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India no longer charged up on EVs?

Newsletter - September 3, 2019

Not one in sight: EVs seem to have lost the appeal they held to India's government until recently as the slowdown in ICE vehicles worsens | Photo: Wall Street Journal

India no longer charged up on EVs?

The signs seemed pretty clear even until a month ago. The Centre was convinced that the future of Indian mobility was electric. Since the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP) 2020 was unveiled in 2015, the target of 100% electrification by 2030 has been repeated loudly and often. India was no longer afraid to take progressive, transformative steps to promote environmental sustainability and improve public health. Lately though, this resolve seems to have become shaky.

The jitters can ostensibly be blamed on the worst slowdown in India’s auto sector in the last two decades that has seen thousands of jobs lost amid heavy production cuts. As calls for a stimulus package from the auto industry grew louder (that has since been provided), the first clear sign that EVs would become the sacrificial lamb came from none other than the Prime Minister on the eve of India’s Independence Day. 

PM Modi’s assurance to the auto sector that EVs and conventional Internal Combustible Engine (ICE) vehicles could continue to grow together flew right in the face of nearly every statement made by the government in this regard over the past few years. Then, this fortnight, transport minister Nitin Gadkari appeared to throw government think-tank NITI Aayog under the bus as he shot down their proposal to ban production and sale of ICE three-wheelers and two-wheelers with up to 150 cc engines by 2023 and 2025 respectively, adding that transition to EVs will happen organically. This was followed by statements from government officials, including finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, that the government would not treat one industry preferentially over the other, indicating that it was inclined to leave the transition up to market forces here onwards, so as to not spook the auto industry.

There is little evidence that this approach will yield any results even in the short term as EVs are far from the biggest headache for automakers. The government seems oblivious to other important factors affecting the sector – including disruptions brought on by BS VI fuel norms to be implemented from next year and the inescapable impact of global economic factors. 

In fact, the Centre’s mixed messaging could only end up damaging a potentially high-growth segment of the auto sector by publicly pulling its support for EVs. They form just around 0.06% of the cars on Indian roads today. It’s no secret that left to its own, EVs stand little chance of competing with ICE vehicles as they are much more expensive and are far from having adequate support infrastructure. However, had the government pushed for it, it seemed only a matter of time that EVs would become a viable alternative to ICE automobiles.

Companies manufacturing auto parts and components have already been witnessing an upturn as a global transition seems to be taking shape. India’s flip-flop though could end up putting the brakes on a transition to EVs, the conditions for which have just begun to be prepared through GST rate cuts, budget allocations and huge financial outlays for charging infrastructure and battery manufacturing under FAME-2. Right now, the only possible outcome seems to be fast-eroding investor sentiment in what could be the most exciting market.


Climate Science

Up in smoke: Agricultural interests emboldened by President Jair Bolsonaro’s anti-environment stances are suspected to be behind hundreds of fires that blazed across the Brazilian Amazon | Photo: Greenpeace

Amazon fires: Brazil govt says situation returning to normal, but experts warn ‘the worst is yet to come’

Brazilian Minister of the Environment Ricardo Salles may have blamed ‘dry weather, wind and heat’ for the Amazon forest fires, experts, however, have said the reason for the spike, which has caused international concern, is a recent rise in deforestation thanks to Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro’s pro-development policies. The main evidence for this theory: The fires are surging ahead in a pattern typical of forest clearing.

While Bolsonaro claimed the ‘situation was returning to normal’ and his foreign minister assured the world that his country is successfully extinguishing the fires, Tasso Azevedo, a forest engineer and environmentalist who coordinates the deforestation monitoring group MapBiomas, claimed the ‘worst of the fires were yet to come’ because the country’s annual burning season was yet to play out fully. The Brazilian Amazon lost 1,114.8 sqkm of forest land in the first 26 days of August. Apart from the visible damage, there is an invisible menace that has risen from the fires, which may have far-reaching impacts. Nasa released data and a graphic showing a large ‘plume’ of carbon monoxide rising from the fires, which could potentially impact air quality. 

What is even more concerning, however, that it is not just Brazil, forest fires are burning elsewhere in the world as well at an intensity rarely seen before and spreading to areas that were previously untouched by blazes. For example, the Siberian forest, which has lost 6 million acres since July and in Alaska, more than 2.5 million acres of tundra and the snow forest has been lost to fires, with scientists pointing to climate change, which may be exacerbating the danger.

Apocalypse now: Rising seas, warming oceans will unleash misery in coming years, says draft UN report

Our oceans may soon turn from friend to foe if emission levels in the atmosphere are not brought under control, says a draft of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “Special Report”, obtained by AFP. The transition has already begun, according to the report, which says the world should expect a decline in fish stock, a hundred-fold or more increase in damage from superstorms, and the displacement of millions because of the rising seas.  

The worst-affected will be small island nations, coastal communities and even the world’s largest economies such as the US, China, the EU and India, the report said. According to the report, India’s summer monsoon has already weakened significantly since 1950, most probably because of the Indian Ocean heating up. This vulnerability to the rising seas could result in millions getting displaced over the decades, which forces us to ask the question, where are they all going to go?

IPCC, however, has issued its own statement following the leak of the draft clarifying that the report is still in draft stage and is pending final approvals. The statement added that IPCC experts will consider the report from September 20 to 23, 2019 in Monaco, where they will examine the Summary for Policymakers of the report line by line.

Hurricane Dorian hits US, weathermen predict more major storms in coming months

The second-strongest Atlantic Hurricane – category five Dorian – hit the Bahamas on Sunday with maximum sustained winds of 140 mph, killing at least five people and leaving countless homeless . Weathermen predict the storm will move towards Florida this week. The US states of Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina have all declared states of emergency. US president Donald Trump created confusion about Hurricane Dorian, repeatedly wrongly claiming that Alabama was set to be hit by the storm and that he had “never even heard of a category 5 storm”.

Dorian hits the US at the peak of its hurricane season. This is the first major hurricane to hit the US this year, and there are more to follow, say weathermen. The country’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expects 17 named storms before hurricane season ends on November 30, with four of them turning into major storms.  

With the country suffering through some of its worst hurricane seasons on record in the past few years, is there a link to climate change? Scientists are still being cautious because hurricanes are rarer than temperature changes, making them harder to monitor. But there have been some bold statements made in the past – such as water being warmed up by greenhouse gases, making hurricanes stronger. But the jury is still out on the link. What is known, however, is the rising cost of hurricanes with storms getting slower and wetter and as people move increasingly towards coastal areas.

Climate change causing shift in flooding patterns across Europe: Study

A new study has linked the changing patterns of flooding in Europe to climate change. The study, published in the journal Nature, found that in the past 50 years, flooding had become increasingly severe in north-western Europe, including the UK, it had decreased in southern and Eastern Europe. For example, the study found an 11% increase per decade in flood levels in northern England and southern Scotland to a 23% reduction in parts of Russia,

 These consistent patterns of flood change were in line with predicted climate change impacts, according to the study’s authors, who analysed records from 3,738 flood measurement stations across Europe from the period 1960 to 2010.


Climate Policy

Parched: India’s land degradation targets have come under the lens as the country hosts 14th Conference of Parties (COP 14) to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) | Photo: Excavate.in

India to host UN meet focused on land degradation, but country still unclear on 2030 target

This week, representatives from 196 countries are meeting in Greater Noida, India, at the 14th Conference of Parties (COP 14) to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) to discuss key issues, including land tenure, dust and sand storms, and drought-led migration. The meeting assumes even more importance considering the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report released last month stating land surface temperature has increased by 1.53°C since the pre-industrial period and called on countries to address land degradation to help battle climate change.

Of these 196 countries, 122, including India, have agreed to become land degradation neutral (LDN) by 2030. But India still remains unclear on the LDN target. While Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Prakash Javadekar said on August 29 that India has set a target of restoring 50 lakh (5 million) hectares of land by 2030, his ministry, after the National Workshop on ‘Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) Target Setting Programmme’ held on June 17, had decided on a figure of 30 million hectares. At COP 14, India is also expected to announce plans to take a massive land restoration initiative, which includes creating a ‘green path’ running from Porbandar to New Delhi.

Javadekar, meanwhile, also released Rs47,436 crore to 27 states for compensatory afforestation and other forest conservation work, which is expected to be used for regeneration of forests, raising plantations, wildlife management,. This amount is part of the total corpus of Rs54,685 crore collected under the ad hoc Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA). Experts, however, say CAMPA funds have little ecological consequences because “the money is collected out of activities which result in loss or degradation of forests.” 

Indigenous communities best at protecting forests, but still don’t get their due: Study

They are the best custodians of forests across the world, but indigenous people still don’t get their due – that was the conclusion of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) report, which was released this fortnight. The report pointed to the fact that indigenous communities are custodians of nearly 40% of protected land and manage 300 billion tonnes of carbon without notable investment, but governments are unable to do the same despite spending billions of dollars. What’s worse is that instead of being rewarded for protecting the environment they live in, these communities are often subjected to violence and forced eviction, the report said.

India to ban six single-use plastic products on Oct 2

In its most daring gesture yet in the fight to rid the planet of single-use plastic, India is set to ban plastic bags, cups and straws across the country starting October 2. With the target of banning all plastic by 2022 in mind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch the campaign that will ban six items, including plastic bags, cups, plates, small bottles, certain types of sachets and straws. The ban will cover manufacture, usage and imports of these items. Some Indian states have already banned polythene bags.

G7 summit: Climate change top of agenda, France & UK double pledges to UN green fund

There wasn’t a single dull moment at the G7 summit held in France in the last week of August. French president Emmanuel Macron clearly had climate change on his mind when meeting world leaders. While India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured Macron of his country’s commitment to the Paris Climate Accord, the US was unhappy with the summit’s focus on climate change. While US president Donald Trump was all praises for Macron publicly, his aides believe the French president tried to isolate Trump by focusing discussions on climate change, which the US president has spoken out against. It didn’t help matters when Trump skipped a discussion on how to deal with the Amazon fires and find ways to help cut carbon emissions.

One of the more positive developments at the summit was of France and UK doubled their pledges to the UN’s Green Climate Fund to $3.5 billion. The fund has been hit by currency fluctuations and Trump’s refusal to hand over $2 billion committed by the US..

The Brazilian government, meanwhile, backtracked on its rejection of $20 million in foreign aid to help fight the Amazon fires, but on one condition – only it can determine how the money is spent. French president Emmanuel Macron unveiled the pledge by G7 nations at the summit this fortnight, which he said would be available immediately, with France even offering more military support in the region. While the Bolsonaro administration initially suggested it would reject the offer, accusing the foreign powers of wanting control over the Amazon. But the aid was later accepted. “This money, when it enters the country, will have the total governance of the Brazilian people,” presidential spokesman Rego Barros said. 

India set to launch international coalition to boost disaster resilient infra

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch an international Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) during the UN summit to be held in New York on September 23. To be set up in New Delhi, the CDRI will aim to help countries upgrade their infrastructure development capacities by bringing on board experts and stakeholders who will assess the countries based on their vulnerabilities, disaster risk and economic needs.   

China’s Belt and Road initiative could lead to 2.7°C warming: Study

While China has been increasingly taking important steps to reduce its emissions levels, the carbon footprint created by the country’s multi-million dollar Belt and Road initiative may put a spanner in the works of the Paris agreement’s target to keep global temperature increases to below 2°C. A new study says that the 126 countries that come under the initiative currently account for 28% of total global emissions. But if their current trajectory continues, the emission levels could go up to 66% by 2050, researchers, led by Ma Jun, a special advisor to China’s central bank, said.

This means global carbon levels would go up by nearly double the level required to meet the Paris target. “…it may be enough to result in a 2.7 degree path, even if the rest of the world adheres to 2 degree levels of emissions,” the report said.  

Nordic PMs, business leaders sign climate declaration

Nordic prime ministers and CEOs signed a joint declaration on climate change at the Nordic council summer summit held this fortnight. The declaration, signed by seven Nordic countries and a group of 14 companies, promotes public-private partnerships with an aim to combat climate change and achieve a more sustainable society.

Showing support for the joint vision was German chancellor Angela Merkel, who did not sign the declaration, but was at the summit and agreed to work with Nordic countries to coordinate climate policies.

Indonesia to move capital from sinking Jakarta to East Kalimantan

Indonesia announced plans to move its capital, Jakarta, to East Kalimantan, nearly 1,300km away. The reason for this is Jakarta’s pollution, over-crowdedness, pollution and the fact that it is sinking fast. The move will cost the country $32.79 billion as researchers say Jakarta could be entirely submerged by 2050, one of the main reasons for this is the extraction of groundwater to meet the city’s needs which has exacerbated the impact of rising sea levels.Is this a sign of things to come? It very well could be, as scientists warned governments across the world to prepare for a ‘managed retreat’ from coasts because of rising sea levels.


Air Pollution

Self-destructive tendencies: The Indian government has approached the Supreme Court to challenge a ban on old diesel vehicles ordered by the NGT two years ago | Photo: Pollutiontest.in

India: SC admits govt’s plea against ban on diesel vehicles

In a major setback in the fight against vehicular emissions, India’s top court has admitted the government’s plea to stay the green court’s order banning diesel vehicles that are over 10 years old and over 15-year-old petrol vehicles. Two years after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) passed the order, the Centre not only delayed implementing the order, but moved the top court attacking it. According to a DNA report, the apex court condoned the two-year delay and has agreed to consider the Centre’s application. The Centre’s lawyer said there was no legal basis to NGT’s order since “cancellation of registration …has to be done on individual assessment of vehicle, that too after first giving notice to the owner and on proof that the vehicle is beyond repair and dangerous to be used on roads.” In 2002, the top court had ordered weeding out diesel vehicles, but the then government argued that diesel vehicles have higher fuel efficiency, which cuts up to 15% less CO2 emissions as compared to petrol vehicles. It has since been found that emissions of other gases such as SOx and NOx from diesel vehicles are much higher than its petrol counterparts. What the court decides now remains to be seen.

Mumbai fails to submit pollution plan, exposes holes in national clean air plan target

In an embarrassment to India’s National Clean Air Plan (NCAP), Mumbai, known to have air quality that is more toxic than Delhi, was found to have not submitted a clean air plan to the apex Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) as yet. Mumbai and 10 other cities, that were part of CPCB’s list of 102 most polluted cities, failed to furnish a clean air plan, while 90 others did.  Mumbai’s case was revealed after India’s green court, the National Green Tribunal (NGT), recently ordered CPCB to increase its most polluted cities list to include 20 more cities, increasing the number of cities that do not meet the national ambient air quality standards to 122. 

Experts told Climate Trends that Mumbai is expected to deliver a plan in a week. According to Mumbai’s municipal corporation (BMC), the city’s nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels, attributed to vehicular emissions, shot up beyond permissible limits in 2018-19. The level of ammonia (NH3), attributed to mixed-waste burning, was at dangerously high levels in the area of Deonar. India’s National Clean Air Plan’s (NCAP) aims for an up to 30% reduction in PM2.5 and PM10 by 2024 in 18 polluted cities of Maharashtra.

Felling of 2,700 trees for a Metro car shed in Mumbai’s green lung gets official nod

In a major upset for Mumbai’s activists and citizens, the tree authority of the city’s municipal corporation gave its nod to the felling of 2,700 trees to make way for a Metro car shed in one of the financial capital’s few remaining green spaces, Aarey Colony. While the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRCL) has promised to compensate by planting three times as many trees elsewhere in the city, one member of the tree authority said she did not know what she was voting for as the proceedings took place in Marathi, a language she did not understand. She has since resigned from her post.

A petition has been filed in the Bombay high court accusing the tree authority of not following due process while giving its approval. 

Climate Trends study says Maharashtra needs campaign mode approach to tackle its pollution crisis 

Maharashtra needs to adopt a campaign mode to tackle its pollution crisis – that’s the conclusion of a new report published by Climate Trends. The report, titled ‘Unknown Hurdles to a Trillion Dollar Economy: Solving Air Pollution in Maharashtra’, with the help of recent studies, identified the main sources of pollutants in Maharashtra’s air. Industry, biomass, aviation, shipping, windblown dust and open burning caused 50% of the pollution, followed by vehicles at 30% and construction and demolition dust at 20%. According to the report, the number of vehicles in Maharashtra has risen by over 11,000% in less than fifty years, over 15,000 clamp brick kilns in the state were yet to be assessed for pollution levels and real estate developers will be permitted to build in green belts, which would mean more emissions from construction, even in tribal areas. Another critical factor for Maharashtra’s rising pollution levels, the study states, was that the Western Ghats divided the state into two parts, thereby not allowing air pollution to dissipate.

Pollution causing more droughts in India during El Nino: Study

Air pollution not just shortens people’s life span, but it also leads to droughts, says the latest study by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM). The impact of El Nino (the phenomenon where there is an increase in the surface temperature of tropical Pacific Ocean) on patterns of rain that lead to floods and droughts is well known. But the IITM study revealed that during El Nino years, the severity of droughts rose by 17% because of pollutants from south Asian countries. The aerosol pollution load at high altitudes reduced the amount of solar radiation in the monsoon region, thereby aggravating drought by further weakening the monsoon circulation, the study said. Increase in industrial emissions in east and south Asia will worsen the severity of droughts in India, the study said. 

China considers testing no-go zones for fossil fuel vehicles

Taking the war against vehicular emissions a notch up, China’s industry ministry said the government is planning to test ban fossil fuel vehicles in some parts of the country and set a timetable to phase out internal combustion (IC) vehicles altogether. The ministry website recommends analyses of market demand and emission levels to decide whether to test no-go zones for gasoline-fueled vehicles. China is the world’s largest EV market, with 1.3 million units sold last year.  China’s southern province of Hainan, said in March it plans to stop selling gasoline vehicles by 2030.


Renewables

Soon on the roof: Rooftop solar’s poor performance seems to have spurred the Centre into announcing upgraded targets – no less than 38GW by 2022 | Photo: BridgeRoof

India announces rooftop norms, incentivises DISCOMs to install 18 GW

India released norms for the second phase of its grid-connected rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) programme, involving 22 GW rooftop solar PV projects. The Centre is targeting to install 38 GW of rooftop solar by 2022, of which 4 GW will be in the residential sector and 34 GW under other sectors such as government, commercial, industrial, and educational.  The programme also aims to promote domestic manufacturing of solar cells and modules. Under the plan, DISCOMS will implement the 4GW residential programme with Central Financial Assistance (CFA). One of the parameters for allocating the capacity will be the demand raised by the DISCOM and the capacity required for the fulfilment of solar renewable purchase obligations (RPO) of the state. 

Centre may invoke electricity act to insure Andhra pays dues to solar developers

The Centre is not taking any chances. It may invoke the Electricity Act to ensure the Andhra Pradesh government doesn’t default on payments to solar power developers in its ongoing war over lowering of tariffs. Although it has requested the state government to not cancel previous Power Purchase Agreements, it also plans to take legal recourse under the Electricity Act of 2003, which states that power offtake can only be curtailed for safety reasons. The Centre has directed Power System Operation Corp. Ltd (Posoco), which oversees India’s electricity load management functions, to see if Andhra Pradesh is backing down on electricity procurement because of grid safety, and has asked it to prepare a report on this.

Centre to reduce states’ funds for missing UDAY targets

The draft of phase two of UDAY power sector reforms have proposed to cut state funds if their discoms fail to maintain performance benchmarks. Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY) was launched to rescue debt-laden power distribution companies. Power minister RK Singh said the second phase will add features like system strengthening, expansion of access, loss reduction and reforms in one package. The release of funds will be aimed at exceeding reform targets. The funds would be cut if discoms fail to cut losses, the minister said.

New solar norms for farming sector to boost domestic manufacturing 

India will allow only manufacturers of solar water pumps or solar modules to bid for KUSUM tenders in the farming sector, to assure quality and post-installation services. The KUSUM programme is aimed at helping the farmers install solar pumps and grid-connected solar power projects. The government expanded the selection criteria to include enough vendors to meet the demand. The Centre has also allocated capacities to various states in line with the demand received and KUSUM target to add a solar capacity of 25,750 MW by 2022 with the central government support of ~$4.99 billion. 

Meanwhile, the Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) has announced a tender for 175,000 off-grid solar water pumping systems as part of decentralized Solar PV Application Programme. The bidders will be allotted 90-120 days for installing the pumps, which have to be manufactured in India.

Environment ministry relaxes lease rent on wind power projects

In a relief to wind power producers, the Indian environment ministry has decided to relax the lease rent charged mandatorily from wind power companies. The move is aimed at boosting investments in the wind sector and provide cheap and clean power. In addition to mandatory charges, the wind power companies had to pay an additional lease rent of Rs30,000 per MW, which was not the case with solar projects. India has pledged in Paris in 2015 to receive 40% of power from renewable resources by 2030. 

Govt declares ocean energy as green power

India has classified the resource of ocean energy as renewable. Now, energy produced using tidal, wave, ocean thermal energy conversion shall be considered as renewable and shall be eligible for meeting the non-solar Renewable Purchase Obligations (RPO), an official statement said. According to MNRE, the total identified potential of tidal energy is about 12,455 MW. India’s wave energy potential along the country’s coast is estimated to be about 40,000 MW. This energy is, however, less intensive than what is available in more northern and southern latitudes. Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) has a theoretical potential of 180,000 MW in India subject to suitable technological evolution.

ADB pledges $12 bn support for flagship Indian RE schemes

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) plans to lend mainly India’s renewable energy programmes $12 billion in the next three years (until 2022). ADB chief Takehiko Nakao said  the bank expects India’s growth in 2019 at 7% and in 2020 at 7.2%, despite downside risks in the global economy. ADB plans to back India’s renewable energy, solar-pump irrigation, electric vehicle and battery schemes.  India, the biggest borrower of ADB funds, is the bank’s founding member since 1966.

China: Inspectors to assure regions maximize renewable energy usage

To boost renewables in the country, China’s parliament plans to send inspection teams to provinces to monitor if they are prioritising renewable energy. Chinese regulators want to end subsidies to renewable energy plants running a debt of over $14 billion. Inspectors will assure the states are maximising power purchases from local renewable power providers. Regions are accused of wasting massive amounts of potential renewable energy, either by failing to build enough grid capacity to carry the power or choosing power from coal or natural gas. China’s total renewable power (including hydro and biomass) touched 728 GW in 2018, up 12% on the year and amounting to 38% of total installed generation capacity.


Electric Vehicles

Hands off: India's government has decided to let the market choose when and if EVs will become a dominant player, much to the dismay of the yet unsteady sector | Photo: FinancialExpress

India: Govt says “no target” for e-mobility, discusses funding with ADB

The Indian government has now said that it won’t set any targets for bringing in EVs, despite the NITI Aayog’s suggestions. The announcement was made by Union minister Mr. Nitin Gadkari, overruling the planning body’s suggestions that conventional three-wheelers be phased out by 2023 and two-wheelers by 2025. The decision may come as a relief for conventional automakers, who have been vehemently opposed to a rapid transition to EVs.

The Centre is, however, discussing loans for up to $12 billion by 2022 for several sectors, including EVs and batteries, with the Asian Development Bank (ADB). 

Indian Oil to manufacture 100% indigenous, non-lithium ion EV batteries

Petroleum giant Indian Oil will be setting up a 1GW capacity, non-lithium ion EV battery manufacturing facility in a joint venture with an overseas start-up. The new batteries will utilise materials that are “abundantly available” locally and will be 100% indigenous. The JV comes out of India’s need to lessen its exposure to lithium-ion based EV batteries, 90% of which are imported into the country. 

NITI recommends high import duties on substandard Chinese EV batteries, 700cr subsidy for domestic manufacturing

Partly in reaction to reports that second-tier EV battery manufacturers from China are dumping their substandard products in the Indian market, India’s NITI Aayog has recommended that the lowest value-add imports, such as finished goods, be slapped with the highest import duties. This would be to discourage the use of such batteries – which now fail to find buyers in China – from being used in Indian EVs, since they don’t meet the minimum expected parameters of energy density, temperature tolerance, operating lifecycles and safety. 

Also, India’s finance ministry has accepted NITI’s proposal of a Rs700-crore subsidy for domestic EV battery manufacturing, to set up 50GWh capacity in battery manufacturing, and to bring their costs down from about $276/kWh at the moment to around $76/kWh. If okayed by the cabinet, the facility(ies) may come online by 2022 and bring EV prices at par with conventional vehicles in 3-4 years. 

UP targets 1 million EVs by 2024

On the other hand, the state of Uttar Pradesh will target the deployment of 1 million EVs by 2024, in its 10 model cities that have been earmarked for the purpose. The cities include Kanpur, Lucknow and Varanasi, and 50% of their school buses, cabs, ambulances and government vehicles will be ‘electrified’ by the target date. UP is already India’s largest EV market, with 15,000 registered units.


Fossil Fuels

With arms wide open: India’s decision to allow 100% FDI in coal mining may bring in new tech but the country’s carbon emissions may also snowball | Photo: WVPublic

India approves 100% FDI in coal mining

India’s Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) in coal mining and associated infrastructure. So far, Coal India and its subsidiary — Singareni Collieries (SSCL) — were the dominant miners, and the private (captive) sector was only allowed to sell up to 25% of its output in the open market. However, while the approval may bring in more efficient mining methods, India’s growing appetite for coal could contradict its larger target of slashing GHG emissions. 

NTPC aims to be 2nd-largest coal miner, govt rejects commercial-only coal mines 

India’s largest coal power producer, NTPC, says it will aim to become the country’s second-largest coal miner as it ramps up output from its 11 coal blocks from 8 to 100 MTPA. The ramp-up would be to counter inconsistent supplies of the fuel and ensure reliable power generation, but the decision comes amidst sharply declining investment in coal power and global calls for an accelerated exit from the fuel. 

Meanwhile, the Centre has rejected its top planning body’s suggestion to end captive allocations of coal mines (to power producers and heavy industry). The idea was to commercialise all mines and increase revenues, but the power ministry has retorted that it could hamper supplies and “plunge the country into darkness”. 

Germany mulls aviation tax for cleaner flights

German chancellor Angela Merkel has indicated that the country may introduce an aviation tax to fund research into climate-friendly aviation, such as non-fossil-fuel-powered propulsion systems. Aviation accounts for about 2% of all global emissions, but its share is expanding fast, and Merkel has said that Germany would aim to lead the world in greening the sector. 

French shipping giant to avoid Arctic route 

French shipping giant CMA CGM, too, has announced a climate-positive step by deciding to avoid sailing through the Arctic. Thawing ice and warmer waters are making the route accessible to commercial shipping for the first time, but the region’s fragile ecosystem is acutely vulnerable to oil spills and atmospheric pollution. 

UK’s shale gas could only last only 5 years, not 50

New research suggests that the UK’s shale gas deposits could run out in as little as 5 years, instead of the nearly 50 years’ worth of estimated reserves. The study could be a blow to the country’s fracking industry as it says that even 200 trillion cubic feet of the reserves would be hard to extract economically — which is a far cry from the “world’s biggest” reserves of 1,300 trillion cubic feet. Cuadrilla, one of the UK’s leading fracking firms, has, however, dismissed the findings.