Kolkata new pollution capital, India’s solar slowdown, Climate change suicide

Newsletter - April 18, 2018

Kolkata's new status as India's most polluted city is heavily influenced by its dependence on diesel

AIR POLLUTION: Kolkata ‘new air pollution capital’, Centre caught shopping air purifiers, Pet coke ban in a month, India standards ineffective, ‘too low’

Kolkata ‘new air pollution capital’

New analyses of official air quality data of metros for January and February has revealed Kolkata’s average AQI at 295 parts per million, higher than Delhi at 287 ppm. Air pollution in Kolkata was “more than double” of Delhi on some days. During the period Mumbai AQI was at 155, Chennai (127), Bangalore (88) and Hyderabad (130). Study says, diesel vehicles are the main polluters in Kolkata, of two million vehicles, 50% run on diesel. Above all, over 95% of the city’s commercial vehicles run on diesel.

Draft NCAP released but lacks specific pollution reduction targets

The draft of the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) that was released on Tuesday (April 17th) by the MoEFCC – although it aims to reduce air pollution across India through multiple strategies – was released without the specific air pollution reduction targets of 35% in three years and 50% in five years (from the date of implementation) that had been internally deliberated upon by the ministry. The draft therefore contradicts environment minister Harsh Vardhan’s previous statement that the ministry would endeavor to slash air pollution in 100 non-attainment cities by 50% within 5 years. However, it does specify a plan to install a comprehensive ambient air quality monitoring network across India for reliable data collection, and it is open to consultation and public comments until May 17th, during which the specific targets may be reinstated.

Erring industries ‘will be shut down’

Pollution watchdog CPCB has warned the states it will shut industries that fall under the 17 highly polluting categories if they flout emission norms. Industries are not providing pollution monitoring infrastructure to check stacks attached to boilers. Installation of on-line continuous (24×7) monitoring devices has been made mandatory. Govt. has notified 118 emission/effluent standards for 122 different sectors of industries, besides 32 general standards for ambient air.

Diesel generators still on, despite green court ban

The top court was informed that Delhi has surplus power, but the city lacks proper distribution. Small businesses are still using polluting diesel generators, long banned by green court.

‘Not the right approach’: Centre caught shopping air purifiers

Citing RTI data, Reuters reported PM office (PMO) and at least 6 other government agencies bought 140 air purifiers between 2014 and 2017, as Delhi choked with air pollution. The PMO, state think tank NITI Aayog, and the ministries of health, agriculture, tourism, home affairs and foreign affairs spent about $55,000 on air purifiers. Experts say air purifier approach is like “giving gumboots to city officials” when drains are blocked and the city is “covered in muck”. Air purifiers merely cleans air indoors, and are expensive.

‘Delhi needs bike sharing master plan’

WRI experts have said Delhi needs a master plan on public cycle-sharing which could be integrated with its public transport; heat, air pollution are just excuses and sign of lack of political will.

Bar too low: Air Quality standards ‘not effective’

Experts say, India must first set effective AQ standards to address air pollution. They point out that in the US even minimal PM2.5 exposure is regarded as harmful. India’s annual PM2.5 standard is the very high 40 mcg/m3, far more than WHO (10 mcg/m3) and the U.S. (15 mcg/m3, with research calls to decrease it further) standards. With such dismal targets Indians will continue to suffer killer air, “with no public or private accountability”.

Delhi air quality: UP, Rajasthan buses flouting norms

Over 7,000 buses, mainly from Uttar Pradesh (UP), were booked for flouting pollution norms in Delhi in the last six years. Around half of them (3,328) fined for not having pollution check certificates were from UP, 2,064 were from Rajasthan. 643 buses were from Delhi.

Much likelier now: IMO's declaration to cut shipping's emissions makes all-electric fleets a tantalizing prospect

CLIMATE CHANGE: Historic deal to curb Shipping emissions, India faces water emergency, US lawyer kills self in climate protest

Landmark deal reached to cut shipping emissions

The IMO’s meet in London last week achieved a major breakthrough, with over 170 member nations agreeing to slash carbon emissions from global shipping by “at least 50%” over 2008 levels by 2050. Member nations have also agreed to a 100% emissions reduction by mid-century. The resolution is expected to pave the way for carbon free and renewable energy sources to power global maritime trade, including (perhaps) fully electric container vessels.

The formal adoption of the text was only opposed by two countries Saudi Arabia and the U.S. India’s continued insistence on common but differentiated responsibilities in shipping industry was opposed by the EU on grounds that it was irrelevant since the owner of a ship may not be from the country of the flag the ship hoist. According to a 2016 UN report, China owns 4960 ships from which 1915 ships operate under a foreign flag.

‘Water Taps May Run Dry’

New early warning satellite images have revealed dangerously shrinking reservoirs in India. Based on the images of 500,000 dams across the world, the study predicts next “day zero” water crisis in India, Morocco, Iraq and Spain, which may lead to dried up water taps. Study mentioned conflict over water sharing of Narmada reservoirs of Indira Sagar and Sardar Sarovar reservoir. Cape Town recently launched a “day zero” deadline when taps would be cut off following a three-year drought.

Can limit global warming to 1.5C ‘without BECCS’

Latest research says it’s possible to meet 1.5C climate goal without using the controversial method of “negative emissions” from bio energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). The Nature Climate Change study shows how BECCS is completely useless against other mitigation methods such as lifestyle changes, lab-grown meat, greater adoption to renewables and energy efficiency. The controversial BECCS is mostly “untested negative emissions technology” that has come to dominate solutions to 1.5C.

100+ corporate giants align with UN climate goals

Over 100 multinationals including Sony, McDonald’s, L’Oreal, Electrolux have committed to cut emissions as per 2C target of Paris accord on climate change. The Science based Targets initiative (SBTi) says 103 companies have signed up to decarbonize. The 100+ companies’ combined emissions are equal to the “annual CO2 emissions from 100 coal-fired power plants, representing US$3.4 trillion.”

Anand Mahindra initiated the challenge to adopt science-based targets at the WEF in Davos last year, and he is the co-chair of the California Global Climate Action Summit 2018.

US lawyer kills self to protest against climate change

US lawyer David Buckel committed suicide by setting himself on fire in New York in a protest against climate change. In a suicide note Buckel wrote that he killed himself using fossil fuel to symbolise the harm human beings were causing to the planet. “Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather,” he wrote in his suicide note, which was emailed to several media organisations before he was found dead. “My early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves,” he said.

Top Court raps Centre for misusing climate fund

The Supreme Court rapped Centre for not using around Rs 90,000 crore assigned for environment restoration. “It is very clear that the amount was used for purposes, other than what it was entrusted with.” The money was being used for construction of roads, renovation of bus stands and science laboratory in colleges. “This money is meant for the benefit of the people. Construction of roads and installing streetlights is your job as a state. People’s funds cannot be used for it,” the court said.

So much to cheer: Ola is charging ahead with EVs, with plans to deploy 1 million EVs on the road by 2021

Ola to launch 10,000 EVs in 12 months

Cab aggregator Ola plans to add 10,000 EVs, mostly e-rickshaws, to its fleet in 12 months, and one million EVs by 2021. Last year, SoftBank-backed Bengaluru-based firm opened its first EV project in Nagpur with electric cabs, e-auto rickshaws, electric buses, rooftop solar installations, charging stations, and battery swapping schemes.

Charging stations: License not needed

In a boost to electric vehicles, Centre has clarified there is no need for a license to set up EV charging stations, nor any requirement to change the law for the same. Their logic: It’s the charging stations that are consuming electricity, which gets stored as chemical energy in the vehicles, therefore they are not directly selling electricity (only Discoms can), but merely billing vehicles for a charging service.

Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) chief called it “a very important step”. EESL, energy efficiency joint venture of public sector companies set up in 2010, runs 150 charging stations in Delhi, plans to start 2,400 more.

Electric Vehicle subsidy extended

Meanwhile, Centre’s Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid & Electric Vehicles (FAME I) scheme that backs purchase of EVs is extended until September 30, 2018. To increase EV adoption, experts suggest FAME II subsidy be directly given to industry, without requiring state tie-ups, aside from tax exemptions to EV owners, tax incentives for installing charging stations, mandating 25% of parking for chargers, and tax incentive to landlords to lease out space for chargers.

EV adoption: Experts for subsidies, tax holidays

To increase EV adoption, industry experts suggest: direct FAME II subsidy to industry, without requiring state tie-ups, income tax exemptions to EV owners, tax incentives for installing charging stations, mandating 25% of parking for chargers, and tax incentive to landlords to lease out space for chargers.

Indian biggies Wipro, SBI set all-EV fleet target

Indian IT giant Wipro and State Bank of India (SBI) will have 100% EV fleet by 2030. Wipro’s interim target: 500 EVs in the next three years, 1,000 by 2023. SBI, with over 22,000 branches in India, 206 abroad, will have EV corporate fleet in major cities by 2030, and charging stations for the staff.

Battery study scripts the end of fossil fuel cars

Bad news for diesel-petrol cars, latest study on Tesla electric car battery degradation has found highly promising results: 90% battery remained intact after use of 300,000 km. That’s several lifetimes of fossil fuel car. Tesla provides an 8-year infinite mile battery failure warranty, but it doesn’t cover degradation.

Efficient cars ‘blocked until 2019’ for profits

Auto giants are blocking energy efficient cars until 2019 to “maximize profits” says a new study. But 100 new electric cars are coming in 3 years. Twenty-one upgraded cars will be re-launched in 2019, compared to only 6 in 2017. Electric cars models will “increase five-fold to 100 by 2021”, with higher driving-range.

Elon Musk: Robots ruined deadlines

Elon Musk has denied The Economist reports of Tesla facing capital crunch and needing $3billion additional funding tweeting that his Silicon Valley car firm will make profit from the third quarter and “doesn’t need to raise money”. Musk said the use of robots in Model 3’s assembly caused production delays: “Excessive automation was mistake. Humans are underrated,” he tweeted.

China’s long-term Cobalt tie-ups

Canadian firm Cobalt 27, world’s largest cobalt firm backed by a Russian billionaire, may tie-up with Chinese car and battery companies, as China secures cobalt to make EV batteries. With a target to sell 7 million EVs a year by 2025, China’s EV sales may surpass 1 million this year. China beat the US in 2015 to become the biggest electric-car market. By 2025 annual global cobalt demand may touch 250,000 metric tons, and EVs may account for “35% of global market”.

EV-adoption, Chinese style: Island forced to ban diesel cars

China plans to set an example of EV-adoption in Hainan, and phase out fossil fuel cars in the resort island. “New Energy Vehicles” will be introduced in a “scientific way” to make Hainan into a tourist hub with “green lifestyle” including a free-trade zone, horse racing and sports lottery. China’s quota includes seven-fold increase in NEV sale.

Volkswagen’s ‘colourful’ EV makeover

Auto giant VW plans to enter electric-car era starting with tweaking its logo. The scandal-tainted, “too German”, brand is set to change from stiff to “colourful and approachable” image with a $25 billion electric-car makeover. Wooing buyers on digital and social media VW will rollout its battery-run cars with the I.D. hatchback in 2020, followed by an SUV, minivan and sedan.

Solar capacity in India may reach its 100GW by 2022 target despite slowdowns over protectionist duties

RENEWABLES: Govt. drops 7.5% solar import duty, India’s ‘solar slowdown’ amid ‘unprecedented’ global growth, UN blames duty, GST for India’s solar drop, ‘You will pay’ cost of duty hikes, not developers

Customs duty on solar imports dropped

India has removed the 7.5% customs duty from solar imports, six months after it implemented the controversial tax. The government dropped the 2016 classification of solar modules as “electrical motors and generators”, which attracts 7.5% duty, and restored the earlier classification of “photosensitive semiconductor devices,” whose import is free.


Last year, over 1,000 containers of solar equipment were stuck at Chennai port as developers refused to pay the duty. Meanwhile, the uncertainty still looms over the proposed 75% safeguard duty. India imports 90% of its solar modules.

Duty hikes: ‘Customers will pay’

Centre has allowed developers to pass on the costs of any increase in duty on imported solar equipment to discoms. Which actually means any hike will be borne by the customers. But, will the new norms end the uncertainty over impact of possible safeguard duties on imported equipment? Government is checking the veracity of data submitted by domestic solar industry for implementation of safeguards duty.

UN blames India GST, import duty

UN report blames duty on Chinese solar equipment and Centre’s Goods and Services Tax (GST) for India’s falling solar capacity additions in 2017 _ the year when India, China, Brazil pledged $177 billion to renewables, up 20%, compared to $103 billion from rich countries, down 19%. India ranked fourth in the world for renewable investment last year, at $10.9 billion, down 20%.

‘Solar faces 40% drop’, minister expects to beat 100GW target

Therefore, India’s solar capacity addition may nosedive by 40% to 4GW in the current financial year, thanks to solar slowdown over taxes and duties, ratings agency ICRA said. India added 7.2GW solar between April 2017 and February 2018, and 7-7.5GW is expected in FY18 in the grid-connected solar, which may “fall to 4-4.5GW in FY19.” But, science and technology minister remains optimist insisting that meeting 100GW solar target before 2022 deadline “will not be a problem”.

2017: ‘unprecedented’ global solar growth

But globally, solar power grew to “unprecedented levels in 2017”. A recent study concluded that clean energy makes climate, as well as economic sense. Around 98GW of new solar capacity worth $160.8 billion were installed globally in 2017 (up 18% from 2016), far exceeding fossil fuels and nuclear.

The UN Environment chief said “Investments in renewables deliver more jobs, better paid jobs, less pollution, healthier development.” China spent a record $126.6 billion, up 31% from 2016. Power generated by renewables avoided about 1.8 gigatons of CO2 emissions, “equivalent to emissions of entire U.S. transport system”.

2019 to be ‘high volume’ wind energy market

2019 will begin the “high volume” wind power installations with several auctions in the offing. Wind turbine major Suzlon expects “exponential growth of 10-12GW wind power each year”. India is targeting 23GW wind power by March 2020. Centre aims to achieve 100GW in solar and 60GW in wind projects by 2022.

Wind capacity “sharply reduced”

The more transparent auction route “sharply reduced wind capacity” addition in 2017-18. Against a target of 4,500MW, only 1,739.14 MW was added, far less than the 5,400 MW added in 2016-17. India’s total wind capacity stood at 32,916 MW at the end of March 2018, up from 31,177 MW a year ago.

China backs small wind farms

China, meanwhile, is backing small wind farms also called distributed wind power projects with grid connectivity. Distributed wind power farms can be used to power energy generators and transmit to the grid.

Solar rooftop makers yet to get Centre’s Rs 200 crore subsidy

Gujarat’s solar rooftop manufacturers are in the midst of a subsidy crisis, as over 100 manufacturers say the state and Centre have not reimbursed benefits since September last year. The total reimbursements have hit Rs200. The state government provides Rs 10,000 subsidy per kilowatt for maximum 2 kilowatt while centre gives Rs 20,700 per kilowatt.

Never ending problem: Major load-shedding looms for two Indian states as CIL grapples with coal supply issues

Fossil Fuels: Perry prods India towards fossil fuels, Power cut alert over coal supply crunch, NEP revised to include new thermal power plants, Shell too knew about climate consequences

US to India: Don’t forget ‘reliable’ fossil fuels

As part of the US’ continuing efforts to secure external markets for its fossil fuels – and keen to profit off of India’s anticipated surge in energy demands – US Energy Secretary Rick Perry is prodding India to not be lured by “cheap renewable power” alone.

Instead – speaking at the inaugural US-India Strategic Energy Partnership summit – he wants India’s energy portfolio to also include coal, oil & gas and nuclear power, that he stressed were much more reliable and predictable sources of energy. Perry’s comments derive from the intermittency of power supply by solar and wind energy, and India’s currently miniscule renewable energy storage capacities.

Critically low coal stocks, high spot prices spell trouble for state utilities

Amidst expectations of a surge in power demand during summer, utilities in Maharashtra and Rajasthan are staring at a major shortfall in power generation if their critically low coal stocks – worth merely 2-7 days of power generation, as opposed to the CEA mandated 25-30 days – are not replenished and boosted in time by Coal India Limited (CIL). The utilities have also warned of extensive load-shedding if they are unable to procure enough power to make up for their loss in generation.

However, with critically low coal stocks affecting both Central and Independent Power Producers (IPPs), spot prices for the energy market have soared by as much as 24%, pushing up the average Market Clearing Price (MCP) to Rs. 4.02 (NTPC’s avg. tariff is Rs. 3.20/kWh), and may potentially cause the highest spot prices to even breach last year’s Rs. 11/kWh.

CIL’s persistent inability to supply enough coal – caused primarily by the inadequate availability of railway rakes to transport coal – could lead to a sharp spike in power tariffs as the affected utilities try to (partly) recover their expenses from end consumers.

NEP revised, makes away for more coal-fired thermal power

Reiterating conventional wisdom that coal-based thermal power is necessary to service baseload and peak power demand, the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) has made way for up to 6,440MW (6.4GW) of coal-fired thermal power to be added to the nation’s energy mix (by 2022) under the revised National Electricity Plan (NEP).

This is in addition to the roughly 50GW of similar capacity already under construction, and contradicts the draft NEP’s assertion that no new coal fired power units would be needed till 2022. CEA’s revision is being linked to the need to tide over falling energy generation from hydropower units in case of poor monsoons, as well as to account for the coal-fired capacity that will go offline in the next decade.

Proposed Ratnagiri mega-refinery ‘threat to mango, cashew orchards’

The agreement between Saudi Aramco and the Indian consortium of IOC, HPCL and BPCL for setting up a mega-refinery and petrochemicals complex in Ratnagiri (Maharashtra) has attracted stiff opposition from locals, who have called for the estimated Rs. 3 lakh crore ($44bn) project to be moved away from their 15,000 acres of fertile mango and cashew orchards. The locals have alleged that the complex is being “imposed upon them” against their will, and its sizeable water demands will also be a point of contention.

The proposed project is part of Saudi Aramco’s strategy to evolve from simply being a crude oil supplier, and it would be one the largest refinery complexes in the world – capable of processing nearly 1.2 million barrels of crude oil each day. It will also produce India’s much needed BS-VI standard petrol and diesel fuel, besides providing a wealth of feedstock for an estimated 18 million tons of petrochemical products annually.

Shell caught red-handed, Exxon suffers major setback in court

A Dutch news team has unearthed a stash of incriminating evidence against Royal Dutch Shell – one of the world’s biggest oil & gas extractors – that suggest that even during the 1980s, the driller was well aware of the climate change potential of burning fossil fuels.

Shell’s internal management however chose to ignore the warnings of its scientists, and instead continued to publicly question the scientific underpinnings of the findings – perhaps to protect its multi-billion dollar business interests.

The revelation places Shell in the same category as ExxonMobil – which too was found to have known the dangers of burning fossil fuels – and which has now been ordered to submit in courtdocuments on why it chose to ignore its own scientists’ warnings.

New Zealand bans all new offshore oil exploration

In another major blow to Big Oil, New Zealand has decided to not offer any new offshore oil exploration permits to its oil & gas industry – in an effort to not just tackle the issue of climate change well in advance, but also as a massive step towards its goal of a carbon neutral economy by 2050. The country’s 22 existing permits – some valid for decades to come – will however remain unaffected.

The New Zealand oil & gas lobby has predictably reacted with sharp criticism, labeling the move as “economic vandalism“, and has called into question the future of around 8,000 jobs supported by offshore exploration.