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License as per Source

Letter to Secratary of Consumer Affairs Department on the importance of protecting consumers from unfair pricing algorithms

Fri, 11/02/2022 - 16:30

Following an investigation by Consumers International that personal data is being used in a non-transparent way by dating app Tinder to set the prices that consumers pay for services, CAG wrote to the Secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs, asking that this be looked into.

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Webinar on Agrivoltaics in India- opportunities and challenges

Wed, 01/12/2021 - 14:13

The availability of a large area of land is a prerequisite to the installation of solar panels. In order to generate 1MW of power,  the area of land required could be between 2.5 acres and 4 acres. This implies that purely investing in solar farms filled with hundreds or maybe thousands of solar panels instead of crops will have a serious impact on the agricultural output which the land could have produced. On the other hand, focusing on traditional farming alone can be relatively risky given its dependence on weather conditions and other externalities. This raises a dilemma since we need land to feed our ever-growing population and also satisfy their energy needs. Agrivoltaics can be seen as a plausible solution that can make the production of both photovoltaic power and agricultural crops lucrative. This not only increases the total productivity of land but is of economic benefit to the farmers. One example of this is the Cochin International Airport, where this idea has been implemented. The vegetables are grown organically and are co-located with solar panels.

Since this concept is still at a nascent stage, CAG organised this webinar on 22nd Nov, to have a discussion on opportunities and challenges for agrivoltaics in India along with relevant policies for the same. The panel consisted of eminent speakers, Mr Amit Kumar who retired as Senior Director of TERI, Mr Subramaniyam Pulipaka who is the youngest CEO of NSEFI and Mr Jose Thomas who is the Executive Director of CIAL.

Key Discussion Points

Overview of Agrivoltaics in India and existing policies, by Mr Subramaniyam Pulipaka, CEO National Solar Energy Federation of India

  • NSEFI works closely with Indo-German Energy Forum (IGEF).
  • The joint report of NSEFI and IGEF outlines policy recommendations to the Indian government.
  • India has a crystal clear land use classification.
  • There are 17 agrivoltaics plants in India
  • In India, we perceive agrivoltaics in 3 ways.
  • Plants grown in between the rows of the panels
  • Farming below the panels
  • Farming below elevated structure
  • He also gave an introduction to various agrivoltaics plants in India
  • More pilot projects are required to prove the trade-off between the extra cost incurred for facilitating agriculture below the solar panels and the resulting revenue from the cultivation.
  • Miscordination between stakeholders frequently compromises the efficiency of agrivoltaic plants.

According to Mr Subramaniyam Pulipakka “If 1% of total arable land is used for agri PV, then 895 GW of power can be produced”. The major concern is land classification and financial incentives.

Practical experience in implementation by Mr Jose Thomas, Executive Director CIAL

  • Cochin International Airport Ltd (CIAL) is the first greenfield airport in India under the PPP model.
  • In 2012, Kerala State Electricity Board increased power tariff from Rs. 4/unit to Rs. 7/unit.
  • CIAL started with a pilot solar plant on the rooftop.
  • The Major 12 MWp plant was completed on 18th Aug 2015, with a total investment of Rs. 62 crore.
  • This made CIAL the first airport in the world to be fully powered by solar.
  • Now installed capacity is above 50 MWp.
  • 450 kWp floating solar has been installed in the CIAL golf course.
  • They started in an area of 4 acres in 2015, vegetable cultivation has increased to about 20 acres now.
  • It will be spread to the entire solar plant area of 45 acres by 2023.
  • It provides regular employment to 12 people per day.
  • 30%-35% area is used for ginger. Rest is used for pumpkin, chilly, yam, ash gourd, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.
  • Drip irrigation and mulching are done to save water.
  • The total harvest of pesticide-free vegetables crossed 80 metric tonnes last year.
  • Local agriculture officers visit the area regularly.

Mr Jose Thomas said that “Growing vegetables cool the panels and water used for cleaning panels is used for irrigation”. Thus, agrivoltaics create food-energy-water nexus.

Effect on agriculture, policies for large scale implementation by Mr Amit Kumar, Senior Director (Retd.), Social Transformation at The Energy and Resources Institute

  • PV panels in agrivoltaics systems act as windbreakers, it can reduce wind erosion of soil.
  • With optimum tracking, sufficient sunlight can be provided.
  • Worldwide 3 GW of agrivoltaics has been installed.
  • The application of PV panels can increase water runoff. This can lead to non-uniform water distribution in the field.
  • Agrivoltaics affects the microclimate of the farm.
  • In certain stages of the crop cycle, due to shading, crop yield may be affected.
  • The benefit is that the loss of water due to transpiration is reduced leading to reduced irrigation requirements.
  • It is difficult to bring changes suddenly in the farming sector.
  • Agriculture universities, state agricultural departments and farmers have to be involved as agrivoltaics is an interdisciplinary domain.
  • The central government can initiate a national program in consultation with the state.

 Mr Amit Kumar insisted  “Demonstration farms have to be set up to convince farmers to take up this method. Unless they are convinced, adoption is difficult”

There were around 23 participants and the discussion ended with an interactive Q and A session. The questions ranged from quantifying the electricity generation after growing plants below the panels to policy-level initiatives.

 

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Webinar on Just Transition in the Electricity Sector in India

Mon, 22/11/2021 - 16:57

With increasing demand for electricity in urban and rural areas, impending shortages in electricity supply due to unavailability of coal and increasing penetration of renewable energy in India, it is imperative to ensure a Just Transition for electricity consumers. It is important that the impact of the benefits and challenges are distributed Justly’ between the rural and urban sectors and across consumers categories. 

As Tamil Nadu embarks on this journey of decarbonization and strengthening the electricity sector for its consumers, the ‘Citizen consumer and civic Action Group (CAG)’ in collaboration with MP Ensystems Advisory Pvt. Ltd organized a webinar to discuss the importance, relevance and challenges related to ‘Just Transition in the Electricity Sector in India.’ The webinar can be viewed here.

Key Discussion Points

Context of Just Transition in India and Tamil Nadu: Vishnu Rao, CAG

  • Energy transition has been looked at from the renewable integration aspect, but we need to address social and economic aspects from the consumer perspective. 
  • This discussion is a beginning stage to map out next steps that Tamil Nadu can take to enable a Just energy transition scenario in the future. We are looking at options including sustainable commercial utilities that provides affordable power for all as well as utility-scale solar plants. On the financial aspects of the Just transition, we need to understand whether it is feasible and commercially viable for a utility to accelerate a Just energy transition scenario in the state.
  • We need to look at the role of marginalised people in Just transition to ensure equitable inclusion. 

Presentation on an overview of Just Transition: Meghana Rao Pahlajani, MP Ensystems

  • Just transition related to a low carbon economy has three key focus areas:
  • Climate Justice concerns sharing the benefits and burden of climate change from my human rights perspective
  • Energy Justice refers to the application of human rights across the energy life cycle
  • Environmental Justice aims to treat all citizens equally and to involve them in development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies
  • Key drivers of an accelerated transition away from fossil fuels in India include:
    • Renewable and Storage getting cheaper
    • Emission Intensity commitment in NDC
    • Stranded assets and reluctance of finance institutions to fund new coal: 
    • Increasing, yet lower than expected demand
    • High cost of transport
    • Competing demand for limited land
  • With a total installation capacity of around 34,000 MW, Tamil Nadu has one of the highest installations of Renewable Energy in the country. Tamil Nadu also has the highest borrowings of distribution utilities amongst states in 2019-20. Tamil Nadu is well poised to shift from a thermal base system to a renewable energy-based system. Projections from NREL model RE capacity reaching close to 34 GW in 2030 and the Tamil Government has announced high targets and relevant policies to support decarbonization in the State.  

Panel Discussion 1: Reflections on Just Transition in Energy and Global perspective

Dr Mahesh Patankar, MP Ensystems

  • Developing countries have to focus on Just transition to account for adequate electricity supply to meet the growing demand whilst maximising livelihood opportunities in the rural sector. 
  • With an ecosystem of renewables integrating to Tamil Nadu’s energy infrastructure, we need to look at how to balance this with the current strength of utilities. We need to make sure we have abundance of electricity available to vulnerable populations for not just their domestic needs but also industrial and agricultural requirements in urban and rural areas.
  • During the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw a reverse migration from urban to rural areas, increasing demand from agriculture, rural industries, and small businesses. To enable equitable distribution of social and economic objectives for all, we need to provide adequate and reliable power supply throughout the country. 
  • Several aspects of the energy system need to be carefully analysed. It is important to look at designing power markets effectively to ensure decarbonised electricity is available for all distribution companies. 

Dr. Zsuzsanna Pató, Regulatory Assistance Project 

  • Some of the issues raised in Eastern Europe are relevant in the Just transition context for India. The conversation at the EU at a policy level has only covered issues of energy poverty. However, as energy prices increase, we need to focus on ensuring equity for poor consumers.
  • In the case of net metering policies, PV consumers pay only for the net amount of energy produced. This creates a mismatch as poorer households, who usually cannot pay for PV installations, are paying the cost of upholding the distribution network. 
  • In EU, the transition is driven at the national level. A stronger push on regulations and policies at a sub-national and local level will be required to ensure equitable energy transition. 

Akanksha Golcha, Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation

  • Transition pathways will vary depending upon geography. We need to consider social transition of not only direct coal-affected communities, but also indirect stakeholders located near coal mines. A data-centric approach and convergence between centralized and decentralised power supply approach is important to plan and streamline for a Just transition. 
  • Central policies are necessary to drive the overall national objectives, but we also need a bottom-up approach that considers multiple aspects such as gender. 
  • Saubhagya Scheme was successfully undertaken in rural areas. A similar approach is required for a Just transition to ensure economically poor households can benefit equitably. 

Panel Discussion 2: Just Energy transition in India

Dr. Kaveri Iychettira, School of Public Policy, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi

  • Much of the literature on energy has focused mainly on economic thinking to structure the power sector and utility regulation but has not considered equity thinking. This has led to only states with a strong capital being able to integrate renewables, highlighting the equity challenge in the sector. 
  • The regulatory framework is only directed at efficiency and not at equity which does not resolve cost-recovery issues. Therefore, we need to take a deeper look from the equity perspective to understand why there is a mismatch in states managing their power sector debt. 
  • We need better integrate markets to enable grid flexibility where short-term markets are going to be important to integrate renewables. A higher RE-integrated power systems needs to have inter-state exchange of electricity supply to meet the targets set for decarbonization.  

Sreekumar N, Prayas Energy Group

  • Electricity sector is now being looked at from diverse perspectives as we address challenges in the transport, agriculture, cooking, industry sectors that are transitioning towards electrification. 
  • Institutional strengthening needs to be supported for key stakeholders including:
    • Regulatory commissions who play a role in taking a holistic sectoral perspective 
    • Distribution companies who need to balance the mismatch between losses and new market instruments in renewables.   
    • Load dispatch centres so they have access to adequate resources 
    • Transmission investment focused on addressing grid security challenges.
  • Civil society organisations need to push for innovations that will direct a Just transition ensuring affordable, quality supply to all consumers.

Special Remarks: Role of regulators to facilitate Just Transition

Shri D. Radhakrishnan, Tripura Electricity Regulatory Commission

  • The Indian power sector is striving towards leading the renewable energy markets, so the transition towards renewables needs to take place in a Just and systematic manner with innovations emphasised in various sectors such as transport, consumer awareness and rural market access. We also need to ensure safety in the power sector by tackling local-level issues such as electricity overloading before going on to the transition phase. In the rural areas, the focus needs to be on ensuring ease of access to clean cooking.
  • Cities will transition towards electrification as Smart City Mission rolls out and transport means in the public (Metro) and private (e-vehicles) sectors expand.  It is expected that electricity consumption will rise from 18-19% to around 40% in next 10-12 years through the transport sector. 
  • At Tripura Electricity Regulatory Commission, Consumer Education Forum has been formed to consider consumers’ rights, opportunities, and rules.  
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Media Workshop 2021: Media as a catalyst for clean and sustainable power generation

Tue, 28/09/2021 - 16:25

Like any other state in India, Tamil Nadu principally relies on coal for its energy production which is a major contributor to climate change and raises the vulnerability of Tamil Nadu and other Indian states to frequent natural disasters and extreme weather events. Public concern about climate change was largely informed via media consumption. It's important for climate change to become a bigger part of the national conversation, along with what's causing it: the burning of oil, gas and coal and the media has a big role to play in it. During this workshop, reputed journalist, Mr. Bhasker Tripathi spoke about how upcoming journalists can engage more people on the issue of climate change and how to tell the story of the climate change and tell it accurately.

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Alternatives to Geoengineering Technology for use in India

Tue, 31/08/2021 - 16:00

The term “geoengineering” refers to a set of technologies that counteract the effects of anthropogenic climate change by deliberately intervening in Earth systems. Deliberately altering climate and the catastrophic effects it could have is truly frightening. So, what are the alternatives that can counteract the effects of climate change without resorting to geoengineering?

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Why and how to adopt a sustainable lifestyle: a stepwise guide

Fri, 13/08/2021 - 14:50

While systemic changes are key to combating greenhouse gas emission, sustainable lifestyles also help achieve reductions.  While the general notion is that individual behavioural changes have little effect, in fact they do add up to make a difference. These guidelines help you adopt a sustainable lifestyle by reflecting, switching & demanding systemic changes for a better future.

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கருத்து கணக்கெடுப்பு படிவம்

Fri, 06/08/2021 - 18:09

பிளாஸ்டிக் மாசுபாடு பிரச்சனை பற்றிய புரிதல் குறித்து பொதுமக்கள் கருத்து ஆய்வு; உணவு பேக்கேஜிங்கில் மறுசுழற்சி லேபிள்கள் இருப்பது மற்றும் அத்தகைய தகவல் (மறுசுழற்சி லேபிள்கள்) தெளிவாக வழங்கப்பட்டால் வாங்கும் முறைகள் மாறுவதற்கான பொதுமக்களின் தயார்நிலை.

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Behind the labels

Fri, 06/08/2021 - 17:06

A CAG study in 5 cities in Tamil Nadu on compliance of plastic packaging used for food products with recycling labelling as required by BIS. The study also seeks to understand if the information provided is accessible and useful to consumers through a perception survey. The study found that recycling labels rarely provide all the information required as per law and that most of them are hard to locate, read, and understand. Consumers cannot make an informed choice unless a standard labelling mechanism is set up that is focussed on providing information in an appropriate manner.

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