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India cracks down on "thin-film" exemption, but may give tardy solar companies a $ billion reprieve for slowed plans.

Kristina Johnson

Posted May 15, 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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May 7th – May 14th, 2013

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

Climate Change

Mumbaikars see red on climate change

MUMBAI: Climate change is no longer an environmentalist's concern. Erratic weather, change in temperature, depletion of air quality and wind patterns seem to be weighing on Mumbaikars' minds too.

A recent survey has revealed that almost eight out of 10 Mumbaikars have perceived indicators of climate change in their immediate environment. Change in temperature seemed to be most palpable for people, followed by changes in rainfall and wind patterns.

The survey was conducted by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) to gauge people's attitude towards environmental issues.

Climate change and indicators of a depleting environment are a cause of concern for most people. The survey findings indicate that 99% people feel air quality has depleted in Mumbai over the years, causing respiratory and skin ailments. Most people blamed poor air quality on factories and transport. Though there are policies to regulate it, an average 51% people feel there is no proper implementation in areas like air pollution, forest conservation and climate change.

(Times of India, 5/8/2013)

The need for India to develop a new climate model

New Delhi: India is amongst the countries most vulnerable to climate change and must develop its own model to study changes at the regional level and take necessary mitigation measures, a senior US scientist of Indian origin said.

Anjuli S. Bamzai, program director of the Climate and Large Scale Dynamics Program of the National Science Foundation (NSF), a US government agency, said India has a historic database of 130 years of weather and it can be used for climate modeling. The country has a monsoon model but not a climate model.

"It will be great if India has its own climate model (to know the changes in climate at regional level). China has two climate models and the US has three, while India is using its model mainly for predicting the monsoon," Bamzai, who is visiting India, told IANS.

(ZeeNews.com, 13/5/2013)

Energy

India to Close Solar Import Loophole in Energy Auction

India plans to close a loophole before its next solar-power auction to stop companies from importing thin-film panels from overseas suppliers like First Solar Inc. (FSLR)for projects that otherwise must be built with local equipment.

The government will invite developers by the end of May to bid for 750 megawatts of solar capacity, Tarun Kapoor, joint-secretary at the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, said in a telephone interview. About 300 megawatts of that will be required to use locally made solar cells and panels, and may not import thin-film photovoltaic devices, he said.

Developers previously were able to skirt local sourcing rules on a portion of auctioned projects by opting for thin-film technology. Those devices, which tend to be cheaper, were exempt from the import restrictions on crystalline silicon panels made by companies such as China’s Suntech Power Holdings Co. (STP)Traditional crystalline panels are silicon-based, while thin-film technology coats panels with materials such as cadmium telluride.

“This time domestic content requirement will also include thin film,” Kapoor said on May 3.

(Bloomberg, 8/5/2013)

India may defer penalties on $1 billion of solar thermal plants

Mumbai: India’s ministry of new and renewable energy is seeking to defer penalties on about $1 billion of solar-thermal power projects that are delayed by a lack of water, financing difficulties and equipment shortages.

Seven projects totaling 470 megawatts in capacity by companies including by Godawari Power and Ispat Ltd., Reliance Power Ltd. and Lanco Infratech Ltd. that were to be ready by May, aren’t operational, Tarun Kapoor, joint secretary at the ministry, said in a phone interview from New Delhi. The projects could potentially forfeit about Rs230 crore ($42.5 million) in performance guarantees, according to rules when the contracts were awarded in December 2010.

There’s obviously a problem since all are delayed, Kapoor said. This is the first time solar-thermal projects are being built in India and we want them to succeed. An expert committee at the ministry is recommending a 10-month extension for the projects, he said.

(Livemint, 8/5/2013)

Govt to grade solar rooftop equipment

The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy is working on an exercise to grade solar rooftop equipment, Tarun Kapur, Joint Secretary (Solar), MNRE, said here today.

The contours of the grading scheme are being worked out, but the grading would be similar to the ‘star rating’ given by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency on electrical appliances, Kapur said in an informal chat with journalists on the sidelines of Renergy 2013, a conference of the renewable energy sector, organised by the Tamilnadu Energy Development Agency. The need to grade solar equipment has to be seen in the context of the surge in demand for putting up solar rooftop projects. The Ministry gives a 30 per cent subsidy for rooftop projects up to 1 kW capacity. The demand for subsidy has gone up 4-5 times, Kapur said.

Giving an indication of the demand, he said that the target for solar rooftop projects to be put up under Phase I of the National Solar Mission was 200 MW. Against this, the Ministry has sanctioned projects worth 240 MW, he said.

In the Phase II of the National Solar Mission, MNRE wants to promote 800 MW of rooftop capacity over four years. The demand for subsidies will be for about 200 MW each year, compared with 240 MW in the last three years.

(The Hindu, 5/13/2013)

India seeks new ways to fund energy-efficient lighting

When US-based carbon investment firm C-Quest Capital first came to India in August 2010 to distribute energy-efficient lighting at scale, it did not anticipate suspending operations less than two years later.

But with carbon prices at an all-time low, the company has had to put operations on hold and explore alternative funding models in an attempt to keep its goals alive.

C-Quest is one of three key distributors of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) under the Indian government’s Bachat Lamp Yojana (BLY) program.

With a growing national power deficit and increasing concern about the impacts of climate change, the lamp program was launched in 2009 under the United Nation’s Clean Development Mechanism. Its aim is to catalyze the widespread replacement of conventional incandescent light bulbs with CFLs, which cost more but consume only one-fifth as much electricity.

Using funding from the international carbon market, implementers of the lamp program purchase the efficient bulbs at the market price of 120 Indian rupees (about $2.20) each and sell up to four of them per household at the subsidized rate of 15 rupees (about $0.30), taking the used incandescent bulbs in exchange.

The program was set up to make this money back for its investors by selling the carbon credits reaped from reducing emissions.

(Christian Science Monitor, 8/5/2013)

Wind power producers oppose competitive bidding for projects

The newly-formed Wind Independent Power Producers Association (WIPPA) has started off with two major campaign themes — opposing price discovery of wind power tariff through a competitive bidding route and moving the judiciary to enforce renewable purchase obligation.

WIPPA, which had been in the forming for several months now, was formally launched at Renergy 2013, a conference of the renewable energy industry organised here by the Tamilnadu Energy Development Agency (TEDA). WIPPA is an association of wind IPPs, or those companies whose main business is that of selling wind power-generated electricity, as opposed to entities who are in other businesses but also put up windmills, mostly for availing themselves of tax breaks.

The association was formed because the wind IPPs felt they needed a “separate voice” for themselves.

The other major industry associations in the Indian wind power sector are the Indian Wind Turbine Manufacturers’ Association, Indian Wind Power Association and Indian Wind Energy Association.

Speaking to Business Line on the sidelines of the conference, the President of WIPPASunil Jain, said that price discovery for electricity generated by windmills would kill the industry.

(The Hindu, 5/13/2013)

U.S.-India Cooperation

Avenues of India-US energy partnership discussed

HOUSTON: Experts from India and the US discussed upon various avenues of energy cooperation between the two countries, with a primary focus on the oil and natural gas sector.

In the recently concluded 'Offshore Technology Conference' here, deliberations were held upon various key points relating to the exploration of hydrocarbons.

Consul General P Harish, who was part of the Indian panel that took part in the industry briefing on 'Oil and Gas Opportunities in India', termed the existing phase as a "big moment" in the India-US energy partnership.

"When India and the US signed the bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreement a couple of years ago, it marked a strategic shift in our cooperation and was intended to ensure energy security in tune with our growing economy," he noted.

"The shale gas revolution here has provided another significant element to our energy cooperation through LNG exports where natural gas from US could be piped into our industries, power stations and households.

(Economic Times, 13/5/2013)

John Kerry coming to India for strategic dialogue

US Secretary of State John Kerry is coming to India in the last week of June with an objective of ironing out the hurdles that have stalled the 2008 civil nuclear cooperation agreement between the two countries.

Kerry, who is visiting India for the first time after succeeding Hillary Clinton to head the US Department of State, will co-chair the third annual Indo-US strategic dialogue with external affairs minister Salman Khurshid, to be held here.

Ever since the nuclear deal was signed, several roadblocks have come into the way of converting the agreement into a commercial arrangement. The agreement, when signed between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former US president George Bush, was heralded as the centerpiece of Indo-US relations.

But a series of problems on both sides has delayed its implementation. The first United Progressive Alliance government had even risked its fall as the Left parties, which had supported the coalition government from outside, had withdrawn their support over the nuclear deal.

US energy giant Westinghouse Electric Co and Nuclear Power Corp of India Ltd had signed a commercial pact for installing a 1,000-Megawatt nuclear reactor in Gujarat last year. Kerry is expected to push India to loosen its stance on nuclear liability law and smoothen out the process of implementation.

(Business Standard, 11/5/2013)

US natural gas exports to India, a 'win-win' proposition: Nirupama Rao

WASHINGTON: Energy-hungry India, which invested nearly $ 4 billion in US' tight oil and shale gas sectors from 2008 to 2012, has strongly advocated the export of American natural gas to it, saying it presented a "win-win" co-operation opportunity for both nations.

"As shale gas has become economically viable to produce, the US has emerged as one of the world's most important gas producing countries," Indian Ambassador to the US Nirupama Rao said, while speaking at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a Washington-based think-tank.

"Growth in shale gas production in the coming years is now expected to substantially reduce, if not eliminate, the need for the US to import natural gas, and companies are instead looking to reach new markets beyond electric power, industrial and residential uses, both in the US and overseas," she said.

Rao strongly advocated the case for export of US natural gas to India.

(Economic Times, 8/5/2013)

Environmental Health & Governance

Bad air gnawing at our monuments

Not just ordinary people, even the best known heritage monuments — a symbol of the country’s rich history and culture — are breathing uneasy because of rise in toxicity of air.

Most of the Indian cities are known for their heritage monuments but impact of rising air pollution on them is not measured. The government for the first time has made an attempt to highlight the gravity of the problem by collating data on pollution levels in the vicinity of 138 heritage monuments in 39 cities.

The comparison showed particulate matter pollution around monuments was within the national ambient air standard in only six of these cities — Shimla, Hassan, Mangalore, Mysore, Kottayam and Madurai. In the remaining, it was up to four times higher than the national standard of 60 micro grams in cubic meters of air.

Consider Red Fort or Qutub Minar in Delhi or Charminar in Hyderabad or Bara Imambara in Lucknow; these are all located in the most polluted regions of these cities.

In fact, Chandni Chowk, where Red Fort is situated, has highest particulate matter air pollution — about four times the national standard — for any place in the country.

(Hindustan Times, 11/5/2013)

WWF to collaborate with state to revive rivers

KOCHI: World Wildlife Fund (WWF) India has shown willingness to collaborate with Kerala to evolve and execute an integrated river basin programme for the state to address its twin requirements of making water available throughout the year and conserving the rivers and nature.

WWF India CEO Ravi Singh and other senior officials already held talks with the top officials of the State Planning Board and other departments early this week.

"Our input will be primarily in terms of the expertise we have acquired during the implementation of similar programmes in India and abroad. We don't want to involve in the programmes as consultants or funding agency,'' Ravi Singh told TOI here over phone from New Delhi.

"We are implementing an integrated river basin management programme in the river Ganges for the last four years. The feedback has been encouraging in terms of augmenting the quality of water and overall flow,'' he said.

"But implementation of such a programme will take about 10 to 15 years so that the rivers and the ecosystem can be brought back to their optimally harvestable levels. Kerala has about 44 rivers and hundreds of streams. It is possible to conserve them and ensure that the water 'walks down to the sea rather than runs down' as is the present scenario through appropriate measures,'' said Suresh Babu, the director of WWF India A host of factors contributes to the degradation of water bodies, including land-use changes, reclamation, pollution from various sources like domestic sewage, solid waste dumping, oil and grease pollution from boats, industrial pollution and mismanagement.

(Times of India, 7/5/2013)

For more news on the issues we care about, visit our India News archive or read our other International blogs.

 

 

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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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