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US Supreme Court backs Gujarat, World Bank not immune to scrutiny

Newsletter - March 6, 2019

Not so immune anymore: The US Supreme Court’s quashing of IFC’s absolute immunity could spell trouble for giant financiers with questionable project portfolios | Image credit: Harnas(dot)co

US top court backs Gujarat fishermen: ‘World Bank not immune to scrutiny’

David seems to have trumped Goliath again. Gujarat’s farmers and fishermen, who have been fighting for years against the foreign funding of a polluting coal plant, got a temporary breather from the US Supreme Court last week. The top court rejected a lower court ruling that allowed international organisations based in the US, such as the World Bank arm – International Finance Corporation (IFC) – to be immune to litigation by American courts, thereby reviving the protestors’ case against the IFC over its funding of the Tata Mundra Project in Gujarat. While a major victory for campaigners worldwide, the ruling could end up being a headache for large international financiers, many of whom have been criticised for certain investments. In 2008, the IFC had sanctioned $450 million in loans to build the coal-fired plant in Gujarat. But the EarthRights group, representing the farmers and fishermen living near the plant, sued the IFC for failing to meet the obligations to check if the project met environmental standards. Down to Earth wrote: “It has undeniably thrown open an opportunity for people’s’ movements, fighting against destructive developmental projects, to include ‘finance’ as a part of their existing strategies.”

Climate Science

Frying to a crisp: Dramatic rise in ocean hearwaves threatens all marine life, including the highly sensitive and already dwindling coral reefs | Image credit: HealthThoroughFare

Alarming new study reveals heatwaves sweeping oceans ‘like wildfires’

Heatwaves are not just triggering wildfires and gutting forests over land, but they are also wreaking havoc underwater. Scientists say ocean heatwaves have risen sharply, killing swathes of sea-life like “wildfires that take out huge areas of forest”, the Guardian reported. In the first systematic global analysis of ocean heatwaves (five or more days of extreme temperature), scientists say their frequency has tripled in recent years and they are leaving an alarming impact across species – from plankton, mammals and seabirds to humans who are dependent on oceans for food and clean air.

Ocean warming study finds 4% drop in ‘sustainable’ fish stocks since 1930s

The saying ‘there aren’t enough fish in the sea’ is literally ringing truer now than ever before. According to a study published in Science, which analysed data between 1930 and 2010, to find the impact of ocean warming on commercial fish stocks, the amount of fish that can be caught in a sustainable manner has fallen by an average of 4% globally in this period. The worst hit regions are in the UK, around the North and Irish seas, where, the study says, the maximum sustainable yield of fish, particularly the Atlantic Cod, sole and haddock, has fallen by up to a drastic 35%. The study surmises the reason for this could be a drop in the availability of zooplankton, which are microscopic marine animals that the fish feed on, also due to ocean warming.   

The study’s lead author warned that overfishing is also making fish vulnerable to ocean warming and could seriously mar any efforts made to rebuild declining fish populations.    

Extreme CO2 levels may trigger 8°C of global warming

Increased CO2 levels in the atmosphere may rapidly warm the earth at a magnitude only seen once before, 55 million years ago. According to a new paper published in the journal Nature Geoscience, if atmospheric CO2 levels exceed 1,200 parts per million (ppm), it could trigger a break-up of stratocumulus clouds – low-lying clouds that typically cover and keep cool 20% of Earth’s tropical ocean regions. When the clouds break up, they would no longer cover the surface, triggering a global warming of 8°C, according to the study, which used a state-of-the-art, high-resolution simulation model to arrive at its conclusion.

But there’s no need to panic, say scientists, as the paper does point to large uncertainties that remain because the research is still in the preliminary stage. Also, the 1,200 ppm CO2 levels are three times the current concentrations. But the paper does provide interesting insights into the ‘potential presence of tipping points’ that could lead to ‘catastrophic warming’ of the Earth.

Tiny Australian rat species first mammal to go extinct due to climate change

A small brown rat that lived on a 12-acre island off the northern Australian coast has become the first mammal to become extinct due to human-induced climate change, the government said. The Bramble Cay melomys was pronounced ‘extinct’ first in a report published by the University of Queensland in 2016, after conservation efforts failed to preserve the species, which had not been spotted on the island in a decade. This finding was confirmed by the Australian government in the past fortnight.

The cause for extinction was dramatic habitat loss because of ocean inundation from rising sea levels, the 2016 report said. A sad end to the rodent species that could be counted in the hundreds on the island back in the 1970s, but was declared ‘endangered’ by 1992.   

Forest fires in India tripled in past four months

A recent government survey revealed that large forest fires have tripled in the past four months in India. NewsClick reported that the survey, conducted by the Forest Survey of India, found that the forest fires “shot up to 14,107 from 4,225 between November 2018 and February 2019. According to the monitoring system, there are as many as 58 large forest fires active at the moment”. The real-time large fire monitoring system gathered data from the SNPP-VIIRS satellite. According to the survey, in the past two months, 205 forest fires (37% of the total fires) were reported in the five southern states of India – Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana. Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra were also badly affected by wildfires. According to Down To Earth, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka, spent only 60% of the funds allocated to contain fires.

Wildfires burn across UK amid highest winter temperatures ever recorded

The UK is experiencing its warmest winter with record-breaking temperatures of above 20°C for the first time. The country recorded its hottest winter day last Tuesday as wildfires broke out from Scotland to Wales.This time last year, the UK, like Europe, was buried in snow, while some areas of the country were hit by blizzards. The maximum temperature during the last week of February touched 18.3°C at Aboyne, while Wales recorded the highest-ever February temperature of 19.1°C at Gogerddan. Bob Ward, of the centre for climate change economics and policy at the London School of Economics, told the Guardian, “Over the last five years, we also had two record wet winters, during which there was severe flooding. This is a sign of the fundamental and profound way that Britain’s climate is changing.”

India’s monsoon woes to continue this year; foodgrain production, output hit

Will the monsoon this year be good or not? The answer seems to reside far away in the warming equatorial region of the Pacific Ocean. Recently, the US-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced the development of a weak El Niño (phenomenon of warming of Pacific Ocean), that it said may persist until June. The Indian Express reported that “the status of El Niño is usually the first indication of the kind of rainfall that is to be expected during the monsoon season later in the year”. While a warmer ocean suppresses monsoon, the opposite phenomenon of La Niña helps in bringing good rainfall, says the report. The report further says that the warming in the Niño 3.4 region of the Pacific, (the region impacts India’s rainfall) has been forecast to remain over 0.5°C above normal, which according to experts, may decrease the rainfall.

Meanwhile, India estimates overall food production in the 2018-19 crop year to be lower by over 1% compared to last year, mainly because of the 9% deficit rainfall that was reported last year. TOI reported that “as per estimates, foodgrain output is pegged at 281.37 million tonnes (MT) in 2018-19 as compared to 284.83 MT in 2017-18.


Climate Policy

Sweet justice: Tribals will get to stay in the Aravalli forests after India’s Supreme Court chastised the state government for trying to evict them | Image credit: SanjayPhotoWorld

India’s top court stays controversial tribal eviction order

The last day of February brought some much-needed relief for over a million tribals and forest-dwellers in India. The Supreme Court ordered a stay on its February 13 order asking states to evict tribals and forest-dwellers, whose claim on forest land had been rejected. The stay was ordered after the Centre stepped in seeking a modification and told the court that it was difficult to ascertain if the states had rejected the claims only after following due process and if all other appeal mechanisms had been exhausted. In some other cases, the Centre argued, the claimants had been unable to appeal the rejection as they had not been informed of the same by the state government concerned.

The states now have to submit all details related to the rejection of the claims made by the tribals and forest-dwellers to the Supreme Court in the next four months.

Haryana’s move to open up Aravallis to ‘development’ may turn Delhi into a desert

The Supreme Court of India came down heavily on the northern state of Haryana for flouting its orders and diluting the law to allow construction in the Aravalli hills. “Do you think you are supreme?” the judges rapped the state saying, “It is really shocking. You are destroying the forest… it is not permissible,” the attempt to bring in the changes was “sheer contempt”.

The Haryana government is facing angry protests led by citizens, climate campaigners, and the Opposition over the new law opening up the Aravallis, one of Earth’s oldest mountain ranges, to construction and mining. Environmentalists warn that allowing construction in the 25,000 hectares of forest areas under the guise of providing “jobs to locals” would be a disaster. While the fragile region continues to battle rampant illegal mining, “the revival of the Aravallis’ remaining forested areas is the last change to prevent Delhi and its neighbourhood from turning into a desert”, wrote Down to Earth.

Teens in the West fight against fossil fuel money

Thousands of teenagers participated in climate strikes across the western hemisphere, with a plan to stage a global strike on March 15, “on every continent”. Excluded from the decision-making process, the young protesters say they are now rising “to demand justice for all past, current and future victims of the climate crisis.” A video of teen climate activist Isha Clarke’s clash with US Senator Dianne Feinstein over climate action went viral. In Europe, sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg, the inspiration behind the students’ climate strike, held rallies in four countries in eight days, and appeared at the European parliament in Brussels, shaming politicians and urging them to take climate action.

Campaigners move EU court, claim wood, biomass is not renewable energy

Campaigners from Europe and the US have moved the European Court of Justice seeking a ban on treating biomass and wood as a renewable energy source, Climate Home reported. According to them, burning wood or biomass to generate electricity or heat is harmful and not a solution to tackle climate change. The case challenges the legal directive on renewables, as part of the EU’s plans to achieve 32% energy from renewable sources by 2030. Climate Home reported that nearly two-thirds of EU renewables comprise various forms of bioenergy. Scientists say trees should not be burned and harvested, but allowed to age and act as a carbon sink. Burning wood releases more CO2 than coal, but EU considers it to be burning wood as carbon neutral because trees grow back and absorb CO2 from the atmosphere.

EU wavers on Paris commitment, to open US trade talks

The European Union (EU) has backtracked on its pledge to only strike deals with countries committed to the Paris Agreement. With the US threatening to slap import tariffs on European cars, a committee of the European Parliament, just about passed a resolution (21 votes to 17) allowing the European Commission (EC) to discuss two trade deals with the US, which effectively lift any tariffs and diminish bureaucratic hurdles between the two parties concerned.

EU’s shelving of climate concerns comes exactly a year after the EC backed France’s appeal to make trade deals with the US contingent on membership of the Paris climate agreement. “This point is a priority for the EU and it would be difficult to imagine concluding an important trade deal without an ambitious chapter on trade and sustainable development attached to it,” a commission trade spokesperson had told Climate Home News at the time.

French experts propose trillion-euro EU climate finance pact

French experts and architects of the Paris agreement, including the country’s former prime minister Laurent Fabius, have drafted a plan for a sweeping trillion-Euro EU climate finance pact, Climate Home reported. The draft treaty, backed by 600 politicians, has plans for a new bank and a fund to mobilise cash on a large scale. The report said, “Proponents hope to put it on the agenda of a summit on the future of Europe this month and European Parliament elections in May.”

UN’s flagship fund GCF gets new boss

French UN official Yannick Glemarec was named the new chief of the UN’s flagship climate fund: The Green Climate Fund (GCF). Glemarec’s job will be to lead the fundraising drive at the GCF. He will coordinate with economist Johannes Linn, facilitator of the replenishment process. Climate Home drew attention to the missing women at the helm of GCF: “You have to ask how an institution drawing from an international pool landed on two white men. Particularly when the highly qualified Mafalda Duarte was in the running. Maybe the 7:1 male to female ratio on the selection panel goes some way to explain it…”

GCF, which started with $10.2 billion of pledges from developed countries, is facing a huge fund crunch after the US declined to contribute $2 billion of a $3-billion pledge.

Switzerland to push for geoengineering governance at UN meet in Kenya

With no signs of a dip in greenhouse gas emissions, geoengineering research is quickly gaining more prominence than ever before and this is worrying Switzerland. The country is concerned about the rise of geoengineering, which refers to techniques used to modify climate – like tampering with clouds – to tackle the climate change menace without an international system to govern the use of such technology, which is often untested. Switzerland now plans to introduce a resolution at the UN Environment Assembly in Kenya, in a bid to kick-start a conversation on the topic.

Geoengineering is being increasingly looked at as a possible solution to slow down climate change, for example, creating technology to control solar radiation. While wealthier countries are experimenting increasingly, a new fund was also recently launched to help poorer countries explore geoengineering as a possible solution to their climate problems.

China’s CO2 emissions rose by 3% in 2018, despite growth in renewables

China may be making strides in drawing power from renewables (grew 29% in 2018), but at the same time, its CO2 emissions grew by approximately 3% last year – this is what an analysis of official data conducted by Greenpeace UK’s Unearthed found. The study says that thanks to China, the “coal-to-chemicals – the dirtiest industry you never heard of – is back in vogue” and that coal demand, which rose by 5%, was mainly driven by the power sector. Meanwhile, China’s wind power generation increased 20% and solar PV 50% in 2018, reported Unearthed.

Australia’s minister caught lying about his country’s rising emissions

Australia’s energy minister made some shockingly fake claims on TV about his country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Angus Taylor falsely claimed that Australia’s emissions fell by 1%, but his government’s own data says the opposite. In an interview with the ABC programme Insiders, Angus Taylor said, “Yes, they’re coming down and the department rightly believes they’re going to continue to go down and the result of this is we will reach not just our Kyoto targets and still in the Kyoto period, we will reach our Paris targets.”

On climate science Taylor said: “Linking every weather event to climate change is just not good science.” While on renewable energy he said: “Our energy system needs significant reform and investment, particularly non-renewable and non-intermittent.”


Air Pollution

Pretty, hellish: Delhi NCR’s air quality has dipped to such horrific levels that it’s now the world’s most polluted Capital region | Image credit: EnterpriseBlog

Delhi NCR most polluted in the world

In a recent study by IQ Air Visual and Greenpeace, Delhi’s National Capital Region (NCR) has emerged as the most polluted in the world, with five cities neighbouring Delhi, Gurugram, Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Noida and Bhiwadi ranking the highest. Among the top 20 most polluted cities, 18 were in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, marking the South Asian region as a global pollution hotspot. While Delhi ranked 11, China’s efforts to bring its PM2.5 levels down by 40% since 2013 resulted in Beijing ranking 122. The study further added that Beijing would have ranked 21 if the PM concentrations had remained the same as in 2013.

Study: Stubble burning main contributor of Delhi’s deadly air

Crop burning is the main culprit of Delhi’s killer air – that’s the conclusion of a joint study by Sweden and India. The analysis of 2011 data on biomass burning says black carbon (BC), which is released in the air from the burning of crop residue, is the main contributor to Delhi’s polluted winter air. According to the study, burning of biomass and vehicular emissions, both contribute to around 40% each to pollution in Delhi. The research points out that in Chinese megacities, fossil fuel combustion causes around 70% to 80% of pollution. It also says that BC entering Delhi from neighbouring states is around 42% in winter and 36% in autumn.

Meanwhile, India’s Supreme Court has directed the Centre to use part of its Rs75,000 crore National Clean Energy and Environment Fund (NCEEF) to buy Turbo Happy Seeder machines for farmers to cut paddy stubble as an alternative to burning it down. Counsel Gopal Shankarnarayanan told the court that the expectation that the farmers would bear the expenses to buy the seeder machines as an alternative to the much cheaper option of burning of stubble was unlikely to succeed, TOI reported.

Up to 66% transport pollution deaths in India associated with diesel

Nearly half (1,81,000) of the premature deaths caused by polluted air in India are from the on-road diesel vehicles, says the the first-ever comprehensive assessment of health impacts of global transport emissions, released by the United States (US)-based International Council of Clean Transportation (ICCT). Times of India reported that although 47% of the deaths were attributed to diesel vehicles, the number went up to as much as 66% in India, Italy, Germany, and France, where diesel engines power a sizeable number of cars. New Delhi ranks sixth among the 100 major urban centres assessed for transport sector-related deaths globally.

Down to Earth reported that “it is worrying that the global health burden of only on-road diesel vehicles is 68% higher than previously estimated for diesel and nitrogen oxide emissions. This estimate now includes the effects of tailpipe PM2.5 as well.”

What Russia’s green snow reveals about the rise of pollution

A regional governor from Russia was forced to shut down a coal processing plant and chrome factories after pictures went viral of the pollution they were releasing in the air. The  Cherkasovskaya coal-processing plant refused to filter its coal dust and instead spilled it in atmosphere making the snow turn black, while the waste from chrome factories turned the snow yellow. Futurism reported that pollution levels in the city of Kiselyovsk rose up to double the safety limits. Residents uploaded pictures and videos of horrible snow pollution on social media.

The governor of the Russian region of Kuzbass, Sergei Tsivilyov, told the coal firms, “You are killing yourself and you are killing all your people who work for you and you are also killing everything around you.”

NGT panel inspects ‘polluted’ Singrauli

India’s green court, the National Green Tribunal (NGT), carried out a three-day inspection of the heavily polluted coal district of Singrauli in Madhya Pradesh. Economic Times reported that “industries found polluting the environment may face immediate shutdown based on this panel’s report.”

The whole district is covered in fly ash and dust caused by road transportation of coal. State data shows dangerous levels of fluoride contaminating water sources in 12 districts of Singrauli, which has forced the government to seal hand pumps and make alternative arrangements for drinking water. ET quotes sources saying, the state governments of UP and MP have not much to address health-related issues that includes silicosis, fluorosis and mercury contamination, the states have not even prepared health status reports of the affected citizens.


Renewables

Many more needed: A warmer planet could make air-conditioning a critical requirement in developing nations

India launches energy efficient air-conditioning programme

India launched a “super efficient” air conditioning programme that plans to make ACs that are 30% cheaper and 40% more efficient than the 3-star ACs currently sold in the market. The Centre’s Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) will set up the infrastructure to make the ACs, which will be initially sold to Delhi consumers, before the programme is launched in the rest of the country at an estimated investment of  $211 million. EESL expects to recover the investment through consumer sales. India’s power demand is expected to increase four times in the next 12 years. Mercom reported that EESL expects the ACs to cut the peak power demand in south and west Delhi by 22 MW. The scheme will help India meet its Paris and Kigali climate targets to phase out hydrochlorofluorocarbons.

Rajasthan again: Lowest quoted tariff dips to ₹2.48/kWh

For the sun-rich state of Rajasthan, tariff quote dropped to Rs2.48/kWh ($0.0349) at the 750 MW solar auction conducted by the Centre’s Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI). Fortum (250 MW), ACME (250 MW), Sitara Solar (100 MW), and Palimarwar Solar (40 MW), quoted the lowest tariff. ReNew Power got 110MW of the 300MW it bid for. The upper tariff ceiling was ₹2.68 (~$0.0375)/kWh. The tariff has fallen further from the ₹2.55 (~$0.035)/kWh recorded two days ago at another SECI auction. Experts say, Rajasthan attracts lowest bids because it has a great transmission infrastructure, ample substations, cheap land and high solar irradiance.

Another anti-dumping duty on solar imports possibly in the offing

After safeguard duty on solar imports from China and Malaysia, India now plans to impose an anti-dumping duty on a particular type of solar sheet from China, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Thailand for five years, to protect domestic manufacturers from cheap imports from these countries, Economic Times reported. India’s Directorate General of Trade Remedies (DGTR) has recommended the duty in the range of $537 to $1,559 per tonne on imports of “Ethylene Vinyl Acetate sheet for solar module”. The Centre is yet to take a final call on the imposition of duty.

France added 1.5GW wind power in 2018

According to Reuters, France added 1.5 GW wind power capacity in 2018, taking its total installed power generation from wind turbines to 15.1 GW. The report adds that the power production from renewable wind sources was at 26.1 terawatt hour (TWh) in 2018, compared with 22.6 TWh a year ago, and accounted for 5.5% of French electricity consumption during the year. The French government also announced that the grid-connected solar power sources increased their installed capacity by 9 GW in December 2018, short of its 10 GW target, after 862 megawatts (MW) of projects were added during the calendar year, Reuters added.

Shell to invest in UK offshore wind market, despite impending Brexit

Driven by investor demands to curb emissions, Shell plans to invest in the UK offshore wind market despite Britain’s impending exit from the European Union, Reuters reported. Shell is acquiring seabed leases and buying stakes in existing projects. Britain has the world’s largest offshore wind energy installations, nearly 40% of all global wind capacity. Earlier, Shell pledged to spend $1 billion to $2 billion annually on green technology. Many international firms, such as automakers and nuclear plant developers, have shied away from fresh investment in the UK, with Brexit creating uncertainty over the future of the country’s economy.

Google seeks tax breaks for $600M data center in Minnesota

Google will set up a $600 million wind-powered data center in central Minnesota for which the tech giant wants the government to waive 20 years’ worth of future taxes, AP reported.
Google has sought property tax breaks that would save the company up to $15 million. Google says the project would bring an estimated 50 full-time tech jobs to the area and help ease the transition away from a coal-based economy amid the Sherco plant’s impending closure.


Electric Vehicles

Soon without the tailpipes: FAME-II’s enormous subsidy package could catalyse both the production and the purchase of electric vehicles in India | ThePrint

FAME-II ups budget to Rs10,000 crore ($1.4 billion) , proposes 2,700 new charging stations

The second iteration of India’s Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles scheme – FAME II – will finally go into effect from April 1, 2019 and its allocated budget has been upped from a mere Rs895 crore under FAME-I ($290 million) to Rs10,000 crore ($1.4 billion).

The budget will subsidise the purchase of up to 10 lakh electric 2-wheelers – for private customers only, 500,000 electric 3-wheelers and 55,000 electric 4-wheelers – mainly for commercial operators, and up to 7,000 electric buses. However, FAME-II will only cover vehicles running on lithium-ion battery packs or other new technologies and leaves out vehicles powered by lead-acid batteries.

Additionally, the scheme has proposed to set up 2,700 charging stations across the country – so that there is one in every 3X3 sq. km grid – as well as earmarking charging stations for every 25km for each major national highway. The scheme has been very well received by India’s automakers and answers their calls for the government to provide incentives that push for EV adoption.

Germany to invest €60 billion in EVs, Japan to test EV batteries for power backup
Germany’s car manufacturers will invest €60 billion over the next three years in a bid to ramp up their move to manufacturing EVs and offer up to 100 electric car models to their customers. The automakers’ association – Verband der Automobilindustrie (VDA) – has said that the additional impetus is critical to the EU meeting its 2030 CO2 emissions target.

Meanwhile, Japan is looking to test using the power stored in EV batteries to supply emergency power backup to homes and home appliances during blackouts caused by natural or man-made disasters. It will tie up with Nissan for the test, which claims that fully charged EVs – presumably from its own line-up – could power a home for up to four days.

China EV sales jump 175% year-on-year, VW leads foreign carmakers’ minor share
China has posted a record 175% year-on-year jump in EV sales for January and February 2019, with 96,000 new EVs registered within the period. EVs now account for 4.8% of all vehicles sold across the country.

However, 95% of the sales come from Chinese EV manufacturers alone – led by BYD, SAIC and BAIC. Foreign EV makers, on the other hand, only managed 5% of the numbers, with Volkswagen’s share at the highest at 2%.

Incidentally, BYD is also building its second new gigafactory for li-ion EV batteries in China – whose 20 GWh annual output will make it one of the world’s largest li-ion battery factories.


Fossil Fuels

Two more please: Two new mega coal plants are likely to come up in Madhya Pradesh after a decade, with tariffs almost twice that of solar power’s | Image credit: SierraClub

Two mega coal plants planned for Madhya Pradesh

Coal power in India may receive a massive new push with Madhya Pradesh’s plan to set up two new, 1,320 MW coal plants. Each plant is expected to cost Rs11,220 crore (about $1.6 billion) and retail power at Rs5.5-6/unit. The state is justifying the projects based on its need for baseload power – and its installed renewable capacity of 4,386 MW is far short of its 63,000 MW peak power demand.

Madhya Pradesh is, interestingly, home to the 750 MW Rewa solar park, which retails solar power at tariffs as low as Rs2.97/unit. However, state government officials are reportedly keen to set up the new coal plants and use all of the power within the state, instead of purchasing from stressed assets in other states. This is because they want to avoid the stressed assets’ higher power tariffs and steer clear of their patchy coal supply linkages.

RPO mandate relaxed for captive plants, market opened for captive coalmines

The Indian government has relaxed captive power plants’ Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) mandates – most of which run on coal. Their parent companies will no longer have to obtain 21% of all of their power from renewables for 2021-2022. Instead, all such plants – as long as they don’t add additional capacity – must now follow RPO mandates for the years they were established, such as 17% for 2018-2019.

The decision effectively isolates them from RPO revisions for utility-scale fossil fuel power plants. Interestingly, most captive plants are solely operated by carbon-heavy industries, such as cement and steel manufacturing.

Meanwhile, captive coalmines can now sell up to 25% of their output in the open market. The move has been approved by the Centre to attract the private sector into owning coalmines – the response for which has so far been lacklustre — while generating additional revenue for the government.

NTPC only keen to acquire stressed assets under insolvency proceedings

India’s largest thermal power utility – NTPC – is reportedly keen to only acquire stressed power assets that are currently undergoing insolvency proceedings at the NCLT (National Company Law Tribunal). This would ensure that it can acquire the assets at discounts as high as 70% – and avoid (lengthy) out-of-court negotiations with their owners.

The country currently has 40,30 MW of thermal power stressed assets, of which around 6GW may be acquired by NTPC as part of its strategy to expand capacity through brownfield project acquisitions.

States request central grants, not loans, to retrofit polluting coal plants  

Several states have requested that the Centre fund the retrofit of their polluting coal power plants with grants from the Power System Development Fund (PSDF) and the National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF).

The request for grants – as opposed to loans – comes as the retrofitting of Flue Gas De-sulphurisers (FGDs) and upgraded Electrostatic Precipitators (ESPs) could need a CAPEX investment of anywhere between Rs80 lakh to Rs128 lakh/MW (about $114,000 – $183,000/MW). This would raise power tariffs by Rs0.62-0.93/kWh. However, nearly 17GW of coal power plants may be shuttered over lack of space to install the technologies.

Private power producers – riddled with stressed asset debts – have also requested for financing from the Power Finance Corporation (PFC) and the Rural Electrification Corporation (REC) as they are struggling to secure any further loans from the banking sector.

Glencore to cap coal output, list of financiers pulling out of coal now exceeds 100

Global mining giant Glencore has announced it will begin to cap its annual output of thermal coal to 145 million metric tonnes. The decision is heavily influenced by increasing pressure by investors to pull companies away from fossil fuels, and is significant because Glencore in fact purchased Rio Tinto’s coalmines in 2018. Coal also still accounts for a majority of the firm’s profits.

A new IEEFA report, meanwhile, shows that more than 100 global investors have exit or restricted coal financing since 2013 – both over its role in driving climate change and the financial risk it poses in terms of stranded assets. The list includes large lenders like World Bank and European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), and prominent insurers like Allianz, Swiss Re and Munich Re.

The biggest US pension funds are also asking the country’s 20 largest utilities to switch to carbon-free electricity generation by 2050. The switch has been termed as a “financial necessity”, as well as being critical to meeting global emissions reduction targets.

Saudi Aramco chief rubbishes theories of oil’s demise, calls for more investment

The CEO of Saudi Aramco, Amin Nasser, has rubbished apparently illogical theories – or a “crisis of perception” – that the global demand for oil will soon be wiped out with growing sales of electric vehicles. He said that passenger vehicles only accounted for 20% of global oil consumption, and more investment was needed to boost future supplies to aviation, shipping, trucks and the petrochemicals industry.

Finland bans coal power from 2029
 
Finland’s parliament has voted to ban the use of coal for power generation from May 1, 2029. The fuel accounted for 8% of the nation’s energy mix for January-November 2018. The owners of existing coal plants will be compensated (to an extent) for halting operations, although coal could still be used in Finland for emergency power supplies.