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Analysis

If India meets renewables target, no more coal power needed till 2027

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Solar Power in India

As the prospects for coal-generated electricity recede globally, India is one of the last bastions of the world’s oldest, dirtiest energy source–coal–although construction of new coal-fired power plants is faltering.

From January 2016 to January 2017, development of coal-fired power capacity fell around the world–pre-construction activity dropped 48%, start of construction fell 62%, ongoing construction fell 19%, and the number of completed projects fell 29%, according to a March 2017 report, Boom and Bust, released jointly by the Sierra Club (a US-based environmental non-profit), Greenpeace (The Netherlands-based environmental campaigning non-profit) and Coalswarm (an online repository on coal).

Using data from the Global Coal Plant Tracker, an online database developed by Coalswarm that identifies, maps and categorises every known 30-MW and larger coal-fired power generating unit and every new unit proposed since January 1, 2010, the report maps a global move away from coal and towards renewable energy.

In China and India alone, construction activities that would add 68 GW–over a fifth of India’s total installed capacity–of additional coal capacity are frozen across 100 project sites, 13 of them in India. The primary reason for the slowdown in India is “reluctance of banks and other financiers to provide further funds”, the report said. Over half (56.5%) of India’s installed power capacity will be non-fossil fuel-based–renewables, nuclear & large hydroelectric–within 10 years, as IndiaSpend reported on April 19, 2017.

In India, as of February 2017, at least 15 coal-based thermal power projects with an aggregate capacity of 18,420 MW (18.42 GW) were stalled due to financial reasons, the power ministry told the Lok Sabha (lower house of Parliament) on February 9, 2017.

Source: Global Coal Plant Tracker;  as of January 2017

NOTE: Announced: Project has appeared in planning documents but not moved forward by applying for any permits.
Pre-permit: Project has actively moved forward in one or more ways: Applying for environmental permits, acquiring land, coal, water rights and/or transmission arrangements, or securing financing.
Permitted: Project has secured all environmental permits but not broken ground.
Under construction: Site preparation and other activities underway.
Shelved: Project no longer moving forward, but not enough evidence to declare it cancelled.
Cancelled: The utility has announced a project cancelled; or the project has disappeared from company documents; or the plant shows no activity over a period of four years. Projects that switch to natural gas are considered “cancelled” as coal plants.
Operating: Project has entered commercial operation.

However, in March 2017, the Cabinet revived some struggling power projects with a cumulative capacity of some 30 GW under a new Mega Power Policy by providing support of about Rs 10,000 crore to the sector, in addition to incentives such as custom duty waiver for import of capital equipment and tax breaks. This was done to relieve the burden of stressed assets on banks, estimated at Rs 1.5 lakh crore, according to this report published in the Times of India on March 31, 2017.

“The slowdown in the coal power pipeline brings the possibility of holding global warming to below 2°C from pre-industrial levels within feasible reach,” the Boom and Bust report stated. However, this hinges on countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia, Turkey and Japan limiting their future coal power development, China and India reinforcing and increasing the slowdown, and developed countries (historically largest emitters) retiring coal-based power plants faster than they have been doing.

To restrict global temperature rise to 1.5°C, the report said, an immediate doubling of the current pace of retirement would be needed, meaning plants as young as 20 or 30 years would have to be retired even though the average lifespan of a coal plant is 40 years.

India does not plan on expanding its coal-fired capacity during 2017-22, according to the Draft National Electricity Plan proposed in December 2016 by the Central Electricity Authority. It bases this projection on the presumption that non-fossil fuel capacity addition will continue as targeted–4.3 GW of gas-fired plants, 15 GW of hydroelectric plants, 2.8 GW of nuclear installations and 115 GW of various renewable sources, which would come online during 2017-22.

The plan, however, does take into account 50 GW of coal-based installations that are currently under different stages of construction and are likely to yield benefits during the 2017-22 period, concluding that no coal-based capacity addition is required until at least 2027, as IndiaSpend reported on April 19, 2017.

Can renewables replace coal?

In 2015, India accounted for 7% of total global emissions, lower only than China (29%), the United States (14%) and the European Union (10%), according to this 2016 joint report by PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. In the same year, the share of coal-fired power plants in India’s total CO2 emissions was just short of half at 47%, the report said.

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NOTE:*Data as of February 28, 2017

Source: Central Electricity Authority

In 2016-17, India’s estimated peak demand of 165.2 GW was significantly lower than total installed capacity of over 300 GW. Coal-fired capacity of over 180 GW alone was higher than the peak demand. Despite this, the country continues to face acute power shortages due to coal supply problems, transmission and distribution losses and poor health of power utilities.

According to government figures, estimated electricity consumption between 2005-06 and 2014-15 increased by a compounded annual growth rate of 8.72%, growing to 948,328 gigawatt-hour, even as an estimated 240 million Indians are still without access to electricity.

Already, use of imported coal is costing the country. In 2014-15, India’s coal imports were 212 million tonnes (MT) and cost over Rs 1 lakh crore–up more than five times from 38.5 MT in 2005-06, due largely to poor quality of domestic coal, lack of competition among producers, and insufficient investments.

On the other hand, investing in renewables brings environmental benefits like reduced pollution while creating employment opportunities, as IndiaSpend reported on January 28, 2017. Therefore, renewable energy has the potential to solve the energy trilemma of ensuring energy security, energy access and sustainability, according to this 2015 report by the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog).

Challenges ahead

To capture the benefits of renewable energy (RE), the NITI Aayog report said, “India would need to make available the necessary capital, and get comfortable with managing the variability and uncertainty of RE generation in conjunction with the existing and planned fossil fuel-based and large power plants”.

Tariffs for renewables in India, especially solar, have fallen heavily–by 73% since 2010. In February 2017, at the Rewa solar park auction, a levelised tariff of Rs 3.3/kilowatt-hour was achieved, competitive with the cost of new coal-fired power generation. Wind tariffs, too, fell to a record low of Rs 3.46/unit in the same month. The jury is out on whether these low tariffs are sustainable, but the trend is undoubtedly positive for renewables.

 

India would also need to invest in smart grid systems, storage options and demand-side flexibility to manage the variability of renewables.

The building of a green energy corridor, along with renewable energy management centres, will prove vital for evacuation of power between states, since solar and wind power potential is concentrated in a few states–nine states are expected to account for more than 77% of renewable energy capacity addition by 2022. Yet, progress on this has been slow, with pace of construction not keeping up with the speed at which projects are being commissioned, according to this analysis by Mercom Capital Group, a private consulting firm.

“Grid integration is possible provided efforts are made by the government towards integrated resource planning for power sector keeping renewables as the focus,” Deepak Gupta, Senior Program Manager for Power at the Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation, a New Delhi-based not-for-profit, told IndiaSpend.

Gupta said policy-makers would need to strengthen the Electricity Act, 2003, which governs the generation, distribution, transmission and trading of power in India, to specifically integrate renewables. Else, India should have a separate Renewable Energy Act, he said, adding, this will help the government expand its focus from renewable energy generation to a well-rounded integration of renewables with the country’s energy system.

(In arrangement with IndiaSpend.org, a data-driven, non-profit, public interest journalism platform, with whom Mukta Patil is an analyst. The views expressed are those of IndiaSpend. Feedback at [email protected])

Analysis

56% smart cities prone to floods: Report

More than 2,200 cities and towns in India are located in districts which have witnessed at least 11 floods in the last 18 years.

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Hudhud Storm

As much as 56 per cent of smart cities are prone to floods which are responsible for 77 per cent of all disasters in India, a report said on Friday.

The report, based on disaster data between 2000 and 2017, observed that India has a mean of 11 flood events per district over the last 18 years.

Image result for smart cities floods prone

Following floods, other disaster share was cyclone (22 per cent), extreme temperature (11 per cent), landslides (seven per cent) and earthquakes (four per cent). Drought, however, was only one per cent of all disasters.

“Ninety-eight per cent of India’s 642 districts have received at least one flood event,” stated the joint report ‘Decoding the Monsoon Floods’ by NGO SEEDS and Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) based in the University of Louvain School of Public Health, Brussels.

It said that floods affect over 15 million people every year. Of 15.6 million people affected by floods in India in 2017, over 316,185 were people with disabilities.

“More than 2,200 cities and towns in India are located in districts which have witnessed at least 11 floods in the last 18 years,” the report said.

Further signifying the scale of infrastructure that needs to be secured against the future risks, the findings said that 56 per cent of India’s planned smart cities fall in districts reporting a high number of flood events.

Since 2000, India has faced 215 flooding events both from floods and cyclones. This accounts for 77 per cent of all disaster events.

“Assam is the most flood-prone state, with areas like Lakhimpur reporting over 30 flood events within this period. Even known drought-prone areas of Gujarat and Rajasthan have witnessed more floods than the country’s average in the last 18 years,” said Anshu Sharma, Co-founder and Mentor, SEEDS.

“Unpredictability, urbanisation and invisibility of flood risk are major concerns that need to be addressed urgently,” Sharma added.

Citing the 2015 Chennai floods in Tamil Nadu, the report pointed out how the natural sinks like wetlands, that act as a sponge against floods, had shrunk due to rapid urbanisation, leading to catastrophic results.

“Estimates put the remaining original wetlands of Chennai at just 10 per cent.”

“Concrete encroachment on Cooum River, Adyar River and Buckingham Canal which serve as the main rainwater drains, poorly designed drainage systems and ageing civil infrastructure added to the problem,” the report said.

Debarati Guha-Sapir, Director, CRED, said: “We are witnessing a disturbing trend of a large number of climate induced disasters… The launch of this regional report is a huge step towards better understanding of local nuances of disaster events.”

Suggesting preparations for the 2018 monsoon and cyclone seasons at policy and community levels, the report said that with a scale this huge, informal nature of the losses and limited resources, coping practices at the community level are very beneficial.

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Analysis

Haj 2018 likely to be costlier, but not because of subsidy abolition

Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Tuesday announced the abolition of Haj subsidy from this year.

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Haj 2018

Haj 2018 is likely to be costlier than last year but not because of the abolition of subsidy that the government announced on Tuesday.

The cost is likely to go up thanks to rise in expenses incurred in Saudi Arabia during the Haj such as accommodation, transport, food and the like. Notably, the government subsidy did not cover these expenses and was limited to the airfare.

Haj Committee of India (HCI) Chairman Mehboob Ali Kaiser told IANS that it was bargaining hard with Saudi authorities to keep the cost in check but local factors may result in the rise of Haj expenses this year.

In 2017, the HCI charged Rs 200,000 for Haj with ordinary accommodation (Azizia) and Rs 234,000 for deluxe accommodation (Green), which is closer to the Haram in Mecca.

Image result for haj 2018

“Over the last year, the electricity tariff in Saudi Arabia has shot up three times. Also, the petrol prices have doubled. The accommodation cost is also going up. These factors may result in a hike in the total Haj cost this year,” Kaiser said.

At this point, it is difficult to predict the final cost to each pilgrim for Haj 2018, he added.

“It will be unfair to expect the same costs for everything in Saudi Arabia after a threefold rise in electricity prices and doubling of petrol prices. Secondly, the Saudis are cussed bargainers and we have to really haggle hard with them for every riyal.

“Nevertheless, we are trying our best and bargaining hard with them to ensure that the cost does not go up drastically,” Kaiser said.

Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Tuesday announced the abolition of Haj subsidy from this year.

Kaiser said that the HCI “knew it was coming and were sort of mentally prepared for it”.

“In any case, the withdrawal of subsidy will not affect the airfares from major cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Ahmedabad and Bengaluru — but fares from smaller embarkation points such as Srinagar, Gaya may go up. But people from these states may now embark from any other place from where fares are low, such as Mumbai, Delhi or Ahmedabad,” he added.

However, in the coming years, the Haj cost is expected to come down as the Indian government is already working in the direction of reviving the sea route to Jeddah.

Naqvi said that the government has already taken active steps in this direction and once it is implemented, the fares would come down drastically.

Giving the genesis of the Haj subsidy, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said that it started in the 1980s (when Azad was a member of HCI) when the ships which were used to ferry the Haj pilgrims started ageing.

“The government was not disposed to spend money to buy new ships due to budget constraints. So, it was decided to fly the pilgrims to Jeddah. But the airfares were four times higher than the ship’s fare. So the government decided to cover some of the cost through a subsidy,” Azad said.

The sea route was discontinued in 1995.

(Mohd Asim Khan can be contacted at [email protected])

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Analysis

A cauldron of discontent

Every 18 minutes, a Dalit is attacked in India. However, the conviction rate is only 28 per cent. UP, Rajasthan, Bihar and MP have witnessed a hike in atrocities against Dalits.

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Bhima-Koregaon violence

Politics is a hard taskmaster. Politicians may manipulate public sentiment and reap electoral victories but time has a way of making them accountable. We have witnessed a slew of impressive electoral triumphs of the BJP but recent eruptions of discontent among the relatively prosperous Patidars in Gujarat, Marathas in Maharashtra and Jats in Haryana are ominous, for, historically, upper-caste denominations have consistently supported the BJP. Dalits across the country who have been targeted by a mindset which traditionally has been intolerant of them, have also sporadically expressed their frustration and growing discontent. Added to this is the divisive agenda of both the RSS and the BJP. This is evidence of both the incapacity and inability of this government to make a real difference in the lives of people.

The inability to sustain themselves because of the agrarian crisis is the common thread that runs through the growing discontent amongst Patidars, Jats and Marathas. Pre-independence, they were industrious farmers, hired as tenants and post-independence when tenants were granted ownership rights, they owned large tracts of prime agricultural land. They consolidated their position with the green revolution, advent of new crop varieties and modern farming tools. Prosperity made large numbers migrate to cities and take up businesses. As a result, only 10 per cent of Patidars own more than 10 bighas. The rest are marginal farmers caught in the midst of the agrarian crisis.

The urban Patidars find it difficult to get admission to educational institutions allegedly because of reservations for OBCs. Lack of remunerative prices for their produce and recent groundnut crop failures are reasons for the growing angst among them. The rise of Hardik Patel is attributed to both factors. Demonetisation and the flawed implementation of GST hurt even the most prosperous Patidars. This along with a sluggish economy and lack of job opportunities is at the heart of expressions of discontent and demand for reservations. Similarly, Maratha discontent is deep-rooted. The massive protests and outpourings may or may not be spontaneous but do represent livelihood concerns. Around 80 per cent of Marathas are subsistent farmers.

Lack of access to quality education and job opportunities resulting in massive social protests are symptomatic of the alienation setting in. With prosperity touching only a few, they are unsure of their future and hence they too demand reservations in government jobs. Jats, on the other hand, are regarded as backward in both Rajasthan and UP. But in Haryana, despite being politically dominant, they too clamour for reservations. Comprising around 29 per cent of Haryana’s population, they own three-fourths of agricultural holdings in the State. Jats have never been absentee landlords who lived off tenant cultivators.

However, over the years, their earnings from agriculture have declined along with fragmentation of holdings. A five-acre average holding gives a monthly income of not more than Rs 20,000. These incomes have been further hit because of drought, hailstorms and pest attacks in recent years coupled with a crash in prices of cotton, basmati and guar. Inward looking, they have been slow in adapting to an urban cosmopolitan environment. Not being educationally advanced, they have lagged behind in employment opportunities. Hence, the demand for reservation in educational institutions and employment. Recent violent agitations and destruction of private property in Haryana are also the result of loss of political power, with a non-Jat as Chief Minister.

On the other hand, Dalits, who have been the beneficiaries of reservations, find themselves being targeted. Recent attacks on Dalits are the result of deep-rooted prejudices and caste fault lines. Dominant castes still practice untouchability and the upward mobility of Dalits is not taken too kindly. Rohith Vemula’s tragic end and the response of a prejudiced mindset is a classic reflection of this. This inbuilt prejudice is exacerbated in recent years by lumpen upper caste elements who find an excuse in attacking Dalits for their traditional vocation. The senseless lynching of Dalits in Una exemplifies this. Dalits also become targets of violence if they happen to marry into the upper castes. The burning of Dalit children in Haryana and similar incidents of violence are not uncommon. The recent eruption of anti-Dalit sentiments in Maharashtra evidenced by the outpourings of Marathas who allege misuse of the law by Dalits has sent tremors of unease within the state. The empowerment of Dalits and their upward mobility over the years has led to a churning within the community, which is finding its expression in their recent mobilisation and assertion. They wish to break away from tradition to which they are chained. Yet a majority of them continue to be burdened by the same tradition. This has brought about societal unrest.

Every 18 minutes, a Dalit is attacked in India. However, the conviction rate is only 28 per cent. UP, Rajasthan, Bihar and MP have witnessed a hike in atrocities against Dalits. Rajasthan with 6 per cent of the country’s Dalit population accounts for 17 per cent of crimes against them. Anger and frustration within the community are palpable and the state has failed to protect them.

Minorities in India are equally insecure. Communal situations are engineered to polarise society for political dividends. Increasingly isolated, their traditional vocations are also under threat. Dealing with buffalo meat is hazardous and life-threatening. Many have been targeted and killed. Campaigns of love jihad and ‘ghar wapsi’ have added fuel to the fire.

India cannot be managed by a divisive agenda. An aspirational India is crying for change. This government is clueless about solutions. Without them, electoral triumphs may turn sour.

This article is published in DNA on January 15. 2018

The author is a member of the Rajya Sabha, and a senior Indian National Congress leader. Views expressed are personal.

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