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Streaming videos: Fast-forwarding the world to climate crisis

Newsletter - July 23, 2019

Fast-forwarding climate change: Emissions from the energy that powers video streaming services are piling up fast | Image: ViewPoints

Big Story: Streaming videos fast-forwarding climate change

France-based The Shift Project has finally shed some light on how your online binge-watching habits are impacting the environment. New research that quantifies emissions from online activity revealed that about 80% of online emissions (or about 400 MtCO2eq) can be attributed to conferencing and video streaming services such as YouTube, Netflix, Hotstar, Skype — and porn sites. Noting that just 10 hours of high definition video content packs in more data than the English text articles on Wikipedia, the study makes a case for ‘digital sobriety’ and a drastic cutting down on unsustainable online video consumption. Worryingly though, the industry is nowhere near its peak. According to an industry growth report by PwC, the global online Video on Demand market is set to grow by over 60% to $72.9 billion by 2023.

While the web’s carbon footprint has been an elephant in the room for some time now, proliferation of smartphones have made its environmental costs much harder to ignore. Early perceptions of the internet’s environment friendliness are finally becoming myth as it climbs its way to becoming the world’s fourth-largest emitter — behind China, the US and India — if taken as a country. Online emissions are especially ominous for India, arguably the most prominent driver of the expansion of the internet. The country’s user base has more than doubled since 2015 to 560 million in 2018, and is expected to reach 627 million in 2019. This means that currently one in every eight internet users is Indian.

India’s online video subscription market already stands 10th in the world and is expected to grow further by over 23% every year to reach a value of Rs10,712 crore by 2023. While being celebrated as a success of the government’s Digital India scheme, it cannot be ignored that India’s digital energy consumption is also set to increase by 16% year-on-year in the same time period. And yet, there has been no discussion on what this might mean for our future emissions budget. With the Indian government, among several others, busy drawing up plans for 5G networks — which will enable even more data transfer at much faster speeds —  it is only a matter of time before these concerns cease to be a matter of choice.


Climate Science

Submerged, yet again: Assam bore the brunt of this year’s torrential downpour in India’s north-east and lost 150 lives as rising waters submerged entire districts | Image: DNAIndia

Extreme weather: Incessant rain, flooding hit several parts of India

Extreme weather events wreaked havoc across the globe this fortnight. In India, the residents of Assam and Bihar battled floods after incessant rain, with the death toll crossing the 150 mark. Punjab was also hit by flood-like situations in seven districts. Assam’s Kaziranga National Park, which is home to the endangered one-horned rhino, was almost entirely submerged, killing at least 10 rhinos. Down south, the Kerala government issued a red alert in six districts with four people dying of rain-related tragedies this week.

The extreme rain, notwithstanding, Assam is still recording a rainfall deficit of 14%, according to the India Meteorological Department (IMD). In the past few years, the trend in India has been that of a poor start to the monsoon, followed by extreme weather events such as flood-causing rain, which then makes up for the deficit recorded in the beginning of the four-month monsoon season.

And this trend is only going to get worse, according to a new study, which predicted future climate conditions of 520 major cities worldwide. By 2050, the study says wet seasons in the tropics will get wetter and dry seasons will get drier, increasing the danger of droughts and floods. 

West feels the heat: French village sizzles at 46°C, US issues heatwave alerts

Extreme weather events have also gripped the West. The Canadian Arctic witnessed freak heat. Climate scientists have warned the record temperatures across the world could make July the hottest month ever on Earth. In France, Verargues, a small village in the south, recorded the highest temperature in the country at 46°C on June 28, surpassing the 45.9° C that was reported at Gallargues-le-Montueux.

The US also issued heatwave alerts across central and eastern regions of the country. Washington recorded a temperature of 41°C, with predictions that it will get even hotter in the days to come. In central Portugal, villagers and firefighters battled three wildfires with reports of at least 30 people suffering injuries.

Leaked IPCC land report warns of increasing food insecurity

A leaked draft of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on climate change and land degradation has noted that humans affect 72% of total ice-free land and have contributed to the degradation of a quarter of it. The report states that currently Earth’s land was contributing to a net removal of approximately 6.2 Gt of CO2 per year.

However, it also stresses on the fact that climate change was already impacting food security and was likely to further exacerbate risks related to desertification, land degradation and hunger. In a significant finding for countries such as India, the authors say, at global warming of 2°C, the population of drylands exposed and vulnerable to water stress, increased drought intensity and habitat degradation could be as high as 522 million. While warning against land degradation, the report also points out that rampant afforestation with bio energy crops is not good either as it could significantly impact food and nutrition security among vulnerable populations.

Sea level in Bengal’s Diamond Harbour rising faster than other Indian ports

Bengal’s Diamond Harbour has witnessed the highest rise in sea levels compared to all the other big ports in India, the country’s Ministry of Earth Sciences revealed last week. But is climate change to blame? Absolutely, say experts. According to the ministry, the sea level at Diamond Harbour rose at 5.16 mm a year between 1948 and 2004 – compared to a national average of 1.3 mm a year in the past 40-50 years. This is alarming as this puts the area at high risk of storm surges, tsunamis and coastal floods. Neighbouring Kolkata, the bustling capital of West Bengal, may well be in the eye of that storm.

Increased flooding risk due to climate change in the Ganges–Brahmaputra–Meghna (GBM) basin, which the Diamond Harbour is part of, has already been highlighted in a new study. The study concluded that even if warming was limited to 1.5 °C, there would be an increase in extreme precipitation and corresponding flood hazard over the GBM basin compared to the current climate.

June Arctic wildfire emitted as much CO2 as Sweden does annually

Arctic wildfires emitted as much carbon dioxide last month as Sweden does in an entire year, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). It claims the June wildfires emitted 50 megatonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, more than what was released by Arctic fires in the same month between 2010 and 2018 combined.

Another hotbed of wildfires, California, announced a $26 billion plan to tackle the growing problem. The plan creates a $21 billion fund to help state utilities, such as bankrupt PG&E Corp and other investor-owned utilities, cover liabilities arising from future wildfires caused by their equipment.

Lab-grown hamburger for $10 a reality soon?

Health- and environment-conscious foodies will soon be able to relish a hamburger guilt-free. European start-ups told Reuters this month that the $280,000 lab-grown hamburger could hit supermarket shelves as early as two years from now for as less as $10. Experts in the ‘clean meat’ industry say production costs have fallen dramatically since the first ‘cultured’ beef hamburger was created in 2013 at the cost of $280,400. The number of start-ups is also on the rise.


Climate Policy

Still unfinished: Despite the urgent need to lower emissions and source cleaner energy, several Indian states are yet to submit their climate policies | Image: AutoIndia

India needs to move on plan for SDGs to meet 2030 target: CAG report

Four years after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced at the G20 summit that India’s development goals were aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be met by 2030, a CAG report has pointed to significant gaps in the country’s efforts to reach the desired targets. The report says a “roadmap with defined milestones aligned with United Nations SDG targets for 2020, 2025, 2030 was yet to be prepared,” which could potentially lead to India falling behind.

As of May 2019, Niti Ayog, which is in charge of the mammoth task of coordinating between states and union territories for the country’s SDG plan, has said the vision document will be finalised by March 2020, but reaching this deadline seems difficult. According to the CAG report, several states are yet to prepare policy documents.

₹2,880 MW hydel power project in Arunachal Pradesh gets govt nod, activists oppose move

In a major development boost to India’s largely neglected northeast region, the 2,880 megawatts (MW) Dibang hydropower project in Arunachal Pradesh was given the go-ahead by the government. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved a ₹1,600 crore pre-investment and clearance expenditure for the ₹28,080.35 crore strategic project.

Anti-dam activists, however, are opposed to the project. Their main bone of contention is the 278-metre dam to be constructed as part of the project. The activists argued that water released from other power projects in the region have led to flooding in north and eastern Assam districts, a problem that is likely to be exacerbated with increasing frequency of extreme rain events. Additional water from the new dam is likely to wipe out Dibru Saikhowa national park and several towns and villages in upper Assam, the activists pointed out.

New EU chief vows to make climate change ‘top priority’

Ursula von der Leyen was confirmed as the first woman president of the European Commission this fortnight. However, there was quite some drama before the nomination was put to vote with Europe’s liberal, socialist and green blocs all demanding Leyen strengthen her position on climate change for their vote. After intense negotiations for a fortnight, Leyen seem to agree to increase the EU’s emission reduction targets to 55% by 2030, but diluted this commitment to “50% if not 55%” just before the vote. Leyen ended up clinching the position with the narrowest of margins, bagging 52% of the votes in the European Parliament.

In a speech just before the election, Leyen vowed to make climate and environment the top priorities in all EU policy areas. She is also set to announce a ‘Green Deal for Europe’ in her first 100 days in office.   

Big companies failing to take climate, environment concerns seriously: Reports

Two new reports have put the spotlight on big firms’ failure to align with climate-change related goals. A study funded by investors found only one in eight of the world’s most polluting companies is on its way to reducing emissions in line with global temperature goals. The study, which tracked 274 publicly traded, high-emitting companies, found that climate risk did not find a mention in almost half of the companies’ operational decision-making.

Another report, this time by charity CDP, came down heavily on big companies, stating that most of them don’t report on the damage caused by their operations to the forest. According to the charity, 70% of 1,500 large companies fail to provide data on their impact on forests in response to its queries last year.

Asset managers vow to assess investment climate risks; COFCO signs up for $2.1 billion sustainability-linked loan

Now for some good news from the business world. After a nudge from French president Emmanuel Macron, eight asset managers – Blackrock, Goldman Sachs, BNP Paribas, HSBC, Natixis, Amundi, State Street and Northern Trust – collectively worth $15 trillion, have vowed to assess climate risks before committing to investments. Meanwhile, European funds managing $2 trillion in assets have urged cement companies to pull their socks up as far as their greenhouse gas emissions are concerned to avoid putting their business models at risk.

Chinese firm COFCO International said this week that it has signed up for a $2.1 billion sustainability-linked loan with a consortium of 20 banks. This is the largest such loan for a commodity trader, the company said. Norway’s Yara, meanwhile, has signed a $1.1 billion, five-year credit facility, which links the interest to be paid to the company’s progress in reducing CO2 emissions.

Germany: Experts want govt to set CO2 price for cars, buildings

The German government was presented with a report last week, which said the country’s transport and building sectors must be given set carbon prices as penalties in a bid to cut down CO2 emissions. The report by the German council of economic experts suggested two alternatives — integrating the two sectors into the EU emissions trading (ETS) by setting up a separate CO2 price for them or imposing CO2 taxes on them. Germany, in any case, will not meet its 2030 target to cut down greenhouse gas emissions by 55%.  

Make coal-blocks contracts public under RTI: Chhattisgarh panel

The Mining Development and Operations Contract (MDO) for coal blocks signed by the state power company should be made public – that was the ruling of the Chhattisgarh State Information Commission. The order comes after the company refused to share a copy, asked for by an activist under RTI, of the contract and government records pertaining to the formulation and acceptance of the MDO agreement it had signed with Adani Enterprises Limited and its subsidiary Gare Pelma III Collieries Limited for development, operation and mining of coal from the 232 MT Gare Pelma Sector III coal block.


Air Pollution

Facing a crackdown: Up to 69 industrial clusters in India face indefinite shutdown unless state governments can devise plans to limit their share of local pollution| Image: LiveMint

69 polluting industrial areas face closure, asked to pay compensation for the past 5 years

The National Green Tribunal (NGT), India’s green court, has given three months to central and state pollution control boards to shut down 69 Polluted Industrial Areas (PIAs) across the country. The culprits will also have to compensate for the past five years under the Polluter Pays principle. The court said there were a total of 88 PIAs identified in 2009, which were further classified into Critically Polluted Areas (CPAs), Severely Polluted Areas (SPAs) and Other Polluted Areas (OPAs) based on their Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI) scores. Making action plans should not stop the crackdown against polluters, as continuing polluting activity is a criminal offence, NGT said. 

Villages near Mumbai choking on emissions, Rajasthan stone crushers probe continues

Villages on the outskirts of Mumbai are battling industrial emissions of Volatile Organic Compounds, India’s green court (NGT) said, while ordering the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to assess the damage done to the environment and health and calculate the correct compensation required to be paid by the polluters. The villages of Ambapada and Mahul near Mumbai are bearing the brunt of polluting logistic services of transport and storage of oil, gas and hazardous chemicals, as well as emissions released by oil companies.

In Rajasthan, the NGT has allowed one more month to a panel of doctors to file a report on the damage done to the health of  villagers by stone crushing units in the four villages of Koliya, Naka ke Dhani, Nozalo ke Dhani and Bandolai ke Dhani. Earlier, the state authorities, conducted the study only in the village of Koliya, after which the green court re-ordered the health probe under a fresh panel of doctors.

Haryana moves top court to get builder access to Aravalli forest

India’s battle against air pollution got tougher last week after the Haryana government moved Supreme Court, challenging the green court’s decision to declare a 52-acre plot in the Aravallis in Faridabad a “deemed forest”. In 2017, 7,000 trees were felled in the Aravallis for a real estate project by Bharti Land Limited. The Haryana government says the area has been wrongly declared a forest. Earlier, the Supreme Court had warned Haryana “will be in trouble” if it did “anything” with the Aravalli hills.

In a separate case, Haryana’s carpet manufacturers came under the scanner of central and state pollution monitors who will jointly probe manufacturing units in Haryana’s Rewari district. Carpet manufacturers Uni Product and Golden Tex have been allegedly producing synthetic, waste, which is creating pollution on being burnt. The agencies have a month to file an action-taken report in the case.

Delhi govt told to deposit ₹25 crore over failure to curb polluting industries

Expressing dissatisfaction with the steps taken by the Delhi government to curb air pollution in the national capital, the NGT reiterated its directive from December 2018 for the government to deposit a “performance guarantee” of 25 Crore with the court. The green court reissued the directive while noting that the government failed to stop the plastic and waste burning by unauthorised units near Mundka and Neelwal villages even four years after complaints were registered.

The court also said Delhi authorities had identified 30,000 polluting vehicles, of which only 150 were impounded and over Rs6 lakh was recovered in fines. The green court said the money recovered on Polluter Pays basis has to match the damage caused, and should be enough to deter offenders from repeating the offence instead of profiting from it. 

China mulls stricter emission norms for steel mills, tightens screws on polluting units

Amidst growing unhappiness over large-scale industrial shut-downs, China plans to make its emission assessment on steel mills much stricter when granting exemptions from existing curbs this winter. Industrial associations will carry out the assessments to avoid fraud in the emission upgrading process. As a rule, companies that attain ultra-low emissions are entitled to exemption from or are allowed to implement a minimum level of production cuts on smog days. While those who emit more will face the highest level of production restrictions. China’s steel output reached a record high this year, raising air pollution concerns.

Earlier this week, authorities detained the boss of The Tangyin Steel Plant in Tangshan city on pollution charges after he failed to implement the mandated 50% cut in production. Tangshan, China’s biggest steel producing city, said in June that it would impose output restrictions on local steel firms until August in order to curb smog.

Smoky kitchens: Give villagers seasonal incentives to use free cylinders, says study

The government must “explicitly incentivise regular LPG use” among villagers through seasonal vouchers during low-income months to achieve its goal of smoke-free kitchens in rural India, that’s the recommendation of the latest research published in Nature Energy. India’s scheme of free LPG cylinders to rural women, the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) launched in 2016, came under scanner of the researchers who said the PMUY is an “unparalleled success”, in providing access to LPG cylinders, but if it wants villagers to stop using firewood and charcoal it has to incentivise regular LPG use among the beneficiaries of PMUY, as well as the general rural population, as their average use is still very low across rural India.

Billions of toxic iron-rich particles lodged in the hearts of city dwellers: study

Air pollution in cities can damage the critical pumping heart muscles of children as young as three years old, says the latest study. The research by Lancaster University scientists says the hearts of city dwellers carry billions of toxic iron-rich particles, produced by vehicles and industry. The study revealed that the nanoparticles from polluted air had access to both heart and brain and they were linked with heart disease and Alzheimer’s-like damage.


Renewables

Much to lose: Several GW worth of RE projects have ground to a halt in Andhra Pradesh over the outcome of YSJ Reddy’s tiff with the Centre | Image: IndianExpress

Regulator stays Andhra Pradesh’s decision to renegotiate PPAs, state threatened with legal action

In a setback to the new Andhra Pradesh government, power tariff regulator, the Appellate Tribunal for Electricity (Aptel), stayed the state’s move to renegotiate power-purchase agreements. Private solar power firm Greenko had moved the plea against Andhra Pradesh discom’s decision to slash tariff from Rs3.74 per kWh to Rs2.44 per kWh retrospectively from Oct. 27, 2017.

Most renewable energy companies are mulling to move the Andhra Pradesh high court on the matter. Andhra’s representative earlier defied centre saying many companies were waiting at their doorstep to invest. The two central government companies, NTPC and Solar Energy Corp of India (SECI), refused to attend Andhra Pradesh’s meeting for renegotiating of tariffs and threatened the state discoms of legal action

Govt evokes special powers to speed up transmission lines for 66.5 GW of RE

Using its “special powers” to fast-track expansion of renewable energy capacity, the centre has cleared early regulatory approval to set up transmission lines for 66.5 GW of renewable energy. While transmission lines will now be accorded ‘national importance’ status, successful bids will be subject to bank guarantees and regulatory requirements of long term access (LTA) applications.

Govt relaxes land acquisition norms for public enterprises to set up solar projects

In an attempt to boost solar energy targets, the Indian government has relaxed land-ownership criteria for central government-owned solar power companies. Now they can set up solar parks, and approach developers without having to own the land. Private firms will still have to possess the land to set up solar parks, but they will be entitled to external connectivity from government transmission lines. The government had to modify the land criteria because central firms didn’t always have the desired land available, Mercom reported.

Consider this: Each MW of solar power requires five acres of land. While chasing the ambitious 40 GW by 2022 solar energy target, the government is leaving nothing to chance, even as private solar projects run into delays over issues of high tariffs and cancelled PPAs. 

By 2030, India to exceed Paris targets of renewable power by 60%: IEEFA

A study by IEEFA says India “will overachieve Paris targets” of installed renewable energy capacity by 60%. IEEFA based its forecast on India’s Central Electricity Authority (CEA) projections that predicted that instead of 40% , India will have 63% of installed capacity from non-fossil fuel sources, including hydro projects by 2029-30. IEEFA said this is 60% more than what India promised at Paris in 2015.

In June this year, India tendered 13GW of solar projects. CEA’s report expects a drastic fall in coal power capacity to merely 35% from the current 64% of total installed capacity, in the next 11 years. The CEA said India will require “stability needs” of 440 GW of variable renewable energy capacity, supported by 73 GW of hydro and 10 GW of biomass. Meanwhile, a top government official claimed India’s renewable power capacity rose around 150% in the past five years to 77.6 GW, and is expected to touch 260 GW by 2024.

India: Renewables got $1.5 billion in FDI, jobs grew five-fold in 5 years, IEA expects spike in investments

Power minister RK Singh informed Parliament that the renewable sector received $1.5 billion in Foreign direct investment (FDI) this fiscal, 20% more than the last fiscal year. The total FDI over five years has been at $4.8 billion. India allows 100% FDI in renewables through the automatic route and ranks fourth in the renewables attractiveness index report. The latest CEEW study says India’s renewable sector jobs have grown five-fold in the past five years. In 2019, nearly 100,000 people worked in the solar and wind industry, up from 19,800 workers in 2014.

Faith Birol of the IEA said India may increase its renewables target (175 GW by 2022), which will spike up investments in the sector. Last year, the power minister said India will exceed the target to touch 225 GW.

India amends bidding norms: If solar firm defaults on payment, lender will take over

If solar power developers default on payments, the lender will be entitled to take over as promoter as per the procedure – that’s the latest amendment to the grid-connected solar power norms. The ministry of power has, for the third time, amended competitive bidding guidelines in a year. Experts say the new amendments are radical as there is hardly a case of solar developers defaulting on loans, the problem is the opposite: Purchasers failing to pay developers on time. The other amendment requires the developer to maintain minimum 51% shares in the project company executing the power-purchase agreement (PPA) for at least three years from the commercial operation date (COD).

Wind turbine maker Suzlon defaults on $172 million in bond payments, risks bankruptcy

Wind turbine maker Suzlon Energy has, yet again, defaulted on credit payments. This time it failed to pay bonds worth $172 million and may even claim bankruptcy. Experts say Suzlon is a victim of its own bad management of debt, as well as the issues ailing the Indian wind energy industry.

Suzlon earned a lot under the feed-in tariff system, which allows companies to sell power at pre-determined rates. But the norms changed to competitive bidding, resulting in a steep fall in tariffs, which prompted states to abandon Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). Rating agency ICRA expects India to install upto 4,000 MW of wind capacity in FY 2019 , but says “execution is a key challenge,” as companies need policy assurances on tariffs and PPAs.

Indian solar rooftop firms shutting shop as govt. fails to pay incentives?

Over the past six months, Indian EPC (Engineering, Procurement, Construction) rooftop solar firms are facing a financial crisis and have been forced to shut shop because of falling tariffs and profit margins, the Financial Express reported. Over 12 EPC rooftop solar firms have reportedly fallen to bad times, which experts blame on policy decisions such as retrospective cancellation of net metering, and failure of the government to pay promised subsidies of 20% to 30% of the total capital cost.

China to back nearly 23 GW of feed-in tariff solar projects  

Even as China aims to end solar subsidy by 2021, it recently approved a massive 22.7 GW of feed-in tariff solar scheme in the country’s first unified bidding for a total 4,338 solar projects. The lowest bid was at around $0.04. China plans to get these projects connected to the grid by the end of 2019. If solar PV projects are connected to the grid after June 30, 2020, the approved feed-in-tariff will be revoked, and the projects would stand canceled, Mercom reported.  China saw a drop of 40% in solar installation in Q1 of 2019 at 5.2 GW of solar PV capacity installed, compared to Q1 2018, in which China had installed 9.65 GW of solar PV capacity.

For the first time, Germany generates more power from renewables than coal and nuclear 

The first half of 2019 had plenty of sun and wind in Germany, during which time the country’s renewable energy sources made more electricity than coal and nuclear power plants together. Consider this, 47.3% of electricity used in the country came from renewables for the first time, while coal and nuclear power plants offered 43.4% power to the users. While coal production during the first half of 2019 declined drastically, experts say wind power rose by 20% and solar energy spiked by 6% compared to the same period in 2018.


Electric Vehicles

Everybody benefits: A 7% drop in GST rates on EVs would be welcomed by manufacturers and customers alike – unless it comes with strings attached | Image: IndianExpress

India to slash GST on EVs to 5% from 12%, trial electric highways

The Indian govt. is reportedly ready to slash GST on EVs from 12% to 5% on July 25th. The decision will be taken by a special GST Council and could markedly reduce prices for the electric versions of two-wheelers — which is India’s largest automotive segment by sales volumes. The rate cut may also save customers an additional Rs1.5 lakh on banks loans to purchase EVs.

The Centre will also trial novel ‘electric highways’ between Delhi and Mumbai, and tier II and III cities.  The highways will have overhead electricity cables that will be accessed by electric trucks, buses and light metro rails — most of which currently consume enormous amounts of diesel every year. A Rs700-crore soft loan has been secured for the project — which is also being trialled in Germany — and it will commence by 2021-2022. 

India: UP leads EV adoption, TERI says 2030 target “hard to achieve” despite slew of initiatives

New data by India’s transport ministry suggests that Uttar Pradesh (UP) has the maximum number of registered EVs in the country — at around 1,39,000 battery-vehicles (mostly e-rickshaws and e-karts), out of the nearly 4,00,000 registered in total. Delhi was a distant second at 76,000.

On the other hand, Ajay Mathur — the head of TERI — said that without adequate desirability and acceptability amongst consumers, India’s 2030 target of 100% EV sales would be “hard to achieve”. Mathur did, however, propose that customers be paid for scrapping their IC engine cars.

Meanwhile, the Centre has begun issuing green license plates to EV owners to increase their visibility, has invited tenders for 1,000 EV charging stations under FAME-II, and will issue driving licenses for 16-18-year-olds (prospective first-time drivers) who want to ride electric scooters. 

Tata to invest Rs4,000 crore in Gujarat li-ion battery plant

India’s Tata Group will invest Rs4,000 crore to set up a lithium-ion battery manufacturing plant in Dholera, Gujarat. The plant may be another step in the group foraying into e-mobility (after Ratan Tata’s funding for Ola’s EV enterprise). Most importantly, the plant will source power at a mere Rs4.65/kWh. 

Toyota, BYD join hands to build EVs together

Toyota has confirmed in a significant announcement that it will collaborate with China’s BYD to develop EVs. Toyota is one of the world’s top five automakers and sold 10.4 million vehicles last year, while BYD is the largest manufacturer of EVs and sold in excess of 2,40,000 EVs in 2018. The announcement is also important as Toyota has been a vocal advocate of hybrids and hydrogen vehicles — and it’s not clear if the technologies will continue to attract Toyota’s investments. 

China reaches 1 million EV chargers, UK to install EV chargers at every new home

EV chargers have breached the 1 million mark in China after posting an impressive 69.3% jump in installations since June 2018. The facilities are split 40:60 between public and private chargers, with 1,75,000 fast chargers for public use.

The UK, too, is heavily encouraging EV adoption and has released a draft plan that would make it mandatory to build an EV charging point at every new home that has parking space. The home owners may also be granted £500 to subsidise the cost of installation.


Fossil Fuels

Not so profitable after all: With a shaky EROI of only around 6:1, fossil fuels such as crude oil don’t really hold the advantage over renewables they’ve long touted | Image: Independent (UK)

Fossil fuels’ Energy Return on Investment (EROI) far worse than estimates, may fall with higher costs

A new study has found that the Energy Return on Investment (EROI) of traditional fossil fuels (oil, gas and coal) — when post-extraction processes like refining are factored in — drops from about 25:1 to a mere 6:1, which is similar to the EROI of renewables. The ratio indicates (in terms of energy equivalents) barrels of oil extracted for every barrel of oil used, and is often used to tout the ‘energy advantage’ of fossil fuels.

The 15-year IEA study also implies that as input costs increase, fossil fuels’ EROI could drop below 5:1 — which apparently is the threshold beyond which their extraction would incur losses. 

US fertilizer industry emitting 100X more methane than reported

Incidental sensing by Google’s street view cars has found that the US’ fertiliser industry emits at least 100 times more methane than what is officially claimed by the industry and the EPA. The study estimates that the American fertilizer industry’s actual methane emissions may be around 29,000 metric tonnes each year — and not the EPA’s measly figure of 8,000 metric tonnes.

Methane traps 84 times more atmospheric heat than CO2 and the figure is yet another revelation of the extent of the US’ dangerous under-reporting of its GHG emissions.

Fugitive methane emissions are also likely to balloon as the US power market ramps up its transition to natural gas, apart from the new drilling permits that have been offered to oil & gas firms across vast swathes of US public lands. The Wilderness Society estimates that GHG emissions from these sites may amount to as high as 4.7 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

UK orders ships to go zero-emissions by 2025

The UK has ordered that all new ships brought into service from 2025, and ones that are headed to its shores, must be powered by zero-emissions technologies. The order is part of its “Clean Maritime Plan” and is another initiative to achieve the country’s target of going carbon-neutral by 2050. The new requirement is hugely significant as the UK’s ports are key destinations for leisure and cargo vessels, and the freight shipping sector alone accounts for as much as 3% of the world’s GHG emissions

India’s fuel refining capacity may be expanded by 80% to meet petrol and diesel demand

India’s oil minister has reiterated that the country’s fuel refining capacity needed to be expanded by 80% to meet the rising demand for petrol and diesel — despite the NITI Aayog’s proposal to only sell EVs from 2030. India’s refining capacity needs to grow from 250 million tonnes/annum now to 450 million tonnes a year by 2040. Despite EVs being “a priority”, the minister said India’s strengthening economic output and the need to expand its petrochemicals and LNG terminals would necessitate an increase in fuel refining and consumption.

Nordea’s Swedish pension fund withdraws $2.3 billion from fossil fuel holdings

The Swedish pension fund managed by the Nordea group has withdrawn $2.34 billion of its investments in fossil fuel holdings. The move is similar to the Norwegian pension fund cutting $7.5 billion of its exposure to fossil fuels, and may be followed by several other institutional investors in Sweden — which has a 2045 target to go carbon-neutral — to align their investments with targets consistent with the Paris Agreement.