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More frequent extreme storms; 18% GST on solar; India worst on WHO pollution list

Newsletter - May 15, 2018

Get used to this: Delhi NCR’s dust storm last week is symbolic of the intensifying effects of global warming

ENVIRONMENT & CLIMATE CHANGE: “Slow Progress” on Paris rule book, Extreme storms kill 278, Arctic sea ice melts again; Around 8% emissions from Tourism

“Slow Progress” at Bonn; India’s extreme storms kill nearly 280; Another heat wave at Arctic

UN climate talks ended in Bonn with “slow progress” on the “rule book” for Paris accord and a “diplomatic logjam” on the issue of cutting emissions. Disputes included how rich nations will raise $100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing nations cope with warming and emissions. Extra session will be held in Bangkok from September 3-8 before the conference to be held later this year in Poland which will become the only country to have hosted the COP four times after this crucial meeting. Poland has not led on climate ambition either within its country or as part of EU, and this remains cause of anxiety about what COP24 will deliver. Writing the “rule book” by December is the biggest test. Nearly 100 people killed since Sunday, over 3 days, in storms across six Indian states, 278 have died since April. More died in 5 weeks, than all of 2017 (197 deaths). Experts said the severity and frequency of dust storms will rise with rising global temperature. With extreme rise in both minimum and maximum temperatures, such storms could become the new normal. Meanwhile, a spike in temperature in the Arctic is dangerously thawing the sea ice yet again. The winter of 2017-2018 is witnessing extreme Arctic heat events, just like the region did in 2016. “Temperatures have been as much as 17 degrees Celsius above normal,” and the sea ice has taken a “huge nosedive” recently.

Need green clearance? Pay 2% fund; Massive tourism emissions

Centre’s new guidelines require every corporate seeking green clearance to set aside up to 2% of its capital investment for Corporate Environment Responsibility (CER). The mandatory CER will be over and above what is required for executing the environment management plan in a project-affected area. Recent study has revealed global tourism to be a big warming villain: between 2009 and 2013, tourism’s global carbon footprint has increased from 3.9 to 4.5 GtCO2e, four times more than previously estimated, accounting for about 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The trillion-dollar industry will emit 6.5 billion tonnes of carbon emissions by 2025.

Hopefully no more: A country-wide ban on petcoke could have significant impact on reducing industrial emissions

AIR POLLUTION: WHO rates India worst polluted; Govt says “situation improved”; Clean Air Plan “lacks urgency”

The Regional Press: Uttar Pradesh

Critically polluted, but “missing” from National Clean Air Plan

Campaigners have demanded to include “critically polluted” regions including Singrauli in National Clean Air Plan, Hindustan reported. Experts said national plans and surveys cater to big cities alone.

The recent WHO rankings, based on available monitoring data, didn’t include Singrauli. Experts say India has 43 critically polluted zones for which little or no data is available in the public domain. Bordering MP and UP the region produces over 22GW coal-fired electricity per day.

India rated worst in WHO pollution report; Govt. calls report “inaccurate”; National Clean Air Plan “lacks urgency”; Expect “worst” with better monitoring

North India’s bad air is back in headlines. WHO released global data (4,300 cities) of polluted cities: top 12 in India. Experts said the huge valley of north India traps foul air, mostly from transport, waste burning and cooking fuel. No South Indian city figured in the WHO list. Centre said WHO’s 2016 data doesn’t reflect the true picture which improved post 2017 norms. Experts say new rules are good but limited to big cities, lack clear targets and are contradicted by Centre itself. Reports will “appear worse” before they get better as monitoring is improved.

The WHO findings have led experts to reassess the National Clean Air Plan (NCAP). Experts say there’s plenty of data, but NCPA lacks urgency in implementation and Centre and states “are in denial” when it comes to air pollution

Govt plans to propose petcoke ban; Bad air “increases crime rate”

Centre plans to propose country-wide ban on petcoke as fuel following the top court ban on burning petcoke in and around Delhi. Petcoke is a petroleum byproduct used as fuel, with large CO2 and SO2 emissions that can cause lung disease and acid rain.

New LSE research says crimes including shop-lifting and pickpocketing rose with air pollution in London. However, it didn’t have a significant impact on serious crimes of murder and rape.


Counterproductive: Maharashtra’s ruling on 18% GST for solar could be a short-term decision that throttles capacity addition

RENEWABLES: Solar tariff drops; 7.5% duty scrapped; 18% GST verdict; Solar spiked 103% in Q1; Solar “killing coal”; New RBI norms hit foreign investments

‘Sizeable’ drop in solar tariffs; Finally, 7.5% import duty scrapped

Solar tariffs fell to Rs 2.72 per unit at state-owned NTPC’s 750MW auction in Andhra Pradesh, sizeable drop from the last high of Rs 3 per unit in Gujarat. Though it’s still well above the record-low (Rs 2.44 per unit) of May 2017.

The winners included Sprng Energy, UK-private equity firm Actis; Ayana, backed by the UK government’s development finance institution CDC; and SB Energy, the joint venture of Japan’s SoftBank, Taiwan’s Foxconn and Bharti Airtel.

In a relief to solar sector Centre has scrapped 7.5% customs duty on solar equipment. Solar modules, worth over $150 million, were held up at ports. The finance ministry reversed the policy last month (Reuters). Domestic manufacturers have sought “anti-dumping” safeguards against cheap Chinese modules (by Trina and Yingli).

Solar developers face 18% GST; New RBI guidelines “adverse” for foreign investments

In a huge impact on future solar tariffs, Maharashtra Authority for Advance Ruling, has ruled that solar developers will be taxed 18% GST on solar equipment (not the concessional 5% tax) because they hire contractors not merely to “supply goods” but “perform service” to put together an entire solar power generating system (SPGS). The 2-member bench verdict of tax commissioners will be a cue to other states, which is likely to increase tariffs at future auctions.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has capped foreign investments in renewable sector, amid an existing fund crunch. FPIs (Foreign Portfolio Investors) can’t exceed 50% investment in a corporate bond; and 20% in a corporate entity. Experts say this will adversely impact foreign investments in renewable projects, as now they will be brought in as equity, forcing companies to pay dividends, and related tax.

Solar spiked 103% in 2018 Q1; Cheap renewables “killing coal”; India to “surpass 2030 target”

Solar is well on course to become India’s “primary source of energy”. Solar power generation in Q1 of 2018 spiked by 103% compared to the Q1 of 2017, according to Central Electricity Authority (CEA).

Solar Accounted for 20% of India’s Total Power Generation in 2017-18

In 2017-18, India produced 25.90 billion units (BUs) of solar power, an increase of nearly 92%compared with 2016-17. India installed record 10GW of solar in 2017-18, the US-based IEEFA said, adding that domestic manufacturing rules will get global manufacturers to set shop in India. In April, Japan’s SoftBank and China’s GCL announced $930m 60-40 joint venture solar module manufacturing plant, the report said.

Crashing renewables prices are leaving coal-based power plants unviable CARE Ratings director told Quartz. Renewables tariffs are lower than the average Rs3.7 per unit coal-based power, as a result, distribution companies (discoms) are not offering long-term PPAs to coal plants. India added more renewables energy than coal last year.

New study says India will achieve its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) targets before 2030, thanks to rapidly growing renewables, mainly solar energy. The Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) study says non-fossil fuels will comprise 48% of India’s power capacity by 2030. However, India will need to bear the cost of renewable integration (mainly grid infrastructure), the study said.

Developers warn of transmission crisis; India falls to “4th most attractive” market; WTO panel to resolve India-US dispute

Renewable power developers said completed projects are facing huge shortage of transmission facilities. There’s “no coordination” between the ministry (MNRE), Power Grid Corporation of India (PGCIL) and Central Electricity Authority (CEA), developers informed the stakeholders meeting. Solar Corporation of India (SECI) is “merrily” holding auctions without realizing there aren’t enough evacuation facilities, they said.

India fell from second to fourth rank in the most attractive countries in renewable investment list “over concerns of threat of import tariffs.” The report by UK accountancy firm Ernst & Young, moved the US up to second place, after China. Germany was ranked third most attractive country in the ranking.

Meanwhile, WTO has set up a panel to resolve India-US renewables dispute over US norms of sourcing products from local markets. India says the norms imposed by 8 US states contradict WTO rules.


The pricier, the better: Crude oil’s surging prices may ironically hurt Big Oil by making EV investments more attractive

Oil prices push India EV plan

Rising oil prices boost India EV plan; China firm bags India bus contract; “Half the world bus fleet will be electric” by 2025

Rising oil prices an EV impetus for India? A Niti Aayog (Centre’s planning body) study says India would need nearly 1.6 billion metric tonnes of petrol and diesel to fuel passenger transport from 2017-2030. This would cost nearly $670 billion, and import bill of roughly $550 billion. While India’s EV target through 100% domestic manufacturing of batteries would require at least 3,500 GWh of batteries at cost of $300 billion from 2017-2030 — “less than half the cost of the avoided oil imports.”

Warren Buffet-backed China’s leading EV firm BYD will only focus on making e-buses for India for now, even as “Indian auto makers approached” them for cooperation in passenger cars. BYD has partnered with Hyderabad-based Goldstone. They recently bagged contracts for electric buses under the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid & EVs (FAME) scheme that offers up to 60% subsidy on e-bus procurement.

Electric buses will triple in numbers to 1.2 million by 2025, and 99% of them will be in China. Nearly half (47%) of the global state bus fleets will be electric by 2025, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

EU to go for low 15% cut in truck emissions; China EV sales take off; Tesla chief snubs Wall Street analysts

EU will propose a low 15% cut to trucks’ emissions within seven years, rejecting calls for more ambitious targets. Transport is the only sector in which emissions are growing in EU, after cuts in power and agricultural sectors.

Meanwhile China is plunging ahead in EV sales: 73,000 sold in April alone. Comparatively, U.S. EV sales in April were mere 19,500.

Electric car sales rise 47% in EU

In EU the first quarter of 2018 witnessed diesel car sales falling 17%; petrol rising 14.6%; electric +47%. In total, 69,898 electrically-chargeable vehicles (ECV) were registered from January to March 2018 (+47.0%). The French electric car market scored 2,833 registrations in April, up 34%.


Best kept underground: Allianz’s shunning of coal may have irreversibly tightened the noose for the coal industry

FOSSIL FUELS: 20GW of stressed assets face potential liquidation; Allianz stops coal insurance; Asian coal riding high; Costa Rica to phase out fossil fuels

RBI refuses to dilute diktat, 20GW of coal-fired stressed assets may be liquidated

The RBI has refused to dilute its February directive on the financial sectors’ resolution of bad loans, potentially pushing nearly 20GW of India’s coal-fired stressed assets – with an accumulated debt of nearly $26 billion (Rs. 1.8 lakh crores) – closer to liquidation. Their colossal debt – perhaps reflective of thermal power’s (slowly) growing isolation in India – has accumulated due to the lack of guaranteed power purchase agreements (PPAs) by DISCOMS, uncompetitive tariffs when compared to renewables and chronic coal supply shortages.

The prospect of massive monetary losses has forced the country’s top lenders – including SBI – to try and float an Asset Management Company (AMC) to turn around the assets’ accumulated debt within RBI’s stipulated timeframe of 180 days, failing which, the assets will be turned over to the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) for liquidation. About 8-10GW of these assets are reported to be already beyond any scope of a turnaround.

Allianz to stop insuring coal, but investment in fossil fuels still robust

Europe’s biggest insurance firm Allianz will immediately stop insuring all coalmines and coal-fired power plants, as well as not renew insurance for projects currently under its coverage. The announcement is part of the group’s larger objective of completely divesting from coal by 2040, and it will instead re-invest its finances in renewables. However, its counterpart Munich Re has been hesitant to make a similar commitment, even though Allianz’s decision is (partly) being mirrored by Japanese insurance firms Dai-ichi and Nippon Life Insurance.

Additionally, financing for fossil fuel projects remains strong, with the world’s top multinational development banks – including World Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), European Investment Bank (EIB) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) – having invested several billion dollars in fossil fuel projects, despite their growing investments in clean energy. Also, a bulk of their investments is in developing countries – which are most vulnerable to climate change.

Asia’s coal industry riding high despite future concerns

Coal miners and traders displayed remarkable optimism over the future of coal at the Coaltrans Asia meet in Indonesia, backed by strengthening demand not just from China and India – Asia’s two largest coal consumers – but also from Pakistan and Vietnam. The traders were especially upbeat on the back of coal prices breaching $101/ton in May so far – an 11% gain over the $98/ton price in March 2018.

However the long-term future of coal does remain in doubt over growing social backlash against coal’s carbon footprint (particularly in Australia, one of Asia’s largest suppliers) and the likelihood of supply shortages from Indonesia and South Africa. Such shortage – unless stymied by growing US coal exports – could push up prices for imported coal and render operations at several thermal power stations financially unviable, especially when compared to ever cheaper power from renewables and natural gas.

Costa Rica to fully ban fossil fuels by 2021

The Central American nation of Costa Rica has announced that it will fully ban the use of fossil fuels within its confines by 2021. The country already generates more than 99% of its electricity from renewables alone, but about 70% of its energy demand for heating and automotive fuels comes from oil.

The automotive sector is alone responsible for about 48% of Costa Rica’s carbon emissions. However the country’s president has promised to fully remove gasoline and diesel from the country’s transport system by 2021 by promoting electric mobility. Costa Rica’s plan is even more ambitious than announcements made by HawaiiCape Verde (Africa) and 48 members of the Climate Vulnerable Forum that plan to generate 100% of their electricity from renewables alone, latest by 2050.