quarter of the total global emissions, have registered moderate emission reductions of 0.5% and 1.4% respectively over the 2009-18 decade, this falls way short of the required reductions. Global lockdowns to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic saw fossil CO2 emissions fall by an unprecedented 17% in April, sparking beliefs that fossil fuels would never see pre-pandemic peaks again. Initial reports following reopening measures around the world show these theories to be premature. According to the United in Science report released last week, CO2 emissions had returned to within 5% of levels seen in 2019 by early June 2020.

India’s share of carbon pie

Over the past 30 years, India has rapidly climbed the global emissions listings. China, the US and India now occupy the top three places in terms of national CO2 emissions. Along with the EU, the trio contribute nearly 60% of the world’s total CO2 emissions. 

Over the past decade, India saw a 5.1% growth rate in CO2 emissions. After years of sustained growth, the trend was bucked in 2019, when emissions growth fell to just 1.8%, while fossil CO2 emissions actually registered a decline. The reductions, attributed to a slowdown in the Indian economy, is likely to continue in 2020 following months of disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While India’s environment ministry expects to see a fall in absolute emissions by up to 8%, the reductions have come due to massive impacts of the pandemic on energy demand in the country and not due to measures taken at the policy level.

Although India’s rising emission levels have attracted the ire of western observers, the absolute emissions give only half the picture. India has long led developing nations’ argument in climate negotiation that the principles of historic accountability and equity be applied to carbon emissions and reduction commitments. Despite the recent rise in emissions, India has historically contributed just 3% of cumulative emissions since 1751. In comparison, the EU and US account for almost half. Further, India’s GHG footprint is distributed among over 1.3 billion people who each account for 2 tonnes of CO2, while per capita GHG emissions in North America are close to 10 times as much.

What has ensued is a high-stakes game of poker where each player is vested in keeping their cards as close to their chest as possible. “Industrial emissions are tricky and are highly politicised. While monitoring of emissions is still not extensive yet, we can extrapolate our industrial emissions through other data sets. We have to be careful with what numbers we give official weight to since these could conceivably be used against us on the international stage. This is why official estimates have been limited to the GHG flux from India’s vegetation. Although this provides only half the picture, it also helps India protect her interests,” R.Krishnan, executive director at the Centre for Climate Change Research in Pune’s Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, told Carbon Copy when asked why this crucial detail was left out of India’s first climate change assessment report, released in June.

If shares of the carbon pie were to be decided in accordance with current national shares of the global GDP, India would be allotted about 77 GtCO2 from the common carbon budget of 770 GtCO2 for warming to be limited under 1.5°C. However, since the carbon budget, which estimates future volumes of carbon in terms of its warming effect, is an extension of historic accumulation of carbon, the historic disparity is a key point of contention in determining national shares of any common budget. Independent analyses have provided an estimate of what India’s share under different scenarios should be if such historic responsibilities were accounted for.

According to estimates published in the Asian Journal of Environment & Ecology in early 2019, India’s share of the global carbon pie in a 2°C warmer world (with a 66% probability) would be about 194 GtCO2 if a baseline of 1990 was considered. Under more recent baseline emission conditions of 2005, the projected Indian share was found to be just below 180 GtCO2 over the next 15-30 years. By comparison, India has an annual footprint of just around 4.3 GtCO2 and it would take 40-50 years, under current Indian emission levels, to reach these cumulative levels.

Why India should delink growth from carbon

India, and other developing nations that have had low contributions to climate change historically, may rightfully be owed a bigger share of the carbon pie. However, there is a catch. Since the carbon budget is a common global pool, the realisation of expanded budgets for developing countries is predicated on the ability of developed nations to suck carbon out of the air. So far, there has been little evidence to suggest that carbon sequestration capacity is set for any significant scale up.

What further sets the odds against India is the fact that the country is also among the most vulnerable to climate change impacts. Thus, any increase in carbon emissions, while it may be righteous, will likely lead to increased public health costs and damages from climate change impacts.

India has long argued for the continued use of coal citing the principles of equity and historic responsibility, which allow the country to expand its carbon footprint significantly in the foreseeable future. While India’s stress on RE capacity addition has contributed to the slowdown in its emissions growth, leaning on its rights to a larger share of the carbon pie might eventually prove to be counter-intuitive. 

Conventionally, economic growth and carbon emissions have gone hand-in-hand. This correlation, however, has become more challenging as renewables become cheaper and new associated costs of fossil fuels in terms of damages to environmental and health emerge. While India has done well in terms of improving emission intensities in the industrial sector, coal still remains a huge drag on India’s climate efforts. Although the RE sector has hit a bump over the past couple of years, India in recent months has made all the right noises to state its intentions to become a renewable energy manufacturing hub. While the transition to cleaner transport options has got off to a slow start, newly released state-level EV policies (and more in the pipeline) are seen as crucial to improve India’s demand and manufacturing capacity. Infrastructure and agriculture remain areas where nascent steps towards decarbonisation have been seen, but this is yet to evolve into a larger trend. The potential though is unmistakable.

For India, the question seems to be moving away from ensuring its rightful share of the global carbon budget. The country’s policy makers must now contend with whether pursuing this share is even desirable.


Climate Science

Facing the heat: Wildfires in California have burned through 3.2 million acres of land since the beginning of this year | Photo: LA Times

Wildfires continue to blaze through US west coast; California guv calls it ‘climate emergency’

Massive wildfires continued to rage in California, killing at least 19 people in this past month and burning through 3.2 million acres of land, which is larger than the US state of Connecticut. 

California governor Gavin Newsom said the situation was a ‘climate emergency’ and declared that the debate on whether climate change is real was now over. US president and climate sceptic Donald Trump, however, blamed poor fire-control measures of the raging blazes.

In Oregon, more than 500,000 people (more than 10% of the population) were asked to evacuate amidst raging wildfires that have destroyed more than 900,000 acres of land in the past few days. At least three people were killed and five towns destroyed as the state battled fire conditions that have not been seen for the past 30 years. 

In south-western US, migratory birds have been falling dead by the thousands while heading south for the winter. A possible explanation for this, according to experts, could be the massive wildfires in the west of the country that may have pushed the birds to course correct away from coastal areas and towards the Chihuahuan desert, where food and water is scarce, forcing them to starve to death.

Hurricane Sally, meanwhile, is inching its way closer to the country’s Gulf Coast and threatening ‘catastrophic flooding’. The residents of Mississippi and Louisiana have been asked to evacuate as the region is hit with its second storm in less than a month. Five tropical storms are currently churning in the Atlantic Ocean for only the second time in recorded history. 

Greenhouse gas levels hit record high this year despite COVID-19 lockdown: UN report

Despite lockdowns across the world because of the COVID-19 pandemic, greenhouse gas emissions hit a record high this year, according to a new UN report. According to the report, there was a slight dip because of the pandemic, but it wasn’t enough to create a dent in C02 levels that are now the highest they have ever been in the past 3 million years. According to the report, concentration of CO2 hit 414.38 parts per million in July, compared with 411.74 ppm a year earlier.

Earth set to lose two-thirds of wild animal population this year: Report

A new report released by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) stated that the world was on track to lose two-thirds of its wild animals this year. The report found a 58% drop in animal populations between 1970 and 2012, and the losses were on track to reach 67% by 2020. The study blamed pollution, destruction of wild habitats and hunting for the mass extinction. The animal species mentioned include endangered elephants and gorillas to the less popular salamanders and vultures. 

Study predicts displacement of 1.2 billion people due to climate crisis in next 30 years

As climate change escalates, more than a billion people are likely to be displaced in the next 30 years, according to a new report. According to the study by think-tank Institute of Economics and Peace (IEP), 1.2 billion people are living in 31 countries, including Nigeria, Angola and Uganda, which are ill-equipped to deal with the increasing ecological threats. Countries such as India and China are likely to be worst hit by water scarcity, according to the study.

Another study published in the journal Nature Climate Change stated climate migration is taking place mainly in middle income and agriculture-dependent populations. This was because the impact of climate change was mainly on factors such as rainfall, temperature, storms, cyclones and floods, according to the study. While people living in poorer countries don’t have the means to migrate in cases of extreme weather, those with high incomes are able to absorb the consequences, the study stated.


Climate Policy

Over and out: Shutting down older coal plants would be a more economical option rather than trying to retrofit them to make them emissions compliant, according to a new report | Photo: Econews

Shutting down India’s older, under-construction coal plants could save ₹1.1 trillion: Report

In a major boost to exit-coal campaigners, a new report estimated that the shutting down of older and under-construction coal power plants could not only cut down on emissions but also save the government, power distribution utilities and the consumers around ₹1.1 trillion. The report by environment consultancy firm Climate Risk Horizons (CRH) that shutting down of old power plants (20 years and above) alone could save up to ₹530 billion over five years and across 11 states. 

The report stated that shutting down older plants would be a more economical option rather than trying to retrofit them to make them emissions compliant because the latter requires additional expenditure. 

Maharashtra govt to declare 600 acres of Mumbai’s Aarey colony as ‘reserved forest’

Days after Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray asked his government to look for an alternative site for a Mumbai Metro car shed, which was to be built in Mumbai’s green lung Aarey Milk Colony, comes some more good news. The government said 600 acres of the area will be declared a ‘reserved forest’. The area will be clear of any infrastructure projects and may either be opened for eco-tourism or a night safari or may be left as is, the government said. 

Can’t declare flamingo hotspots in Navi Mumbai to be conservation reserves: CIDCO

Maharashtra planning agency City Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) has quashed a bid to declare flamingo dense regions in Navi Mumbai, which is on the outskirts of Mumbai, as conservation reserves. The agency, instead, termed these areas as ‘developable land parcels’ and pointed to the fact that revenue records show them as saltpans. 

Several flamingos migrate to the Talawe wetlands in April and May each year. CIDCO claimed it had built several bunds along the region’s coastline for development and accused local fishermen of breaking these bunds for fishing, which allowed creekwater to create several ponds. These regions, therefore, don’t qualify as wetlands according to 2017 wetland rules, CIDCO claimed.  

Google’s lifetime carbon footprint now zero: Sundar Pichai

Google declared its carbon footprint is now zero because it invested in ‘high-quality carbon offsets’. The company claimed it became carbon neutral in 2007. Google CEO Sundar Pichai said Google next aim is to run all its offices and data centres on carbon-free energy by 2030.  

EU parliament’s environment panel votes for 60% emissions cut by 2030

In a move to update its emissions target, the EU Parliament’s environment committee voted in favour of a legally binding target that ensures 60% emissions cut by 2030 as compared to 1990 levels. The EU is seeking to make the economy climate neutral by 2050. The committee is set to formally seal its approval of the law with another vote on Friday. The EU parliament will vote on the law in October. 

UK climate assembly proposes taxes on frequent flying, ban on private planes

A UK climate assembly called for a levy on frequent flyers and a ban on private jets and helicopters. The citizens’ assembly was tasked with finding ways to decarbonise the country’s economy by 2050. The assembly was in favour of taxing air travel not only based on the duration of flight but also the frequency of travel. If implemented, this would be a major change for a system that does not tax frequent fliers at all.

Poland to push ahead with $40-bn plan to build nuclear power plants in bid to phase out coal

As part of its plan to phase out coal, Poland is looking to go ahead with its $40 billion plans to build nuclear power plants. The first unit is set to come online in 2033, the government said. Coal accounted for 74% of the country’s electricity generation last year, which was one of the highest levels in the EU. The government estimated that the nuclear power plants would reduce coal’s share in power production by 11%-28% by 2040.


Air Pollution

Compensations due: A joint panel comprising experts from CPCB and IIT-Roorkee have recommended hefty fines on NTPC and Essar Power for two incidents of breached ash dykes in Singrauli last year | Photo: Iamrenew.com

Expert committee recommends imposing huge fines on NTPC, Essar Power for ash dyke breaches in Singrauli

The disastrous twin breaches of toxic ash dykes at two large coal plants in Madhya Pradesh’s Singrauli district will cost the owners NTPC and Essar Power ₹104 crore and ₹7.35 crore respectively. The two have already paid an interim fine of Rs10 crore. The latest fine was assessed by a joint panel of Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee, which gave its loss and damage report to the National Green Tribunal (NGT). 

The companies have paid for the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ash clean-up operations and water pollution. GHG emissions were computed from fuel burnt in the clean-up operations of spilled ash, total diesel used, density and weight of diesel. Specific carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from diesel were used to estimate total CO2 emissions during clean-up operations, according to reports.

The water pollution cost accounted for the quantum of water polluted from the discharge of ash slurry. The amount of suspended solids build-up due to ash slurry was also assessed. The breach occurred because of the increased volume of water in the ash pond following heavy rain, the report stated

Govt retrofits ACs with filters to improve indoor air quality, avert COVID-19 in govt offices

To avert the risk of COVID-19 and improve the indoor air quality inside government buildings, India launched the initiative titled Retrofit of Air-conditioning to Improve Indoor Air Quality for Safety and Efficiency (RAISE). Conducted by state agency Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), the programme invites bids for installing almost 3.7 million filtration systems to be fitted with air-conditioners and ventilation equipment in government offices.  

The government has exempted medium and small-scale enterprises from the payment of earnest money deposit, EMD and bid processing fee. The scheme is part of EESL’s initiative to improve indoor air quality in partnership with the US Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Maitree program. In June, the agency ran a pilot retrofit project with installations of a network of air quality monitoring systems and found “dramatic improvement” in the air quality in offices with “over 90-95%” reduction in pollutants, Mercom reported.

Telangana’s Singareni coal mines under green court scanner

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has sought a detailed report on the impact of Singareni coal mines on the air and soil quality of the region in Telangana’s Khammam district, which has damaged the health of the people living near the mines. A team of the district collector of Khammam, a senior officer of environment ministry, a senior officer of Telangana pollution control board and a senior officer from the department of mining and geology have been ordered to inspect the area and submit a report by November 9. 

A previous investigation by the Union ministry of environment had found that the coal mines had damaged the environment. A similar investigation by the district collector had also found the Singareni coal mines responsible for damaging air and soil quality of the region, but business continued as usual. 

Power minister vows to get India to move to electric cooking 

In a move that is expected to reduce indoor air pollution and cut emissions, India’s power minister RK Singh said the government is planning to introduce electric cooking “in a big way” to Indian households. 

This will also help reduce import of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), India’s main cooking fuel. India is the world’s second-largest importer of LPG. The power minister said the shift will also make cooking affordable for the poor. India’s planning body Niti Aayog had introduced the idea in 2017, but it didn’t take off then because the power supply was still patchy in rural areas, ET reported. Now the power connections are much widely available and there’s a surplus generation capacity, the government claimed.

After Europe, makers of Merc to pay $1.5 bn fine in the US over pollution cheat device 

The makers of Mercedes-Benz, German car company Daimler, will pay $1.5 billion to resolve the US government’s claims that it designed its diesel vehicles to cheat air pollution tests. The firm had installed software to evade emissions laws in 250,000 Mercedes cars and vans.

Daimler denied the charges, but said they were resolving these proceedings to avoid lengthy court actions with respective legal and financial risks. Apart from the $1.5 billion settlement with US authorities, Daimler will also pay $700 million to car owners.

In 2018, Daimler recalled more than 700,000 vehicles in Europe that had “defeat devices” installed. BMW and Porsche have also recalled cars over cheat devices.


Renewables

Net gains: A complete shift from fossil fuels to renewables in north India would add up to 2 million new jobs according to a new study | Photo: Council on Foreign Relations

Renewable energy sector can employ 5 million people in north India by 2050: Study

A new study by Climate Trends and Finland’s Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology (LUT) revealed that the National Capital Region (NCR) of Delhi, one of the world’s largest metropolitan areas, can become carbon neutral by 2050 by using low-cost renewable energy in an integrated energy system across the sectors of power, heat, transport and industry. 

The study estimates that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in northern India can be reduced from 825 metric tonnes of carbon-dioxide equivalent (MtCO2eq) in 2020 to zero by 2050 across all energy sectors. According to the study “the deep de-fossilisation of northern India’s energy system” would generate five million jobs by 2050, compared to nearly three million jobs in 2020 with the current fossil-based energy system.

The study finds that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in northern India can be reduced from 825 metric tonnes of carbon-dioxide equivalent (MtCO2eq) in 2020 to zero by 2050 across all energy sectors as well as create five million new jobs.

India sets new RE target at 220 GW by 2022

India will increase its clean energy capacity from 134 GW now to 220 GW by 2022. This was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s message that was read out at the World Solar Technology Summit organised by the International Solar Alliance.

India’s state-owned oil companies will be able to operate at least 50% of their fuel stations on renewable energy by 2025, petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan said. The minister pointed out that three state-backed fuel retailers Indian Oil Corp, Hindustan Petroleum Corp and Bharat Petroleum, which run 63,150 fuel stations across India, have begun installing solar panels across their operations. They have currently installed a combined 270 megawatts (MW) of solar power capacity and will add 60 MW more capacity in the coming year, he said.

India’s non-fossil fuel energy share reached 34% in August 

As power demand picked up three months after the coronavirus lockdown was lifted in June, India’s share of electricity from non-fossil fuels in the month of August was 34%, a notch higher than the 32% recorded in August 2019. The power generation however, was 13% lower on a year-on-year basis, DTE reported.

Experts pointed out this is a seasonal summer peak. The share of electricity sourced from non-fossil-fuels — including renewable energy, hydro energy and nuclear energy — usually peaks during the summer months, especially when it rains, DTE said. This surge in demand is met by increased generation from hydro-electric plants and supported by renewable energy.

Discom dues to renewable energy company rose to $1.4 billion by July 2020

Indian power distribution companies (discoms) owed $1.4 billion to renewable energy developers by July 2020.  The state of Rajasthan has the maximum overdue of nearly $4.8 billion, out of which ₹331.47 billion (~$4.49 billion) has been unpaid for more than 60 days.

Tamil Nadu’s pending payment was at $2.58 billion of which ₹168.07 billion (~$2.28 billion) has been overdue for more than 60 days. Uttar Pradesh’s massive dues touched nearly  (~$1.8 billion), out of which ₹107.83 billion (~$1.46 billion) has been unpaid for more than 60 days

Europe’s power supply could be 80% fossil fuel free by 2030: Industry study

A study by Europe’s industry association Eurelectric said almost 80% European Union’s electricity could be fossil fuel-free by 2030. The report revealed that by June 2020, renewables generation accounted for 40% of the electricity mix and fossil fuel generation dropped by 18% year-on-year to 34%.

In 2010, renewables accounted for 20% of the EU’s electricity mix. To meet the EU’s 2030 climate targets, wind and solar capacity must double and obstacles must be overcome, the report stated.

COVID-19 pushing global energy giants to invest in renewables

Fossil fuels may remain their main business, but COVID-19 has forced a ‘great reset’ among global energy companies. The pandemic has shrunk world oil consumption by over 20% in the second quarter and prices hit their lowest in decades. 

Malaysian state energy company Petronas posted a $5 billion loss in April-June and has set up a team to reshape its portfolio and expand in solar and wind for power generation. Oil giants such as BP entered the offshore wind energy sector with a $1.1 billion Equinor deal, while Chinese state energy companies PetroChina, Sinopec and CNOOC Ltd tiptoed into renewables as they continue to prioritise hydrocarbons for China’s energy security needs.

Besides expanding into solar and wind for power generation, more energy companies are researching blue hydrogen produced from natural gas and using carbon capture and storage (CCS) to reduce emissions in the process. The hydrogen could be used in power plants and fuel cell vehicles. Royal Dutch Shell is involved in biomethane, biofuels and hydrogen and has done “significant work” on CCS, Shell’s vice president said.


Electric Vehicles

New hub for EV charging: Each one of India's 69,000 petrol pumps may get an EV charging kiosk and thus address range anxiety concerns, if its power minister's latest proposal goes into effect | Photo: The Statesman

India may get EV chargers at all 69,000 petrol pumps, 6,490 new e-buses by 2022

India’s power minister suggested to oil marketing companies (OMCs) that each of the country’s nearly 69,000 petrol pumps be fitted with an EV charging kiosk. If implemented, the move would be a huge step forward as range anxiety is a critical factor limiting the adoption of EVs. The plan will be supported by compulsory EV kiosks at all OMC-owned petrol pumps and chargers on highways. However, no details were made available on the timeline of the project or the type of chargers that would be installed. 

Meanwhile, research firm JMK Analytics said that India could add an impressive 6,490 new electric buses by the end of FY22, with 1,850 units in 2020-21 and 4,640 in 2021-22. It says that so far the country has 1,031 e-buses under FAME-I, 80 of which are in West Bengal, followed by 75 in Himachal Pradesh and 70 in Maharashtra. 

VW-backed QuantumScape claims major breakthrough in li-ion battery technology 

USA’s battery start-up QuantumScape claimed in a major announcement that it has solved the problem of using pure metallic lithium in li-ion batteries — at least under laboratory conditions. Pure metallic lithium would previously explode and catch fire if it came in contact with liquids (such as electrolytes). 

If perfected for commercial grade li-ion battery packs, the development could boost the charge capacity of the batteries by an incredible 50%. QuantumScape is backed by the VW Group and by billionaire Bill Gates, and VW—which is battling Tesla for dominance in the EV market — expects to launch the technology by 2025. 

New diesel, petrol car buyers to pay over £1500 more in the UK? 

A feasibility report by Britain’s department of transport (DfT) has recommended that the buyers of polluting diesel and petrol cars must pay upto £1500 more towards making electric cars cheaper. The report also noted that the public support for such a scheme, which penalises buyers of new combustion engine cars was low. Britain plans to phase out petrol and diesel cars completely by 2035. 

France and Sweden already have the so-called feebate schemes. According to car manufacturers and the traders’ lobby In the UK, electric cars accounted for only 5% of total sales in the year to August. The car industry is opposed to plans that punish petrol and diesel buyers rather than incentivise electric car sales, the Guardian reported. 

Uber confirms plans to go 100% electric by 2040

Global ride-sharing giant Uber confirmed that all cars on its network will be 100% electric by 2040. Uber has around five million drivers around the world and the plan will be partly funded by an $800 million corpus from the firm itself, which it will spend on subsidising its drivers’ vehicle charging expenses. Starting September 8, the firm will also pay its electric car drivers in the US and Canada an extra $1 per trip to incentivise “driving green”. Its rival, Lyft Inc., will go fully electric by 2030, but without any support to its drivers.

Owner drives Tesla Model 3 up to Everest basecamp

A Tesla Model 3 owner from China drove the car all the way up to the basecamp at Mt. Everest (at an elevation of 16,900 feet), demonstrating an electric car’s superior performance over conventional cars, which lose around 3% of their rated power for every 1,000 feet of altitude due to falling levels of oxygen. The owner was also able to drive the car all the way from Shenzen, which is 5,500km away in southern China, without any range anxiety as he was able to access EV chargers at every single hotel he stayed at along the way.


Fossil Fuels

Curtains: The record low prices of shale gas and its grim future outlook have made Schlumberger sell off its North American fracking business, perhaps for good | Photo: Taz.de

Schlumberger offloads North American fracking business

One of the world’s largest oilfield equipment providers, Schlumberger Ltd., has sold off its American and Canadian fracking businesses after months of the COVID-19 pandemic causing a precipitous drop in oil and gas prices. Schlumberger’s decision follows similar exits by Weatherford International and Baker Hughes Co., and reflects the possibility that shale gas from the US’s Permian Basin may never come back to pre-pandemic levels of profitability. 

While its fracking equipment, OneStim, has been bought by Denver-based Liberty Oilfield Services, the decision to sell the fracking business is a stark reversal from Schlumbeger’s $430 million acquisition of Weatherford’s fracking unit less than three years ago. 

British fracking firm sues Slovenia govt over “unreasonable” EIA request

British fracking firm Ascent Resources is suing the Slovenian government over its request that the firm conduct an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to local water quality at a proposed fracking site in the country. Ascent had signed a fracking deal with Slovenia in 2007, but the outgoing Slovenian government was in the process of banning the practice within its borders. 

Ascent has said in its lawsuit that the demand for an EIA was “arbitrary and unreasonable”, even though the UK itself has banned fracking over its adverse impacts. The firm is also using the EU’s Energy Charter Treaty (ECT), under which firms can demand compensation for projects that were signed upon but are later cancelled by partner nations over climate concerns. The site in question is at Petišovci in eastern Slovenia and Ascent has so far invested €50 million into the project.

Germany’s unprofitable 1.6 GW Moorburg coal plant to shut down after just 5 years 

Germany’s largest and newest coal unit, the 1.6GW Moorburg plant in Hamburg, will be shut down by the middle of next year after having started operations only in 2015. The plant’s owner, Sweden’s Vattenfall Group, has said that the plant is being shuttered as it is no longer profitable, despite being highly modern and efficient. The facility was commissioned amidst heavy protests, but it also failed to be connected to Hamburg’s heating network in 2019 as the city wanted to phase out coal power for heating applications. 

Vattenfall will now bid for a shutdown premium under Germany’s 2038 coal phaseout target, and curiously, the firm’s own internal target to exit fossil fuels now stands at 2030. 

Coal India to restart discontinued underground mines, India to gasify 100 MT of coal 

Coal India Ltd. (CIL) is reportedly getting ready to restart production from discontinued underground coal mines to boost its output to one billion tonnes a year by 2023-24, and it has identified 12 such blocks that together hold 1,060 million tonnes (MT). Some of the blocks were discontinued as long as 20 years ago because of factors such as the economic unviability of extracting the deep-seated reserves and the lack of appropriate technology at the time. However, coal from deep underground is said to be of better quality and four of the blocks have coking coal deposits, which are rare in India. This development comes quick on the heels of record fall in profits reported by the coal giant for the first quarter of the 2020-21 fiscal year.

India’s coal minister Pralhad Joshi also announced that the country will gasify 100 MT of coal by 2030 to produce syngas, petrochemicals and urea for fertilisers. The production will be undertaken in three phases, but the rationale behind it has been stated by the minister as to “harness the nation’s reserves for maximum utilisation while heading on the path to sustainability as per global standards”. 

City gas operators finally get force majeure guidelines from oil and gas regulator board

City gas operators have been given some relief through the new force majeure guidelines issued by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB). In a September 2 notice, the PNGRB detailed conditions eligible for time extensions. This gives some clarity to city gas operations which had been hit hard due to the COVID-19 lockdown since March 25. PNGRB has set 15 days as the time limit within which intimation of the force majeure has to be made, after which the duration of relief measures will be decided by the board.

“In the event of authorized entity being rendered unable to perform any obligation required to be performed by it as per the work program, due to force majeure, the relative obligation of the entity affected by such force majeure shall be suspended for the period during which such force majeure lasts,” PNGRB said. Riots, natural disasters and government enforced restrictions have been included in the list of events that would be considered for time extension requests by operators.