renewable energy

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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Empowering women for cleaner power

Fri, 11/06/2021 - 14:55

The world is moving at a progressive pace. In the past decade, India, in particular, has advanced leaps and bounds in the areas of science, industry and technology. It is considered as one of the world's fastest growing major economies. Despite these advancements, gender inequality still continues to be one of India's major societal problems.

Thermal Watch Initiative, Phase - VI

CAG, with support from the SED Fund, will be looking to contribute to environmental sustainability and good governance by building a narrative for the phase-out of coal and the adoption of climate-friendly alternatives for energy security through a combination of demystification, awareness generation, capacity building, research and technical interventions.

 

In the balance between economy and environment, the understanding has been that they act in opposition to each other. This belief has directed actions of the government, leading to expedited clearances for setting up of industries. This leaves precious little time for communities, independent experts, activists and CSOs to undertake detailed impact analysis of the proposed projects on the local environment. There is an increasing concern about the extensive environmental damage that industries cause and the lack of public knowledge around rules and regulations of environmental governance in India. The Tamil Nadu (TN) state government is increasingly reliant on fossil fuels for energy security. Renewable energy is not seen as adequate for handling the growing demand, and coal power plants are being proposed to provide for growth in energy demand. There is a need for the engagement of experts, CSOs and academics to engage with the TN government for developing a transparent and accountable energy security plan for the state that is not heavily reliant on coal. CAG is looking at filling this gap by actively engaging with the TN government to plan for decarbonised energy security for the state.

In order to achieve this, we will be taking steps to focus on interventions towards the phase-out of coal and the adoption of clean alternatives for the energy security of Tamil Nadu. There is a lack of regulation and oversight from the state when it comes to retiring/decommissioning old thermal power plants (TPP). There is no guideline for decommissioning TPPs in India. CAG will develop understanding and capacity towards building a decommissioning guideline for TPPs. We will continue our engagement with the local communities and help them navigate the path to social and environmental justice. This will be achieved through knowledge sharing and outreach meetings and using demystified material relating to environmental regulation in India.

There has been growing interest among Indian policymakers to adopt geoengineering technologies in India’s energy sector. Geoengineering is a deliberate and large-scale technological manipulation of processes to control earth’s natural climate system with the aim to limit the damaging effects of the climate crisis. CAG intends to spread awareness regarding the risk of geoengineering technologies in India by engaging in research, networking, and building a knowledge bank on the topic.

 

Coal Infographic Series - Coal Vs Solar Power

Sun, 30/08/2020 - 13:29

Low cost per unit generation, less GHG emissions and high energy potential makes solar power a clean and environmentally friendly alternative to coal. We have the solutions, let's use them.

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Coal vs solar 1

 

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Coal vs solar 2

 

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Coal vs solar 3
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Electricity Consumer Cells (ECCs) and Electricity Consumer Network (ECN)

Since 2016, CAG has been working to empower electricity consumers through education and awareness-building programmes. The aim is to educate electricity consumers about the administrative, judicial and regulatory processes of the electricity sector of Tamil Nadu. To address this broader objective, CAG has incubated Electricity Consumer Cells (ECCs) in seven districts of Tamil Nadu viz; Tiruvalllur, Tirunelveli, Cuddalore, Thiruvannamalai, Salem, Trichy and Vellore in partnership with seven consumer organizations. Through the formation of the ECCs, CAG aims to create awareness and demystify electricity process and concepts among the members of the Electricity Consumer Network (ECN). The ECCs, along with the experts, provide advisory services to the local consumers on various electricity issues that and eases the process of interaction between the utility and consumers. CAG also plan to conduct periodic outreach meeting and capacity building program to train the local community so as to promote transparency and accountability in the electricity governance. In simple words, ECCs will serve as an active mediator to take forward the concerns of the consumers to the service provider.

 


ECC

The quality of civil society participation in electricity administration and grievance redressal mechanism at the district levels in Tamil Nadu is low. This is especially true at various levels a) articulating electricity related problems faced by consumers and subsequent issues taken up by civil society organizations (CSOs) at the administrative level, b) citizens in effectively presenting their case before the consumer grievance redressal forum (CGRF), c) lack of quality inputs by CSOs in regulatory affairs, d) consumers’ lack of understanding of electricity issues, e) lack of common platform to enable stakeholders to engage in knowledge sharing.  CAG has also been engaged in tracking energy efficiency (EE) and renewable energy (RE) efforts in Tamil Nadu. Our work highlights that most of the EE and RE efforts are operational at the district and village levels e.g. Chief Minister’s Solar Housing schemes. However, CSOs in their area of operation are unaware and are unable to effectively participate to promote the schemes and to highlight the lacuna, if any. The above problems faced by CSOs are primarily due to lack of technical knowledge in the subject area and lack of support from specialized NGOs and electricity experts which will enable them to participate in electricity governance.