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Earth Day 2020: IESA unites clean energy and transportation leaders on one platform

As countries haul through lockdown in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, a positive after effect is seen in the form of the nature reclaiming its space. This more than ever has forced us to rethink about how we can sustain the environmental gains and reduce climate impact in a post-lockdown world.

India Energy Storage Alliance (IESA) in an international collaboration with the Earth Day Network (EDN) commemorated the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22, 2020, by bringing together leaders, policymakers and top industry voices on Clean Energy and Clean Transportation: Key to Fight Climate Change.

The speakers discussed the progress that has been made so far, immediate and long-term impact of the pandemic

on renewables and clean transportation industry, and the challenges and opportunities 'new normal' offers to industries and individuals. 

Image for representation only

"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. We must take suo moto action towards environmental protection wherever possible. We should take effective steps towards a cleaner environment, 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 fewer polluting startups and innovations in the industry."

Arjun Ram MeghwalMoS, Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises

"In India, the penetration of renewables is going to lead the way in the next decade with the target of 450GW. 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. We are also doing innovative modelling. We are looking at uniformity of policies and combining RE power with thermal power, so that asset utilization is brought to its maximum. The amendment brought in through the latest draft Electricity Act (Amendment) Bill, 2020, is encouraging for the power sector and we want stakeholders to give comments on the same."

Dayanand Jagdale, Joint Secretary, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE)

"Earth day is not about action on one day but every day. COVID-19 has shown us how the world is one. 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 better.

Earth Day Network actively creates awareness about policies at the grassroots level, and finds effective means of implementing them by engaging the community. EDN has been encouraging people to switch to a low-carbon lifestyle along with other efforts that help check climate impact. There is also a need to create awareness about policies and lend support in implementing them."

Karuna Singh, Director - Asia Pacific, Earth Day Network

"How can we sustain the environmental benefits after the public health crisis resolves, is something we need to think about. 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. But life 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. 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. This could be an important opportunity to truly accelerate the EV sector. This is the time for the EV industry to truly entrench itself in the next 24 months. With strong hybrid vehicle penetration, we can cut down tailpipe emission significantly and minimize pain during the transition period (to EVs)."

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

"India is now among the top five solar countries in the world, and 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.

While there is impressive growth, NITI Aayog estimates that we will have 40-50 percent of electricity powered by coal, so we must work on reducing this proportion. 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 be
the game changer, and also Hydrogen in RE will help in a big way.
Pranav Mehta, Chairman, National Solar Energy Federation of India (NSEFI)

"We have breached planetary carrying capacity as far as biodiversity and climate change is concerned. There's a need to look at new technological processes that help reduce the carbon footprint. All the money coming into India from various banks and international agencies a certain sum must 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. Investments in RE and storage will not be possible if the capital costs remains too high, which is why financial instruments have become critical."

Dr. Ajay Mathur, Director General, The Energy and Resources Institute of India (TERI)

"It is important to not talk of clean transportation from the technology perspective alone, but also from the demand management perspective. 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 is clean transport. If you can reduce the range of a trip, even that is clean transport. However, today the biggest conversation in the context of clean transportation is around EVs. 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 is the high capital cost. Therefore, unless the government develops a fund to enable transportation departments to overcome significant capital costs, its adoption will remain slow."

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

"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. Hybrid projects combining wind and solar with energy storage have successfully started to replace polluting power plants. Solar plus storage is becoming crucial and they can be integrated in a cost-effective way. There's scope for India to become 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."

Dr. Rahul Walawalkar, President, India Energy Storage Alliance (IESA)

"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. With technological advancement, 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. Efficiency of transportation very largely depends on duty cycles, what they are designed for and how efficiently they are being utilized. All the EVs that we see today in the market are derived from their base petrol or diesel-based vehicle. It is essential, therefore, to see that they are all redesigned. Appropriate R&D work needs to be done."

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

"One of the critical initiatives that the government can take for accelerating adoption of EVs in the country is to create awareness among Indians by creating strong campaigns; something like Deshkeliyeacchi, jebkeliyeacchi (good for the country, good for the pocket).

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 and directive to e-commerce companies to convert their fleet into electric can be a major change point. 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.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created several challenges but also shown that cleaner air and environment is worth investing in, and transportation is a significant pillar in achieving a cleaner environment."

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

"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 was not 10-15 percent more than the average cost of supply. Second, it issued standards for public charging stations (PCS). Push has been given for EV by reducing GST to 12 percent, however, for hybrid vehicles the duties remain. EESL's primary role is aggregating demand; it has created an innovative business model which was liked by most government agencies to enable public sector to migrate to EVs. The major challenge in adoption of EVs in India is that people are not fully aware of the benefits of EVs, 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."

Saurabh Kumar, Managing Director, Energy Efficiency Services Ltd

"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 the demand. ISA is working on several new initiatives, one of the most important has been that NTPC and SECI recently committed to provide member countries 40,000MW 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 retrenchment and policy measures by the government. In the next five years, ISA would like to achieve mainly four things: One, to see a world without energy access issues. Two, install 50,000 MW solar parts. Three, bring a mass tender for a 100 billion home lighting system and four, focus more efforts on storage, EVs and other sectors."

UpendraTripathy Director General International Solar Alliance (ISA)

"We have currently 15 percent of energy generation from renewable; as it grows, we will need new technology to balance the energy. There is also a need to shift from manufacturing conventional vehicles to low-emission vehicles. 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 the year 2022-23. Among batteries, lead-acid and Li-ion remain the two popular battery chemistries, while efforts are being 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 to ensure robust safety. Recycling and reuse of batteries too, needs more attention. Beyond vehicles, we must 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."

Debi Prasad Dash, Executive Director, IESA
Author : Padmini
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