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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

86% NCR residents cite lack of severe punishment for sexual harassment: Study

For the survey, 5,221 responses were collected from Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida to understand the factors and possible remedies of sexual harassment against women and girls in public places.

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New Delhi, April 24 (IANS) Lack of severe punishment is considered as the most rampant cause of sexual harassment by 86 per cent respondents in the NCR region, as per as study.

The study, done by Indian Institute for Integrated Women and Child Development (ISI-WCD) and released by the Women and Child Development Ministry, was one of 18 projects the ministry had sponsored, between 2015-17, in areas like economic empowerment of women, skill development, child trafficking, nutrition management and others.

For the survey, 5,221 responses were collected from Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida to understand the factors and possible remedies of sexual harassment against women and girls in public places.

According to the survey, 84 per cent of the responsdents think that availability of pornographic materials on mobile phone is also a cause of sexual harassment in NCR region while 83 per cent believes it is because of easy access to social media site Facebook or the internet.

“Revealing dresses of women has been seen as the reason for sexual assault by 53 per cent, 35 per cent and 37 per cent by residents of Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida respectively while informal behaviour of women has also been seen as the reason by 49 per cent, 30 per cent and 70 per cent from the three locations respectively,” the study notes.

The study also revealed that 35 per cent of men and 50 per cent women have perceived sexual aggression in men as responsible for sexual harassment of women.

It is also found that 70 per cent of the respondents have said to face sexual abuse from work partners or colleagues, 63 per cent from office seniors, 48 per cent from friends and 38 per cent from teachers.

According to the study, 87 per cent respondents agreed that women suffer from verbal abuse, 88 per cent have suffered from physical abuse and 94 per cent stated that they are being stared at.

On enhancing safety for women in public places, 96 per cent respondents suggested that crowded buses or stations should be under constant camera surveillance, 93 per cent wanted public places well lit, 90 per cent prefers frequent police patrolling, 94 per cent said legal punishments should be made harsher while 92 per cent said judicial disposals should be made quicker.

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Analysis

Is UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath losing his sheen?

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By Mohit Dubey

Lucknow, April 10 (IANS) Is Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath — in power for just over a year — fast losing his lustre?

Many here feel so..

A litany of complaints about his public conduct, his behaviour with colleagues as well as common people is fast eroding the aura he had built up as the five-time Lok Sabha MP from Gorakhpur who was catapulted to the Chief Minister’s office of a socially diverse and politically volatile state of 220 million people.

Last week, 24-year-old Ayush Bansal shocked many when he broke down in front of media in Gorakhpur and disclosed how the monk-turned-Chief Minister mocked him during a “junta darbaar” where he had gone to complain about a land-grab case in which independent legislator from Nautanwa, Amanmani Tripathi, was involved.

He also accused the Chief Minister of calling him “awaraa” (wayward) and pushing him while throwing his file in the air. “Maharaj ji angrily snapped at me and said my work will never be done and that I should get out of his sight,” Bansal told IANS.

While officials got down to damage control and said the matter was being looked into, the fact that Adityanath behaved in a manner unbecoming of a Chief Minister was neither contradicted by officials nor denied by the ruling party.

Barely had the din over this episode died down when two MPs of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) complained of similar behaviour. In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP MP from Robertsganj Chhote Lal Kharwar, accused Adityanath of “scolding him and asking him to get out”. The MP said he was deeply pained at the behaviour of the Chief Minister as he tried to draw his attention to issues faced by the party faithful.

“Never did the local administration listen to my plants and when I went to meet the Chief Minister twice over many issues, ‘unhone mujhe daantkar bhaga diya‘ (he scolded me and chased me away),” the lawmaker said in his letter.

The BJP leader has also shot off a letter to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, seeking help. Lal also says that definite proof of wrong-doing and corruption presented by him went unheard and unaddressed.

What is surprising is that all this happened to a man who is the state president of the BJP’s SC/ST Morcha.

While Modi is learnt to have assured Lal of action, there are other similar murmurs about Adityanath’s rough behaviour. Etawah MP Ashok Dohre has also written to Modi accusing the state police of lodging fake cases against SCs and STs during the Bharat Bandh. When asked why he did not petition the Chief Minister, Dohre said he considered Modi his leader, and thus petitioned him.

Alarmed by the sudden “unease” among the party’s lawmakers, Amit Shah summoned Yogi to New Delhi over the weekend and is learnt to have asked him to mend his ways. Adityanth also met Modi. Interestingly, Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, who party insiders admit doesn’t see eye to eye with Yogi, was also called to Delhi at the same time.

Ironically, till not long ago, the 45-year-old Chief Minister was being venerated by the party faithful as a man next only to Modi. Insiders, however, now admit that not only has Adityanath failed to show his “pakad” (hold) on the party, but is also “awkwardly arrogant in his public conduct”, and not very able in his administration.

“He may be a busy man, so have been his predecessors… he remains inaccessible and uses foul and unacceptable language at times,” conceded a senior minister who did not wish to be named. Though stopping short of calling the Chief Minister arrogant, he suggested that “Yogi-ji is better advised to be more courteous and improve his time management”.

A senior party functionary too noted “the changing ways of Maharaj-ji”, though he felt “mood swings and the tongue-lashings could be because he has to handle a big state like Uttar Pradesh”.

A senior bureaucrat also alleged that the Chief Minister often “goes off the handle” and could be very acerbic in his dealing with officials.

The Chief Minister’s loyalists, however, point out that he does not like people to hang around him and wants officials to deliver fast and work within the system that has been set up. When there is any breach, he loses his temper, a close aide told IANS.

His failure to deliver on his promise to get all pot-holed roads fixed by a given deadline last year; the rollback — under pressure — in privatisation of the power sector in five cities; the poor showing in the Phulpur and Gorakhpur Lok Sabha by-polls and reports that he and his deputy, Keshav Prasad Maurya, don’t get along well have already rung alarm bells in the establishment, sources said.

IANS

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Analysis

Can you have your privacy and eat it too?

The shift in the privacy burden, and it is a heavy burden to bear, onto those we entrust with our data to do right with it, is what is hoped will be key to ensuring much of this.

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Privacy

When Aristotle seminally made a distinction between the polis and the oikos, laying the early foundations of the confidential zone, he did so around clear societal demarcations and a very different understanding of what was private, and what privacy needed protection from.

In an era of automated public and private spheres mediated by all-powerful, all-pervasive online intermediaries, these boundaries have dangerously blurred, and the fallout of this is visible for all to see.

A number of the technologies that we spent the best part of the last decade celebrating have fallen from grace, and more watershed moments than one would have liked have heralded renewed demands for privacy in a new avatar — that what is proverbially whispered into the palm of your hand isn’t proclaimed from the vast house-tops of cyberspace, to your detriment and in ways you cannot even foresee.

In this environment, privacy takes on a whole new meaning and context, and is not just about preserving a sacred mental and physical space, but also informational control. As Danah Boyd recently proffered, beyond simply restricting access, privacy today is about strategically controlling the availability of one’s information in different social contexts, as well as its interpretation and reach.

But how do we balance this with, going back to Aristotle, our inherent disposition to be social animals? Can we continue doing so online and expect a fair privacy bargain in the process?

The privacy paradox — our claim to hold privacy as a high virtue, yet part with our information for a voucher code, Farm Coins, or free Wi-Fi — is very real. The blame for this, however, does not, try as the tech giants might, lie squarely on users, who have every right to be spooked by Cambridge Analytica, Strava or Netflix’s “creepy” tweets — and others that did and didn’t make it to the headlines.

The internet was born as a free and open space for people, who have instead been thrust into walled gardens, unwittingly and systematically misled, monetised, and offered unfair, sometimes dire, choices online. A recalibration then, was long overdue.

For big tech, balancing meaningful privacy and control with business models inherently at cross purposes with the Net’s ethos, is going to be an uphill task. Built around the data-for-ads value exchange, cutting off, controlling or reshaping the supply of that data has direct consequences for businesses, as Facebook, Acxiom and other stock prices reliant on maintaining that status quo have recently shown.

Also challenging is the manner in which the current ecosystem has technologically been constructed. The Move-Fast-and-Break-Things dicta translate into systems designed to incentivise (over)sharing and then vacuum up, analyse and disseminate data, primarily so that it can be monetised with tremendous speed and accuracy.

Imbuing these systems with respect for user-agency, contextual integrity and accounting for meaningful privacy in networked environments — where you may choose to be a social media hermit but turn up regularly on your friend’s (public) Instagram — is going to require going back to the drawing board on several fronts.

As rights go, the solution to addressing this doesn’t lie in simply providing greater individual ownership and control over and consent for using data, although these are key constituents of the privacy toolkit. Preserving privacy includes balancing the data-for-services barter so it is no longer askew. Knowing what you’re signing up for doesn’t make up for being given a raw deal you have no choice but to agree to.

An important premise of right to privacy being inviolable is that choices inconsistent with these rights cannot be presented to begin with, and they cannot simply be circumvented by burying things in fine print and engineering consent.

With comprehensive new data protection regulation flowing from such rights in place and on the anvil in many parts of the world (including in India), carefully accounting for a majority of these issues, the hope this time is that the law will not have to continue to keep playing catch-up, reactively bandaging our privacy wounds one at a time.

Rather, the idea is to send users out into the web forearmed with comprehensive rights, meaningfully in control of their data, and shielded by privacy — by design and default. The shift in the privacy burden, and it is a heavy burden to bear, onto those we entrust with our data to do right with it, is what is hoped will be key to ensuring much of this.

Beyond this, it is also time we as users meaningfully utilised the increased agency we’re being offered. Perfunctorily taking steps like deleting Facebook or slapping a webcam cover on your laptop are, while not entirely meaningless, largely placebos and can leave our understanding of, and response to, privacy stunted, keeping us vulnerable to being gamed in newer ways yet again.

Our informational privacy demands and deserves more of our time and attention, and proactively developing an objective, more nuanced understanding of our personal data, its use and our rights over it is an important obligation we must all fulfil. Our collective action in doing so, backed by powerful rights balancing the scales online, may just let us, at least in part, have our privacy and eat it too.

By : Arnav Joshi

(Arnav Joshi is a technology lawyer, data ethics researcher and Data and Society master’s candidate at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He can be reached via twitter @boom_lawyered)

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