India needs to step on the gas to win the global green hydrogen race

A lack of trust between the developed and developing world, largely over the issue of climate finance, needs to be addressed for the COP to become a success this year, say experts  Read more

Hydrogen-powered strides? India’s energy security dreams, as the Prime Minister envisioned in his Independence Day speech last month, will rely heavily on the expansion of green hydrogen in the country | Photo:

India needs to step on the gas to win the global green hydrogen race

Intentions aside, there are a series of issues that the country must urgently resolve in order to have a real chance of becoming a global hub for green hydrogen 

In August, CarbonCopy published a twopart essay on net zero. Given the green creative destruction that would accompany such a transition, the essay wondered how carbon neutral energy systems would reshape the world. Some countries and companies will fashion fresh competitive advantages for themselves–and emerge as the new suppliers of energy (or the technology that produces it). Some countries and companies will also transition better to the new energy systems. They, too, will profit.

How is India placed within this larger flux? What factors enable and disable our energy transition? 

Over the coming weeks, CarbonCopy will try to answer that question. Our first report looks at India’s chances of becoming a big player in the global hydrogen market. 

Clean energy hawks were thrilled by Narendra Modi’s speech this Independence Day. Speaking from the Red Fort, India’s Prime Minister said, “We have to make India a global hub for green hydrogen production and export.”

The statement was the latest in a series of government and private-sector announcements about hydrogen. In February 2021, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the National Hydrogen Mission in her budget speech. In the months that followed, a clutch of state-owned energy companies and private firms declared plans to blend hydrogen into existing fuels, to shift from fossil fuels to hydrogen, and to produce electrolysers and green hydrogen.

Then, shortly before Modi’s speech, came news about another central government plan to push green hydrogen. “[A] draft policy wants green hydrogen to account for 10% of the overall hydrogen needs of refiners from 2023/24, rising to 25% in five years,” wrote Reuters. “The respective requirements for the fertiliser sector are 5% and 20%,” an official told the newswire.

How transformative are these announcements? Hydrogen doesn’t just break the old corollary between growth and pollution—as fuel cell, it can replace liquid fuels used for transport; as raw fuel,it can decarbonise sectors like steel; as storage, it can make round-the-clock renewable power possible—it gives countries (and companies) a chance to build fresh competitive advantages.

And so, countries are vying with each other to dominate the hydrogen market. Be it to develop the best technology for producing hydrogen, to build the cheapest electrolysers, or to produce the cheapest hydrogen.

Like China did with solar manufacturing, can India capture hydrogen?

The economics of hydrogen

The answer to that question lies in how hydrogen gets produced.

As PV Magazine wrote, electrolysis (using electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen) has been around since 1800. By the middle of the 20th century, it had been refined into alkaline electrolysis. Here, voltage passes through an electrolyte of caustic salts, breaking water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Since then, newer methods have emerged. Proton exchange membranes (PEM) did away with the liquid electrolyte. Here, cells with electrodes, (mostly) platinum as a catalyst, and a polymer membrane, produce the gas more efficiently. Another technology, Anion Exchange Membrane (AEM) electrolysis, does away with the need for precious metals. There is also high-temperature electrolysis, which uses ceramic membranes to separate superheated steam into oxygen and hydrogen.

Essentially, as PV Magazine wrote, the cost of producing hydrogen comprises the cost of the electrolyser—including the maintenance and replacement of membranes—the cost of electricity consumed to create the high temperatures needed for water to split, and subsequent costs like drying, cleaning and compression of the gas, not to mention transport.

Of these, the biggest is electricity. It accounts for as much as 70-80% of the cost of the hydrogen.

As for electrolysers, they are getting cheaper, but are still expensive. In 2018, an electrolyser producing one cubic metre of hydrogen per hour cost $7,600. By 2020, that number ranged between $4,900-$6,000. Alkaline electrolysers, less efficient than those using technologies like PEM, had fallen below $3,300. There is room for further reduction. Given low sales volume, electrolyser manufacturing has seen little automation, some are even manufactured by hand.

For a while, the hydrogen market was relatively well-ordered. Europe led in R&D, especially for green hydrogen, thanks to technologies like PEM and AEM. China dominated manufacturing, producing the cheapest alkaline electrolysers in the world, at one-fifth the price of equivalent models in Europe.

Those boundaries are rapidly dissolving. To avoid a repeat of solar PV manufacturing—developed in Europe at high cost only to later move to China—the EU wants to set up at least a 6 GW line for electrolysers by 2024. In the UK, ITM Power has opened a 1 GW facility. Norwegian electrolyser maker Nel has unveiled plans to set up a new 2GW factory.

China is scaling up as well. The China Baowu Steel Group, for instance, has announced plans for 1.5 gigawatts of renewable-powered electrolyzers. So are other countries. In Australia, Fortescue Future Industries has announced a plant that will produce up to 2GW of electrolysers from 2023. This scaling up alone might cut costs by 65-75%, Bernd Heid, a consultant at McKinsey, told the Economist.

And then, there are countries like Chile, Egypt, South Africa and Oman which, riding on cheap renewable power and electrolysers made elsewhere, are trying to become hydrogen producers. China features here, too. 

Between these races, hydrogen prices are expected to fall swiftly. According to the Economist, analysts at Bloomberg NEF expect green hydrogen (made from PEM) to touch $2 by 2030. Those at Morgan Stanley are even more bullish. According to its analysts, wrote the newsweekly, “at the very best locations for renewables in America, green hydrogen will be able to match grey hydrogen’s $1/kg in “2-3 years”.”

How is India placed on each of these races?

Leading research into hydrogen

When it comes to R&D in producing hydrogen, India is a laggard.

While oil companies and government-backed scientific bodies have been studying hydrogen since 2003, disruptive technologies like PEM have originated elsewhere. As the 2016 report of the “Sub-Committee on Research, Development & Demonstration for Hydrogen Energy and Fuel Cells” chaired by professor SN Upadhayay wrote: “From the gap between international and national state of art of technologies… India has to take a leapfrog to come at par with the international level.

We have seen this in clean energy as well. Whether solar PV, wind or lithium ion batteries, says a Teri paper, their development and manufacture “occurred largely outside India”.

Some of this can be traced back to deeper causes. India is not very good at breakthrough innovation. “Whether it is pharma or any other sector, we have been better at taking ideas to market,” a renewable energy executive told CarbonCopy.

Other reasons are more prosaic. Hydrogen research is underfunded. Take the NDA’s 2020-21 budget.  It allocated just ₹25 crore to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy for R&D into hydrogen. Despite leading a large chunk of research into hydrogen, complained a researcher at ONGC Research Centre in Mumbai, oil companies have been left cash-strapped as well. “There is the hydrogen corpus fund. All oil companies have put Rs16-20 crore into a Rs100 crore fund,” he said, on the condition of anonymity.

These numbers need context. This January, Germany offered €700 million (₹6,096 crore) as research grants for firms working on offshore wind to hydrogen production, gigawatt-scale electrolyzer production, and hydrogen transport options alone. In October, France announced a $35 billion investment to build “the technological players of tomorrow”, as a part of a drive to revive the country’s industrial sector. Hydrogen is one of six sectors the country is targeting. “A lot of effort has been put into R&D. It is now time we start taking electrolysis out of the labs and start manufacturing it at a large scale,” said Gniewomir Flis, project manager-hydrogen at Agora Energiewende.

Is that where the opportunity lies for India?

Leading the world in the production of cheap electrolysers

On the condition of anonymity, an executive working on hydrogen for a large business group spoke to CarbonCopy about the economics of hydrogen in India. 

If we assume, he said, green hydrogen costs about ₹550 a kilogram, ₹158 will be the cost of power; ₹185 will be the cost of the electrolyser; EPC (the cost of setting up the whole factory) will add another ₹153, and the final ₹55 will be incurred on land.”

To bring hydrogen’s price down to ₹143 ($2), India has to score a 76% reduction in these costs.

The biggest of these costs is the electrolyser. The membrane-electrode unit—the heart of the cell—accounts for 60% to 70% of its cost. Pure materials—including precious metals—account for the rest.

As Bernd Heid told the Economist, manufacturing at greater scale is one way to reduce those costs. India is taking promising steps here. At this time, no more than a handful of sectors— like petrochemicals and fertilisers—use hydrogen. Given limited demand from them, production capacities have stayed low. But now, given new policies mandating the use of green hydrogen—not to mention ESG pressure—demand is rising.

In tandem, India is pushing large assembly lines. In September, the country announced plans to set up 5 GW electrolyser manufacturing capacity. A PLI scheme for hydrogen—similar to those incentivising large manufacturers in solar PV and batteries—is expected next year.

The potential size of the domestic market is already attracting investors. American renewable energy start-up Ohmium is setting up an 500 MW electrolyser plant in Bangalore, with plans to scale up to 2 GW. The other big company in the fray is Indian conglomerate Reliance.

Coming up on 5,000 acres in Jamnagar, the Dhirubhai Ambani Green Energy Giga Complex will have four giga-factories that will make and integrate critical components of the new energy ecosystem—solar modules, batteries, electrolysers and fuel cells. The group is using acquisitions to gain knowhow. In batteries, it picked up Ambri. In solar, it bought Norway’s REC Solar Holdings. In hydrogen, it has tied up with Denmark’s Stiesdal Fuel Technologies.

Stiesdal has designed an electrolyser that can be produced cheaply—about €200 ($231) per kW, in a market where prices typically range between €500-1,000/kW. It runs on alkaline technology, not AEM, PEM or solid oxide. By not needing rare metals—like iridium or platinum for PEM—company founder Henrik Stiesdal told ReCharge, it can be produced at scale. Not needing high temperatures to operate, it can also be bought by a wider set of customers—which gives another boost to scale.

Leading the world in production of cheap hydrogen

The third way to obtain competitive advantage in hydrogen is to export the gas itself, like Chile.

What determines success here? “Countries that have the potential to produce hydrogen at $1/kg in the near future need cheap electrolysers and cheap renewable power,” said Flis. 

Take electricity. “It takes 50-55 units of power to produce one kilo of hydrogen. Multiply that by ₹2 (solar tariffs, today) and that is ₹100-110,” said the Mumbai-based executive.

This is where things get complicated. In commodities, value chains compete with each other. And so, the competitiveness of India’s hydrogen-producing value chain (renewable powerplant > transmission > electrolyser > hydrogen plant > reconversion) will be determined by not only solar tariffs, but also the competitiveness of each of these rungs, like the efficiency of the solar equipment or the electrolyser they use.

As CarbonCopy has reported, the cost of solar equipment is rising in India. Seeking to push domestic manufacturing, the Indian government has slapped a Customs duty of 40% on Chinese modules. Since then, GST rates on solar equipment have been hiked as well. The outcome is close to a 60% increase in the cost of solar equipment, said the solar sector executive. Tariffs will rise. “Solar tariffs could cascade negatively on the competitiveness of Indian hydrogen,” said Flis.

That’s not all. Firms shipping their power across state boundaries have to pay transmission charges. And so, consider a solar unit located in Rajasthan with its hydrogen plant at Bangalore. After paying transmission charges, complained the Mumbai-based executive, “our cost of power rises to ₹4.” One option would be to convert renewable electrons into hydrogen near the renewables park itself, but moving hydrogen isn’t easy. Given its low energy density, it needs to be cooled to -252°C before transportation. Other alternatives, like storing hydrogen as ammonia, are more stable, but involve expensive reconversions.

This is another reason hydrogen exports might be a tough task. It’s an expensive fuel to move. The farther it’s transported, the greater the loss of its competitiveness vis-a-vis the fuels it seeks to compete with.

The bigger picture

What does all this add up to?

1) The race to develop electrolyser technology, at this time, seems to be split between Europe and the USA.

2) A wider clutch of countries (and companies) are vying to produce electrolysers. In that set, given the acquisitions it’s making and the scale it’s planning, Reliance could be a competitive player.

3) Exporting hydrogen to the world is a pipedream. The gas’ nature makes long-distance transport expensive, weakening its competitiveness against the fuels it seeks to replace. In that sense, each exporting company is likely to have a radius within which its hydrogen is competitive. Seen like that, India might be able to supply hydrogen to South Asia. Rising solar tariffs, however, will weaken India’s competitiveness. It’s another contradiction in India’s energy policy. The country is pushing up solar costs while wanting to become the lowest cost producer of hydrogen.

4) In India, hydrogen’s development—as in solar—will be led sizeably by the private sector. The country’s domestic market, given the scale Reliance is planning and its tie-up with Stiesdal might find hydrogen very competitive. 

5) Within India, unless transmission charges are waived, distributed facilities might be more competitive than large, centralised hydrogen plants. Hefty entrants in the space, like Reliance, as CarbonCopy wrote in August, might set up renewable and hydrogen arrays near big and small consumption centres and reprise its actions in telecom. There, the group had given phones away for free and charged for airtime. In energy, it might set up renewable energy infrastructure (local grids for colonies and industrial areas) at no cost and charge for the power.

What implications this may have, especially on DISCOMs and existing power generators, is the larger question that will need to be answered sooner rather than later. 

(Next: Why big steel companies are decarbonising faster than smaller ones)

A net zero effect: The Climate Transparency Report has flagged the G20’s continued dependence on fossil fuels but is in fact rising despite lofty ambitions of decarbonisation | Photo: Government of Italy

GHG emissions across G20 nations on the rise again: Report

Despite net-zero commitments and updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), the G20 is not on track to meet the 1.5°C global warming limit, according to the Climate Transparency Report released this week. Also, despite a decline triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) are on the rebound across the G20, the report stated. China, Argentina, India and Indonesia are projected to exceed the 2019 emission levels, it warned. 

The report found that the dependence of G20 countries on fossil fuels is not declining, rather it projected that the consumption of coal will rise by nearly 5% in 2021. As the demand for coal, oil, and natural gas returns to “normal”, the average share of fossil fuels in the G20’s Total Primary Energy Supply (TPES) is projected to increase to 81.2% in 2021 from 80.8% in the last year.

India topmost hotspot for terrestrial water storage loss: WMO

A new World Meteorological Organization (WMO) report estimated terrestrial water storage (TWS) globally dropped at the rate of 1cm per year between 2002 and 2021. The State of Climate Services report. The analysis declared India to be the ‘topmost hotspot of TWS loss’, losing 3cm of TWS per year in the past 20 years. In some regions, this loss was reported to have gone up to 4cm as well. North India recorded the highest loss within the country. TWS includes all water found on the land surface as well as the subsurface.

Rising temperatures will decrease above-ground biomass of old-growth forests: Study 

Rising temperatures will decrease above-ground biomass of old-growth forests by 41% in the tropics and 29% globally, according to a new study. The study, published in Springer Nature, used a model that determined the impact of rising air temperature on above-ground biomass by comparing air temperature data for 1970–2000 with monthly air temperature projections for 2081–2100.

Need global cooperation on climate, weather and water issues: World Meteorological Congress

The World Meteorological Congress called for global cooperation in meteorology, climatology and operational hydrology, and stated that weather, climate and water cycles are oblivious to national borders. In a statement, the WMO said addressing the growth in demand for water, weather, climate, atmospheric and ocean services was crucial considering the rapid changes in the environment, demographics and the rise of extreme weather. 

Pennies on the dollar: The first Standing Committee on Finance report under the UNFCCC has found that developing countries would require trillions of dollars for their NDCs, while the developed world is yet to deliver on its decade-old $100bn promise | Photo: John Englart/CC BY-SA 2.0/Flickr

Developing countries need nearly $6 trillion for just 41% of their NDCs: UNFCCC Standing Committee on Finance

Developing countries need $5.8 trillion–$5.9 trillion up to 2030, to finance less than half of the climate action listed in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to keep global warming in check, says the first-ever UN assessment of the needs of the developing countries. The SCF assessed NDCs from 153 countries (as of 31 May 2021) including 4,274 needs, and of this, only 41% (1,782) were identified with accompanying costing. The multitrillion-dollar figure is therefore likely to be much lower than the true overall financial needs for all NDC actions in the developing world.

Meanwhile, developed nations are still $10 billion short of fulfilling their $100 billion annual climate finance commitment. European nations, including Spain, Norway and Sweden, are scrambling to fill the gap ahead of the crucial climate talks in Glasgow this year. The US announced last month its intention of doubling its climate finance contribution to $11.4 billion. But the plan is still to be approved by the congress and will most likely come through only by 2024.

EU to back five-year climate targets at COP26

The European Union (EU) agreed to back five-year climate targets, which will be discussed at the COP26 to be held in the UK in November. This despite Poland pushing for 10-year goals. EU ministers, in a statement, said they were willing to back the plan only if all parties were required to do so, and in adherence with the European climate law. Other regions that are pushing for five-year plans include the US, small island states and African countries. The view is that shorter climate targets would help keep the pressure on countries to raise ambitions regularly and also help keep track of the speed at which emissions are being cut. India and China are among the big emitters that oppose a single timeframe.  

Turkey finally ratifies Paris Agreement, UAE commits to net zero by 2050

More than five years after signing the Paris Agreement, Turkey finally ratified the treaty this month. The announcement comes days after the country set a net zero by 2053 target. Only five countries are still to ratify the agreement—Libya, Yemen, Iran, Iraq and Eritrea. 

The UAE, meanwhile, became the first Gulf petro-state to commit to a fully decarbonised economy and achieve net zero by 2050. Leader Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced plans to invest $163 billion towards “clean and renewable energy” until 2050.  

This is a significant upgrade from the UAE’s previous plans to reduce emissions by 23.5% by 2030. 

Russia is working on a new decarbonisation strategy that aims to achieve net zero by 2060, according to the Kommersant newspaper. The new strategy, which is yet to be approved by the cabinet, will also aim to cut CO2 emissions by 75% by 2050. The plan envisions producing electricity from gas turbines, nuclear, hydroelectric and renewable power instead of coal power plants.

Is govt looking to amend forest conservation act to aid oil and gas exploration, private plantations?

Experts are worried a consultation paper on amending India’s forest conservation act released by the Centre could accelerate land trade in the country. They said the paper is likely to aid private plantations and extraction of oil and natural gas from forest land. State governments have been given 15 days to submit their comments on the paper. The paper highlighted that under identification of forest land under current provisions of the law were “subjective” and “arbitrary”. The Supreme Court, in a 1992 judgement, stated all land that fit the dictionary description of a forest would be deemed as forest land. 

According to the consultation paper, this restricts owners of private forest areas from using their land for non-forestry activity. The paper stated that this kind of ambiguity has resulted in private forest landowners keeping their land devoid of vegetation. The paper further pointed to the need for extensive plantations to achieve India’s NDC goals. The paper further raised the question whether using forest land for strategic and security projects of national importance should be exempt from seeking prior approval from the central government. According to experts, this will open up forest land to misuse as it gives states the power to divert forest land n for the strategic and security projects mentioned in the consultation paper.  

India’s ethanol ambitions trigger food security concerns

India’s plan to cut fossil fuel use by pushing for ethanol derived from rice, corn and sugar could undermine the country’s food security, according to experts. This year, India announced plans to double the country’s ethanol production and blend 20% gasoline with the spirit by 2025. To achieve this, the government is pushing for faster environment clearances and financial support to biofuel manufacturers. But this plan is also forcing food grains to be diverted away from public consumption, and towards companies at subsidised rates, experts said.  

Locking down the baseline: Air quality levels recorded during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown will be used by the Environment Ministry to set the baseline standards for air quality in India | Photo: TERI

India to set new air quality standards using Lockdown data as baseline

The air quality data from last year’s Covid-19 lockdown will be the baseline as India prepares to revise its air quality standards, a top environment ministry (MoEFCC) official said adding that India has baseline data to show what air quality can be like when anthropogenic emission sources are either absent or very low. 

The Central Pollution Control Board is working on revising the air quality standards in India with National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI). Last month, the World Health Organization tightened its air quality guidelines bringing down the annual PM 2.5 (respirable pollution particles) guideline from 10 micrograms per cubic metres to 5 micrograms per cubic metres and the 24-hour PM 2.5 guideline from 25 micrograms per cubic metres to 15 micrograms per cubic metres. It has also tightened norms for five other pollutants based on recent evidence of health impacts associated with these pollutants.

India makes biomass pellet use mandatory in some coal power plants

To cut air pollution, India has made the use of biomass pellets mandatory in some coal-fired thermal power plants. Biomass pellets are made from agricultural waste that is otherwise burnt by farmers. Some categories of coal plants will have to blend 5% of biomass pellets along with coal. The ratio will increase to 7% within two years for two categories of power plants.

Farmers in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh burn paddy stalks and straw during the winter season to prepare the ground for planting, causing severe air pollution.

Rising fuel cost, few seeder machines forcing Punjab farmers to burn crop residue? 

Farmers have started burning paddy stubble, one of the major causes of air pollution during winter in NCR. Over 1,160 farm fires were spotted between 1 Sept & 13 Oct’21 in Punjab according to a CEEW report. The report said despite years of efforts at crop diversification, paddy continues to dominate crops. The late-maturing PUSA 44 variety, infamous for its high straw load, is the dominant variety in districts with high burning, the report said. 

Experts said the use of stubble clearing machines such as happy seeders & super seeders have been “limited”, adding that even with 100% deployment, the machines would manage to clear just two-thirds of the total area under non-basmati paddy this year. Also, the rise in petrol and diesel prices has increased the operational costs of agricultural machinery by up to 8% compared to 2019.

Thirteen people die every minute because of air pollution: WHO report

Air pollution, primarily the result of burning fossil fuels, which also drives climate change, causes 13 deaths per minute worldwide, said the WHO COP26 Special Report on Climate Change and Health. 

Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director of Environment, Climate Change and Health, said reducing air pollution to WHO guideline levels, would reduce the total number of global deaths from air pollution by 80%, while dramatically reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that fuel climate change. The report spelled out the global health community’s prescription for climate action based on a growing body of research that establishes the many and inseparable links between climate and health.

Household cooking fuel major source of disease in developing countries: Study

A new global study found that household air pollution from using polluting cooking fuels and technologies is a major source of disease and environmental degradation in low- and middle-income countries. 

The researchers showed that 53% of the global population mainly used polluting cooking fuels in 1990, dropping to 36% in 2020. In urban areas, gaseous fuels currently dominate, with a growing reliance on electricity; in rural populations, high levels of biomass use persist alongside increasing use of gaseous fuels. Future projections of observed trends suggested 31% will still mainly use polluting fuels in 2030, including over 1 billion people in sub-Saharan Africa by 2025.

Global estimates were based mainly using six fuel categories (electricity, gaseous fuels, kerosene, biomass, charcoal, coal) and overall polluting/clean fuel use—from 1990-2020 and with urban/rural disaggregation. Overall, household air pollution accounts for some 3.8 million premature deaths annually. 

Draft electricity rules propose 24×7 uninterrupted power to kill use of diesel generators

In a move to curb air pollution from diesel generators (DGs), the recently released draft electricity rules said DISCOMs should ensure 24×7 uninterrupted power supply to all consumers so that there is no requirement of running diesel generators. The government could consider allowing DISCOMs to levy reliability charges, if it required funds for investment in infrastructure.

The rules also talked about a five-year period being given to consumers who used DGs for back-up power, to change over to cleaner sources including solar with battery storage. The rules stated that connection should be given within 48 hours to reduce reliance on DGs. This would avoid any use of DG sets for temporary activities in the area of the distribution licensee.

Lagging behind demand: A slowdown in the growth of solar and renewable energy generation has added to power shortage woes in India | Photo: NTPC

Solar energy generation dropped nearly 25% in September: Report

Reuters analysis of state data showed that India’s solar energy generation growth slowed to 24.7% year-on-year in September from 41% in August. Other key sources of electricity generation also fell in September, the data showed, with hydro declining 5% and gas-fired power falling 31.6% compared with the previous year, Reuters reported. Solar power growth is critical in 2021 as half of India’s 135 coal-fired power plants have fuel stocks of less than three days. India expects the coal shortage to last for up to six months.

At 6.5 GW, India’s solar and wind capacity rose by just 3% last year. Gujarat, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh added the highest capacity in these 12 months. Rajasthan became the top state in solar installations (utility scale and rooftop) overtaking Karnataka in September, the end of the third quarter 2021. Tamil Nadu was the top wind power state.

Between July 2020 to June 2021, India’s total utility scale renewable power and rooftop solar capacity reached 77,082 megawatt (MW) and 7,701 MW, respectively, the Bridge to India report said. That brought the total share of renewable power in generation to 10.01%, a 1%  year-on-year decrease. 

Maharashtra was the leading state with new installations of 237 MW. Residential segment share in the total rooftop solar market moved up from 9% to 28% in the year.

Renewable energy must triple by 2030 to stop climate change: IEA report

According to the IEA energy outlook 2021, even if all current net-zero pledges by countries were realised, the world would only achieve 20% of the emissions cuts by 2030 required to hit the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. Fatih Birol, IEA executive director, said volatility in energy markets will continue to present a risk unless investment in clean power is tripled over the next decade. Birol pointed out that projected investment in oil and gas was now aligned with the net-zero by 2050 target, but public spending on renewables was only at a third of the future levels required. 

Race to carbon neutrality: China plans renewable mega-hubs ahead of climate talks 

China, already a top renewable energy leader, is set to massively increase its solar and wind capacity. The initiative comes as the nation attempts to quickly ramp up the pace of its low-carbon transition ahead of the COP26.

The first phase would create capacity that’s more than India’s total installed capacity currently, according to BloombergNEF, and it would be able to generate four times as much power as the Three Gorges Dam. While details are scant, construction has already begun, President Xi Jinping said Tuesday. A likely location is western China, and previous unconfirmed reports said half of the total capacity would be constructed by 2025.

Reliance acquires high stakes in solar equipment manufacturing companies worldwide

Reliance group signed an agreement with Shapoorji Pallonji and Company Private Limited to acquire a 40% stake in Mumbai-based solar-engendering company Sterling and Wilson Solar which has executed over 11 GW of solar projects worldwide. Reliance also acquired Norway-headquartered REC Solar Holdings from China National Bluestar Group for $771 million. REC makes solar cells, modules, and polysilicon. The company has also announced an investment of €25 million (~$29 million) in German solar wafer manufacturer NexWafe.

Meanwhile, the Adani Group completed the $3.5-billion acquisition of SB Energy India, which was an 80:20 joint venture between Japan’s SoftBank Group and India’s Bharti Group. The transaction marks the largest acquisition in the renewable energy sector in India. Adani aims to triple the share of renewable power generation capacity in its total portfolio to 63% from the present 21%. Adani currently has an installed renewable energy capacity of 20 GW, while Reliance wants to establish 100 GW of solar energy by 2030.

Electric Vehicles Rising up the ranks: The Skoda Enyaq is Norway's third best selling EV, and electric cars are set to reach 100% of new car sales there well before 2025 | Photo:

Norway: 90% of new cars sold now electric or hybrid, may reach 100% by April 2022

Norway reached a new milestone when in September it reported that 9 out of every 10 new cars sold in the country were either fully electric or electric-hybrids. 80% of its new car sales are now fully electric and the sales are led by the Tesla Model Y, followed by the Tesla Model 3 and the Skoda Enyaq. Norway offers extensive subsidies for customers looking to buy EVs, such as the exemption from 25% value added tax (VAT), and is the only country that aims to completely ban the sales of new petrol cars by 2025. Incidentally, EVs’ surging popularity in Norway may see them capture 100% of its new car market by as early as April 2022, as predicted by the country’s road traffic information council (OVF).

India to order 300,000 e3Ws, 1,200 e-cars and 3,400 e-buses in procurement drive 

India’s Convergence Energy Services Ltd. (CESL) said that it would float nationwide tenders to procure 300,000 electric three wheelers, 1,200 electric cars and SUVs and up to 3,400 electric buses as part of its drive to spur India’s EV adoption. The tenders will introduce the concept of pay-per-km, under which the bidders will price their bids by factoring in the costs for the vehicles, their servicing and their operational costs all at once. They will be bought by NBFCs and leased out to city fleets and the first 100,000 e3Ws are slated to hit the roads in the next 18-24 months. 

Coal India asked to invest in EVs and charging pods

The Indian government asked Coal India — the country’s largest coal miner — to start investing in electric vehicles and EV charging pods to help diversify its business. E-mobility has been classified as a “sunrise industry” for the country and the government’s suggestion is part of the “Ministry of Coal’s Agenda for 2021-22” document. Coal India is already planning to invest in the manufacturing of solar wafers, but the latest policy decision does not specify if coal power would be used for the charging pods that Coal India would set up, or if the miner would source renewable power instead. 

All is well, all is well: India's government has sought to assuage fears as a looming power crisis exposes India's over-reliance on coal | Photo: DNA India

India: Enough coal to meet demand, says power minister after claims of dramatic shortages

The Indian coal ministry said that the country had enough coal to meet the needs of coal plants, and refuted claims that the fuel’s shortage could lead to blackouts across major demand centres. It also said that Coal India had a stockpile of 40 million tonnes of coal, which was being used to furnish the utilities’ 7.2 million tons daily requirement, after claims that more than half of India’s coal plants had had their coal stockpiles shrink to less than three days’ worth. In addition, Indian cement and steel makers were amongst the parties that have been buying Australian coal shipments — at a $10-15/ton discount — that were lying untouched at Chinese warehouses due to a long-standing political squabble between the two countries. Fears of power shortages, however, have continued unabated despite the government’s assurances.

Yet, as coal’s import prices rise on the back of growing demand, the utilities will continue to face challenges as the fuel accounts for  around 70% of India’s power output, and 75% of the country’s coal consumption is attributed to its coal plants. The shortages have thrown light on the country’s over-reliance on coal amid demands for greater diversification in the energy-mix as India pursues low-carbon growth.

Australian PM refuses to adopt any net-zero commitments

The Australian prime minister refused to adopt 2050 as the target for the country to achieve net zero emissions, saying that it needed the income and the jobs from fossil fuels (largely coal and natural gas) to keep up its communities’ standard of living. Scott Morrison made the statement despite Australia being warned that its borrowing costs from the international community would go up if it did not adopt a time-bound target soon, and he has instead said that his government was working on “transition technologies”, but that the process would not end overnight. Yet, a 2019 report found that Australia’s per capita carbon emissions are nine times that of China’s, four times the US’s and 37 times the per capita emissions of the average Indian resident. 

IATA adopts resolution to achieve net zero emissions by 2050

The global regulator of commercial aviation, the International Air Travel Agency (IATA), adopted a resolution that would commit the industry to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. The resolution is the biggest policy change that the IATA has adopted since committing to lowering aviation’s emissions by 50% by mid-century, back in 2009, and it comes at a time when the global aviation industry is recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

However, while some major airlines like United, British Airways, Lufthansa and Delta have already adopted their own net zero commitments, China Southern Airlines has expressed its reservations about the resolution as it intends to achieve the target by 2060. Saudi Arabian Airlines, too, has expressed reservations about lowering the industry’s carbon footprint by focussing on “sustainable technologies”, even as Airbus — Europe’s largest aircraft manufacturer — is actively pursuing electric and hydrogen propulsion

California oil spill releases up to 132,000 gallons of crude oil, fouls local beaches

The oil spill off the coast of southern California may have released up to 132,000 gallons of crude oil, and has forced many local businesses to shut shop to ease clean-up efforts. Bizarrely, the 13-inch fracture in the undersea pipeline that caused the leakage has been attributed to one or multiple large ships dropping their multi-ton anchors on it and displacing it across the sea floor over the last one year. The local Coast Guard has so recovered up to 5,500 gallons of the lumps of crude oil that washed ashore, and the local businesses affected are reported to filing a class-action lawsuit against the ship being blamed for the incident — the Hapag-Lloyd owned Rotterdam Express. 

Putin hints at easing Europe’s gas shortage, insists EU discarded fossil fuels too soon 

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a speech to his administration that Gazprom, the firm responsible for piping natural gas to Europe, should “make some calculations” and ease its restrictions on the volume being supplied. Gazprom is Russia’s largest gas exporter and is responsible for 35% of Europe’s gas requirements. The single comment calmed energy markets worldwide and it means that EU residents could receive adequate gas supplies for space heating over the winter. However, the change in stance from Putin comes with the condition that Europe — especially the largest NATO members, such as Germany and France — stop viewing Russia as “an adversary”, and the President was also vocal in criticising the bloc for having tried to move away from conventional fuels “too soon”. 

Europe’s gas shortage was also brought on by it not being able to source gas shipments from the US, whose gas exports are already contracted for Asian countries.