Newsletter - February 20, 2019
India injects $6.5 billion into rooftop solar and solar pumps
The Indian government has allocated a whopping Rs. 46,000 crores (about $6.5 billion) to boost the country’s ailing rooftop solar sector and to catalyse the uptake of solar pumps for agricultural use. The funds will be released over 2019-2022, and includes up to 30% of capital subsidy by the Centre for residential associations interested in installing rooftop solar systems (for up to 4GW of the 40GW targets).
Special focus has been directed towards the diesel-pump reliant (and emissions heavy) agricultural sector. Similar subsidies will be available for farmers who wish to install solar-powered pump sets under the KUSUM scheme – for a target of 1.75 million units – and the excess electricity they generate will be retailed to the local DISCOM under a feed-in tariff mechanism. The scheme hopes to add 25.7GW to the country’s 100GW solar target for 2022, while also offsetting 1.2 billion litres of diesel consumption and 27 million tonnes of CO2 emissions every year.
The unusually heavy hailstorm that turned Delhi’s suburb of Noida into a snowfall-like site on February 7 was not a freak weather event, reported LiveMint. According to the report, senior government scientists have concluded that the event had a pattern similar to climate change and warned of more extreme weather in the future. Scientists from the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, used high-resolution climate models, and found that the extreme precipitation events are increasing during winter because of the western disturbances and it is largely because of climate change.
Climate change to worsen battle for resources between species
The steadily rising ocean temperature (the increase in sea temperature from 2017 to 2018 equalled 100 million times more than a Hiroshima bomb) is melting away the hunting grounds of polar bears, forcing 50 of the large carnivores to enter a Russian town in search of food. Local residents had to lock themselves indoors to avoid attacks, reported The Conversation. Scientists warn that this kind of aggressive interaction is only going to increase because of climate change.
Reports pointed out that in Australian kangaroos invaded human residential areas recently, and the heat wave in Canada (over 40°C) forced authorities to sprinkle water on the bats in the region to save them from dying. Wild and thirsty elephants in South Africa have trampled crops and raided community water tanks. Experts say climate change will exacerbate the battle for resources, both within and between the species.
Massive rise in methane levels worries scientists
Latest research has found a massive increase in atmospheric methane, which scientists said has increased sharply over the past four years across the planet. Scientists called for urgent action to stop the rise as it threatens to destroy global efforts to contain global temperature rise to 2°C. Professor Euan Nisbet, one of the paper’s lead authors, called the discovery ‘alarming’ because the exact cause for the rise in methane levels is not known.
Methane is generated by cattle, decaying swamps, coal mines and natural gas plants. Some experts believe the spread of intense farming in Africa may be one of the reasons.
Study: Everyday climate change killing US coastal trade
New study says that coastal businesses in the US are sinking because of climate change as warming seas flood shops and parking lots. The study says the sea level in Annapolis, in the US state of Maryland, is rising at about twice the global rate. “What we’re seeing on the east coast now is a preview of what we’re going to be seeing on the west coast in the future as the rate of sea-level rise continues to climb,” the researcher said.
According to the US agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, worldwide sea levels were three inches higher in 2017 than the 1993 average, and they continue to rise one-eighth of an inch annually.
Alarming study: Insects, essential for ecosystems, may vanish within a century
The first scientific review of the health of planet’s insects has revealed disturbing findings according to which over 40% of the world’s insect species are heading for extinction, eight times faster than mammals, birds and reptiles. Insects are vital for the survival of all ecosystems, and the review forcefully highlights the global nature of the “catastrophe”.
Two progressive movements have been growing steadily between the Atlantic and Europe. One that started in the US and reached the UK, while the other started in Sweden and reached the US.
US Democrat Ms. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal is not just an ambitious climate plan, but a comprehensive one plan designed to prepare the American economy for a low carbon transition. Named after the famous Roosevelt’s famous post- economic depression plan ‘New Deal’, GND involves debt restructuring, employment guarantees and much more. More recently, UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn met with one of the architects, Zack Exley, to discuss the UK version of the GND, but had to face opposition from within the party over what it would mean for Britain.
Meanwhile, the student strikes, initiated by the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, has snowballed into a youth movement for climate action across Europe. Greta’s movement reached the UK recently. The ‘Youth Strike for Climate’, stormed the UK on February 15, resulting in Prime Minister Theresa May criticising students for missing school. For India’s Prime Minister Modi, Greta recorded a special message asking him to take action now and stop ‘bragging about little victories’. The protest is picking up momentum for a global strike to be held on March 15.
Student climate strike gains momentum for March 15 showdown
Call it ‘Youth Strike for Climate’, or ‘Fridays for Future’ (F4F): Triggered by Swedish teen Greta Thunberg’s school strike for climate, the student-led environment movement reached the UK on February 15, picking up momentum for a global student strike to be held on March 15. Last week, thousands of schoolchildren walked out of classrooms across Europe to hold climate strikes “to make leaders pay attention” and ramp up their climate targets.
While UK’s Conservative prime minister Theresa May slammed the teenagers for disrupting schools, the students urged the grownups to “act now” as they “did not have time anymore.” Labour party’s Jeremy Corbyn, however, backed the students on Twitter for skipping school to save the planet.
Teen’s blunt message to PM Modi: Stop bragging, act now to stop climate crisis
Sixteen-year-old girl Greta Thunberg delivered a video message on Facebook to PM Modi telling him to act now and not “brag about little victories”. Addressing Mr Modi in her blunt style, the Swedish teen said: “…you need to take action now about the climate crisis, not just talking about it because if you keep on going like this, doing business as usual, and just talking about and bragging about the little victories, you are going to fail and if you fail, you’re going to be seen as one of the worst villains in human history in the future. And you don’t want that.”
Greta has become an icon since she stopped going to school in August 2018, and launched a school strike for climate, shaming heads of states and governments over refusing to take concrete climate action and conducting business as usual.
Green New Deal: US leaders take the message to the UK
After the Democrats launched the Green New Deal (GND) in the US – which is a sweeping campaign for green economic stimulus to decarbonise the US economy (zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050) – the radical idea reached Britain last week. UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn met with one of the architects, Zack Exley, to discuss the UK version of the GND, but had to face opposition from within the party over what it would mean for Britain.
Exley had advised US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the draft resolution for a massive green economic stimulus. Writer Jedediah Britton-Purdy wrote in New York Times: “In the 21st century, environmental policy is economic policy. Keeping the two separate isn’t a feat of intellectual discipline. It’s an anachronism.”
France introduces 2050 carbon-neutral law
The French government has proposed plans to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, but environmentalists are concerned that the government wants to expand the role of nuclear energy. If the proposal is passed in Parliament, France would drop its earlier plan of lowering emissions to a quarter of 1990 levels by 2050, and go completely carbon neutral by 2050 instead.
The country has also proposed to increase the target of cutting the use of fossil fuels from 30% to 40% by 2030. But, at the same time, it also proposes to delay the plan of cutting down nuclear power (to 50%), in 10 years (from 2025 to 2035) and reduce the target of cutting energy consumption from 20% to 17%.
Laurence Tubiana, CEO of the European Climate Foundation, said she was “delighted to see the 2050 carbon neutrality target appear in the law.”
European Commission: Palm oil not a renewable biofuel
The European Commission’s new draft law says biofuels produced from palm oil will no longer be classified as renewable biofuel. The law is slated to be passed in the next two months. According to experts, if land use is also taken into account, palm-oil-based biodiesel releases three times more greenhouse gases than fossil fuel diesel because of the deforestation palm oil plantations necessitate.
However, two of Indonesia’s presidential candidates – the country that accounts for most of the world’s palm oil production – have said that they would slash the country’s reliance on imported diesel fuel and promote energy “self sufficiency” by boosting production of palm oil-derived biodiesel.
Norway to release payments to Indonesia under $1-billion deal for cutting forest emissions
Indonesia will finally start receiving payments from the $1 billion deal it signed with Norway 10 years ago, after it successfully managed to cut down deforestation rates in 2017. Norway will release the first instalment (estimated to be about $20 million) for reducing warming emissions. Indonesia banned culling of forest under the 2010 climate deal, with payments linked to the progress on lowering carbon emissions from trees, after they decompose on being cut, or burned.
Indonesia has the world’s third-largest tropical forest, but the country is also the world’s largest producer of palm oil – plantations for which are a major reason why the Indonesian forest cover is being stripped away.
EU ministers back UN chief’s call to raise climate targets
EU foreign ministers have supported UN chief Antonio Guterres’s call asking countries to raise climate ambitions, the key reason for the climate summit he has convened on September 23 this year. According to Climate Home News, the UN chief has already approached G20 leaders for the summit and has received support from China and Canada.
Even as state loans to big coal utilities turn sour, India plans to give incentives worth Rs 885 billion ($12.4 billion) to help them install equipment to curb pollution and set up infrastructures for EVs. The decision comes after repeated calls by large thermal power producers for subsidies to the capital cost, and approximately Rs835 billion will be used for technology to reduce sulphur emissions of the coal power plants. Coal companies will also be allowed to pass on the expected increase in tariffs to their customers.
The Ministry of Environment had set up stringent emission standards back in 2015, but the December 2017 deadline for compliance has been extended till December 2022 as thermal power plants struggle to install the pollution control technologies.
India’s top two automakers may replace diesel cars with petrol, CNG cars
The country’s air quality may get a small, but significant boost in terms of NOx and PM emissions as India’s top two automakers, Maruti Suzuki and Mahindra, may replace their diesel-fueled cars with petrol and CNG cars. The decision is being pondered upon as the price differential between the fuels – 17.2% between petrol and diesel in January 2018, vs 7.1% today – has narrowed to a point where the extra input cost on diesel vehicles is no longer justified.
However, while Maruti may even completely abandon its diesel lineup, Mahindra may continue to use diesel power plants for its large SUVs.
Cooking roast dinner causes indoor pollution ‘worse than Delhi’
US researchers have found that roasting a meal of meat and vegetables at home causes indoor pollution ‘worse than Delhi’. The roasting makes air inside homes far dirtier than the world’s most polluted cities, scientists said. Roasting on a gas burner releases soot and tiny organic particles from gas flames, vegetables, oils and fat together, shooting up the deadly PM2.5 particulate matter inside the house to levels 13 times higher than those measured in the air in central London.
According to the researchers, PM2.5 levels in the house after roasting rose to 200 micrograms per cubic metre for an hour – much higher than Delhi’s the 143 micrograms per cubic metre average and central London’s average of 15 micrograms per cubic metre.
Toxic air: What Delhi can learn from London
Invest in clean public transport on priority and provide improved agricultural equipment to farmers to put an end to biomass burning – that’s the advice of a UK expert on cleaning Delhi’s polluted air. Professor Frank Kelly, chair in environmental health at King’s College London, told Times of India that investment in clean industries is also essential.
The report compared what London is doing right that Delhi isn’t. For example, the city levies a £10 “toxic charge” on old polluting vehicles and an £11 congestion charge, it follows emission standards that are expected to reduce NOx emissions by 50%, it offers an over £300 million subsidy to retrofit buses, and runs zero-emission taxis.
Air in Patna, Varanasi and Kanpur worse than Delhi: Study
As Delhi hogs maximum press for its killer air, a recent report by IIT Kanpur on episodic air pollution for 45 days in October and November found that Patna, Kanpur and Varanasi are more polluted than the national capital, recording 70% “poor” and “very poor” air quality days. Based on data collected from October 15 to November 30, 2018, from low-cost monitoring devices installed in nine cities, Delhi ranks 4th in pollution levels with 51% “very poor” days, followed by Jaipur and Ranchi. Here’s a reminder from experts that air in other cities in India is not any better, and episodic air quality, mostly in north Indian cities, falls to levels worse than Delhi.
Kolkata to get 15 more manual AQI monitoring stations
The West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB) will install 15 more manual air quality monitoring stations in Kolkata to get to the specific sources of pollution in the city. These stations are among 31 monitoring units the state government plans to set up across the state of West Bengal for which tenders have been released. Pollution Control Board official told Times of India that sources and degree of pollution are place-and-time specific which is why area specific units are important to record fluctuations.
Bloomberg, TERI to support India’s National Clean Air Programme
Bloomberg Philanthropies and Delhi-based think-tank TERI will help India resolve issues related to air pollution under its ambitious National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), reported Times of India. TERI statement said it would help mitigate air pollution — both at the national level and in a group of Indian cities, “through emission inventories and source apportionment studies”.
The joint project also plans to formulate action plans to tackle air pollution on the basis of data and increase capacities of stakeholders. Under NCAP, 102 cities in India will be funded for city-specific plans to reduce air pollution by 25-30% by 2024-25.
Top Court blocks Vedanta’s plan to restart polluting copper smelting plant
In a huge victory for the local population of Tuticorin, the Supreme Court of India has set aside the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) decision allowing Vedanta to restart its polluting 400,000 metric tonne copper smelting plant in the city. The top court allowed the firm to move the high court against the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to shut the plant following massive anti-pollution protests of May 2018 that claimed 13 lives. The NGT had set aside the state government’s orders of the shutdown, calling it “unjustified”.
BP’s latest annual Energy Outlook report says renewable energy sources will be the world’s main source of power within the next 20 years. The oil giant says that wind, solar and other renewables could account for about 30% of the world’s electricity supplies by 2040 – up from 25% in BP’s 2040 estimates last year – and about 10% today.
BP also expects China’s energy growth to fall sharply as its economic expansion slows. The report notes that in the next 10 years, India will overtake China in energy demand growth, although China may remain the largest energy consumer in 2040.
India’s power generation needs more flexibility: ETC
At the 2019 World Sustainable Development Summit, the Energy Transition Commission (ETC) along with TERI and Climate Policy Institute released their analysis on India’s Renewable Energy (RE) transition. The study looks at reforms needed in power generation, which will allow for a flexible electricity system that is able to include the variability of wind and solar, and seek supply from existing power sources.
The CPI report stated India could integrate 390GW of wind and solar energy generation by 2030 at a cost that is lower than the current trajectory. The report looks at technologies available that could help existing as well as planned power systems to increase and decrease power generation based on demand.
The study further highlighted that the cost of solar and wind in India is expected to decline to 1.9 – 2.3/KWh and 2.3 – 2.6/KWh respectively. According to the analysis, India could achieve 45% of power generation from non-fossil sources by 2030, which exceeds India’s Paris climate commitments by 5%.
SoftBank wins big chunk in India’s wind power pie
Japan’s SoftBank won the biggest chunk (325 MW) of Solar Energy Corporation of India’s (SECI) 1,200 MW wind project, followed by Adani and ReNew-owned Ostro Energy (250 MW and 300 MW respectively). Softbank-led SB Energy quoted a tariff of Rs2.83 per unit. Adani and Astro were the lowest bidders for the tender quoting Rs2.82 per unit. The entry of SoftBank is encouraging for the flailing Indian wind power sector, which is currently going through a slowdown over issues of infrastructure and availability of land.
Andhra Pradesh sets new solar target: 5,000 MW by 2023
The Andhra Pradesh government’s new renewable policy has a target of setting up 5,000 MW of solar capacity by 2023, with several incentives to industry, reported the Economic Times. Under the new norms, power distribution companies (discoms) would procure 2,000 MW of solar power in the next five years. Andhra Pradesh will also offer incentives to private solar companies for 10 years, according to the report. The state government will also help firms acquire land to set up solar power projects, ensure water supply and get necessary clearances.
Report: India to add 11.4GW solar capacity annually for the next few years
S&P Global Platts has released a new report that says India is slated to add 11.4 gigawatt (GW) of solar capacity annually in the next few years. The report has also highlighted land acquisition, financial health of DISCOMS and grid availability as key risks to a smooth solar deployment in the next decade. However, the sector may slow down on the policy front as the 2019 general elections edge closer.
India to invest over Rs8,000 crore in assisting domestic solar players
In a boost for India’s flailing domestic solar manufacturers, the government has given its nod to Rs8,580 crore for development of solar power projects under the second phase of the Central Public Sector Undertaking (CPSU) scheme. When completed, these projects will add 12 GW capacity to India’s power grid between the years 2019-20 and 2022-23.
This move is expected to give much-needed impetus to India’s domestic photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing sector, which is struggling to keep up with the Chinese solar industry juggernaut that is thriving thanks to an oversupply in its domestic market, allowing the country to sell solar panels abroad at a significantly cheaper rate.
Tamil Nadu’s wind power developers get stay on auction over low tariff ceiling
The battle between renewable energy developers and government agencies over ceiling tariffs heated up this month. The Indian wind energy manufacturers’ lobby – the Indian Wind Turbine Manufacturers Association (IWTMA) – got a temporary stay from the electricity tribunal on Tamil Nadu’s wind project auction over the issue of low tariff ceilings. Traditionally, governments have been adamant on imposing limits to keep the tariff low, much to the chagrin of developers.
This case is no different. Last year, Tamil Nadu’s power regulator, Tamil Nadu Electricity Regulatory Authority (TNERC) set a feed in tariff of Rs2.80 per unit. But Tamil Nadu’s main discom, the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Co (TANGEDCO) wanted to conduct a wind auction of 1500 MW at a ceiling price that was even lower, Rs2.65 per unit, forcing the IWTMA to petition the electricity tribunal.
China plans to put solar power station in space
China is taking its solar power ambition to even greater heights with plans to set up its first station in space. According to the Chinese media, the solar power station, which will orbit 36,000km above Earth, will be able to tap the energy of the sun’s rays at night as well, without interference from the changing seasons or the atmosphere. Scientists said the station would have guaranteed power supply 99% of the time, at six times the intensity of solar farms on Earth.
A new four-year study by the International Council for Clean Transportation (ICCT) reports that the electric variant of the VW Golf – Europe’s best selling car – was cheaper to own and run than its petrol and diesel variants across Norway, Netherlands, Germany, France and UK. The cost advantage was due to electric cars enjoying lower/no registration taxes, lower parking rates and lower “fuel” expenses. The study again drives home the economic incentives of switching to e-mobility.
However, where Norwegian electric car owners enjoyed the highest savings over diesel (27%), UK’s recent rollback of EV incentives caused its residents’ savings to fall to the lowest, at 5%.
France to pump in €700 million to boost local EV battery manufacturing capacity
French president Emmanuel Macron has announced that the country will invest €700 million over the next five years to set up EV battery manufacturing capacities – both in France and in Germany – to counter the heavy influx of Chinese batteries. Macron expressed concern that Europe did not have adequate manufacturing capacities of its own, and that it was so dependant on Asian imports.
His plan has already found support from French automakers PSA (Peugeot’s parent brand) and Renault, who have agreed (in principle) to source EU-made EV batteries.
Delhi’s draft EV policy to expand, cover all LCVs for electrification
The Delhi government will reportedly expand the freight category defined under its 2018 draft EV policy to cover all light commercial vehicles (LCVs). Most of these are diesel-powered and used as delivery vehicles, as well as for last mile connectivity. The step is being taken as it could help reduce the vehicular pollution load on the city.
The government is also planning to explore battery solutions other than swappable batteries. Funding for subsidising the electrification of these target vehicles – and setting up the requisite charging infrastructure – is mostly likely to come from the state’s EV fund.
A new ASSOCHAM-Grant Thornton report on stressed assets suggests that investments worth Rs2.5 lakh crores (nearly $35 billion) in India’s thermal power projects – including 55GW of coal-fired plants and nearly 7GW of gas-fired facilities – are currently under immense financial stress. Fuel supply issues, lack of power-purchase agreements (PPAs) and regulatory hurdles have been found to be responsible, but a resolution may be unlikely as the Centre may even cancel 50GW of existing coal plants soon.
The future of an additional 46GW of coal-fired capacity (currently under construction) also looks uncertain over similar challenges, and due to stiff competition from India’s expanding solar capacity.
India to double oil & gas exploration blocks, establish NE gas grid for steady supplies
The Indian government has invited bids for 23 new oil and gas and coal-bed methane blocks spread over 31,000 sq. km. This would double the area under exploration to 1.8 lakh sq. km., and the move is aimed at reducing the country’s reliance on costly imports.
Also, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has declared his intention to turn Assam into an oil and gas hub for the North-East. India has again stressed that oil and gas will be important fuels for its future energy mix, and new gas pipelines in the region will be a step towards expanding the country’s switch from coal to the relatively cleaner natural gas.
Landmark Australian ruling refuses new coalmine permit over GHG emissions
A court in Australia’s New South Wales (NSW) has denied permits for the proposed Rocky Hill coal mine over its potential greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The decision sets a first-of-its-kind precedent for coal-heavy Australia, which is quite likely to miss its climate targets because of its high emissions.
However, the court’s ruling has been challenged by the Institute of Public Affairs, which maintains tha restricting Australia’s coal industry poses a “sovereign risk” to the country. Nevertheless, three more mines, owned by prominent coal miners Glencore, Peabody, Kepco and Whitehaven, have now come under the crosshairs for a similar review.
Japan’s Itochu exits new coal, two US coal plants to be axed over poor economics
Japan’s Itochu group has decided to exit all new coal mining and power projects over the fuel’s impact on climate change. The group is one of the top 10 investors in Australian coal and has also sold its stake in Australia’s Rolleston coalmine.
Itochu’s exit adds to pullouts by Marubeni Corp., Mitsubishi and Dai-Ichi in 2018, and is further bad news for Australia’s coal mining industry, since Japan accounts for nearly 44% of the country’s thermal coal exports.
Meanwhile, two 50-year-old coal plants (with a cumulative capacity of 1841MW) in Tennessee, USA, will be shut down by 2023 as their ballooning costs make them too expensive to operate. The decision comes despite President Donald Trump appointing two members on the plants’ governing boards to keep them open.
Saudi Arabia to expand oil & gas operations globally, India to relocate Aramco refinery
The Saudi Arabian energy minister Khalid al Falih has announced the kingdom’s decision to expand its oil – and particularly natural gas – operations by tapping into overseas reserves. The country is reportedly looking to invest in LNG facilities in Russia, and is eyeing investment opportunities in the US and Australia as natural gas becomes an increasingly important fuel.
The decision is part of the kingdom’s strategy to continue to wield influence over global energy policies, and comes despite its Crown Prince calling for an end to the country’s “dangerous addition to oil”. The minister, on the other hand, has stressed that oil and gas would account for as much as 50% of the country’s revenues, notwithstanding any suggestions of a scale-down.
Meanwhile, as the Saudi prince commences his official visit to India, the proposed $44 billion petrochemicals refinery in Ratnagiri district, Maharashtra (to be owned by India, Saudi Arabia and UAE), will be relocated – possibly elsewhere in the state. Local farmers are opposed to the project over its potential ecological impact, but it is rumored to be very high on the list of priorities for the visiting prince – and not an investment opportunity India wants to let go of.
Swedish shipping to go carbon-neutral by 2045
Sweden’s shipping industry has agreed to stop using using fossil fuels (within domestic waters) and go carbon-neutral by 2045, to align itself with the larger national deadline. The announcement even comes with the admission that the stiff target was “challenging, but not impossible”.
The industry has, however, requested the government to introduce tax breaks and set up a fund to foster innovations in low-carbon transport, as shipping is almost completely dependant on fossil fuels.
Massive blow to UK fracking industry as govt refuses to loosen earthquake tremor rules
The UK’s fracking industry was served a massive blow to future prospects as the government has refused to loosen its limits on earthquake tremors. Current UK regulations call for an immediate suspension of fracking operations for 18 hours following a tremor of over 0.5 magnitude on the Richter scale, and the government’s refusal has been hailed as “essentially an end to the fracking industry”.
That may well be, since similar regulation in the US kicks in at 4.0 on the Richter scale due to its different geological makeup and lower density of population. The UK fracking industry giants Cuadrilla and Ineos have termed the limit “absurd” and “unworkable”, and the refusal is particularly bad news in light of discoveries of 6 trillion cubic metres of gas in Scotland – which could serve the UK’s gas demand for 30 years.