Is it time for India to update its climate game?

Newsletter - December 10, 2020

Crunch time: International pressure on India to update its climate commitments has been rising with several large economies announcing intent to undertake decarbonisation | Photo: CNBC

Is it time for India to update its climate game?

India is outpacing the developed world when it comes to achieving its climate commitments but this does not necessarily mean that it is ready to upgrade its ambitions on the international stage

This week marks the fifth anniversary of the signing of the Paris Agreement. In a “normal” year, one in which the world was not shaken by a global pandemic, we would be analysing and dissecting the final assault by nations on the remaining chapters of the Paris Agreement rule book. And perhaps, preparing for the operationalisation of the largest such inter-governmental accord. Instead, we are left contending with a public health emergency, the economic tumult brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, and how these infinitely complicate climate action.

This year was also to be the one in which signatory states had the option to submit updated targets for climate action. These nationally determined contributions or NDCs, which are part of the joint global climate action envisioned in the Paris Agreement, currently lead to 2030 emission levels that correspond to 3.2°C warming by the end of the century — far higher than the 2°C limit set in the Paris Agreement. The just-released Emissions Gap Report 2020 states that while the COVID-19 pandemic caused CO2 emissions to fall by up to 7%, this amounts to a woefully inadequate 0.01°C reduction in temperatures by 2050. To make matters worse, experts have also warned that with governments poised to push aggressive economic recovery programmes, there is a likelihood of a spike in emissions over the coming years.

Worryingly, pre-pandemic numbers from 2019 show total GHG emissions for the year at 59.1 GtCO2eq (gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent) – the highest-ever recorded. According to the Emissions Gap Report, levels of ambition in the Paris Agreement must be roughly tripled for the 2°C pathway and amplified at least five-fold to meet the more ambitious 1.5°C target. This deficit, and the calls for increased climate ambition that have emerged with it, have not gone unnoticed. With several major countries this year signalling their intent to accelerate plans for decarbonisation, countries with mid-century net-zero emission plans now account for over half of the global GHG burden. This intent, however, is in scarce supply when it comes to near-term goals, recent analyses have found.

One such analysis is the Climate Transparency Report of 2020, which assessed climate goals with policy and implementation in G20 countries. According to the report, in addition to NDCs being inadequate, policies in the world’s largest economies are largely insufficient even to meet these NDCs. The report also warned of increased fossil fuel consumption and demand in coming years as countries look for quick fixes to recover from the economic shock of the pandemic. A Vivid Economics report, released in October, found that recovery plans still predominantly relied on fossil fuels, which threatened to derail near-term climate action, and potentially jeopardise plans in the long term.

How India stacks up

While the Climate Transparency Report painted a bleak picture overall of the state of climate action and ambition in the world’s large economies, it does find a lone bright spot in India. Not only is India the only G20 nation to be well on its way to meet its Paris Agreement commitments, but also the only large economy whose NDCs are in line with the global 2°C warming target.

India’s NDCs: Work in progress
Target 1: Install 40% of power generation capacity from non-fossil fuel sources
Progress report: India currently hosts 135.3 GW of RE, including large hydro, which amounts to 36.2% of its total capacity. At the Climate Action Summit in New York in 2019, and once again at the recent G20, India committed to increase its renewable energy capacity from 175GW by 2022 to 450GW by 2030.

Target 2: Reduce emissions intensity of the GDP by 33-35% from 2005 levels
Progress report: India has already achieved reductions of 21% in emission intensity over 2005 levels, and is on track to achieving 35% reductions before 2030, according to recent statements by environment minister Prakash Javadekar

Target 3: Develop an additional carbon sink of 2.5-3 GtCO2e
Progress report: India lags behind on this target. The current rate of afforestation amounting to about 35 million tonnes per year carbon dioxide equivalent is only around a tenth of the required additions.

While India’s target to increase forest cover remains mired in uncertainty, there is little doubt when it comes to the leaps India has taken in relation to its two other pre-2030 commitments. India’s share of renewables has jumped some 226% since 2015 and is projected to keep rising as long as RE and battery storage prices continue to tumble. The country has also kept good pace on reducing emission intensity of its GDP, which is currently 21% lower than 2005 levels.

So why has India enjoyed such success in terms of meeting its goals when other large economies of the world appear to be struggling? The answer, to an extent, may lie in India’s peculiar position on the development spectrum. For one, with an economy decades away from peaking and a large young demographic with low per-capita emission levels, India rightfully still has space to grow under a global climate regime. With India projected to set up new capacity in energy and industry, the costs of course correction towards low-carbon technologies are arguably lesser than those of its more developed counterparts. Timing is the other factor that has worked in India’s favour. Its aggressive expansion of RE and improvements in emission intensity have coincided with and been aided by precipitous price drops and favourable cost-benefit assessments in each of these sectors.

“Unlike much of the developed world, which has to retrofit low-carbon technologies within existing systems, India is still in the process of capacity additions and so is in a better position to adopt new low-carbon technologies. This is true especially in the power sector where the recent shift in tide has come on top of decades of policy level groundwork that prioritised energy security. Adding to this, the favourable market forces in the past decade, and enhanced public recognition of the benefits of sustainability has created somewhat a perfect storm for India,” says Amir Bazaz, a senior researcher working on climate change response strategies at the Indian Institute of Human Settlements.

An update in the offing?

With India comfortably on its way to meet its pre-2030 targets, it begs the question whether the country is in a position to up its ambitions.

“There is little doubt that opportunities to expand India’s climate ambition exist, especially through sector-specific interventions. India currently finds itself in a position to take advantage of a lot of commercial and technological developments to aid a low-carbon development agenda,” says Ulka Kelkar, the director of the climate programme at the World Resource Institute’s India office.

And while not as visible as India’s commitments to the Paris Agreement, several sectors already have domestic targets that are far more ambitious than those stated in the NDC, according to Kanika Chawla, a climate policy specialist at the Council on Energy, Environment and Water in New Delhi. “India’s approach to climate action has been based around ‘new additions’ rather than ‘transitions’. This makes climate action an embedded part of India’s development agenda. So, we have a situation where India’s action is often better than words, and where domestic targets are more ambitious than our commitments. We already have such targets, both officially and unofficially, for the power sector, mobility and some segments of industry and infrastructure.”

The picture isn’t all rosy though. One constant sore spot is India’s continued reliance on coal despite its rapidly declining market favourability. While India has gone against the tide and doubled down on coal production and thermal power in recent months, round-the-clock RE plus storage projects have gained investor interest and solar tariffs have continued to fall to record lows. According to Chawla, India’s justification of sticking with coal to keep pace with projected demand increases doesn’t cut ice. “India’s preference for short- and medium-term targets rather than long-term strategies has been used to deflect criticism when it comes to coal. India’s growth in industrial energy demand, especially post-COVID, is highly unlikely to warrant increases in India’s thermal power capacity and deserves to be rethought,” says Chawla.

India, according to experts, also has a long way to go when it comes to aligning top-down policy priorities with implementation on the ground due to a highly fragmented and inefficient policy framework over several years. “India still needs substantial additions in institutional and analytical capacities, and institutional structures that can facilitate effective policy implementation,” says Navroz Dubash, a senior fellow working on climate policy at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi.

Similar fragmentation and lack of regulatory framework has also hindered the development of financial mechanisms that could support greater extents of low carbon development. “There is a great potential to incorporate India’s massive MSME sector into the clean development agenda and for the large-scale implementation of energy efficiency services through energy trading. This is essential to generate sustainable finance in the low-carbon shift, but currently remains constricted by financial and regulatory bottlenecks,” says Kelkar.

While there is consensus on the scope and potential for India to ratchet up ambitions for low-carbon development, whether this should be reflected in its official commitments toward the Paris Agreement is more complicated.

The geopolitical case for raised ambitions

India’s impressive progress on its NDCs has earned the country credibility in the international climate community. But while its record has been raised on several occasions by the PM, ministers and other government officials, the pressure seems to once again be on India to commit to greater ambitions. The announcement of net-zero targets in several large economies, most notably China, has left the world watching to see if India will also join the pursuit of decarbonisation. If the US, under newly elected President Joe Biden, who is determined to make all the right noises on climate change, decides to announce its own net-zero ambitions, India will become the world’s largest single-emitter without any plans to decarbonise, despite having a fraction of the former’s per capita emissions.

By most counts though, this is unlikely at this stage. India’s official stance on the matter, thus far, has been a rejection of calls to commit to greater action. India has repeatedly stated that given its progress on NDCs, it will wait until the global stocktake in 2023 to undertake any additional commitments.

“This is an interesting moment in the global climate movement as we see greater momentum for decarbonisation. Over the past year, the narrative of “ambition” has been replaced by long term “net-zero targets”. While this definitely puts pressure on India, these long-term targets are too far away for a country like India where what matters more is what is being done now. Unlike developed nations, India has to try and avoid emissions rather than cut them, and this is not best expressed in ‘net-zero’ terms,” explains Dubash.

This, however, does not mean that India shouldn’t use the NDC updation moment to make a powerful statement, more in line with Indian perspectives. Such a statement, according to Dubash, will shift the pressure back on to developed countries to do more. “The geopolitics of climate change makes it difficult not to say anything for a country like India. While the narrative has shifted decisively to future action and emission reduction plans, India should be looking to bring the focus back to the here and now. This is India’s strong suit and could be used to bargain for more favourable terms for greater finance and technology transfers from developed countries, for which India has been arguing for some years now,” says Dubash.

However, while India’s sharpened focus on near-term action and goals might be effective from a geo-political standpoint, a disregard for the value of longer-term planning could ultimately be detrimental. “India has always been conservative on the international stage regarding climate. The Paris Agreement also requires nations to actively work on longer term strategies. These long-term goals should ideally be achieved through successive near-term strategies, such an approach would benefit India too” says Kelkar. As the world trudges towards the Paris Agreement era, countries have started formulating domestic implementation and monitoring approaches. India, too, last week, announced the creation of a new high-level Apex committee for Implementation of Paris Agreement (AIPA). The panel will include members from 14 ministries of the Indian government and be chaired by the environment ministry. “The purpose of the AIPA is to generate a coordinated response on climate change matters, which ensures that India is on track to meet its obligations under the Paris Agreement, including its NDCs,” said the public statement by MoEF&CC. “This is a good first step for effective implementation and stock-take of climate action in India. But the real task is more complicated as it involves creating a brand new template of low-carbon development for society, and devolving strategies that work specifically for the Indian context,” says Chawla.

Climate Science

Heat is on: Extreme heat and wildfires in the US, Australia and Siberia are likely to give 2020 another dubious distinction — the second hottest year on record. Photo: CalMatters

2020 could be second-hottest year on record: WMO

The year 2020 earned itself yet another dubious distinction. It is likely to be the world’s second-hottest year on record, just behind 2016, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The global mean temperature was 1.2°C above the 1850-1900 baseline, which is marginally more than 2019, the WMO said. The year has seen extreme heat and wildfires rage across the US, Australia and Siberia. The WMO said more than 80% of the world’s oceans also experienced a marine heatwave.  

India likely to face colder than normal winter: IMD

After an above-average monsoon season, India is bracing itself for a winter that is likely to be colder than normal. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) made the prediction as part of its seasonal outlook for temperatures. It did not, however, specify which parts of the country will experience extreme weather or cold waves. According to experts, a likely reason for this could be La Niña conditions in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean that brings in cold air into India from Siberia and South China.  

Cost of planting, preserving trees for climate mitigation could rise quickly: Study

While the planting of trees and deforestation prevention are considered to be important first steps in climate change mitigation. A new study, however, found that the cost of planting and preserving trees could accelerate quickly, especially under ambitious emission reduction plans. The study, published in Nature Communications, found that by 2055, it will cost $393 billion per year to pay landowners to plant and preserve trees in order to attain the more than 10% emission reductions that are needed in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C. The researchers arrived at this figure using a price model called the Global Timber Model.

Climate Policy

Doom and gloom: The world is still hurtling towards a temperature rise of more than 3°C this century if it doesn’t green up its act fast, according to the UN’s Emissions Gap Report 2020 | Photo: DW

Green recovery a must to cover climate action gap: UN report

Governments should pull out all stops to implement a green recovery as this was the best way to bring the world close to the 2°C pathway, according to the UN’s Emissions Gap Report 2020. The report urged countries to follow this path because despite a dip in CO2 emissions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is still hurtling towards a temperature rise of more than 3°C this century. 

A green pandemic recovery would cut around 25% off the greenhouse gas emissions projected in 2030, the report found. The levels of ambition agreed upon in the Paris Agreement will have to be tripled in order to stay on the 2°C pathway and increased five-fold if the 1.5°C target is to be achieved, the report stated.

RTI reveals: MoEF&CC asks PMO to rethink disengagment from WII 

Right to Information (RTI) data revealed the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has told the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to reconsider a proposal for the former to disengage with the Wildlife Institute of India (WII). The ministry also informed the PMO that it had agreed ‘in principle’ to disengage with the Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM).

The comments were made in reference to a Department of Expenditure (DoE) report that recommended the MoEF&CC disengage from five autonomous institutions under it, including the WII and the IIFM.  

India announces committee to implement Paris Agreement targets

The Indian government set up a panel that will look into the implementation of the country’s Paris Agreement targets, including its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). This will be a high-level inter-ministerial committee, according to a Gazette notification issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).

Climate goals in jeopardy as fossil fuel production set to rise: Study 

A new report found that major economies were planning and projecting an average annual increase of 2% in fossil fuel production. This despite the COVID-19 lockdown and research indicating the world needs to cut down production by 6% every year in the next decade in order to remain on the 1.5°C pathway, a special issue of the Production Gap Report stated. The report measured the gap between the Paris goals and countries’ planned production of fossil fuels. According to the report, global coal, oil and gas production would have to decline annually by 11%, 4% and 3% annually in order to achieve the Paris goals. But while the pandemic has resulted in short-term reduction this year, post-Covid stimulus measures will continue to widen the pre-Covid production gap, the study found. 

Biden names BlackRock alum his top economic adviser 

US President-elect Joe Biden named Brian Deese as his top economic adviser. Deese was a key negotiator of the Paris Agreement and helped the Obama administration bail out the automobile industry. Climate activists have expressed dismay with Deese, especially in his role as head of sustainable investment at BlackRock Inc, and don’t think he is ‘aggressive enough on climate change’.  

New Zealand declares climate emergency, pledges to become carbon neutral 

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared a climate emergency and pledged the country’s public sector would become carbon neutral by 2025. The move, however, was termed ‘symbolic’ by experts who urged the government to do more in order to cut down the country’s emissions. New Zealand joins a growing list of countries, including the UK, Japan, Canada and France, who have declared a climate emergency.

EU plan to cut shipping emissions finds no takers in international market

The EU’s plan to expand its carbon market to shipping was opposed by Japan, South Korea and international shipping groups. According to the countries, the proposal will increase trade tensions and also emissions because ships would prefer taking longer routes to avoid stops in Europe where they will have to pay for pollution permits to cover their emissions. Currently, only power plants, factories and airlines running European flights need to get these permits.

Australia abandons plan to use Kyoto credits to reach Paris emissions target 

Australia won’t go through with its plans to use Kyoto carryover credits in order to reach its emission reduction targets. The move to drop the controversial credits, to be announced by summit on December 12, is likely to be welcomed by other countries. It will put Australia in a strong position ahead of the Glasgow summit next year. It is also a major 180-degree change for Australia’s climate change agenda, as the government has previously claimed it is ‘entitled’ to use the ‘surplus’ units it had accumulated between 2008 and 2020 as part of its Kyoto protocol targets.

Air Pollution

Not off the hook: India's Supreme Court has refused to quash complaints on Skoda Volkswagen's use of emission cheat devices in its vehicles | Photo:

Emission cheat devices: SC refuses to quash FIR against Skoda Volkswagen

The Supreme Court of India has refused to quash an FIR against carmaker Skoda Volkswagen over emission cheat devices installed in the company’s cars. The top court, while dismissing Skoda’s appeal, said quashing of a complaint should be an exception and a rarity rather than an ordinary rule. 

Earlier, the Allahabad high court in October dismissed Volkswagen India’s plea for quashing of an FIR dated July 10 registered against it in Noida for installing “cheat devices” in its vehicles. However, it had stopped the arrest of company officials till the submission of a police report.

Ghaziabad tops list of India’s most polluted city 7 times in 2 weeks 

Over the past fortnight, Ghaziabad has been ranked seven times as the most polluted city in the country among over 100 cities in India, according to the Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) Air Quality Index (AQI) bulletin. Ghaziabad recorded the maximum instances (7) of “severe” AQI recordings in the past 14 days — between November 22 and December 5. 

Experts said the city’s current pollution scenario can be attributed more to local pollutants emitted by major construction and infrastructure projects as well as industrial units and vehicles and not so much to stubble burning fumes from neighbouring states.

CPCB makes clean fuel mandatory for new units operating in NCR

New industrial units in the National Capital Region (NCR) will have to use clean fuel only after the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) made it mandatory to use PNG, CNG or non-polluting fuel in operations. The directive is restricted to new units as the old ones are slower or reluctant to make the switch to non-polluting fuel. 

Industry players called CPCB directions a knee-jerk reaction to the annual pollution in Delhi. With 75% of the industry of the NCR in non-conforming areas and with no access to PNG, how is the CPCB direction of any relevance, they asked.

Air pollution can alter local weather as well: IIT-B study

According to a recent IIT-Bombay study, the fall in pollution during the lockdown early this year did not just result in clearer skies in the city, it also led to changes in local weather conditions such as the wind.

The study said pollution may influence local meteorology more strongly than some natural seasonal changes. Understanding these dynamics can help improve local-level forecasting, scientists said. While several studies have looked at air quality during India’s Covid-19 lockdown, this is the first report that looks at the effects on weather systems, reported TOI.

Power minister launches hackathon to turn agricultural waste into green charcoal 

As stubble burning remains one of the major causes for spikes in winter pollution in north India, the central government launched a Green Charcoal Hackathon, which focuses on technology to convert farm residue into green charcoal. 

The hackathon has been organised by state-owned Energy Efficiency Services Ltd and NVVN (NTPC Vidyut Vyapari Nigam), a subsidiary of state-owned power giant NTPC Ltd.

The power and New and Renewable Energy Minister  R.K Singh pointed out that India’s total coal-based power generation capacity can consume about 1,000 million tonnes of coal annually. Replacing even if 10% of that with green charcoal will require about 160 million tonnes of agro residue and municipal waste. This would be sufficient to wipe out the entire unused agro residue in the country, thus eliminating farm fires.


Incomparable: Energy research and consultancy firm Wood Mackenzy has estimated that renewable energy generation cost in India will further decline to become 56% cheaper than new-build coal by 2030 | Photo: Reuters

Renewable electricity generation in India could be 56% cheaper than coal-fired by 2030: Report

A new study by Wood Mackenzie stated that India and Australia are the only markets in the Asia Pacific with levelled cost of electricity (LCOE) for renewables cheaper than new-build coal. The report says by 2030, all of Asia Pacific will have cheaper renewable power compared to the lowest-cost fossil fuel. 

The report predicted that in India, renewable energy generation cost will further decline to become 56% cheaper than new-build coal by 2030. In Australia, the second-cheapest renewable power market in Asia Pacific, renewable power generation will be 47% cheaper than new-build coal, the report said. India will dominate the costs because the country has low construction and labour costs and good renewable resources, the report said. 

Floating wind power capacity to grow 2,000 times to 250GW by 2050: report

According to a recent report, floating wind power capacity will grow 2,000 times from the present 100 megawatt (MW) to 250 GW in 2050. The report stated floating wind energy will contribute 2% of the world’s electricity supply by 2050 and more than 20% of the offshore wind market. Researchers of the Norway-based risk management and quality assurance company DNV GL said the cost of floating wind will fall about 70% by 2050. Industry will require comprehensive standards and risk management for the technology to scale, the report said. The average costs are not expected to fall below those for bottom-fixed wind, but the price difference would narrow as both fall, the report said. 

The key to these savings would be the highly cost-competitive supply chain, introduction of bigger turbines, larger wind farms and significant technology developments.

Adani green stocks get 562% surge in 2020, lack of analyst coverage baffles market

Adani Green Energy, the largest energy firm in India is the only company in the top 100 in stocks that has no analyst coverage, or rating, Bloomberg reported. Shares of Adani Green rose 562% in 2020. Market players are “baffled” by the zero presence of analyst coverage. Experts said the company’s low free float, the percentage of shares available for trading, may be the key reason for that. 

Adani’s stock gains have pushed the company’s market cap to $23.4 billion, over 40-fold jump from its value at the end of June 2018, when the company made its stock-market debut. In January, the company said it will be the world’s largest renewable power company by 2025. In June, it said it will invest Rs450 billion to execute what it called the world’s largest solar order. Experts said it takes courage to take a call when things are in process, when the WIP is happening, experts said. 

IEEFA analyzes key reasons behind the new record low of Rs2 /KW at the recent SECI auction

According to the latest analysis by IEEFA, the key factors behind the new record low tariff for solar projects at ₹2/kWh at Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) auction of November 23, 2020, include access to low-cost financing at 7-7.5% for government entities like NTPC and for international developers able to arbitrage multi-decade, record-low OECD interest rates (even adjusting for a significant combined currency and country risk premium for India). And the expectation that mono PERC module prices will fall 10-15% to reach USc19-20/Wp (watt peak) by 2022 (excluding duties and taxes).

The Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) added that the power purchase assurance between the intermediary procurer SECI and the buying entity provides confidence to developers and minimises the off-taker risk. Power procured by SECI has been provisioned to be sold to Rajasthan Urja Vikas Nigam Limited (RUVNL). Another contributing factor may be that modules for this specific tender will be exempt from safeguard duty (SGD) and basic Custom duties (BCD), IEEFA said.

Telangana to pay ₹58.3 million in GST & VAT refunds to two solar firms 

The government of Telangana will pay nearly $789,059 to two solar project developers as refunds under State Goods and Services Taxes (SGST) and Value Added Taxes (VAT). Telangana approved around $352,847 payable to Pratamesh Solarfarms Limited, a subsidiary of ReNew Power and $436,212 to SE Solar Limited, a subsidiary of Suzlon Energy. Both companies are based at Wanaparthy in the district of Mahabubnagar, Telangana.

The companies had claimed SGST and VAT refunds as per the Solar Power Policy, 2015, for setting up solar power projects in the state. In April, the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) said the introduction of GST fell within the scope of the “Change in Law” clause for power-purchase agreements. It stated that any additional costs borne by solar developers due to the imposition of GST were to be reimbursed.

India and Sweden to fund joint research in smart grids sector

India and Sweden will jointly develop new technologies in the smart grids sector. The countries have called for proposals from Indian and Swedish companies. The selected projects shall be co-funded by India’s Department of Science & Technology and the Swedish Energy Agency for two years. The consortium of companies could also include research organisations such as universities and research institutes. The DST will provide total funding of up to Rs18 crore to support Indian partners, while the Swedish side will give a maximum of 25 million Swedish Krona for the Swedish project partners. Projects can start January 1, 2022, and must end by December 31, 2023.

India’s Department of Science & Technology and the Swedish Energy Agency have launched a collaborative funding programme for Indian and Swedish companies that aim to jointly develop new technologies, services and processes in the area of smart grids.

Electric Vehicles

Curious rider: The Aptera Paradigm's solar panels add about 45 miles of driving range every day, but the firm's caveat of "in most regions" could restrict sales to the sunniest locales | Photo: SummitMedia

Aptera launches new electric car with NeverCharge technology for “most regions”

California-based Aptera Motors has launched its new electric car, the Paradigm, that it claims does not need to be recharged. The claim has been derived from the car’s embedded solar panels that cover a surface area of roughly 3 sqm, which Aptera claimed are enough to add 45 miles of driving range to the Paradigm’s 100kW battery pack “in most regions”. Fully charged, the car is rated to drive 1,609km (1,00 miles), and even though the solar panels don’t charge the car while in motion, the car can be parked out in the sun for its batteries to be topped up. The Paradigm’s coefficient of drag (its resistance to wind while in motion) is also an impressive 0.13 — compared to the Tesla Model 3’s 0.23, which in itself is much better than its competitors’. 

The car is slated to be launched in the US market in 2021, but can be reserved by eager first adopters for a down payment of $100. 

Battery costs fall to $110/kWh, very close to “tipping point” of $100/kWh

Market intelligence firm Benchmark Mineral Intelligence (BMI) has reported that the cost of li-ion EV batteries has fallen to $110/kWh — which is very close to the industry’s often talked about “tipping point” of $100/kWh. The cost has fallen from $1,100/kWh in 2010 to $156/kWh in 2019. The development brings the EV industry very close to the $100/kWh cost barrier, below which it would reportedly be cheaper to manufacture electric vehicles instead of IC engined-units. The threshold has been referred to by Tesla as well in its quest to make EVs the dominant form of consumer transport, although some analysts expect the barrier to be breached only in 2023. 

Tata delivers 26 of 340 electric buses to BEST 

Tata Motors has delivered 26 of its 340 Tata Urban 9/12m electric buses to Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) — Mumbai’s bus transport provider — as part of the latter’s expansion of its electric bus fleet. Tata Motors will also undertake the setting up of all charging infrastructure for the buses across four of the city’s depots: Shivaji Nagar, Worli, Malvani and Backbay. The buses are equipped with on-board wifi, regenerative braking and a specially designed lowering mechanism for passengers with special needs. 

UK opens first of 100 GRIDSERVE charging stations

UK-based GRIDSERVE has formally opened its first EV charging forecourt in Essex, which will be one of the 100 it will unveil across the UK in five years. The forecourt can charge up to 36 EVs at the same time with its 350kW fast chargers, and is powered by both solar rooftops and solar farms in close proximity. The facility will also let users lease EVs manufactured by most major automakers, such as Mercedez, BMW and Renault, and pay for the usage as part of a monthly payment, which GRIDSERVE claims will lower their (already low) effective cost of charging an EV by 40%.

Fossil Fuels

Nothing to see here: India's old, polluting coal plants may be given a new lease of life if its power ministry's proposal for cheap power is accepted, despite even the DISCOMS wanting out | Photo: Indian Express

India: Power ministry suggests old coal plants may sell power beyond PPA timelines

India’s power ministry has suggested that the country’s old coal plants be allowed to retail power “in any mode” to keep electricity costs down for the consumer. The proposal would affect the lifespan and market relevance of several gigawatts of old, inefficient coal plants, several of which have been earmarked for closure by the country’s environment ministry as they were not in compliance with the latest emission norms. Yet, the power ministry clarified that only inefficient units — the ones that have high power tariffs — will be marked for retirement. 

On the other hand, the DISCOMS of Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Delhi are keen to exit their contracts to buy power from such units after 25 years because of their high tariffs and the availability of excess power. Nationwide, DISCOMS are reportedly keen to offload contracts for 5.5GW worth of coal plants for similar reasons.  

Netherlands: Shell dragged to court, activists demand stronger action on cutting emissions 

Oil and gas giant Royal Dutch Shell has been dragged to the courts in the Netherlands by climate activists on behalf of 17,000 Dutch citizens, who are demanding that the driller take much stronger action on cutting its global emissions. The activists want Shell to slash its total greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030 (relative to 2019), but Shell has so far only committed to trimming the emissions intensity of its products by 30% by 2035 (over 2016). 

The activists also alleged that Shell is well aware of the climate impacts of its operations and that by not doing more, it acts as a threat to human rights (of protection against climate change). The case is one of the several important legal challenges to oil and gas drilling around the world, such as in Norway, and could have widespread implications for the industry. Shell’s chief counterpart in the industry, BP, has, meanwhile, started to invest heavily in renewables

Czech Republic votes to phase out coal by 2030, target criticised as being “absurdly late”

The Czech Republic’s coal commission has recommended that the country phase out coal by 2038, the same date as Germany, even though the decision was not unanimously agreed to by the commission itself. The target is also non-binding, and environmental activists have criticised it by calling it “absurdly late” and that it ignores climate realities, given that the country could make the shift by early as 2030. The proposal has also been called out for not having done a proper (socio-economic) impact assessment and for being out of sync with the Czech Republic’s commitment under the Paris Agreement. 

Japan’s ruling party suggests lowering role of fossil fuels to less than 50% by 2030

A group of lawmakers from Japan’s ruling party has proposed that the country’s share of fossil fuels in its power sector be brought down from the mammoth 75.8% (for coal and gas in March 2020) to less than 50% by 2030. The shift, if approved, could see its share of renewable energy surge to almost 50% from its modest 18% at the moment. The proposal is also in line with the new government’s pledge for Japan to go net-zero by 2050, despite Japanese banks being one of the primary financiers of new coal power in South Asia

The country is, additionally, investing in hydrogen for its heavy industries due to its lower emissions and its potential to be fully green. 

Denmark to end all North Sea oil and gas drilling by 2050, cancel latest licensing round

The EU’s largest oil and gas producer, Denmark, has agreed, with a majority in parliament, to end all fossil fuel exploration and extraction in the North Sea by 2050. The agreement comes after the country’s already trailblazing climate target of curbing emissions by 70% by 2030, and it will see the government cancel its latest round of licensing for new projects. The move is expected to cost the Danish crown $2.1 billion in lost revenue, but the government has been advised by an independent agency to exit all investments in North Sea oil and gas if it was to meet its climate targets. 

Incidentally, Denmark is a world leader in wind energy consumption and sourced 47% of its energy from the fuel in 2019. 

Trump White House rushes to auction drilling licenses in Alaska before Biden takes office 

The Trump administration is reportedly rushing to issue drilling licenses in the ecologically sensitive Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska, and it will put up sale notices for oil and gas leases two weeks before the process was supposed to commence. The current administration is strongly in favour of expanding the US’s oil and gas output and the new licenses may be issued just before its next President, Joe Biden, takes office in January. 

The move is vehemently opposed by Democrats, indegenous populations and environmental activists and is expected to lead to a flurry of new legal challenges. However, there has not been much interest in the ANWR from drilling companies themselves. The formalities required to eventually start drilling in the region may take months after the leases are approved, and major US banks have refused to finance any drilling in the Arctic.