Vol 2, June 2023 | Eye on the price

India last month, announced the clearest move yet to start incorporating a price of carbon in goods and services generated in the country.

The recent amendment to the Energy Conservation Act lays the groundwork for the imminent voluntary market, but several conflicts still need to be resolved. Read more

The power minister, last month, announced the clearest move yet to start incorporating a price of carbon in goods and services generated in India.

Navigating the minefield of India’s imminent carbon market

The recent amendment to the Energy Conservation Act lays the groundwork for the imminent voluntary market, but several conflicts still need to be resolved

The commodification of carbon is well and truly underway. The Indian government’s intention of establishing an Indian Carbon Market (ICM) began taking some form last week with the notification of a draft framework for carbon trading. The Carbon Credit Trading Scheme (CCTS), 2023 sets out the basic governance structure and responsibilities of various stakeholders of the planned carbon market. The notification came within weeks of being hinted at by the country’s power minister RK Singh.

The move equips India to expand its coverage of industrial sectors eligible for mandatory emission cuts based on market-based carbon credits, pushing it further on the road to “reducing” emissions through a ‘cap-and-trade’ system. The system is designed to set an external cost of burning carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which exacerbate the climate impacts of extreme heat, droughts, cyclones and rise in sea levels.

Weighing the price of carbon

Mobilising adequate finance in recent years has increasingly depended on the establishment of a price of carbon, which can then be incorporated in supply and value chains. Broadly, this can be done through taxation or market-based approaches. The latest estimates put the share of emissions covered by carbon pricing systems at about 23%. There is, however, significant diversity in specific approaches and the resultant price ascribed to carbon. An expert report on carbon pricing commissioned by the World Bank in 2017 recommended a carbon price of at least $40 per tonne of carbon to discourage businesses from burning fossil fuels and using the revenue generated in financing adaptation needs of the poor.

The new notification issued by the power ministry signals the beginning of the process of pricing-in carbon into India’s supply chains. The CCTS, building on the recent amendment to the Energy Conservation Act, provides more clarity on how the rules for the carbon market shall be devised and enforced. As per the draft, the government shall constitute a new 19-22 member National Steering Committee for Indian Carbon Market that will be in charge of the governance annd direct oversight of the market. Inputs from the steering committee is proposed to be formalised through the Bureau of Energy Efficiency, which will serve as the administrator of the market. The bureau is set to play a vital role in the functioning of the market, and in the maintenance of the demand and supply of credits. As such, the burden of developing the rules for the carbon market, including industry-specific emission reduction targets, measurement approaches for baseline emissions and reductions, procedures for accreditation of carbon credit verifiers and the issuance of credits, will fall on the BEE.

Incidentally, contrary to expectations that the country will first embark on creating a preliminary voluntary carbon market, the CCTS appears to set the stage for an imminent compliance market. Under a voluntary system, the demand for credits in the market is sustained through voluntary commitments and self-imposed targets of industries. This differs from a compliance market in which demand is sustained through legislative tools and codified industry-specific targets. These targets are yet to be set by the BEE, which will work in conjunction with the NSC. The CCTS, although focusing almost entirely on a compliance market, stops short of explicitly excluding voluntary participation in the market and leaves the door open.

“A voluntary market will be akin to an offsets market where developers can generate offsets that can then be sold to entities wishing to reduce their emissions voluntarily. The emissions trading scheme designed to deliver on industrial decarbonisation that is aligned with India’s NDC will have to be more in line with a ‘cap-and-trade’ regime rather than a voluntary one,” says Nishtha Singh, programme associate at the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW).

The stress on compliance in the CCTS is a likely reflection of the government’s keenness to make carbon credits traded through the scheme eligible for official accounting towards meeting India’s Nationally Determined Contributions and emission reduction strategy to meet its net-zero by 2070 pledge.

This “compliance market” with which such the ICM can be compared to is the Perform, Achieve and Trade (PAT) scheme designed by Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE). 

Meet uncle PAT

PAT was designed to accelerate implementation of cost-effective measures for energy efficiency in large industries. The scheme builds on the large variation in energy intensities of different units in the various notified sectors, ranging from among the best in the world to some of the most inefficient units. The energy intensity reduction target, mandated for each unit, depends on its current efficiency; with more efficient units having a lower reduction target and vice-versa.

Consider the list of stakeholders who form the ecosystem of the PAT scheme. First the BEE which is the nodal agency that identifies energy intensive industries as designated consumers (DC in official lingo), prescribes energy consumption norms for them and the modalities governing their compliance. Compliance among DCs is verified and evaluated by accredited energy auditors empanelled by the State Electricity Regulatory Commissions (SERCs). The whole machinery is intermediated by state-designated agencies, which include representation from renewable energy development agencies, electrical inspectorates, distribution companies and power departments. 

DCs that overachieve their targets are issued energy savings certificates (ESCerts) and non-achievers have to buy the ESCerts to maintain their compliance in three-year cycles. Announcements for six cycles have been made so far, starting in 2012.

ESCerts, which serve as the units of trade in the PAT regime, are issued by the Ministry of Power through nodal agency BEE to represent 1 metric tonne of emission reductions through energy saving interventions. While the SERC validates and regulates the supply of ESCerts, demand is maintained by DCs who fail to meet energy efficiency norms in their production processes. The Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) serves as the regulator for development of the ESCert market and is in charge of defining the framework for trading of the certificates done on power trading platform IEX (Indian Energy Exchange). ESCerts can be banked for a maximum of one compliance cycle, after which it expires.

While the PAT experience has been touted as a success in delivering rapid improvements in India’s industrial energy use, actual emission reductions delivered appear to be inconsistent. A study established that coal-based thermal power plants under the PAT scheme had reduced only 1-2% of their overall CO2 emissions. Additionally, the number of DCs and industries covered by the PAT saw a steep fall following the second cycle, which was assessed in 2018-19. From a high of 621 industries from 11 sectors in the second cycle, currently ongoing cycles (PAT-4 and PAT-5) cover just 110 and 135 industries, respectively. The report concluded that non-transparency, loose targets and overlooked deadlines were the reasons for the poor results of the PAT scheme. Another analysis of the PAT scheme also concluded that targets under the scheme are too loose for the creation of a robust market and not conducive to long-term investments in energy efficiency.

Rules of engagement 

The recent amendment to the Energy Conservation Act lays the groundwork for the imminent voluntary market. Legislation now allows notification of energy consumption standards for more entities, including vehicles, vessels, industrial units, buildings and establishments. The scope of buildings has also been expanded to include offices and residential buildings, with a minimum connected load of 100 kW or contract demand of 120 kVA. The Act also paves the way for the establishment of a credit-granting authority any agency authorised by the government will be able to issue ESCerts. The governance council of the BEE has been expanded to include more secretaries and representation from industry. 

Sale of carbon credits abroad will be prohibited until India meets its interim (2030) climate targets. If framework for other debt-instruments such as the Sovereign Green Bonds are anything to go by, carbon credits could be issued for projects including, but not limited to, carbon capture and storage (CCUS) technologies, renewable energy with storage (only stored component), solar thermal power, off-shore wind, green hydrogen, compressed biogas and alternate materials such as green ammonia.

The ICM will be based on emissions (reduced) as the unit of trade (rather than emission reductions specifically through energy saving methods as is the case with the PAT scheme). Experiences of emission trading from elsewhere in the world suggest the risks of an autonomous ecosystem, including an ever-widening web of intermediaries and stakeholders involved in complex, and often opaque, transactions. 

The first stakeholder in the system is the owner of the land where the offset project is implemented. Next in the chain comes the developer (who could be the same as the owner), who implements the project. Then come verifiers who certify, audit and validate to maintain the quality and accuracy of the generated credits. These are typically third-party accredited verifiers such as TÜV Nord Cert GmbH (Germany) and KBS Certification Services Pvt Ltd (India). The conditions for this accreditation and the process of the audits will be formulated by the BEE. Close in tow, come carbon credit registries which keep record of issued credits and their transactions through their lifecycle. The CCTS fixes the Grid Controller of India Limited as the registry for the Indian carbon market. This differs from structures established in other jurisdictions where private registries such as Verra Registry, the Gold Standard Registry, or the Markit Environmental Registry perform this function against a fee, and can also issue credits to the eligible and verified projects. The credits accrued can be traded on the spot market.

Working in conjunction, the NSC and the BEE form the state-funded regulatory structure that runs in parallel to set standards and ensure credibility of the market. The CCTS establishes the power exchanges as the platforms for trading the credits, under the regulatory oversight of the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC).

Navigating a minefield

Despite the draft CCTS notification, ICM’s credibility and effectiveness in reducing industrial emissions will depend on nature of the targets, how baselines are calculated and how emission reductions are generated. At this point, where the rubber meets the road, the draft notification remains silent — choosing instead to defer to the NSC and the BEE. “The BEE’s public position so far (indicates) that it may abide by the approach decided in the Article 6.4 of the Paris Agreement at the UNFCCC,” says Singh. This, however, poses a question on the timeline of the establishment of India’s market since Article 6.4 is only due to be finalised and implemented in 2026. “Whether an alternate methodology is borrowed from a reputed credit registry or auditor temporarily until Article 6.4 is finalised is to be seen,” she adds.

The most well known reason why carbon projects fail is that they are not additional, meaning that the project does not contribute to achieving additional climate benefits—compared to if the project had not existed. For example, a UN website has warned of developers who might claim that a forest owner would flatten 100% of the trees in a given area in five or 10 years if there was no offset project proposed. But if such a forest has been in the possession of the landowner for decades without the threat of being deforested, this logging is unlikely to happen. So the project is not creating additional climate benefits.

Rules for generating offsets will have to account for aspects of justice and equity in projects undertaken for a sustainable system. Take the case of the partnership between a local community of Papua New Guinea and American company New Ireland Hardwood Timber (NIHT). NIHT sold millions of dollars worth of carbon credits under the premise of afforestation to high profile clients in Australia while undercutting local communities. To top it off, rampant deforestation has also been reported from NIHT’s reported projects.

Another vital aspect will be how new and nascent technologies will be represented. While a vital aspect of the clean energy economy, several technologies still come with significant doubts around efficacy. A clear example of this is the area of CCUS.  According to IEEFA, globally, 80-90% of CCUS projects have been used to enhance oil recovery, while a minuscule 10-20% actually store CO2 underground without recovering oil. In the light of this evidence, the carbon neutral tag is misleading because CCUS does not capture Scope 3 emissions, which are created when the product is actually used or burnt. The tag is self-proclaimed by using carbon capture to capture the 10–15% of Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions (the emissions generated from producing natural gas) during the gas production process or by purchasing carbon offsets. The biggest chunk of emissions is, therefore, not being accounted for in “carbon-neutral” claims. 

Avoiding such greenwashing has thus far been investors’ responsibility. Soon after the Union government passed the Energy Conservation Act, the Securities and Board Exchange of India (SEBI) released a list of ‘Dos and Don’ts’ relating to green debt securities to avoid greenwashing. SEBI’s caution on greenwashing cannot be overestimated when combined with a layer of uncertainties. Investor interests are exposing big industry players with fossil fuels investments engaged not only in politics of delay but also downplaying the climate crisis, and pushing the blame on individual customers. 

Regardless of how well the BEE and other regulatory bodies are able to navigate the minefield of potential issues in establishing a well-functioning carbon market, the root  question of whether markets are an appropriate route to deliver emission reductions still remains. “For effective emission reductions, the carbon price will have to be high and stable. This in itself is contrary to how an open market can function,” remarks CPI India director Dhruba Purkayastha.

Until this paradox is somehow resolved, the carbon market will remain volatile and speculative to some extent, and thus ineffective. This speculative aspect was highlighted in a Greenpeace investigation, which found around 250 projects where brokers resold credits for thrice its purchase price. The resultant price was ultimately several times the value of actual climate benefits delivered. Experts say if you take a cut you have an incentive to sell as many credits as you can. The market model allows brokers to encourage clients to offset emissions rather than reduce them.

Pressure on one side, conflicts on the other

The amendment to the Energy Conservation Act through India’s legislative houses was passed, but not without debate. Issues raised in Parliament were primarily around conflicts of domain and of interest. It was said that the subject of carbon credits was new to the House and required larger inputs. Therefore, the bill should have come under standing committee and legislative scrutiny, but it didn’t.

MPs pointed out that the power ministry, which also directly works with industry, is setting up compliance standards, funding and mitigation mechanisms, which require environmental protection—a job of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC). Interestingly, days before the notification of CCTS, the MOEFCC notified the draft of separate set of rules for a voluntary market of green credits. While it appears this regime would run completely independent of the CCTS and under a separate governance structure, the details on the basis of issue of green credits and how demand would be generated remain sparse.

Secondly, the norms have been set without adequate representation of states (only five state representatives are allowed), while the law draws on the resources of all states, without factoring in their unique biodiversities as well as climatic change impacts. The CPIM said given the limited number of seats, they would not be able to register their opinion at the BEE, which is a right every state has. Recent reporting suggests that intervention from the PMO directly resulted in the rejection of more active involvement of freshly nominated and established state agencies in the functioning of the market.

Beyond the pressing needs of mobilising climate finance, the urgency of a carbon market is coming from overseas. With the EU initiating its cross-border carbon tax (and others looking set to follow), developing countries seeking to protect its export-oriented industries are searching for ways to protect their interest. In India, establishing a voluntary market can arguably be seen as a part of this effort, with Indian officials appealing for recognition of carbon credit certificates generated and traded in India.

How India threads the needle, with all the added implications of a ticking clock, will determine the role and significance of any emission trading scheme that it develops.

Bracing for impact: Better computing power would allow IMD to identify the formation of cyclones. Photo: PTI

India to strengthen cyclone warning systems with new radars, supercomputers

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) will be investing in new supercomputers, high-resolution radar systems and automated weather observatories to improve cyclone forecasting systems over the next five years. The weather service will deploy 62 radars, up from 37, and triple the speed of its supercomputers to 30 petaflops from 10, to enable quicker processing of weather-related data. Better computing power would allow IMD to identify the formation of cyclones, and the accuracy of critical elements such as landfall, wind speed, inundation and storm surge.

Heatwave deaths across India on the rise, UP’s Ballia the worst hit

An intense heat wave across Uttar Pradesh has led to a number of deaths in Ballia. With temperatures soaring to nearly 45°C, between June 15 and 20, a total of 80 people admitted to the district’s only hospital have died. While most of the admitted patients had fever, fatigue, shortness of breath, high blood pressure and other symptoms of heat wave-borne diseases, the excessive heat appeared to have exacerbated the condition of those with comorbidities as well. Meanwhile, data from Deoria Medical College, UP, revealed that between June 1 and June 18, 133 people were brought dead to the hospital. As per a report, 14 people lost their lives in Jharkhand between June 17 and 18. In Bihar, local media reported that more than 40 people had died due to heat since May 31, but state officials denied this.

India records 10% deficit rainfall in June

June ended with a 10% rainfall deficit of the Long Period Average (LPA). India recorded a cumulative rainfall of 148.6 mm against the normal average of 165.3 mm between June 1-30. The northwest was the only region to record excess rainfall. South India recorded the highest rainfall deficit followed by the east, northeast and Central India. The IMD had predicted below normal rainfall over most parts of the country.

Flood situation in Assam improves slightly

The flood situation in Assam improved this week, but 4 more people lost their lives, taking the overall toll across the state to 11. Around 38,000 people still remain affected by the deluge in four districts, according to officials. Around 780 villages were submerged and 10,591.85 hectares of crop areas were damaged by the floods across the state.

Hindu Kush Himalayas may lose 80% of its glacier by mid-century: Study

A new report by ICIMOD found that global temperature rise has led to unprecedented and largely irreversible changes to the Hindu Kush Himalayan cryosphere, accelerating species extinction and posing a huge risk to two billion people in Asia. Even if the global temperature rise is maintained at 1.5°C, on current emissions pathways, 80% of glaciers’ current volume will be gone by 2100. Floods and landslides are likely to increase and the availability of water is expected to peak in mid-century. Rivers in eastern and northeastern India including the Brahmaputra, Ganga and Teesta will see a rapid increase in stream flow followed by water scarcity.

Beyond borders: Why India and Pakistan should have come together to fight Cyclone Biparjoy

South Asia’s environmental challenges present ample opportunities for neighbouring countries to come together. There is a formal arrangement to share data, where IMD acts as a regional specialised centre for tropical cyclones and provides advisories in and along 13 Bay of Bengal countries, one of which is Pakistan. In the absence of meaningful engagement on extreme weather events and climate disasters, vulnerable communities on both sides continue to suffer, the latest climate disaster being Cyclone Biparjoy. The need for the two South Asian nations to engage closely in the face of shared threats is clearer than ever. The first cyclonic storm over the Arabian Sea this year, Biparjoy originated over the southeast Arabian Sea on June 6 and had landfall over Saurashtra and Kutch on June 15 before weakening into a depression on June 18. It left a trail of destruction in the affected region and more than 180,000 people took shelter in the two countries. 

Groundwater extraction tilted Earth’s spin resulting in sea level rise

A new study found that groundwater pumping tilted the planet nearly 80 cm east between 1993 and 2010 alone. Scientists had predicted that between 1993 and 2010, people pumped 2,150 gigatonnes of groundwater, or more than 6 mm (0.24 inches), of sea level increase. Among climate-related causes, the redistribution of groundwater actually has the largest impact on the drift of the rotational pole. Water’s role in altering the Earth’s rotation was discovered in 2016, and until now, the contribution of groundwater to drifts has been unexplored.

Right direction: This move by the World Bank is an important victory for Barbados PM Mia Mottley and her Bridgetown agenda, which aims to reform the disbursement of climate finance. Photo: World Bank

World Bank to offer suspension of loan repayments to disaster-hit countries

In a significant breakthrough, the World Bank will offer the option to pause loan repayments to vulnerable countries when they are impacted by catastrophic events, including climate-related disasters. World Bank chief Ajay Banga announced the new measure at the recent Paris summit. Banga said this measure will allow leaders of such countries to focus on rehabilitation rather than worry about its cost. This move is an important victory for Barbados prime minister Mia Mottley and her Bridgetown agenda, which aims to reform the disbursement of climate finance. 

India joins Mineral Security Partnership; identifies 30 critical minerals

In a fresh push to bolster its position in the supply chains of minerals recognised as vital to the emergence of a clean energy economy, the Indian government in the past week officially identified 30 minerals as “Critical Minerals of India”. The list includes lithium, cobalt, nickel, graphite, tin and copper, all of which are important for clean energy technologies. The list also identifies minerals important for a few other sectors such as fertilizers and chemicals. Incidentally 12 of the 30 minerals (including lithium) are reported as not available or not currently in production in India. The list comes close on the heels of India’s formal entry into the coveted critical minerals club — the Mineral Security Partnership (MSP). The announcement of India’s joining the US-led group came in a joint statement issued during Indian PM Narendra Modi’s visit to the US. The group contains 12 other members, mainly developed countries, and has been envisioned as an alternative to the domination of China in supply chains linked to the expansion of clean technologies.

MPs, trade experts raise concerns about transparency of India’s free trade agreements

More than 130 trade experts, Parliamentarians, organisations and civil society leaders wrote an open letter to the central government expressing their concern at the lack of transparency of India’s free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with countries such as the UK, EU, USA, Canada and Israel. The letter also raised a red flag over the lack of inclusiveness in consultation processes. It has been written amidst the fifth round of negotiations between India and the EU on proposed trade and investment agreements. 

Ecologists say new changes to wildlife law will impact research

Concerns have been raised about a new amendment to the Wildlife Protection Act, which makes it tougher to collect specimens of species for ecological and genetic research. Biologists and ecologists pointed out that Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection (Amendment) Act, 2022 has proposed only two main levels of animal protection—Schedule I, which includes animal species requiring the highest level of protection and Schedule II, which includes species that need a lower level of protection. 

The original law had more divisions for species such as Schedule I was for animals with highest priority, especially endangered species, Schedule II was for animals requiring relatively less protection and Schedule III was for non-endangered animal species.  This new system, according to biologists, does not prioritise animal species according to their ecological importance. The new amendment also requires scientists to secure two levels of permission—one from the state and another from the Centre—to collect specimens. Collection of these specimens is very important in order to understand many crucial issues such as the impact of warming on endangered species, the reasons for birds’ shifting migration patterns, and the transfer of pathogens from animals to humans. 

Nicobar Port project likely to be greenlit by NGT-appointed review panel

The ₹41,000-crore Nicobar Port project is likely to go ahead despite concerns raised by locals and environmentalists. The environmental clearance (EC) for the project had been stayed for two months by the NGT, which appointed a high-powered committee to evaluate“unanswered deficiencies” in the EC. But the Business Standard is now reporting that the panel is likely to give the proposed project an all-clear, citing multiple senior officials. The EC had been stayed because the NGT found it had failed to look into environmental and regulatory concerns regarding the project. 

No love lost between developed and developing nations at Bonn Conference 

The Bonn conference ended on a disappointing note as the stalemate between developed and developing countries continued throughout the meet. Crucial issues such as the Global Stock Take, the hosts for the Santiago Network for the Loss and Damage, adaptation and mitigation goals saw very little progress ahead of COP28. The agenda for the conference was agreed upon only on the penultimate day. 

It was adopted without the controversial Mitigation Work Programme (MWP), which was introduced by the EU. Developing countries argued that the MWP had no mandate from COP27 and the EU’s introduction of it at Bonn was “premature”. They believe that the MWP puts pressure on developing countries to reduce their GHGs without mentioning any means of implementation. 

The way forward: The new technology can help people know the extent of pollution in their neighbourhood so that they can take protective measures. Photo: Pixabay

IIT-M develops low-cost mobile air pollution monitoring tech

Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-M) researchers developed a low-cost mobile air pollution monitoring framework in which pollution sensors mounted on public vehicles can dynamically monitor the air quality of an extended area at high spatial and temporal resolution.

The new technology has been developed to manage paucity of Air Quality Index (AQI) monitoring stations, the IIT-M researchers said. For the cost of a single reference monitoring station, it would be possible to map an entire city at high resolution using these low-cost mobile monitoring devices, the IIT-M press release stated.

IIT-M professor Raghunathan Rengaswamy said the technology can help people know the extent of pollution in their neighbourhood so that they can take protective measures. Traffic can be rerouted if local pollution levels are known. Government policy changes and smart city planning would benefit enormously from the use of mobile air quality trackers, he said. 

In addition to pollutants, the devices can assess road roughness, potholes and UV index among others. “The modular design of the device allows for sensors to be replaced on demand. The patented IoT side view mirror design enables the devices to be retrofitted on any kind of vehicle. The devices are also equipped with GPS and GPRS systems to collect and transmit location information. Data Science principles are used to analyse the large volume of data generated from these IoT devices.

Greenpeace activists enter Tata steel plant site, demand closure of coke factoreis 

Climate activists entered the grounds of Tata Steel’s plant in the Dutch city of Ijmuiden to protest over air and soil pollution in the surrounding area. Activists, joined by local residents, said the company’s facility in the coastal city is responsible for high levels of heavy metals in nearby soils.

The facility is under scrutiny by environmental agencies and prosecutors are investigating alleged intentional pollution of nearby groundwater, which Tata denied. Activists demanded the closure of coke factories, adding that “poisonous clouds are released there almost every day … That has to stop,” Reuters reported. 

Tata, the largest emitter of planet-heating carbon dioxide in the Netherlands, has plans to change to hydrogen-based “green” steel making—a process that may take two decades if it receives funding.

‘4 day longer in hospital’: Study shows air pollution ‘aged’ hospital Covid patients by 10 years

According to a Belgian study, people exposed to air pollution experienced Covid-19 as if they were 10 years older. The study found people recently exposed to dirtier air before contracting the illness spent four days longer in hospital, the same impact as on those 10 years their senior. The research showed that air pollution levels measured in patients’ blood were linked to a 36% increase in the risk of needing intensive care treatment. A separate study in Denmark showed air pollution exposure was linked to a 23% increase in the risk of death from Covid-19, The Guardian reported.

Rather than assessing groups of people together, the new study followed individual patients. The researchers said reducing air pollution, even when at relatively low levels, increases the health of the population and makes them less susceptible to future pandemics. 

The Belgian study followed more than 300 patients who were hospitalised with Covid-19 between May 2020 and March 2021. Data on the levels of three pollutants—fine particles, nitrogen dioxide and soot—at the patients’ homes were gathered and the amount of soot in the patients’ blood was also measured.

Air-pollution monitors globally may hold ‘unnoticed’ wealth of biodiversity data

New research found thousands of air-quality-monitoring systems in more than 100 countries, potentially already capture and store environmental DNA, or eDNA. There is an “urgency” to further analyse this possibility on a global scale and better preserve existing data, the study stated. Carbon Brief quoted an expert saying that the findings are “extremely important and timely”. 

Scientists said environmental DNA can be thought of as “forensics for wildlife”, as essentially every species is continually shedding trace amounts of DNA into the environment. David Duffy of University of Florida told Carbon Brief: “[eDNA] is the recovery and analysis of DNA that has been shed from organisms into the environment. It’s been shown that we can recover it from things like air samples, soil samples [and] water samples.” This DNA is shed in many forms, including skin cells, hair, faeces and scales. It is a useful tool for measuring changes in species range, among other observations.

Globally, government action to curb air pollution not up to speed with research

Ten years ago, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), France, declared that air pollution caused cancer in humans. The number of research studies has almost doubled since, with even more evidence on lung cancer in non-smokers, but globally governmental action to reduce air pollution has not kept up, the Guardian reported. Over the past 10 years, new studies have linked air pollution to other cancers, including breast and bladder cancer. These have also been associated with nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant from diesel traffic that is being targeted by low emissions zones in many cities. 

Energy boost: The new solar policy, outlined by the Union power ministry, will come into effect from April 2024. Photo: Pixabay

Power tariffs to cost more at night-time peak hours, less during day-time “solar hours”

The government will cut tariffs during “solar hours” or daytime power use, but charge higher tariffs when electricity demand peaks at night, in a move to boost renewable energy amid rising power demand. The new policy, outlined by the Union power ministry, will come into effect from April 2024 for commercial and industrial consumers and a year later for most other consumers except those in the agricultural sector.

During so-called “solar hours”, tariffs will be 10-20% less than normal levels, while tariffs during peak night hours when air-conditioning use is cranked up after people come home from work will be 10-20% higher, Reuters reported. Power minister RK Singh said in a statement: ”Since solar power is cheaper, the tariff during the solar hours will be less,” adding that during non-solar hours, thermal and hydro power as well as gas-based capacity is used, which costs more than solar power.

World Bank snctions $1.5 bn to finance India’s clean energy expansion

The World Bank last week announced that it had approved financing worth $1.5 billion (around ₹12,600 crore) for the expansion of renewable energy, green hydrogen production and private finance stimulation. The ‘First Low-Carbon Energy Programmatic Development Policy Operation’ will support India in developing green hydrogen, the World Bank statement noted. “The financing required to implement India’s energy transition is such that public sector funding alone will not be sufficient. Building on recent successes, this operation will help stimulate private financing and other support by addressing viability funding gaps, reducing off-taker risks, boosting grid integration of renewables, and stimulating demand for renewable energy.”

The World Bank also put its weight behind the creation of a national carbon market, stating ““A national carbon market is essential to provide a level playing field between low-carbon energy and fossil fuels. This program will support policies for a national carbon credit trading scheme to launch a national carbon market.”

New PLI in the works for grid-scale battery storage?

India’s clean energy plans have long been scuttled by the issue of intermittency. The central government now is reportedly seeking to smooth this crinkle through a subsidy scheme. The outlay for the subsidy proposed by the power ministry is reported to be in the region of $2.63 billion up to 2030, and will be available to companies making battery cells in India. The report comes weeks after the possibility a new PLI scheme for grid-scale energy storage was floated by Power Minister R.K Singh during his address at a leadership event.

Thriving China market drives cost of off-shore wind projects in parity with coal: BNEF 

According to BloombergNEF (BNEF), the benchmark costs for onshore wind have decreased by 6% over the past year, while the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) for offshore wind has reached parity with coal, marking the lowest level since data collection began in 2009. 

The study attributed the reduction in costs to a thriving market in China, chasing a massive target of 160 GW of solar and wind energy capacity additions in 2023, up 13.5% from the actual installations in 2022. The costs of new-build offshore wind and storage project have fallen 2% and 12% respectively over the past six months, the analysis found.

The BNEF analysts said onshore wind and solar projects continue to be the most cost-effective technologies for electricity generation in countries that account for 82% of global electricity production, even with a 5% reduction in the cost of fossil fuel-fired projects in the last six months.

Globally, China offers the most affordable renewable power projects, with highly competitive LCOEs of $23/MWh for onshore wind farms, $50/MWh for offshore wind, and $31/MWh for fixed-axis solar farms in the first half of 2023, analysis found. Despite recent challenges, the long-term trend in the renewable energy sector indicates consistent declines in project costs. Over the past decade, LCOEs for utility-scale solar, onshore wind, and offshore wind have decreased by 58-74%, the BNEF said.

A study by BNEF found that wind and solar projects collectively supplied over 10% of the world’s electricity demand for the first time in 2021.

Industry emissions outpaced the record wind, solar power growth in 2022: Research

Record growth in wind and solar power has not been able to dent the greenhouse gas emissions by global industry, says the “statistical review of world energy” formerly produced by oil giant BP. The Guardian reported that emissions climbed 0.8% last year. Juliet Davenport, president of the Energy Institute, which led the research, told the Guardian: “We are still heading in the opposite direction to that required by the Paris agreement.” According to the report, solar generation climbed by 25% in 2022, while wind power output grew by 13.5% compared to 2021. 

However, the renewable energy boom was eclipsed by a modest rise in global energy consumption of 1.1% last year—compared to a 5.5% increase in 2021—which meant more oil and coal was burnt to meet demand, the report found. 

Big plans: Musk said that India has strong potential for a sustainable energy future including solar power. Photo: PTI

Musk-Modi meet: Tesla to invest in India

Tesla chief executive Elon Musk and Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed the car maker making a “significant investment” in the country, Reuters reported. Musk said that India has strong potential for a sustainable energy future including solar power, stationary battery packs and electric vehicles. He also said that he’s confident that Tesla will be in India “as soon as humanly possible”. His comments came after a meeting during the PM’s visit to the United States. Later, India’s foreign ministry spokesperson tweeted saying Modi had invited Musk to “explore opportunities in India for investments in electric mobility and the rapidly expanding commercial space sector.”

Punjab announces ₹300-crore incentive to promote use of electric vehicles

In order to boost EV adoption and to reduce pollution, the Punjab government will provide incentives worth around ₹ 300 crore in the next three years, the Economic Times reported. These incentives will be given on electric two-wheelers, e-cycles, e-rickshaws, e-autos and electric light commercial vehicles.

According to the report, Punjab’s transport minister Laljit Singh Bhullar has directed the finance department to create a dedicated EV fund to facilitate initiatives for the adoption of the EVs in the state, along with asking Punjab State Power Corporation Ltd and Punjab Energy Development Agency to report regarding the setting up of electric vehicle charging stations and identify suitable sites. The Housing and Urban Department has also been instructed to formulate a policy for making provision of EV charging facilities in upcoming malls and housing societies. And the state transport department has been asked to expedite the process of scrapping government buses older than 15 years and replacing them with electric buses.

FAME-II woes: Industry body writes to Minister of Commerce and Industry, seeks support

The industry body Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles (SMEV) wrote to Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal requesting “contingency support” for the EV business, which has been severely impacted by problems with the FAME-II scheme. The SMEV said that the industry is in trouble and is on the verge of collapse due to various problems and an outstanding FAME-II subsidy of about ₹1,200 Cr. It’s important to note that the government withheld the subsidy after discovering that many of the OEMs were breaking the scheme norms. While the FAME-II scheme’s problems have recently had an impact on the sales of two-wheeler EV manufacturers, the government’s recent reduction in FAME-II subsidies and the following increases in vehicle costs by some manufacturers are anticipated to have a negative impact on their vehicle registrations. 

Ola’s 100GH gigafactory underway in Tamil Nadu

The construction of Ola’s 100 GWh gigafactory has started at its manufacturing facility in Tamil Nadu. A gigafactory is a manufacturing facility where products for electrification and decarbonization technologies are made.A memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the firm and the state government was signed earlier this year, committing investments of ₹ 7,614 crore for the production of lithium cell gigafactories, electric vehicles, and two-wheelers in the state. The facility is anticipated to start up early next year with a 5 GWh (Giga Watt hours) initial capacity.

Ola has made investments in both cell and battery research and development, along with establishing one of the most cutting-edge cell R&D facilities in Bengaluru. In accordance with the terms of the MoU, the business would establish an EV Hub in the state, a single location that would house advanced cell and electric vehicle production facilities, vendor and supplier parks, and a wider ecosystem for electric vehicles.

Rising EV business can push China to be the world’s largest car exporter, overtaking Japan

Multiple reports are pointing towards a likely Chinese domination in the car export market due to EVs. According to research firm Canalys, rising shipments from electric vehicles will help China overtake Japan as the world’s largest car exporter in 2023. The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) also reported that exports of electric vehicles from China are anticipated to reach 1.3 million in 2023, nearly double the 6,79,000 EVs exported in 2022. Total Chinese vehicle exports are predicted to hit 4.4 million in 2023, up from 3.1 million in 2022 while a recent paper Morgan Stanley put Japan’s 2022 car exports at 3.8 million. Canalys says Southeast Asia, Europe, Africa, India and Latin America are the key markets that mainland Chinese carmakers are targeting. EV exports make up for about 30% of China’s total exports, which will soon make the country the world’s largest car exporter, replacing Japan, after overtaking second placed Germany in 2022.

Hyundai to increase EV investment to $28 bn, cut back operations in China

According to Reuters, Hyundai Motor will spend $28 billion, or nearly two-thirds more than the average annual investment, on electrification over the following ten years. To increase sales of electric vehicles (EVs), the company will also restructure its underperforming China operation. The South Korean automaker has raised its EV sales target by 2030 to 2 million units from 1.87 million. It would represent around one third of its total vehicle sales, up from 8% expected this year. Hyundai also said that it plans to introduce competitive lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) batteries, a cheaper alternative to lithium ion batteries, for the first time around 2025. However, after selling one plant in China in 2021, the business is looking to sell two more, one of which shut down last year and another it plans to close down this year. 

India's three big refiners, Indian Oil Corp, BP and HP, aim to invest Rs3.5-4 trillion to reach their net zero-emissions goals by 2040. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Govt to fund state refiners’ green goals via equity: Sources

The Centre launched a multi-billion-dollar process seeking equity in its three big state refiners, Indian Oil Corporation, Bharat Petroleum Corp and Hindustan Petroleum Corp, to fund the firms’ energy transition projects, Reuters reported. The Oil Ministry on Wednesday asked IOC, BPCL, to launch rights issues, and asked and HPCL to make a preferential share allotment to the government. 

The 2023/24 federal budget provided ₹300 billion ($3.66 billion) in equity to help state oil refiners move towards cleaner energy. Combined, the three refiners aim to invest ₹3.5-4 trillion to reach their net zero-emissions goals by 2040, the sources said this week.

Australian fossil fuel expansion: Key players behind Darwin’s new port and manufacturing hub 

Darwin’s Middle Arm precinct is to be a major manufacturing centre for gas, petrochemicals, blue and green hydrogen and critical minerals. The precinct is key to the territory’s ambition to develop its massive natural gas reserves in the Beetaloo basin and offshore. According to new documents as seen by Guardian Australia, “the Northern Territory government pursued a strategy to influence the commonwealth government to support the establishment of gas-based manufacturing in the NT”.

‘90% EU hydrogen projects risk prolonging use of natural gas, a fossil fuel’

Data compiled by Brussels-based research and advocacy group Food & Water Action Europe, has evealed that 90% of European COmmission’s proposed hydrogen projects could be used to prolong the use of planet-warming natural gas. The analysis said  57% of 147 hydrogen projects under consideration by the European Commiss ion are designed to also carry natural gas, or “blue” hydrogen made from the fossil fuel. A further 33% of projects have failed to rule out carrying fossil-based hydrogen, or have no credible plans to source climate-friendly “green” hydrogen. 

Only 10% of the projects explicitly commit to using green hydrogen – which is produced from water using a process powered by wind or solar energy, and does not produce the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions associated with other forms of the energy carrier.

Huge environmental risks posed by orphaned oil and gas wells in the United States

According to a new study, there are hundreds of thousands of documented and undocumented “orphaned” oil and gas wells that are open and potential polluters as they contaminate water supplies, degrade ecosystems, and emit methane and other air pollutants.  Plugging all documented in the US would exceed the $4.7bn federal funding by 30–80%. The authors analyse data on 81,857 documented orphaned wells across the US. They find that more than 4.6 million people live within one kilometre of a documented orphaned well. The paper adds 91% of documented orphaned wells “overlie formations favourable for geologic storage of carbon dioxide and hydrogen, meaning that orphaned well plugging can reduce leakage risks from future storage projects.