Profound inequality bears heavy on India’s energy transition

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Seeking justice: India’s transition story is fraught with disproportionate risks for communities directly and indirectly dependent on India’s coal economy | Photo: Flickr

Profound inequality bears heavy on India’s energy transition

Unjust power structures typical of India’s coal belt will make the prospects of a just transition much tougher than in the west

On Thursday, just as this piece was being prepared to be published, Indian Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Hardeep Singh Puri and US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm jointly convened a virtual ministerial meeting to launch the India-US Strategic Clean Energy Partnership (SCEP). Through the formation of six Task Forces, the SCEP has a stated objective of increasing inter-governmental cooperation between the two nations on Power and Energy Efficiency, Responsible Oil and Gas, Renewable Energy, Sustainable Growth and Emerging Fuels. Tucked deep in the press release was also the announcement of a Joint Committee to “deliberate” on Just Transition in the Coal Sector— a process that is likely to affect around 21.5 million lives in India.

Early among the millions slated to be affected by the energy transition in India are the communities dependent on the Sargipali mine in Odisha. When the mine closed abruptly, the local community was suddenly hit with the herculean task of sustaining their livelihood without a source of income. The mine, operated by Hindustan Zinc Limited (HZL), had been active for three decades before the state government decided to close it owing to its unprofitability.

With the sudden closure of the mine, the local community had to face income loss and unemployment. Since the mine was located in a remote area, a majority of the population in that area was dependent on it. Most of the people affected were labourers aand local businessmen because permanent employees opted for a voluntary retirement scheme.

Many locals who took loans and ventured into the milk business lost their customers. Unable to pay the loan, they entered into an interlocked credit market. People in the lower age group started migrating and others in their middle and old age began commuting 22 km to 40 km to different towns to find work.

The account of Sargipali is a clear example of the arbitrariness in planning, which severely impacted the local community. In the times to come, this could be the fate of many fossil fuel companies in India as the country transitions toward a low carbon economy. However, this transition would deeply impact the workers and communities dependent on them.

In order to ensure sustainable livelihoods for people and communities and improve socio-economic and environmental conditions of these regions, India has to rely on a just transition.

From where did the concept of just transition originate?

The concept of just transition was championed in North America during the 1970s labour movement to secure workers’ rights and livelihoods in response to government-led environmental legislation and regulations that could have labor impacts. The leader of the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers Union (OCAW), Tony Mazzacchi, has been attributed as the person responsible for the movement.

Mazzacchi asked for a “superfund for workers” as a result of increased environmental regulation. He claimed, “those who work with toxic materials on a daily basis in order to provide the world with the energy and the materials it needs deserve a helping hand to make a new start in life.”

In the 1990s, the idea of a “superfund for workers” was officially endorsed by North American Labour organisations and was later described as just transition.

The idea was brought into the climate policy platform by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) in 1997. In its statement to the Kyoto Conference, the ITUC demanded the proposition of a just transition. This set in motion the discussion on the issue. It was included in the negotiating text for the Copenhagen Summit in 2009 and later the preamble to the Paris Agreement adopted in December 2015.

In 2018, the ‘Solidarity and Just Transition Silesia Declaration’ was adopted during the Katowice Conference, COP24. It highlighted that just transition of workforce and creating decent and quality jobs is key for an inclusive transition to a low carbon economy.

Why justice in India will differ from the west

When Germany closed its coal mines in the Ruhr valley, it took a comprehensive and planned approach. It was an important employer in the region employing around six lakh people during its peak time in 1957. However, owing to unprofitability, the mines were closed in 1968. The last mine was closed in 2018–around 50 years after the plan was tabled.

Various stakeholders were included in the discussion for the transition. The government came out with policies based on the discussions to minimise the effect of mine closure on the workers and communities. One of the significant achievements of the planned closure was that it did not result in unemployment as predicted.

In the context of India, some coal mines are becoming unprofitable and closing down, but overall, coal mining still remains a profitable venture. Additionally, the socio-economic conditions in developed countries are different from developing countries like India. Just transition models which work for developed nations have to be planned differently for socio-economically backward regions of India. 

In western countries where coal mines started closing around 50-60 years ago, their biggest challenge was how to deal with the formal workforce, said Sreshtha Banerjee, director of Just Transition, at iFOREST. “Currently, if we talk about just transition from a western perspective, which is largely dominating the discussion, it is mainly oriented around this [challenge of formal workforce] where trade unions play an important role.”

However, in India the main challenge is the number of informal workers in the coal industry, which is three times more than the formal workforce, stressed Banerjee.

This country is profoundly unjust and unequal and every challenge that other countries face will be greater in India, said Rathin Roy, Managing Director (Research and Policy) at Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and a senior visiting fellow at Centre for Policy Research (CPR) India. “In a society where labour laws are not upheld, society is unjust and work is largely informal in nature, the challenges are much bigger and obviously more difficult to carry out a just transition.”

Why does India need a just transition?

The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warned of increasingly extreme climate events that will leave an irreversible impact on the climate. The UN chief termed the report as a Code Red for humanity. For India, the report projected a rise in frequency and severity of extreme heat events.

India is also amongst the top five countries vulnerable to climate change, as per the Global Climate Change Risk Index. According to studies, the country is estimated to lose 3% to 10% of its GDP annually due to the climate crisis by 2100 if the same conditions persist.

The IPCC report is a clarion call to move towards a low carbon future. While fossil fuel sources dominate the primary energy market, it is crucial for India to plan a phased exit from them. India has already embarked on a journey of energy transition and is progressing rapidly.

It has pledged to increase the share of non-fossil fuels-based electricity to 40% by 2030 with international support on technology transfer and financing. This includes an ambitious target of achieving 175 GW of renewable energy (out of which 100 GW will be from solar) by 2022.

At the UN Climate Action Summit in 2019, India declared that it aims to achieve 450 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2030, planning to go beyond what was committed under the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

Justice: Easier to preach than to reach in India

A transition away from coal will be a challenging task for India considering that around 40% of the districts in India have some form of coal dependency and people’s lives and livelihoods are shaped by the coal industry.

According to research published this year at the University of British Columbia, around 3.6 million people in 159 Indian districts are either directly or indirectly employed in the coal and power sector. While an estimated 80% of these jobs are linked to the coal mining sector (in 51 districts), the remaining 20% are linked to power plants (in 141 districts), it stated.

This is a significant finding since it shows that the socio-economic contribution of the coal mining sector in jobs is more than the power sector. However, coal mines are more concentrated in a smaller number of districts. 

The study noted “there is a knowledge gap regarding the socio-economic dimensions of coal transitions – in India, and around the world.”

The closure of mines also results in migration of people to an unfamiliar economy, which creates a system of economic inequality.

“We cannot have the same unequal world and the same injustice that existed in the past as we transition away from coal,” said Roy. According to him, as India transitions towards a low carbon future, it should ensure this does not increase inequalities. 

Another challenge is creating jobs in poorer areas so that people don’t have to migrate to other states for jobs, he added.

For many coal-producing states like Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Telangana, royalty is a major source of revenue. Data shows that royalty paid from coal mining in India has increased from Rs99.73 billion in 2014-15 to Rs147.46 billion in 2018-19 with a CAGR of 8.14%. This indicates that coal royalty plays a significant role in the state exchequer for these states. However, in 2019-20, the royalty decreased to Rs12,962 billion.

Additionally, coal companies contribute 26% of their profits into the District Mineral Fund (DMF), a benefit-sharing mechanism that uses the finances generated by it to ‘work for the interest and benefit of people and areas affected by mining’. With the decrease or absence of coal revenues, the project supported by DMF will be difficult to operate.

Another bottleneck in just transition is the infrastructure and social vulnerabilities of coal mining areas. When a coal mine is set up, it brings basic infrastructure facilities like schools, hospitals, and communication services to remote villages. With phasing out of coal, many of these social projects will be derailed, thereby impacting local communities.

Suranjali Tandon, assistant professor at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy told CarbonCopy that the most palatable challenge is the movement out of fossil fuel, especially coal, which occupies a large fraction of power supply.

“Beyond that a whole macroeconomic risk awaits us,” she said. “If you start divesting in companies and assets that are related to fossil fuel, then you have to bear the risk within the financial system as extended credit is provided to these sectors.” There is the potential of contagion across the system unless this is staggered and well managed, she said.

Another challenge raised by experts is–who is going to fund a just transition? According to Tandon, it is always natural to ask the government to fund something that has a broad spectrum of welfare effects. But it will be a difficult task for the government because a significant part of its revenue is derived from fossil fuels (close to a fifth of the total), which may be adversely affected, she said. It will be a challenge to garner the kind of resources, through public finance, required for managing the transition, she added.

India’s low-carbon transition is far from a simple task of energy accounting, and must be seen as in juxtaposition with massive scales of social and economic transformations that it implies. Justice in India’s transition requires not just overarching plans that chase intangible targets, but the dismantling of several tangible power structures that exist today.

This is the first installment in a three-part series on the prospects of a just transition in India’s coal belt. The next installments will be published in the following days.

Thunder and fury: Hurricane Ida’s record-breaking rainfall brought New York’s public transportation system to a halt, much like Hurricane Sandy in 2012 | Photo: NY Post

Hurricane Ida hits US, triggers record-breaking rainfall, destroys homes

More than 50 people lost their lives after Hurricane Ida hit the US state of Louisiana on August 29. While the storm weakened as it moved up north, it triggered flash floods on the East Coast. The hurricane caused record-breaking rainfall. New York’s Central Park recorded 3.1 inches of rainfall per hour. Social media was inundated with photos of water gushing through public transportation systems and homes in New York and New Jersey. 

Oil production in the Gulf of Mexico was also suspended as a result of the hurricane. More than a million residents remained without power as of Sunday. The US Coast Guard also said it was investigating nearly 350 oil spill reports in the Gulf of Mexico in the aftermath of the hurricane. 

Experts linked human-induced climate change for the intensity with which Hurricane Ida hit North America. Its intensity and the record-breaking rainfall was a result of warmer-than-normal waters in the Gulf of Mexico, they said. The US Gulf Coast, including Louisiana, is now bracing for Hurricane Larry this week. 

Study finds 18% tree species in India face threat of extinction; links it to climate crisis

A global tree assessment found around 18% of India’s tree species face the possibility of extinction. The assessment published by Botanic Gardens Conservation International in London identified 2,603 plant species in India. Of these, the study stated 650 species are endemic, while 469 are threatened. Globally, 30% of the 58,497 tree species found worldwide face extinction, the study found. At least 142 species are already extinct, according to the assessment.  

The study stated the climate crisis had a measurable impact on these species. Other reasons listed for this threat were forest clearance for infrastructure projects, other forms of habitat loss such as for timber and medicines, and invasive pests and diseases. In the Indo-Malaya region, which includes India, the study found 41 tree species were already extinct. 

Number of extreme weather events increased five-fold in 50 years: UN study

A new UN report stated the number of extreme weather events across the globe have increased five-fold in the past 50 years. According to the report titled Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses from Weather, Climate and Water Extremes (1970–2019), between 1970 and 1979, 771 disasters linked to the climate were reported. This number jumped to 3,165 between 2010 and 2019, the report stated. Between 1970 and 2019, extreme weather events linked to climate accounted for 50% of all disasters, 45% of all reported deaths and 74% of all reported economic losses. The good news, however, is that the number of deaths in that time period decreased almost three-fold – from 50,000 in the 1970s to 20,000 in the 2010s, thanks to early warning systems and disaster management, according to the report. Economic losses, however, increased seven-fold – from an average of $49 million in the 1970s to $383 million per day globally. 

The same report found every third death from extreme weather, climate and water stress over the past 50 years was in Africa. This despite the continent accounting for only 17% of the global population. The WMO’s Atlas of Mortality and Economic Losses from Weather, Climate and Water Extremes (1970–2019) found the four major droughts that occurred on the continent in 1973, 1981 and 1983 led to 89% of the total deaths in Africa from extreme weather, climate and water stress over the past 50 years. The continent, however, accounted for only 1% of the global economic losses from such events. 

Madagascar on the verge of world’s first climate-induced famine: UN

Madagascar is on the brink of the world’s first climate-induced famine, the United Nations (UN) said. Four years without rain has left the country with “catastrophic” levels of  hunger and food insecurity, according to the UN. The worst drought the country has seen in the past 40 years has also destroyed lone farming communities in south Madagascar where residents are being forced to hunt for insects in order to survive. The UN estimated around 30,000 people are suffering through Level 5 food insecurity, which is the highest recognised level internationally. 

Will we? Campaigners have called on the organisers of the COP 26, due to be held in November in Glasgow, to postpone the event citing global inequities in the face of resurgent COVID cases | Photo: Greenpeace

Activists call for COP26 postponement, UK rejects proposal

With less than 60 days to go for the COP26, scheduled to be held in Glasgow from 1-12 November 2021, the spectre of rising COVID-19 cases in several parts of the world has cast a shadow on the climate summit. Global alliance of climate and environmental campaign groups, Climate Action Network (CAN), this week urged organisers to postpone the key climate meeting citing stark vaccine inequity, rising travel and accommodation costs, and high rates of Covid-19 infection in many parts of the world. “With just two months to go, time has run out for the UK’s vision for a ‘normal and inclusive’ Cop26,” CAN said in a statement on Tuesday. “It is evident that a safe, inclusive and just global climate conference in early November will be impossible.” 

Campaigners have raised concerns that given the inequity in vaccine access, participation at the event might be heavily skewed towards delegates and civil society from rich and developed nations. The UK government, however, has maintained that it is committed to host the “most inclusive COP ever” and has committed to bear costs of vaccinating all participating delegates from developing countries. This commitment has yet to see much corresponding action, as delegates have shared frustrations in procuring vaccines through the UK’s vaccination drive. 

Denmark, Costa Rica push for alliance to phase out oil and gas

Denmark and Costa Rica are leading an attempt to form an alliance of countries that are willing to commit to a phase out date for oil and gas production. The Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance (BOGA) will also seek to stop allotting permits for exploration. A draft document seen by Reuters revealed the “core task” of the alliance would be to set a phaseout deadline for developed and developing countries that would align with their Paris goals. 

In order to join the alliance, member countries will have to commit to ending licensing rounds for oil and gas production, and phase out existing production. BOGA is expected to be launched at the COP26 summit in Glasgow, Scotland this year and the draft may change before this date, Reuters reported.    

Will consult widely over proposed energy market rules, says Australia’s energy board after backlash from renewables sector 

Australia’s energy board seems to be listening after suffering a backlash from the renewable energy industry over proposed changes to the energy market rules. The Energy Security Board (ESB) vowed to consult various stakeholders, including industry players and all tiers of government, before launching a new system by 2023. Among the contentious changes proposed is building a capacity mechanism for the country’s energy market. This will ensure power generators get paid when they guarantee supply at specific times. Renewable energy producers, however, contended that such payments could work to stretch the lifeline of coal generators.  

Australia’s national electricity grid operator, AEMO, meanwhile, said renewable energy coupled with storage can generate a stable power supply for the next five years. This means the country could potentially expedite the closing of its ageing coal power stations. In its report, AEMO highlighted thata renewable generation already has reached 57% penetration twice this year. Renewables could meet 100% of power demand for large parts of the day as soon as 2025, the report noted. 

Strained relations could impact cooperation on climate negotiations, China warns US 

Chinese officials warned the US’ climate envoy John Kerry that tensions between the two nations could hurt climate negotiations. Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi told Kerry that such negotiations are not separate from the broader relations between the two countries and urged the US to take action to improve ties. 

Kerry, who was on a two-and-a-half-day visit to the northern Chinese city of Tianjin, told reporters China cannot use climate change as a “geostrategic weapon or tool” because the issue was not just a bilateral but a global challenge. Cooperation between the two largest greenhouse gas emitters is crucial, especially if a breakthrough is to be reached at the UN climate summit to be held in November this year. Kerry told reporters the US wanted China “to do more” especially since the latter continues to build coal power plants even as it shares its plans on cutting emissions.  

UK announces $1.2bn in funding for India’s climate change efforts

The UK government last week announced a new funding package of public and private investments for green projects and renewable energy development in India. The announcement was made jointly by UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman as a part of the 11th Economic and Financial Dialogue (EFD) between the UK and India. The package includes $1bn in investments for green projects between 2022-2026 from the UK’s development finance institute, the CDC.

Poisoned existence: Nearly half a billion people living in north India are exposed to extreme levels of life-shortening air pollution | Photo: Canva

Air pollution reducing life expectancy of Indians by 10 years: EPIC study

A new report by The Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) found air pollution can reduce the life expectancy of Indians by nine years as North India breathes pollutants that are 10 times worse than those found anywhere else in the world.

The study stated 480 million people in northern India face the “most extreme” levels of air pollution in the world and over the years the toxic levels have expanded to cover other parts of the country. The study added that clean air policies can add up to five years to people’s lives. 

Polluted air has expanded from North India to include western and central Indian states such as Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh where the average person is now losing between two-and-a-half to three years of life expectancy as compared to early 2000, the study stated. According to the study, China reported “sharp reductions in pollution in short order”. Since 2013, the country has reduced its particulate production by 29%, the study found.

1 in 3 countries do not have legally binding air quality norms: UNEP 

The first-ever assessment of air quality laws and regulations by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) revealed that one in three countries have no legally binding air pollution standards. Where the laws exist, they are misaligned with World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, the assessment found. The report also highlighted that 31% of countries that do have the power to introduce such ambient air quality standards have yet to adopt them.

According to the report, in at least 34% of countries, ambient air quality is not yet legally protected. Around 49% of the world’s countries define air pollution exclusively as an outdoor threat, geographic coverage of air quality standards varies, and over half of the countries allow deviations from these standards, the study stated.

Delhi’s air improved 48%, Chennai’s 62% during 2020 lockdown: Global study

Air quality improved as PM 2.5 concentrations fell in Chennai by 62% followed by Amritsar (51%) and Delhi (48%) during the strict lockdown from March 25 to May 31, 2020, compared to the same period between 2015 and 2019, the World Meteorological Organisation and the Global Atmosphere Watch study said. However, the air quality could not be improved before or after the lockdown period, highlighting the need for long-term measures to battle air pollution across cities, reported HT.

During the pre-lockdown period, Paris recorded a 58% reduction, but only 9.5% reduction during lockdown; Augsburg recorded a 70% reduction in PM 2.5 levels during pre-lockdown, but only 6.8% during lockdown period. Munich recorded only 5.3% reduction during lockdown; New York 27%; Sao Paulo 17% and Madrid saw an increase by 17%, which may be linked to meteorological factors, the study said.

New Delhi remained the world’s most polluted Capital for the third straight year in 2020, according to IQAir, a Swiss group that measures air quality levels based on PM2.5 concentrations.

Less than 1% of development finance goes towards cleaning polluted air: State of Global Air Quality Funding 2021

Development funding for projects seeking to improve air quality constitutes less than 1% of the total aid spending worldwide. The low spending is despite a 153% rise in deaths caused by outdoor air pollution in aid recipient countries between 1990 and 2019, new research from Clean Air Fund has revealed. 

The Clean Air Fund’s annual The State of Global Air Quality Funding 2021 report provides the only global snapshot of projects tackling air pollution by donor governments and philanthropic organisations. Overall, governments and philanthropic foundations spent $5.72 billion between 2015-20, a gradual increase over the period. However, preliminary figures suggest this funding dipped by 10% from 2019 ($1.47 billion) to 2020 ($1.33 billion). While fossil fuel combustion accounts for about two-thirds of human exposure to outdoor air pollution, the research also shows that governments have spent 21% more in development assistance on projects that prolong fossil fuel usage ($1.50 billion in 2019 and 2020) than they did on projects with a primary objective of reducing air pollution (around $1.24 billion).

Turning to the oceans: Energy economics institute IEEFA has cautioned that India might need to reorient RE deployment offshore to reduce the burden of land requirements | Photo: DNV GL-Energy

India needs judicious planning of land use for solar, wind projects to achieve RE goals: IEEFA

To achieve renewable energy goals and net-zero emissions by 2050, India needs judicious planning of land use for solar and wind generation today, cautioned a new IEEFA report. 

The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) estimated that with a 2050 net-zero target, solar in India could occupy around  50,000-75,000 square kilometres (km2) of land, while wind could occupy 15,000-20,000 km2 (the total project area including space between turbines and other infrastructure). The report stated that land that could be needed for solar is equivalent to 1.7%-2.5% of India’s total landmass, or 2.2%-3.3% of non-forested land.

IEEFA said India should minimise total land use by installing offshore wind, rooftop solar, and solar on man-made water bodies. India should incentivise tenders for sites without land conflict and back distributed RE projects, the report stated. 

Only “miraculous fall” in panel costs may rescue RE projects: Study

Amid falling tariffs and high investor interest, only a miraculous fall in panel costs would make the bids for renewable projects viable, according to a Bridge to India study. Tariffs have fallen despite levy of Basic Customs Duty (BCD) on solar cells and modules, higher equipment prices and implementation of Approved List of Models and Manufacturers, the study stated. 

It added that seven auctions totalling 3,950 megawatt (MW) capacity have been completed in just seven weeks and a strong interest in bidding had led to a further fall in tariffs.

Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) discovered a record low tariff of Rs2.34 to Rs2.35 per unit for wind-solar hybrid projects recently–that’s a 3% fall over the last SECI solar-wind hybrid auction in December 2020, said the consultancy firm.

Tenders are getting routinely oversubscribed by five to six times as developers are anxious to win projects. There was a big slowdown in auctions in the 12-month period leading up to July 2021, the report said.

India may generate up to 34 kilotonnes of PV waste by 2030: India-EU study 

By 2030, India will generate a cumulative mass of PV module waste as high as 34 kilotonnes, according to a new study. The PV waste would be generated due to early failures or damages during transportation, installation, and operation.

The report was jointly produced by the EU-India Technical Cooperation Project (IDOM), European solar trade body SolarPower Europe, European take-back and recycling association PV CYCLE, and Indian industry body National Solar Energy Federation of India (NSEFI).

Meanwhile, Spanish turbine maker Siemens Gamesa announced it is producing recyclable offshore wind turbine blades for commercial use.

Crying FAME: Tata's opposition to Tesla's cars receiving reduced import duties may be technically correct under FAME-II, but the two are unlikely to ever tap the same customer base | Photo:

Tata opposes import duty cuts for Tesla

Tata Motors has opposed Tesla’s application to India’s central government, under which the import duty on its vehicles would be lowered by up to 40% to make them affordable to a wider customer base. Tata Motors manufactures India’s best-selling electric car, the Nexon, and its opposition is based on the reasoning that the demand goes against the FAME-II scheme’s tenet of supporting the growth of India’s EV market through localisation. However, Tesla’s cars are likely to be much more expensive than the Nexon and would only cater to a small percentage of buyers. 

Meanwhile, four of Tesla’s vehicles received homologation certificates from India’s transport ministry, although the model names have not yet been released. 

Toyota to target only 10% EV battery degradation over 10 years 

Toyota Motors announced that it would spend $13.5 billion through to 2030 to build EVs, and that it would invest in research on solid state batteries that would only lose 10% of their rated capacity over an operational life of 10 years. The announcement comes as part of Toyota’s public relations campaign around its conceptual bZ4X vehicle, through which the carmaker is exploring ways to slash EV battery and overall vehicle costs by as much as 50%. 

The targets are, however, contrary to recent reports that have uncovered deliberate attempts by Toyota — or at least its North American division — to stall the continent’s progress on EVs, since Toyota has invested billions of dollars into developing hydrogen fuel cell vehicles instead. 

India: EV manufacturers asked to give discounts to customers scrapping old cars

India’s Union minister for transport Nitin Gadkari said the country’s EV makers should offer significant discounts to buyers who scrapped their old IC engine cars, although the reasoning behind the statement remained unclear. The central government had announced a new vehicle scrappage policy for the country in its budget session earlier this year, under which owners scrapping their private vehicles that were more than 20 years old — and commercial vehicles older than 15 years — would receive a monetary payout as an incentive towards buying an EV. The reaction from EV manufacturers is not yet clear. 

Odisha announces EV policy, sets out 25% subsidy to set up charging stations along highways 

The Indian state of Odisha announced its EV policy, which sets out incentives for electric two-wheelers, three-wheelers and four-wheelers to spur adoption. The policy will be valid for five years and targets 20% EV sales by 2025. It also includes a 25% state government subsidy for energy operators to set up EV charging stations along state and national highways, and a Rs.5000 grant for the first 20,000 private charging points. Uniquely, the policy will reimburse 100% of the state GST incurred during the purchase of batteries at swapping stations, and the state will explore coordinated EV battery waste management. 

Colossal waste: $33 billion worth of coal plants planned for India are already being called superfluous, especially in the face of cheaper, more flexible solar and battery storage | Photo:

27 GW of planned coal plants in India would be superfluous despite $33 billion in investments

A new report by think-tanks Ember and Climate Risk Horizons found that 27 GW of pre-permit and permitted coal plants across India would be unnecessary and “superfluous” as the country’s 33 GW of under-construction coal plants would be enough for its power needs beyond 2030. The report terms the pre-construction plants as “zombie” capacities as they would have to operate at well below optimal load factors, or lie idle, despite the $33 billion (~Rs. 247,421 crore) in investments needed to bring them online. Of this, the Adani Group and Bajaj Group have proposed to invest Rs26,286 crore and Rs17,998 crore in new coal capacities, respectively. 

The report instead suggested that the financing be used to grow India’s renewable energy and battery storage capacities, which together could meet even peak power demands at a rate cheaper than building new coal plants, and would make the grid more flexible and resilient to changes in load profiles. 

India: Automakers asked to offer flex-fuel engines within 6 months 

The Indian minister for road transport announced that it would be mandatory for automakers in the country to launch flex-fuel vehicles (capable of running on 100% bio-ethanol) within the next six months. The move is aimed to lessen India’s dependence on oil imports and to make vehicle ownership less expensive as the price of petrol has exceeded Rs100/litre, while bio-ethanol blended fuel retails for around Rs65/litre. 

At the same time, India’s production of the fuel would have to more than double from the current rate of 465 crore litres per year to at least 1,000. The government, however, will approve 450 new bio-ethanol plants and petrol stations across the country will be equipped to retail blended fuels or 100% bio-ethanol within 10 years — with the aim of eventually selling only pure bio-ethanol (E100). 

UK firm replaces natural gas with hydrogen for world’s first carbon-free sheet glass

UK glassmaker Pilkington made history by manufacturing the world’s first carbon-free sheet glass, for which it replaced the traditionally used natural gas with hydrogen at its factory in St. Helens. The trial project is part of the larger HyNet Industrial Fuel Switching Project and demonstrates the safety of using hydrogen for such industrial applications. The development also follows the first-ever shipment of carbon-free steel — also made with hydrogen — by HYBRIT in Sweden.

BMW to lower carbon emissions of its vehicles by 40% by 2030 

One of the largest luxury automakers in the world, BMW, announced that it would reduce the life cycle carbon emissions of its cars by at least 40% over 2019 levels by 2030. The announcement was made before the IAA Mobility Conference and it would see BMW increase the use of recycled and reusable materials in its cars from 30% (at present) to 50%, target at least 50% sales from EVs by 2030 and at least halve the per kilometre CO2 emissions from its cars by the end of the decade. The targets could significantly affect BMW’s carbon footprint — and spur competition amongst its rivals — as the group sold nearly 1.4 million cars in the first half of 2021 alone.