Vol 2, Jan 2023 | Coal comfort

A study found that there are no laws in India that mandate decommissioning, remediation and repurposing of the coal power plants after retirement. Photo: Mohammed Nesaei/Wikimedia Commons

Despite wide recognition of eventual drawdown of coal and thermal power, there is little to suggest that India is prepared to navigate the tremors of these tectonic shifts .Read more

India and the case for a national energy transition plan

Despite wide recognition of eventual drawdown of coal and thermal power, there is little to suggest that India is prepared to navigate the tremors of these tectonic shifts

On 7th December, Coal Minister Pralhad Joshi told Lok Sabha that the country has no plans to introduce a Just Transition policy. The transition away from coal “is not happening in the foreseeable future” and regardless of a push for renewable energy, “the share of coal in the energy basket is going to remain significant in years ahead,” he said. This was then followed up on 12th December in a meeting between officials from the Ministry of Power, National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and the Central Electricity Agency (CEA) where Power Minister R.K Singh instructed no further retirements of thermal power units until 2030, but rather measures to ensure the extension of lives of plants that are slated for retirement. The reason— an expected growth in India’s energy demand over the current decade.

These statements merit further assessment and critique because hundreds of coal mines and power plants have already shut down, raising questions as to what happened thereafter. According to estimates by the coal ministry, 293 coal mines had shut down as of April last year, most operated by Coal India Limited. And as per details made available by the CEA, overall 259 units of thermal power stations have been shut down. Of these, 191 units (accounting for a capacity of almost 17 GW) were run on coal and lignite. Reasons for shutdown were largely depletion of coal reserves (or shortage of coal supply, in case of power plants) and financial non-viability. The National Electricity Plan 2022, released mere months ago, also lists more than 4.6 GW of thermal power as scheduled for retirement between 2022  and 2027. Now consider the scale of deliberate drawdown that is expected to happen in line with India’s international climate commitment to reach net-zero by 2070, even if the pull back from coal accelerates only in the decades to come. 

The coal minister too referred to 2040 as a potential peak year for coal. So why then, despite a clear recognition of the fact that coal power usage will reduce in the future, is there no clear nationwide Just Transition strategy? The need for one is also not widely recognised among workers. In Chhattisgarh, explained Nathulal Pande, member of Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS), coal mines still have a lot of life because of the high availability of reserves. “So there are no serious concerns about job loss at present,” he says. HMS is one of the largest trade unions in India. 

But there is “no contradiction” between the government’s hawkish protection of thermal power, current patterns of increasing coal production and working towards a Just Transition, says Sandeep Pai, a researcher working on coal transitions in India.

Consider Coal India, for example, which directly employs around 2,50,000 people. Then there are informal workers engaged on contract basis. In Jharkhand’s Ramgarh district, the proportion of informal workers in the coal mining sector was nearly three times the formal workforce. And indirect dependence further downstream in the coal value chain like workers in the transport sector, for example. And if power plants are retired in line with discussions around a 25-year lifetime, around 192,028 formal and informal workers would lose employment. 

“If you add up mines and power plants that have shut down and will shut down in the next decade, the number of impacted people and communities is more than the whole coal transition in Europe,” Pai explained, contrasting the scale of closures in India for reasons other than Just Transition to those in Europe as part of deliberate transition initiatives in coal regions. Now consider how Germany alone has set aside €40 billion for coal phase out. How much would India need? Drafting a transition plan could be the first step to arrive at such calculations. 

There are also other coal dependencies in India like freight revenue for the Indian Railways and the cross subsidisation of passenger fares, tax revenue for the Indian government and coal-consuming sectors like cement and steel. There is also a need to develop expertise within the country’s financial sector. A recent study published by the Global Environmental Change journal found that less than half of the 154 finance professionals who were surveyed were familiar with environmental issues like climate change mitigation and adaptation, greenhouse gas emissions and transition risks. It also states that only four of ten financial institutions that were surveyed collected information on social, environmental, and governance (ESG) variables that affect companies’ financial positions i.e. ESG risks. In essence, there is a lot that needs to be planned for and accounted for. 

The possibility of utilising abandoned mines and retired thermal power units to host renewable energy infrastructure, including solar power plants and storage solutions such as pumped storage and gravity storage, have also emerged in recent years as a potential solution to the challenge of transitioning away from coal and dampening employment loss implications. Additionally, Just Transition plans could not only channel workers into other booming sectors like solar energy but also toward repairing local ecology and providing jobs in the process. Like turning abandoned open-cast coal mines into fisheries. This would require analysis of region-wise resource availability, suitability of land for other purposes, potential for new industries etc.

The other point to consider is that while closures of coal mines and power plants have so far occurred as a result of domestic reasons like depletion of reserves and inefficiency, going forward another factor will demand consideration: global climate change concerns. “This was not provided for in the financials of these projects. So the bill needs to be picked up by someone else,” Anil Kumar Jain, former secretary, union ministry of coal, told CarbonCopy. “The collaboration with the World Bank was about understanding the implications” he added, referencing ongoing talks between the Union coal ministry with bodies like the World Bank and also the German development agency GIZ for developing a comprehensive closure framework with Just Transition principles for closed and abandoned mines.

As far as international finance to support the energy transition goes, the past 15 months or so have seen the emergence of Just Energy Transition Partnerships (JET-Ps) as the avenue of choice. JET-P deals, which seek to channelise finance from developed countries to developing economies to facilitate a shift away from coal, have already been struck in South Africa, Vietnam and Indonesia. While these deals stand at different stages of implementation, a similar deal in India will likely hinge on a plan for eventual coal and thermal power retirements being in place. This is a condition that has caused some consternation in India’s coal and power ministries.

Although larger shifts away from coal might happen over coming decades in line with the net-zero commitment, “in the short-term, India still needs a plan for the mines and power plants that are already in the process of closing down,” says Pai. One could also look at the task at present as pilot projects to assess what the larger transition could entail in terms of funding requirements and policies for workers and communities. Doing so could also make climate policies more acceptable to sections of society that are most exposed to transition risks. 

Mine closures at present and a need for more

At present, India has a coal mine closure guideline that includes compensation for employees and rehabilitation of the land. There are also labour laws that call for severance packages etc. But there is a lot of room for improvement.

“Workers who were employed in coal mines that have shut down have been relocated to other mines and wages and other facilities [as were provided earlier] continued,” Pande said. Such arrangements to move labourers from one mine to another are likely part of agreements and understanding between the management and the mine workers. But there are impacts on larger communities that have remained unaddressed. 

“An entire basti comes up around coal mines and there are kirana stores… even the land which was mined should be returned to the people who owned it or reclaimed [and made productive for other purposes] but this doesn’t happen,” he explained, adding that at best, the companies undertake plantation work that rarely entails benefits for local communities. Echoing similar sentiments, Surendra Pandey, member of the RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) said that larger coal-dependent communities “become unemployed.” BMS is also one of the biggest trade unions in the country. 

The coal mine closure guideline is also only that i.e. a guideline that imposes no real legal obligation on mining companies. Interestingly, another loophole in the guidelines is that companies can just abandon the mines and never formally declare them as closed which could entail some responsibilities. 

Pandey explained that at present, there is “no real engagement” between the top management at coal companies and workers with respect to Just Transition. “Even coal-dependent communities have not been engaged and they have no idea how bad their situation will be once the mines close down,” he added. 

As for coal power plants, research by International Forum for Environment, Sustainability & Technology (iFOREST) found that there are no laws in India that mandate decommissioning, remediation and repurposing of the plants after retirement “Unlike the coal mining sector, power plants and industries are not required to prepare decommissioning plans. The existing laws and regulations related to the environment, labour, land and finance are either ambiguous or are silent on decommissioning, leaving enough space for nonstandard approaches,” the report concluded. 

Late last year, Jharkhand formed a task force to study what exactly a Just Transition would entail, including impact on workers and communities and needs like financing. But while the need to develop a Just Transition strategy is slowly being institutionalised, it is still a very new topic in India. “Even in the research and think-tank world, the topic is only around three years old,” Pai pointed out. 

So a nation-wide strategy, Jain pointed out, is “work-in-progress.” And those currently studying the topic have their work cut out. Understanding regional differences in socio-economic dependence on coal is one of the first steps in chalking out Just Transition plans. In India, however, datasets on district-wise location of coal mines and their production are not publicly available, according to Pai’s research. Other researchers too have arrived at similar conclusions that “Lack of robust datasets has been a stumbling block for serious research and analysis on energy in India, evidenced, for instance, by limited data-driven analysis in top journals.”

Developing such plans also requires “very heavy number crunching” on India’s energy and electricity demand and likely sources of supply in the coming years, he elaborated. And precisely because these are uncertain, it is important to create scenarios and start planning. “After the revised NDCs were submitted on India’s commitment at Glasgow, our ministries got the mandate to start working on a [Just Transition] plan. If 2070 is the net-zero target, the earlier you start planning, the better it is.”

Doppler radars help in observing the extent and intensity of rainfall and cloud formations, and monitoring thunderstorms and lightning in real time. Photo: Damien du Toit/Wikimedia Commons

IMD plans pan-India Doppler Weather Radar network by 2025

In a bid to strengthen its weather forecast system and expand its network of meteorological services, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) made an announcement to cover the entire country under a radar network by deploying 25 additional Doppler Weather Radars (DWRs) and establishing 720 District Agro Meteorological Units (DAMUs) by 2025. This move by the national weather forecaster will help in the prediction of extreme weather events more accurately and provide more precise farm-related advisories and forecasts to farmers. 

Doppler radars help in observing the extent and intensity of rainfall and cloud formations, and monitoring thunderstorms and lightning in real time. It can prove to be an important technology to avert disaster in many states that are affected by floods, heavy rains, lightning and thunderstorms. The IMD has also decided to increase agro-meteorological service facilities from 3,100 blocks in 2023 to 7,000 blocks in 2025 and bring Delhi, Kolkata, and Guwahati under its urban flood warning system in the near future.

The announcement was made by Union minister of earth sciences Jitendra Singh and IMD chief M Mohapatra at an event to celebrate the 148th foundation day of the Met department.

Study reveals India saw extreme weather on 314 days of 2022

In 2022, India experienced extreme weather events on 314 out of 365 days. These occurrences cumulatively claimed 3,026 human lives, affected at least 1.96 million hectares (ha) crop area, destroyed 423,249 houses and killed over 69,899 animals. According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the year was also the fifth warmest for the country.

Heavy rains, floods and landslides were the most recurring extreme weather event type (reported on 214 days in the year), followed by lightning and storms (185 days), heatwaves (66 days), coldwave / cold days (46 days), cloudbursts (11 days), snowfall (4 days) and cyclones (3 days). 

The Northwest region, which has 10 of the 36 states/UTs, experienced extreme weather events on 237 days in 2022. This was followed by the Central region, which saw 218 extreme weather event days. East and Northeast regions reported extreme weather events on 196 days, and the South Peninsula reported the lowest 170 days with extreme weather events.

Of the 3,026 human deaths due to extreme weather events, the Central region recorded the most deaths (939), followed by the Northwest region (878 deaths), the East and Northeast region (810 deaths) and the South Peninsula (400 deaths). Of the almost 2 million ha affected crop area, the South Peninsula accounted for the lion’s share (1.2 million ha), followed by the Northwest region (0.3 million ha), East and Northeast region (0.3 million ha) and the Central region (0.2 million ha). 

El Niño return could see unprecedented heatwaves in 2023

Scientists are predicting that the return of the El Niño climate phenomenon later in 2023 will cause record-high global temperature rise and unprecedented heatwaves. Early forecasts suggest that El Niño’s return will likely lead to the world exceeding 1.5C of warming and the year will be hotter than 2022, which global datasets rank as the fifth or sixth hottest year on record. 

The El Niño-La Niña phenomenon is the biggest cause of year-to-year differences in weather in many regions. In La Niña years, the east-to-west Pacific trade winds are stronger, pushing warm surface waters to the west and drawing up deeper, cooler water in the east. El Niño events happen when the trade winds wane, allowing the warm waters to spread back eastwards, smothering the cooler waters and leading to a rise in global temperatures.

The greenhouse gases emitted globally have already driven up the average global temperature by about 1.2C to date. This has already led to catastrophic impacts around the world, from searing heatwaves in the US and Europe to devastating floods in Pakistan and Nigeria, harming millions of people.

Investigation finds commonly used rainforest carbon offset credits to be worthless

A new investigation into Verra, the world’s leading carbon standard for the rapidly growing $2bn (£1.6bn) voluntary offsets market, has found that more than 90% of their rainforest offset credits – among the most commonly used by companies – are likely to be “phantom credits” and do not represent genuine carbon reductions. The analysis raises questions over the credits bought by Disney, Shell, Gucci, easyJet and other big corporations as some of them have labelled their products “carbon neutral”, or have told their consumers they can fly, buy new clothes or eat certain foods without making the climate crisis worse.

The investigation found that only a handful of Verra’s rainforest projects showed evidence of deforestation reductions, according to two studies, with further analysis indicating that 94% of the credits had no benefit to the climate. The threat to forests had been overstated by about 400% on average for Verra projects, according to an analysis of a 2022 University of Cambridge study. 

The findings – which have been strongly disputed by Verra – are likely to pose serious questions for companies that are depending on offsets as part of their net-zero strategies.

Representational Image. The rejected proposal involved the diversion of 1165.66 hectares of forest land and the felling of over 280,000 trees.

Respite for local communities as Etalin hydro project scrapped in current form

For climate action crusaders in Northeast India, the year has started on a positive note with the controversial Etalin hydroelectric power project in Arunachal Pradesh scrapped in its present form. A temporary respite to local communities and conservationists, the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of the Union environment ministry has asked the Arunachal Pradesh government to revise the proposal on the 3097 MW project in Dibang Valley, a biodiversity hotspot. The rejected proposal involved the diversion of 1165.66 hectares of forest land and the felling of over 280,000 trees in dense subtropical, evergreen, broad-leafed, and subtropical rainforest, according to a fact sheet submitted to FAC.

Prepare working plan on waste discharge into Ganga, Yamuna during Kumbh: Allahabad HC to UP government

Ahead of Kumbh Mela, which is set to take place in Prayagraj in April, the Allahabad High Court has ordered the Uttar Pradesh government to prepare a working plan to ensure that the ban on single-use plastic is enforced effectively and plastic waste is not dumped in the Ganga or Yamuna. The order was announced on January 6, 2023, after a bench of three judges — Rajesh Bindal, Manoj Kumar Gupta and Ajit Kumar — heard a PIL in this regard. In view of the ongoing Magh Mela in the state, the court has directed the authorities to ensure periodic monitoring of the rivers’ water quality. The court has also directed the organisers to ensure that waste, either liquid or solid generated and collected in temporary toilets constructed during the ongoing Mela, is not discharged into the rivers. 

The same problem seems to arise during peak seasons of the Char Dham Yatra. According to a report released on January 13 by the Joint Committee appointed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) there is “gross mismanagement of solid waste, liquid waste and plastic waste pollution and the appalling lack of infrastructure to deal with the huge influx of pilgrims and tourist population during peak seasons” on the Char Dham Yatra.

Fast-Tracking of Gati Shakti projects could see green clearances bypassed

Infrastructure projects that fall under the PM Gati Shakti initiative and carry project costs of over ₹500 crore (about $ 60 million) could be exempt from obtaining environmental clearances, according to a ministerial proposal to facilitate faster approvals of projects such as railway lines, roads, power lines etc, which are considered to be of critical importance. This would be the latest step in a series of policy amendments over the past decade with a view to fast-track infrastructure projects at the cost of enforcing environmental norms and appraisals. “Almost all bigger projects like roads and railways are already out of the environmental clearance process,” he said. “If they want to speed up infrastructure projects, they need to look at other non-environmental and forest issues such as how to get the money to build them. How do you maintain them? How do you deal with environmental bottlenecks created by nature itself?” environmental lawyer Ritwick Dutta told Hindustan Times.

India’s insurance regulator to treat green bond purchases as infra investments 

In a circular dated January 13, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India has said insurers will be allowed to classify their sovereign green bond purchases as infrastructure investments. The move was made with the objective of de-concentration and diversification of insurers’ infrastructure portfolios as well as from the perspective of participation in environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives. Through the issue of its first-ever sovereign green bonds, India aims to raise 160 billion rupees ($1.96 billion) this financial year. The Reserve Bank of India will auction 5- and 10-year green bonds worth 40 billion rupees each on January 25 and on February 9.

US: Fed directs big banks to disclose how they are preparing for climate change risks

In a move to prepare for climate change risks and keep global temperature below 1.5 degree Celsius, the Federal Reserve has asked the six largest banks in the U.S. to disclose the impact that climate change could have on their loan portfolios and commercial real estate holdings. The participating banks that include Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo have until the end of July to show the anticipated impact that events such as floods, wildfires, hurricanes, heat waves and droughts could have on their operations. This exercise will “ advance the ability of supervisors and banks to analyze and manage emerging climate-related financial risks.” A summary is expected to be released publicly by the end of the year.

World Bank adaptation funds slept through Pakistan’s record flooding

The World Bank’s Solid Waste Emergency and Efficiency Project (Sweep) was deemed as one of the lifelines that would help Karachi with its urban flooding problem. But two years into the five-year project, less than 3% of its $100 million budget has been spent, and none of it is on new infrastructure. A major nightmare is trash clogging the drains and Sweep was supposed to help by improving solid waste management. Sweep says it’s only delayed by three or fourth months, and the World Bank agrees too. In its project reports in March 2021 and November 2021, progress was declared as “satisfactory”, even though no work had been completed on the ground. The rating changed to “moderately satisfactory” for both the June 2022 and December 2022 reports. According to the World Bank, based on the current schedule, the construction of the waste disposal facility and transfer stations is expected to commence in early 2023.

After John Kerry, EU climate chief also back Cop28 president’s appointment

The appointment of Mr Al Jaber as the President of COP28 has sparked widespread criticism by climate activists. Climate organisations and advocacy groups are equating the decision as asking “arms dealers to lead peace talks”. However, Mr Jaber, the CEO of Abu Dhabi state oil company Adnoc, has received support from both US climate envoy John Kerry who cited his work on renewable energy projects, and EU climate chief Frans Timmermans. Mr Timmermans said the appointment of Mr Al Jaber, can help tackle global fossil fuel “tough cookies” and swing them behind the energy transition as he started with sustainability policies long before anyone else in the oil and gas sector.

In the last few weeks, Mumbai has been consistently recording ‘poor’ to ‘very poor’ category AQI levels. Photo: Nvssafu photography/Wikimedia Commons

25 air quality monitors not enough for Mumbai: Experts

Experts have proposed more monitoring stations under the Nation-wide Clean Air Programme (NCAP) to hasten an “area-based micro-level action plan” to tackle pollution sources in Mumbai. They said despite 20 active stations and five more in the pipeline, the number has to be increased given the expanse of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, HT reported. 

Sachchidananda Tripathi, professor at IIT Kanpur and a member of the national steering committee of NCAP told the newspaper that said almost 30 times cheaper versions are being built indigenous by local startups which are at par with imported monitors. While one imported station costs Rs 1.4 crore for five-six years, the  Indian version will cost around Rs 6 lakh, he said, adding that a report in this regard has been submitted to the MPCB and other states to save the cost. One can put 30 Indian stations in place of an imported one already putting 1,400 such stations in UP and Bihar covering 150 districts, he said.

Coal losing out to biomass in National Capital Region

The ban on the use of coal in the National Capital Region starting this month has forced industry to shift to biomass, reported Reuters. The anti-coal drive has pushed about half the 1,695 units in a cluster of small industries around one of the world’s most polluted capitals to use biomass, regulators told the newswire, up from fewer than 15% counted in a 2020 study.

According to a 2020 study by Centre for Science and Environment if all coal-based industries switched to cleaner fuel in Panipat, the global cloth recycling hub about 62 miles from Delhi, it would lead to an estimated fall of 70% to 80% in sulphur oxide emissions, and a drop of 40% to 60% in nitrogen oxides. The Reuters report adds that Textile recyclers, dyers and food processors in the city in Panipat and in neighbouring Sonipat and Faridabad, have quickly switched away from coal, the previous fuel of choice.

The report says coal is losing out to biomass in the National Capital region. The change to biomass, which usually consists of pellets or briquettes of farm residue, promises to slash emissions and spur farmers to sell such residue instead of burning it, say industry officials and regulators.

Even 2 hours of exposure to air pollution impairs brain function: study

According to a new study exposure to diesel exhaust for just two hours causes a decrease in the brain’s functional connectivity or how different areas of the brain interact and communicate with each other.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Health, provides the first evidence in humans, from a controlled experiment, of altered brain network connectivity induced by air pollution. For many decades scientists thought the brain may be protected from the harmful impacts of air pollution, the senior scientist who authored the report said. While the current study only looked at the cognitive impacts of traffic-derived pollution, Carlsten said that other products of combustion are likely a concern, reported PTI.

At AQI 160, Delhi records cleanest air in over 3 months, London mayor issues alert at AQI 58

Delhi recorded the cleanest air in over three months on Wednesday as the overall AQI improved to 160 in the ‘moderate’ category, helped by strong winds. The last time the city saw a better AQI reading was on October 14, when it stood at 154. According to CPCB figures the capital’s air quality had entered the ‘severe’ category on Sunday, with an AQI of 407. However, it improved to ‘very poor’ on Monday and further to ‘poor’ on Tuesday, with AQI recorded at 335 and 237, respectively.

London mayor Sadiq Khan issued a high air pollution alert for Tuesday after London’s air quality index touched 58 and was considered moderate. Khan urged Londoners to look after each other by choosing to walk, cycle or take public transport where possible, avoiding unnecessary car journeys, stopping engine idling and not burning garden waste. The mayor said over the next few days people should avoid unnecessary car journeys. The mayor’s office also planned to display pollution alert messages across the Transport for London (TfL) network. Schools and boroughs will also be notified regarding the same.

Khan underlined the need to expand London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to reduce toxic air pollution in the city. In the UK, the AQI level between 0-3 is low, 4-6 is moderate, 7-9 is high and beyond 10 is very high, according to the data by Defra.

The AQI level in London is 1/3rd of that in Delhi, which is considered unhealthy for living. As per AQI website, the AQI level at Jahangirpuri at 10 pm was at 194, and was considered ‘unhealthy’. Other areas considered unhealthy included Narela (170), Bawana (174), Punjabi Bagh (164) and others.

India fetches $1 billion in maiden green bonds sale

India’s maiden sovereign green bond sale fetched 80 billion rupees ($1 billion) of securities, including 40 billion rupees each of 10-year and 5-year notes, the Reserve Bank of India said in a statement on Wednesday. To fund its transition to cleaner energy at affordable rates, the government sold the 10-year bond priced at a coupon of 7.29%, six basis points lower than the similar maturity sovereign debt, and compared with 7.31% estimate in a Bloomberg survey.

Indian companies have over $26 billion in outstanding green debt and the green bonds are expected to further deepen the market. Bloomberg pointed out that while a similar offering on Feb. 9 will take government’s green bond sale to $2 billion, it’s only about 1% of its overall borrowing this year.

Power ministry wants issuance of tax-paid green bonds to raise cheaper finance for green projects

According to Reuters, India’s power ministry has proposed to allow power finance companies Power Finance Corp (PFC), REC Ltd, and Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) to  issue tax-paid green bonds to raise cheaper finance required for green projects. The ministry has proposed that the issuer will pay the tax for it instead of the investor, to get higher returns on investment, reported Reuters. The proposals are part of a set of demands the power ministry wants to be included in the federal budget due on Feb.1, the officials said. The power ministry has sought the finance ministry’s permission to allow issuance of tax-paid bonds by PFC, REC and IREDA, the report claimed. 

India and the UAE will soon have renewable electricity grid link, says Power Minister

Power Minister Raj Kumar Singh said India and the UAE are close to a “major agreement” on a renewable energy interconnection between the two countries. India is the current president of the International Renewable Energy Agency’s (IRENA) assembly that held a meeting recently in Abu Dhabi. Without specifying s time frame, Singh told Reuters the agreement was awaiting final approvals. 

“There is a major agreement for an interconnection between the UAE electricity grid, and the Indian grid,” Singh said, adding that this would be under the One Sun, One World, One Grid (OSOWOG) initiative by a group of countries to create renewable energy networks. The OSOWOG initiative, first proposed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, aims to transfer renewable energy power through connecting grids.

Energy saving certificates to start again after 11 months of halt 

The Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) resumed the trading of Energy Saving Certificates on January 17, after it was suspended last February due to administrative issues, reported Mercom. The certificates will be under the Perform, Achieve and Trade (PAT) mechanism for designated consumers, which was finalised in March 2019. The trading will be held every Tuesday on Indian Energy Exchange, and Power Exchange India Limited (PIXL). PAT is a market-based mechanism which claims to reduce energy intensive consumption amongst large industries through certification of excess energy saving which can be traded, Mercom report said. The industries which consume more are given higher targets for specific financial years compared to those which are more efficient. Those units which exceed their targets get the certificated and those who fail to meet the targets have to purchase the certificates. Such plants are also liable for penalties under Energy Conservation Act. 

The recently formed Energy Conservation Act aims to enforce the purchase of energy saving certificates whose consumption exceeds the norms.

Europe plans own Net-Zero Act, to stop European business from moving production to the US, China

To check the exodus of industry to the US to cash in on subsidies offered under Biden’s new Inflation reduction Act, the EU plans to pass a legislation dubbed the Net-Zero Industry Act to speed up the granting of licences and permits for green tech. The EU expects it will stop European businesses from moving production to the US which is offering $396bn in subsidies and tax breaks for “green technology” companies. Meanwhile, The European Commission chief, Ursula von der Leyen, has pleaded with Washington to allow European companies to access trillions of dollars in US green subsidies.

Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European Commission, announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos that the European Union will create extensive new clean energy subsidies to keep firms from moving to the U.S. and China. The E.U.’s plans appear to involve heavy subsidies of its own to compete with the U.S. and China. Von der Leyen also announced that the organization will temporarily adapt the E.U. state aid rules to speed up and simplify permitting for clean energy production. It’s not clear yet how much money will be given for the new clean energy subsidies — that figure will be part of the budget review later this year.

Norwegian fund partners with India’s Acme in RE projects, invests in Punjab to fight stubble burning 

India’s renewable energy company Acme Group, which has projects across 12 States, has partnered with Norwegian investment fund Norfund to invest in developing new renewable power projects in India. Together with pension fund KLP, also based in Norway, it has also bought a 49% stake in a 420 MW DC (300 MW AC) solar plant being built in India, PV magazine reported. 

As a solution to stubble burning in Punjab, the Norfund, owned by Norwegian government has also made an equity investment of INR 500 crore ($61.3 million) in Punjab-based SAEL that has developed biomass power generation to tackle stubble burning. SAEL has over 20 projects solar and agri waste-to-energy space with a business model where it purchases paddy crop residue/paddy straw from farmers to produce energy at its biomass power plants. 

Tamil Nadu extends 100% road tax exemption for EVs till 2025

Tamil Nadu has extended a 100% motor vehicle tax exemption for electric vehicles to be registered in the State. About 67,000 battery-operated vehicles were registered in the state in 2022. The 100% road tax exemption period for electric vehicles in the state earlier ended on December 31, 2022. Now, to keep the momentum going, the battery-operated vehicles that are registered between January 1, 2023, and December 31, 2025 are eligible for the exemption. The exemption covers both transport and non-transport categories.

In order to promote faster adoption of battery electric vehicles and to support the EV ecosystem, the EV industry requested the State government to extend the sops for a few more years. Beyond the high initial cost, which has been largely offset by a 100% tax exemption, a lower EV tariff would make it possible to expand a larger public charging network, which is one of the main obstacles to the adoption of EVs.

Maharashtra signs a $2.5 Bn deal for EV battery-swapping stations

To establish battery-swapping and charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs) in the state, Maharashtra has entered a $2.5 billion partnership with Taiwan’s Gogoro Inc and an  Indian company, Belrise Industries Ltd, an automotive systems supplier. The government of Maharashtra will receive an investment from both businesses over an eight-year period in the form of an equal-stakes joint venture. According to the non-binding agreement, the project’s deployment will start this year with intentions to apply the solutions to other  industries like agriculture and energy storage.

Electric vehicle owners can swap their batteries for fully charged ones at a utility station in a process known as battery-swapping, which is quickly becoming a major method of EV charging.  Although switching batteries can shorten charging periods, the lack of universal battery standards is preventing widespread use.

Housing societies skeptical of EV charging points in premises

Many EV adopters in the country are facing an unanticipated barrier as not all residential societies seem keen on installing EV charging points. Various Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) across the country are skeptical of installing EV charging stations for multiple reasons. In some cases, for instance, residents are not allowed to set up a charger in their allotted parking spaces because then only those  particular individuals can use it. So, the process will have to be repeated every time any resident buys an EV. In another case, despite the power ministry clarifying that it is legal for EV owners to charge their EVs using their domestic electricity connection, some are told not to by their RWAs. Other reasons include the risk of a fire, load on the grid, long time taken for charging, unwillingness to let residents drill holes in walls, lack of awareness, etc.

Therefore, there’s a demand for a legal framework and specific guidelines on private charging facilities, which will cater to the lack of awareness among RWAs and will save EV buyers from harassment. Some EV owners have even filed cases against their societies due to such harassment. 

Toyota plans to retrofit old vehicle with electric motor

Akio Toyoda, CEO of Toyota has reportedly announced that the automaker is planning to transform oldercars into vehicles running on clean technology to further drive EV adoption. Toyota will help customers of old cars in converting their vehicles into eco-friendly cars and reducing carbon emissions from the environment. Up until now Toyota has been reluctant in producing fully electric vehicles due to previously sluggish demand and the high cost related to manufacturing them.

In December 2021, the automaker even pledged to sell 3.5 million EVs annually by 2030.The automaker recently showcased a number of alternative fuel models at the 2023 Auto Expo. 

EV battery-maker Britishvolt declares insolvency, hundreds lose jobs

Britishvolt, a manufacturer of EV batteries, declared bankruptcy after months of trying to raise money to keep afloat, affecting hundreds of jobs. EY claimed that the company had entered administration as a result of insufficient equity investment. The company intended to build a gigafactory to produce electric batteries in Northumberland. After failing to raise enough cash for its research and the development of its Cambois site, it has now appointed administrators at EY. The bulk of its 300 employees have been made redundant after the electric car battery maker entered insolvency. 

Last year the chairman of the company, Lars Carlstrom, resigned after it was revealed that he had been convicted of tax fraud in Sweden more than 20 years ago, casting serious doubt on the company’s future.

Electricity costs may go up to 10% because of the directive to use mix transport to carry coal by the states.

New transport routes likely to make thermal power more expensive during the summer peak

A mid-January directive by the Power Ministry asked the states of Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat, as well as public sector power producer NTPC to transport 10-15% of their coal requirement through a combination of land and sea routes, called the rail-ship-rail mode. This mix mode of transport of coal to power plants, which has come up in response to constraints of the direct rail movement and an anticipated surge in coal demand during summer months, is expected to increase electricity costs by up to 10%. 

New research alleges systemic and severe underestimation of methane emissions from oil and gas production in the UK

New research from Princeton University and Colorado State University has found that the current method for estimating methane emissions from offshore oil and gas production in the UK underestimates emissions. According to the recently published study, methane leakages from discovery, extraction and production of oil and gas in the country is as much as five times what the UK government has reported. A critical evaluation of the emissions reporting revealed that methane from the oil and gas sector was based on factors which were either outdated, relied on unpublished or publicly unavailable industry research, or used generic values recommended by the IPCC. This, according to the researchers, has led to systemic and severe underestimations. The application of alternate estimation techniques proposed by the researchers, which uses dynamic emission factor formulation rather than static ones, resulted in methane emission estimates more than five times what was reported.

Shell looking to exit retail business in multiple countries over “tough market conditions”

Energy major Shell announced last week that it is considering exiting its retail business across multiple countries due to the persistence of “tough market conditions”. The company, which has contended with higher wholesale prices and price-capping measures over the past year, particularly in Europe, is mulling an exit from the retail sector in the UK, Germany and Norway. Despite plans to shut its retail arm in multiple countries, Shell, buoyed by high oil and gas prices, reportedly raked in over US$ 30 billion in profits overall in 2022.

Norway lines up 92 new blocks for oil and gas exploration

Last week, Norway’s petroleum and energy ministry announced that it will be offering up to 92 new blocks for exploration of hydrocarbons. Western Europe’s largest oil and gas producer will look to exploit oil and gas reserves in the Norwegian Sea and the Barents Sea through a new licensing round likely in the third quarter of this year while blocks are expected to be announced in early 2024. Earlier this month, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate had said that the country will continue producing high volumes of natural gas for at least another five years as operators have pledged over USD 30 billion for development of new fields and to extend the lifetimes of producing fields.