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Dehli Based TERI applauded for climate change resesarch, as summer sales of air conditioners ramp up.

Kristina Johnson

Posted July 17, 2013 in Curbing Pollution, Health and the Environment, Living Sustainably, Moving Beyond Oil, Solving Global Warming, U.S. Law and Policy

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July 9th- July 16th

India Green News is a selection of news highlights about environmental and energy issues in India

Climate Change

TERI globally ranked first in climate change research

New Delhi-based The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) has been ranked first in the International Centre for Climate Governance global ratings for the most influential institutions working in the field of climate change, economics and policy.

"It's particularly relevant and a matter of a great pride for India to see that TERI has been ranked right at the top in ICCG Climate Think Tank Ranking," Dr R K Pachauri, Director General of TERI, said in a statement issued here today.

Global rankings by ICCG included the think tanks working in the field of climate change, economics and policy with headquarters outside the European Union.

The think tanks were assessed on the basis of five indicators -- events, authors in IPCC reports, UNFCCC submissions, articles in peer-reviewed journals, and non-peer reviewed publications, a TERI release said.

TERI is an independent, not-for-profit research institute that focuses on energy, environment and sustainable development.

Besides TERI, the other institutions that featured in the absolute ranking list include Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs, Woods Hole Research Centre, Resources for the Future and Princeton Environmental Institute.

Pachauri, an eminent environmentalist and a winner of Nobel Peace prize, said actions to combat climate change will have to be guided by extensive research, climate modelling capabilities and assessments of economically viable and technologically feasible solutions.

(Business Standard 7/10/2013)

Climate change hits air-conditioner sales

Climate change can affect diverse industries - agriculture, fisheries, tourism and real estate among them. It can also hit consumer electronics companies.

Consider this. The market for split air conditioners slumped by 20 per cent in June this year as Indians stopped buying air conditioners with the monsoon setting in early. Managing Director of Japanese consumer electronics company Panasonic Manish Sharma told Business Today that the market for air conditioners grew 15 per cent in April and May this year and manufacturers were expecting a similar growth in June. "However, the market fell 20 per cent in June. With the arrival of the early monsoon and the consequent fall in temperatures, the footfalls in retail outlets dropped significantly," he said.

"Manufacturers now have accumulated inventory. We are controlling production to manage the glut," he added.

Sharma revealed that the first quarter of the financial year, which is peak summer in most parts of the country, contributes as much as 30 per cent to annual air conditioner sales, or around 1.5 million units.

Monsoons are becoming unpredictable in the country and many scientists ascribe it at least partly to global warming. "The monsoon reached Kerala on June 1 this year and covered the subcontinent by June 16. It usually covers the entire Indian subcontinent in 45 days," said M.R. Ramesh Kumar, Chief Scientist at the Physical Oceanography Division of the National Institute of Oceanography, Goa. Kumar maintained that the phenomenon of intense rainfall followed by prolonged dry spells during a single monsoon season can be blamed on global warming.

"The Eastern equatorial Indian ocean has been warming for the past 57 years. The ocean's average temperature has risen by one full degree Celsius. That has changed the orientation of the monsoon current. We are getting more breaks and prolonged ones," he explained.

The message for Indian companies - doesn't matter which industry you are in, start factoring in the impact of climate change on business.

(Business Today, 7/11/2013)

Energy

India Risks Spain’s Solar Slump With Move to Cut Tariff

India’s biggest solar power-producing state is seeking to cut the subsidized rate it pays to plants by 28 percent, joining governments from Spain to Greece backtracking on clean-energy support to lower costs.

Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Ltd. is asking for permission to lower the average megawatt-hour price to 9,000 rupees ($150) from 12,540 rupees, according to a petition copy obtained by Bloomberg News and confirmed by Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission Chairman P.K. Mishra. The government-run bulk buyer of solar power in the western state signed 25-year contracts with 80 projects, comprising 857 megawatts of capacity, since 2010.

The petition risks derailing an industry that drew $6.9 billion of investment in two years from companies including Essar Energy Plc (ESSR) (ESSR) and Tata Power Co (TPWR). to make India the world’s fastest-growing major solar market, according to figures from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Spain, after installing the most capacity worldwide in 2008, stalled growth by withdrawing support, including retroactively capping the number of hours solar plants could earn above-market tariffs.

“The petition itself will vitiate the business environment, let alone the outcome of the petition,” said Vineet Mittal, managing director of Welspun Energy Ltd., India’s biggest solar developer. “GUVNL’s proposition is not legally tenable.”

(Bloomberg 7/9/2013)

India scrambles to find own source of rare earths

With China controlling the global supply of rare earth materials crucial for strategic electronics and futuristic clean energy projects, India now plans to put in place a strategy to secure its own supply from industrial process and geological exploration.

Besides the rare earths, the Central government also seeks to find out new and reliable sources of a dozen odd energy critical elements (ECE) that are increasingly becoming important because of their requirement in next generation technologies like solar cells, wind turbines, fuel cells and long duration batteries. The ECEs include rare earths and 12 other materials. Since none of them were a part of India’s traditional mineral exploration strategy, little is known about their geological source, if any, within India as well as their properties and the possibility of extracting them from industrial smelting.

India’s top technocrats will meet in the national capital on Wednesday to find out how the country can have a steady supply of these strategic materials, which are found in trace quantity in nature.

New and preferably indigenous sources of these materials are essential because China, the world’s largest supplier of rare earths, single-handedly controls the global trade and can play hardball on its supply citing internal reasons.

(Deccan Herald, 7/14/2013)

Sanctions weigh on India as it considers Iran's gas offer   

Three Indian companies are actively considering Iran’s revised offer of production sharing contracts (PSCs) in the energy sector, including one for developing the prolific Farzad B gasfield.

The companies are ONGC Videsh Limited, Oil India Limited and Indian Oil Corporation.

This is the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that Iran has offered these companies PSCs in an attempt to reverse the decline in crude oil purchases by India. The offer is seen as a big step towards further cementing bilateral ties and marks a departure from Iran’s earlier practice of offering Indian companies 15 per cent fixed returns under a buy-back arrangement with the national oil company of Iran.

Western sanctions

However, diplomatic sources said New Delhi would have to weigh the consequences if it chose to accept the offer, because of the sanctions the U.S. and the European Union imposed on Iran, primarily targeting its oil industry so as to force Tehran to halt its nuclear programme. In 2011, Indian companies opened talks with Iran for developing the gasfield. But a subsequent meeting did not materialise because India was apprehensive of the impact of the sanctions on its companies.

During his visit to India in May, Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi offered the Indian firms PSCs to pep up investment in the upstream sector. In fact, Iran offered to ship gas to India in liquefied form through Oman. Interestingly, Iran does not have the technology to liquefy gas, so it agreed to do the process in Oman.

Because of the sanctions, Iran’s crude oil supplies to India have dwindled in the past few years. During 2012-13, India’s import dipped by over 26.5 per cent to 13.3 million tonnes, as against 18.1 million tonnes the year before. Also in 2012-13, Iranian supplies accounted for 7.2 per cent of India’s oil imports, down from 10.5 per cent in the previous year.

(The Hindu, 7/14/2013)

Solar sector attracts $3.86 billion funding in April-June

NEW DELHI: The solar sector has attracted total funding of $ 3,857 million through 70 deals, including three Indian transactions, in the April-June period this year, says a report.

The report that analysed funding on the basis of four categories -- project funding, VC funding, debt funding and others, said there were three Indian deals in the project funding category and one in project M&A segment, wherein, sustainable energy solutions provider Fortum acquired a solar power plant in Rajasthan.

The three Indian deals that were listed in the project funding category, include Acme Solar's $ 50 million loan for its 25-MW photovoltaic power plant in Madhya Pradesh, followed by Welspun Energy's financial closure of its upcoming 20-MW solar power project in Maharashtra.

Further, Welspun Energy, received around $ 8 million in funding from financial institutions for its Karnataka solar project.

According to the Mercom Capital Group's second quarter funding and M&A activity report for solar sector, the VC funding in the solar sector continued to be subpar in the second quarter of 2013, with $ 189 million in VC funding in April-June period compared to $ 126 million last quarter.

(Economic Times, 7/12/2013)

U.S. India Cooperation

Technology hand-holding

India and the U.S. recently opened yet another avenue of economic engagement by undertaking collaborations in the field of aviation and energy under the U.S.-India Energy and Aviation Cooperation Programme.

Continuing its support for closer cooperation in the aviation industry, the United States Trade Development Authority (USTDA) will provide a grant to the Airports Authority of India (AAI) for a Performance Based Navigation Project to assist India in adopting technology to increase aviation airspace capacity and energy efficiency.

The assistance will demonstrate how performance-based navigation procedures can be developed, certified and implemented within India’s aviation environment. The procedure design process will be undertaken with AAI, in coordination with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, and piloted by airline operators at airports in Mangalore, Guwahati and Bangalore. This project will be undertaken by Naverus, a GE subsidiary.

A technical, management and operational development training programme with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation is also underway. The programme will offer industry-based training to assist India in developing regulatory and safety capacities. U.S.-based companies Hi-Tec, Pratt and Whitney, Honeywell, and Universal Weather and Aviation have committed to support the programme and will provide training on a range of new technologies and practices being adopted in international aviation.

“By engaging with our partners in cooperative programs like these, USTDA leverages the expertise of the U.S. private sector to support India’s infrastructure development priorities,” USTDA director Leocadia Zak said.

Both countries also concluded two energy sector grants, and witnessed a contract signing with Indian stakeholders. USTDA concluded a $692,000 grant agreement with Central Power Research Institute (CPRI) to prepare a detailed planning and procurement document for the implementation of a Smart Grid Test Bed project in Bangalore. The test bed, which will consist of an integrated Interoperability Laboratory and Smart Grid Technology Demonstration Center, will allow CPRI to research and perform controlled evaluations of a variety of integrated Smart Grid technologies. The technical assistance will facilitate the adoption of Smart Grid pilot projects as well as the full-scale deployment of Smart Grid technologies where U.S. companies have competitive strengths across India’s power sector.

(The Hindu, 7/11/2013)

Health and the Environmental Governance

Polluted waters, deforestation complicate India's cremation rituals

India's ritual of cremation is causing environmental complications. The Ganges River, where many are cremated, is remarkably polluted. And the country is rapidly being deforested as families collect thousands of pounds of wood to use in their funeral pyres.

The Ganges is a holy river, especially for the one billion Hindus who live in India. But the combination of pollution and cremation rituals have led to an environment that can feel far from hallowed.

George Black, executive editor of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s magazine, On Earth, recently wrote about the Ganges' pollution problem.

He visited Varanasi, which is, of all the sacred places in India, perhaps the most sacred and revered. Varanasi, Hindus believe, is where the universe was created by the god, Vishnu, and where he left the imprint of his sandals in the ground during the creation.

It’s the most sacred spot in the whole country. And the idea is if you are cremated there, you actually break the cycle of reincarnation, Black said.

"Hindus believe you’re endlessly reincarnated as one form of life or another — depending on the nature of your deeds while you were alive," he said. "You can be anything from an elephant to a cockroach, depending on your stored up good deeds."

The idea is, he said, if you die there and your ashes are scattered on the holy river, the Ganges, then you go to heaven, join your ancestors, and be released from the pains of reincarnation and rebirth.

The irony is, these deaths and funeral pyres have turned the Ganges into one of the most polluted rivers in the world.

"In terms of bacteriological contamination, it is literally thousands of times worse in coliform bacteria than World Health Organization standards, but it’s not just that," Black said. "There are a string (of) major cities that dump their raw sewage; their tannery effluent (directly into the river). ... By the time you get to Varanasi and you add that city’s quotient of the effluent, you’re really dealing with something that smells bad, it looks bad, you have dead animals floating in it."

Basically, Black says, the Ganges River, the most holy river in the Hindu religion, has been turned into an open sewer not 50 yards upstream of the reincarnation grounds.

"But if you’re a Hindu, you have a different conception of pollution that is not irreconcilable, which is a notion of purity," Black said. "The river is a goddess, the goddess Ganga, and by immersion in it ... they regard that as a purifying thing. They may get sick afterwards — a lot of them do."

But the water is not the only pollution. The ritual cremation requires wood and, for wealth families, it can be up to 1,000 pounds of wood, which leads to additional pollution.

In addition, merely harvesting the wood can be controversial, with illegal logging fueling bribes and under-the-table payments in order to harvest enough wood to fuel these fires.

(Public Radio International, 7/15/2013)

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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