e-Conference on Clean Energy & Clean Transportation: Key to Fight Climate Change

On 22 April 2020, on the occasion of “Earth Day”, the India Energy Storage Alliance (IESA), with institutional support from the Indo-German Energy Forum (IGEF-SO), organised a web conference on “Clean Energy and Transportation”. More than 300 participants received full-day presentations on the topic from 13 different speakers. Amongst others, Mr. Upendra Tripathy, Director General of the International Solar Alliance and Mr. Dayanand Jagdale, Head of International Affairs at the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) were invited to speak. 

Below are the highlights of the talk given by the 13 panelists.

Karuna Singh – Director - Asia Pacific, Earth Day Network

  • Earth day is not about action on one day but everyday
  • COVID-19 has shown us how the world is one. Only 14 countries worldwide have not been impacted by the virus. Earlier environment was not visible to all, therefore, many found it difficult to relate with the idea of ‘one world’ but now I hope they can relate to it
  • Earth Day Network has been actively trying to mobilize people and leaders in civil society through science, action and volunteer and education (SAVE) program
  • EDN has been working at the grassroots level encouraging people to switch to a low-carbon lifestyle along with other efforts that help check climate impact
  • It has been particularly involved with women leaders. In Bagli village in MP, EDN helped to connect the
  • panchayat leader with the MD of a local solar bank so she could transform her village into a solar powered village
  • Earth day network actively creates awareness about policies at the grassroots level and finds effective means of implementing them by engaging the community
  • We may have the best of policies but unless there is awareness about them and support in implementing them, they will not help the society

Upendra Tripathy - Director General, International Solar Alliance

  • There is a tremendous portion of solar energy (in terms of heat) that still lies untapped. There is tremendous scope in the physics of solar energy and technology that helps us in applications of the energy
  • ISA plans on investing $1000 billion in member countries. We are also considering establishing a world solar bank
  • The way forward for accelerating adoption of solar energy globally is by bringing down the cost of capital and technologies. This can be done by aggregating demand
  • Universal energy access remains a challenge. We must think of ways in which we can use solar energy to power homes which have no energy access
  • ISA is working on several new initiatives, one of the most important has been that NTPC and SECI recently committed to provide member countries 40,000 MW solar power over the next three years
  • The impact of COVID-19 outbreak on solar installation has been tremendous. It is at the level of capital (banks having peculiar problems), land (country under lockdown) and technology flow (import and export curtailed)
  • This crisis has serious cost implications as current projects are hamstrung. It will require retrenchments and policy measures by the government, some of which have already been announced
  • In the next five years, ISA would like to achieve mainly four things: One, we would like to see a world without energy access issues. Two, we want to install 50,000 MW solar parts. Three, we would like to bring a mass tender for a 100 billion home lighting system and four, we will be focusing more of our efforts on storage, EVs and other sectors

O.P. Agarwal - CEO, World Resources Institute (WRI) India

  • There is a need to break away from the thinking that clean transportation is about EVs and clean forms of fuels. It is also about “clean forms of transport". For instance, anything that helps us avoid a trip, it is clean transport. This webinar is an example of clean transport
  • If you can reduce the range of a trip, even that is clean transport. However, this does not come from the transportation system alone but from our urban planning system. It is based on how our cities are designed
  • It is important to not talk of clean transportation from the technology perspective alone, but also from the demand management perspective
  • However, today the biggest conversation in the context of clean transportation is around EVs. But EVs are a bit of a challenge, not only from a policymaking perspective but also from an implementation perspective
  • EV implementation on the ground is challenging as it requires multiple agencies such as the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Ministry of Heavy Industry, Department of Science and Technology and Ministry of Urban Development, and Ministry of Finance to take action in a coordinated way 
  • Same is true for storage and charging infrastructure. Charging infrastructure must be set up in places where demand is high and need for charging is most, but this requires close coordination between the Ministry of Power and Ministry of Transportation 
  • How do we get different government agencies to come together and take e-mobility forward remains the biggest challenge 
  • There is economic interest in fleets but the challenge with fleets is the high capital cost. E-buses cost more than a crore, whereas normal buses cost 35 lakhs. Therefore, unless the government develops a fund to enable transportation departments to overcome significant capital costs, its adoption will remain slow
  • The success of e-mobility in India has to be driven by some sort of a clean mobility mission which brings together people from multiple agencies, works under high-level of authority and brings about change
  • A clean mobility mission is a need of the hour for the country

Saurabh Kumar - Managing Director, Energy Efficiency Services Ltd.

  • A few critical things the government did in 2018 were: First, it clarified that charging is not ‘sale/resale of power’ but a ‘service’ and encouraged a special tariff for e-mobility, which it clarified should not be 10-15% more than the average cost of supply. Second, it issued standards for public charging stations (PCS)
  • One of the major things in FAME II is that Rs 1,000 crore has been earmarked as subsidy for setting up of the charging stations
  • GST reduced to 12% on EVs, so push given for EVs; hybrid duties, however, remain
  • Push was given in the last budget to encourage adoption of EVs by extending personal income tax benefit on loans given on EV purchase
  • EESL's primary role is aggregating demand. EESL issued the largest procurement of 10,000 EVs, though we haven’t been successful in deploying them as much as we would want, but we created an innovative business model which was liked by most government agencies to enable public sector to migrate to EVs
  • Recently, Kerala state govt in budget promised to replace all their fleet to EVs. The first Indian state to do so and EESL model was mentioned in the budget
  • Major challenge in adoption of EVs in India is that people are not fully aware of the benefits of e-vehicles or that the life cycle cost of EV ownership is one-fifth of owning ICE vehicles. Further, there are still not enough PCS to overcome range anxiety. Also, several state policies on EVs are still evolving. For instance, not all the states have adopted waiver of registration charges, etc. Delhi, being a case in point
  • Way forward would be that post-COVID-19, FAME II should include personal mobility for 4W in the policy
  • EESL is also working on different initiatives, one of which is to develop 10,000 PCS in the next two years
  • EESL is also looking at battery storage charging systems
  • We are heading at 250 GW of RE, and for variability of scheduling only response is batteries

Rashmi Urdhwareshe - Director, Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI)

  • In order to sustain transportation challenges, we need to be fuel agnostic. From that point of view ARAI has worked extensively on biodiesel, ethanol, methanol and several other blends
  • It is heartening to see the recent BS-VI notification is also fuel agnostic. It not only addresses this fuel agnostic view but also permits and encourages use of hydrogen. That is the way forward for all of us
  • With technological advancement like never before, e-mobility has brought in a huge amount of data complexity onto the vehicular controls. That brings need for regulation and standardization of products and need to ensure conformity of product. This also goes into product lifecycle and duty cycles
  • There are important national committees that look into all these aspects and comes up with regulations
  • In these pandemic times, we have seen how air quality has improved significantly post lockdown. Our research has too identified that 29% of particulate matter pollution comes from transportation sector
  • Efficiency of transportation very largely depends on duty cycles, what they are designed for and how efficiently they are being utilized
  • A new technology is adopted by users in any society warrants a whole lot of new skill sets. As for EVs, they range from the vehicle manufacturing side to maintenance, to first responders, so EVs are a classical example of how the entire ecosystem needs to be changed. ARAI plays a role in creating this ecosystem
  • All the EVs that we see today on the market are derived from their base petrol or diesel-based vehicle. It is essential, therefore, to see that they are all redesigned so that R&D work needs to be done
  • Fuel-cell technology is already in the research stage and soon would be the future

Arjun Ram Meghwal – MoS, Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises

  • Earth is our mother and we are her children this thinking has always been a part of the Indian culture
  • The concept of conserving Earth is not new in the Indian tradition. India has historically witnessed various people’s movements like the ‘Chipko movement’, which emerged from the same vein of thought
  • Earth is the only livable planet and we must think differently about climate change action
  • We must take Suo Motu action towards environmental protection wherever possible. It could be as simple as taking cycle to work, walking, spending an evening without power under the moon or any other means that could reduce emissions
  • We should also take the time to think of ways we can promote less polluting startups and innovations in the industry

Sohinder Gill - Director General, Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles (SMEV)

  • One of the critical initiatives that the GoI can take for accelerating adoption of EVs in the country is to create awareness among Indians by creating strong campaigns. We have seen the success of the ‘Swachh Bharat’ campaign
  • Desk ke liye acchi, jeb ke liye acchi - spreading awareness about EVs and its benefits
  • The widespread adoption of EVs also hinges on seeing a critical mass of vehicles on the streets. This must be brought in through efforts of industry and the government
  • Administrative push to polluting businesses to switch to EV; directive to e-commerce companies to convert their fleet into electric can be a major change point
  • People need financing for EVs. If the public sector banks can pitch in with market rates and give priority to financing EVs, these can-do wonders in the short term
  • This COVID-19 pandemic has created several challenges but also shown that cleaner air and environment is worth investing, and transportation is a significant pillar in achieving a cleaner environment

Debi Prasad Dash - Executive Director, IESA

  • By 2050, 25% of global energy generation will come from renewable, but coal will remain main material for generation of electricity
  • We have currently 15% of energy generation from renewables, as it grows, we will need new technology so we can balance energy
  • As for EVs, they are not a new concept and have been in the market for years. What we see now is a trend towards accelerating their wider adoption
  • There is a need to shift from manufacturing conventional vehicles to low-emission vehicles, recognizing this need, the central government has taken various policy measures, such as FAME I and FAME II policy, it has increased customs duty on EVs, and developed charging infrastructure and policies related to it
  • Similarly, different states have formulated state-specific policies governing EV adoption and use. Alongside, the central government has also involved different stakeholders such as the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Department of Science and Technology and others in formulating policies and ensuring their implementation
  • Moving beyond personal use, GoI is also encouraging adoption of EVs in the public transport and shared mobility space
  • So far, EVs have been slow to pick up for personal use in India primarily because of the high cost of ownership. However, with government subsidy and increasing environmental consciousness among users we may see higher adoption rates by 2022-23
  • Nearly 40-50% EV cost comes due to battery/ energy storage. Among batteries, lead-acid battery and Li-ion battery remain the two popular battery chemistries
  • While Li-ion battery is a forerunner in the EV battery space, efforts have been made to look into other battery chemistries and technology
  • Safety of EVs is another space where more efforts need to be made, ALL OEMs, manufacturing companies should follow BIS and international standards
  • Recycling and reuse of batteries is another area which needs more attention. The government has drafted a policy regulating battery recycling and reuse
  • Beyond vehicles, we have to think of vehicle-grid concepts. With so many EVs expected to be on streets we will have to ensure grid balancing. There is a need to adopt pilot projects to study how these vehicles can be used to store energy
  • EV ecosystem - Gigafactories have been proposed, we can focus on manufacturing of EV components and batteries in India but there are a few challenges.
  • We will have to develop new skill sets, create a supportive value chain and develop electric charging infrastructure ecosystem

Dr. Arunabha Ghosh - CEO, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW)

  • How can we sustain the environmental benefits after the public health crisis resolves is something we need to think of at the moment. We do not want one crisis to be a solution for another
  • The crisis has forced us to accelerate our efforts towards greater sustainability in many aspects
  • Life, lives and sustainability will have to go together. We cannot have environmental gains at the cost of economic loss and the loss of people’s livelihoods
  • Early estimates suggest greenhouse gas emission may fall by 5 to 5.5% due to COVID-19 outbreak
  • Scale of the economic crisis will dominate our thinking
  • Along with a slowdown in the economy, we are observing the RE sector has taken a major hit with 30,000 MW of projects at tendering stage coming to a grinding halt
  • Globally, 2020 was a great year for RE until COVID-19 outbreak. For the first time in decades, electricity generation by RE increased than the demand of RE, whereas demand for fossil fell
  • MNRE has given relief in times of COVID-19, allowing RE supply chain disruption to be treated as Force Majeure but we need a comprehension response for the energy sector
  • Financial institutions should allowed little more flexibility on how they assess project viability amid the crisis. RBI should take measures to bring ease of financing RE projects
  • E-mobility sector - This would be an important opportunity to truly accelerate the EV sector. We will have to start creating awareness among users about the long-term low cost of operations of EVs and make financing for EVs easier
  • Not only do we need a push for e-2Ws or 2-3Ws but also battery swapping options as they tend to be significantly cheaper (31%) than the ICE
  • This is the time for the EV industry to truly entrench itself in the next 24 months
  • Need to give a big push to industrial energy efficiency. Industrial energy consumption has been a major contributor to CO2 emission
  • Part of the 2030 vision should be to focus on the strategic questions of what we can make domestically. If we have to make in India? What exactly do we make in India? What kind of international technological collaboration, strategic stimulus is needed to bet on industries of the future?
  • With strong hybrid vehicle penetration we can cut down tailpipe emission significantly and minimize pain during the transition period (to EVs)

Dayanand Jagdale - Jt Secretary, MNRE

  • MNRE has been leading from the forefront and ensuring conducive policies have been put in place to reach the RE target of 175 GW set by PM
  • MNRE has made considerable progress in the technology front, the way businesses are being run, projects are being installed and maintained
  • In India, the penetration of renewables is going to lead the way in the next decade with the target of 450 GW
  • Our endeavor is to not only bring in plain vanilla (business) models of wind and solar but also bring in those business models that will now supply 24x7 renewable power
  • MNRE is doing innovative modelling. For instance, wind-solar hybrid, 24x7 power which includes storage and batteries and pumped hydro
  • We are also looking at uniformity of policies and combining RE power with thermal power, so that asset utilization is brought to its maximum
  • We have total installed RE capacity of 87 GW today and 12 GW bids are in the pipeline
  • MNRE is also looking at bioenergy. We have come out with an amendment to use power from municipal solid waste so we can convert that into electricity
  • Post COVID-19, we have focused our efforts on how we can enable ‘Make in India’ -- it must go from complete value chain
  • Post COVID-19 outbreak, govt. has taken strong measures to support the industry. “Must run” status accorded to renewable energy projects (solar, wind & small hydro) to promote use of energy from renewable sources. Invoicing modelling, allowing RE supply chain disruption to be treated as Force Majeure, these are some initiatives taken off late so that developers' existing projects do not take a hit
  • The amendment that the govt. has brought in through the latest draft Electricity Act (Amendment) Bill, 2020, is encouraging and we want stakeholders to give comments on the same
  • We are also looking into the hydrogen economy. We are partnering with advanced countries who already have the technology and know-how in this space

Ajay Mathur - Director General, TERI

  • We have breached planetary carrying capacity as far as biodiversity and climate change is concerned
  • We need to look at new technological processes that help reduce the environmental footprints
  • As we move ahead, society's livelihood and existence are now interlocked with how the world moves ahead. As a community, we need to create a narrative that we need to move towards new technology. These narratives will be the foundation of creating political will
  • Around the world, as in India, there are various kinds of relief efforts. In Europe, US and the UK they have announced trillions of dollars of stimulus package
  • Unfortunately, in India, the total budget is less than half a trillion dollars of which 80% is hardwired and 20% budget is available for people. If we could get 10% economic stimulus (of half a trillion) this creates an opportunity for us but also a challenge
  • We need to ensure these are specified in a manner to create growth in terms of incomes, jobs, livelihoods and growth in terms of meeting development deficit
  • All the money coming into India from various banks and international agencies a certain sum has to be denominated for greener technologies
  • We must identify financial instruments that will help financial flows. These instruments become crucial if we want to increase investments in renewables. There will not be investments in RE and storage if the capital costs remains too high which is why financial instruments become critical

Dr. Rahul Walawalkar - President, IESA

  • India has made tremendous progress in the adoption of clean energy and renewable energy so much so that RE can now compete with fossil fuel sources without any subsidies
  • Energy storage has gained more importance as RE installed capacity increases worldwide. Energy storage can be used for smoothing and firming intended to prevent sudden sags or surges in the power supplied to customers
  • Hybrid projects combining wind and solar with energy storage have successfully started to replace polluting power plants
  • Next decade is poised for similar transition for the transportation sector, where electric vehicles are anticipated to lead the transition away from ICE-based vehicles running on oil
  • There is a need for ancillary services in the grid. In India, we are seeing significant grid fluctuations which is unprecedented and not great for the consumers. In this area, we can use ESS, but a strong lobby is pushing for the use for thermal technology
  • Solar plus storage is becoming crucial and they can be integrated in a cost-effective way
  • There’s scope for India to be a global R&D and manufacturing hub for storage
  • In solar manufacturing, India is lagging 10 years behind, in storage we are just 2-3 years behind. Therefore, with the right policy support and backing by industry we can make this a reality

Pranav Mehta - Chairman, National Solar Energy Federation of India (NSEFI)

  • India is now in the top five solar countries in the world as we have witnessed impressive growth in the solar sector over the last few years
  • Rooftop solar will be a game changer in the solar space in India
  • Under KUSUM Yojna, NSEFI wants every farmer to have a solar farm, so after consuming their share of electricity, the farmer can send the rest to the grid
  • While there is impressive growth, NITI Aayog estimates that we will have 40-50% of electricity powered by coal, so we must work on reducing this proportion
  • The short-term impact post COVID-19 as we have seen is Force Majeure has been invoked by developers, moratorium has been given and commissioning deadlines have been extended
  • In the long term, however, manufacturing will have to be strengthened. This will take time and may impact cost. The power cost of solar may go up slightly
  • Solar plus storage will again be the game changer
  • Hydrogen in RE will help in a big way