INDIA GREEN NEWS: Obama Visits India; Renewable Energy Collaboration; Climate Change Initiatives; Solar Investments; Air Pollution

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

Compiled by Ariel Cooper and Nehmat Kaur

January 20-27th, 2015


Obama's trip to India pushes climate change talks forward

Until now, India has been the elephant in the room when it came to the climate change negotiations.

Unlike China, which reached an unprecedented climate change deal with the U.S. recently, India has refused to say what, if anything, it would do to reduce the country's growing greenhouse gas emissions. It's taken a tough line that rich nations had to make the first move ahead of the United Nations climate talks in Paris later this year.

President Obama's trip to India over the weekend, however, seems to have softened the country's holdout stance.

Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stressed the "importance of working together and with other countries on climate change" and said they would "plan to cooperate closely this year to achieve a successful and ambitious agreement in Paris."

While a little short on specifics, it signaled a shift away the country's long-held position that any agreement should apply only to the developed world, as was case with the Kyoto Protocol.

India's commitment to a more inclusive agreement should sway other holdouts from the developing world to sign onto a new deal that is expected to call for all nations to do their part to keep temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) over what they were in preindustrial times, which most scientists contend would avert the worst impacts of climate change....

(CBS - January 26, 2015)

Obama Ends Visit With Challenge to India on Climate Change

NEW DELHI -- President Obama pressed India on Tuesday to do more to curb the pollution that is choking its capital and contributing to global climate change, as he wrapped up a visit that yielded no meaningful breakthrough on the issue.

While India and the United States agreed to cooperate in promoting cleaner energy, Mr. Obama left after three days without the sort of specific commitment to curbing greenhouse gases that he won in China last year. Instead, he used a farewell speech before his departure to argue that India had an obligation to step up, despite its economic challenges.

"I know the argument made by some -- that it's unfair for countries like the United States to ask developing nations and emerging economies like India to reduce your dependence on the same fossil fuels that helped power our growth for more than a century," Mr. Obama told an audience of 1,500 mostly young Indians at Siri Fort Auditorium on the final day of his trip here.

"But here's the truth," he added. "Even if countries like the United States curb our emissions, if countries that are growing rapidly like India with soaring energy needs don't also embrace cleaner fuels, then we don't stand a chance against climate change." ....

(The New York Times - January 27, 2015)

Obama-Modi climate deal: Unlike China, no emission target for India

New Delhi: India and the US on Sunday stressed enhancing bilateral cooperation to deal with climate change but did not have a China-like bilateral deal where both Washington and Beijing last November set their respective emission cut goals.

Despite international pressure, India walked its own path keeping economic development in mind and insisted on tackling climate change by moving firmly on the clean, renewable energy path, adopting improved energy efficient technology and through various adaptation measures.

Both countries concluded negotiations on a five-year MoU on "energy security, clean energy and climate change". An agreement to this effect is expected "as early as possible" at a mutually agreed date. The US will help India achieve its goals, including 100GW of solar power by 2022, by extending finance and technology.

India, on its part, moved forward to accommodate Obama's demand to discuss the contentious issue of hydro-flurocarbons (HFCs) and find ways to phase-down this climate-damaging refrigerant. Articulating India's stand on climate change, the PM Modi dismissed the assertion that India was under pressure of the recent US-China climate change deal and said the country feels the pressure of climate change for it cares for its future generations....

(The Economic Times - January 26, 2015)

India calls for a paradigm shift in global attitudes towards climate change

NEW DELHI: In what may be a strong signal of its approach towards future climate deal, India on January 19, 2015 called for a "paradigm shift" in global attitude towards climate change and urged nations of high solar potential to join hands so that they can provide low-cost clean energy to their citizens without being arm-twisted by rich nations who have been closely guarding their patented cutting-edge technology.

The change of attitude which India pitched for will see the shift from " carbon credit" through emission cut (mitigation) to "green credit" through adopting energy efficient measures and investment in renewable sector (solar, wind and biomass) in a big way.

Indian stand was articulated by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi while addressing senior ministers of his cabinet and experts from outside and within the government during first meeting of his reconstituted Council on Climate Change....

(The Economic Times - January 20, 2015)

At first meeting, Modi council okays 4 new climate initiatives

New Delhi: As the government Monday decided to broaden the range of actions it is taking to combat climate change and its impacts, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said traditional Indian practices and lifestyle could help in achieving the climate objectives.

At its first meeting since the new government took charge last year, the Prime Minister's Council on Climate Change gave its go-ahead to the launch of four new initiatives -- on wind energy, coastal zone management, health and waste-to-energy -- to strengthen India's response to climate change. These would be in addition to the eight existing climate 'missions' that have been running for a few years now.

The meeting reviewed the functioning of these 'missions' as also the implementation of the seven-year-old National Action Plan on Climate Change and the state-level plans of the various state governments. Many of these 'missions' will be given new targets and new direction. Sources said the Prime Minister stressed on strengthening India's climate response and talked about raising awareness about the issue. He also emphasised on the need to introduce climate sensitivity in all government programmes and activities.

(The Indian Express - January 20th, 2015)

India should help reach meaningful climate change pact, UN Secretary General says

NEW DELHI: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on Tuesday asked India to take a leadership role in reaching a "meaningful" climate change pact in Paris later this year.

"I count on the leadership of India in our ongoing efforts to address the climate change issues ... I expect as one of the most critically important member-states of the UN and as one of the fastest growing economies, India should be responsible to address climate change so that they will soon have universal and meaningful climate change agreement in Paris in December," Ban Ki-Moon said.

His remarks came while he visited India's first 'Net Zero Energy' consuming building - Indira Paryavaran Bhawan - which is constructed in such a way that it can meet most of its annual energy requirements through solar power.

Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar showcased the secretary general the salient features of the green building which has India's largest roof-top solar panel.

Javadekar is learnt to have also used this opportunity to reiterate India's commitment to move on clean energy path using more and more solar and wind power in the next five years and assured Ban Ki-Moon about the country's willingness to work with other nations to have an equitable global climate deal in Paris.

(Economic Times - January 14, 2015)


Obama Supports India's Solar Energy Goals

US is exploring projects for a $1 billion clean energy financing for companies willing to ship equipment to India

U.S. President Barack Obama on Sunday offered to help finance India's ambitious solar energy target and sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi's support at global climate talks in Paris later this year.

India is the world's third-largest greenhouse gas emitter and often acts as the voice of the world's developing countries in United Nations talks on everything from climate change to economic cooperation.

It is reluctant to commit to emission targets on the ground that this could hinder economic growth, which is vital to lifting millions of Indians out of poverty. Instead, Modi has made it a priority to expand India's renewable energy capacity and lessen the need for polluting fossil fuels.

"We very much support India's ambitious goal for solar energy, and stand ready to speed this expansion with additional financing," Obama said in a joint press conference with Modi on the first day of his three-day visit to New Delhi....

(Business World - January 26, 2015)

Make solar energy more accessible: Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who chaired the first meeting of the PM's Council on Climate Change on Monday, has suggested that nations that have the greatest solar energy potential form a consortium. They should all join hands with India for innovation and cutting-edge research that would reduce the cost of solar energy, making it more accessible to the people, an official statement said.

Mr. Modi also asked for concept papers from Ministries on some areas which needed to be integrated into climate change missions -- for example health, coastal management, urban waste and wind energy. There are eight missions underway as part of the national action plan on climate change, which were reviewed at the meeting.

Minister of State for environment Prakash Javadekar spoke about India's proactive role in the Lima climate talks and said it was appreciated by the Council. Mr. Javadekar later said that the discussion centred round review of national and State climate action plans. The expert members on the panel also expressed their views.

(The Hindu - January 20, 2015)

Rooftop PV installers to get certification from Gujarat institute

Ahmedabad: Gujarat Energy Research and Management Institute (GERMI), Gandhinagar, has announced the launch of its National Certification Programme for rooftop solar photovoltaic installers. The programme was launched by GERMI in the presence of Union Minister for Power, Coal and New and Renewable Energy Piyush Goyal earlier this week at Gandhinagar.

During the recently concluded Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit-2015 at Gandhinagar, GERMI signed memorandums of understanding (MoU) with eight State nodal agencies or distribution companies and 20 leading solar companies in the country to recognise and promote this programme, a statement said.

The programme, designed to meet the challenges of developing skilled and qualified manpower to install rooftop photovoltaic systems in the country, is open to technicians, students and entrepreneurs. It aims to help achieve the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy's (MNRE) target of installing 4,000 MW of rooftop solar systems by 2022.

(The Hindu Business Line - January 18, 2015)

SunEdison To Install 250 MW Off-Grid Solar Power Projects In Rural India

SunEdison is looking to implement a multi-pronged appraoch to expand its footprint in the Indian solar market. In addition to utility-scale solar power projects, the company is also looking to install distrubuted solar power projects in Indian villages that lack access to electricity.

SunEdison has signed an agreement with India-based Omnigrid Micropower Company to set up off-grid solar power projects in 5,000 Indian villages. These projects would have a cumulative capacity of 250 MW. This would potentially be the largest private-sector initiative in the distrubuted solar power somain for rural India.

The project fits perfectly in India's medium-term target to provide electricity access to all Indian homes. Several Indian villages still lack access to electricity due to an absence of transmission and distribution networks. While the government is planning to invest billions of dollars to implement additional transmission capacity across the country, including a dedicated transmission corridor for renewable energy projects, it remains a capital-intensive and time-consuming endeavor.

Thus, distributed solar power projects in villages seems an efficient option - financially as well as logistically. Small-scale solar power projects in the villages would also circumvent the regulatory issues of acquiring last swaths of land. Land acquisition remains a contentious issue in India especially with the recent order approved by the government.

(CleanTechnica - January 20, 2015)

India plans five $5 billion green energy funds

NEW DELHI: As part of its blueprint for energy security, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government plans to float five funds of $5 billion each, targeted at promoting green energy sources.

India's ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE) plans to get the help of state-owned and private sector financial institutions such as Power Finance Corp. Ltd (PFC), Rural Electrification Corp. Ltd(REC), Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA), IFCI Ltd, SBI Capital Markets Ltd and ICICI Bank Ltd to create a corpus of $25 billion.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government has substantially revised an earlier solar energy target of achieving 20,000 megawatts (MW) capacity by 2022 to 100,000MW. In addition the government plans to have 60,000MW of wind power capacity by then, requiring an overall investment of around Rs.10 trillion in the renewable energy sector.

"We are seeking participation from both public sector and private institutions for setting up these dedicated green funds, given the funding requirements for India's renewable energy sector," said a top government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as the plan is in its initial phases.

The government's renewed focus on green energy comes in the backdrop of the US and China inking a climate change deal wherein the US will reduce its emissions by 26-28% below its 2005 level by 2025 and China will reach the peak of its harmful carbon dioxide emissions in around 2030.

(Live Mint -January 8, 2015)

'Make in India' dream can be realized through sustainable energy: John Kerry

GANDHINAGAR: Lauding Prime Minister Narendra Modi's, US secretary of state John Kerry said the 'Make in India' project can serve not just India but the entire planet if it taps into sustainable energy resources.

Kerry was speaking at the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit (VGGS), a brainchild of Modi. The US is one of eight partner countries of the three-day summit this time.

"The United States transformed its economy with $1 trillion opportunity with a billion users in the 1990s. The energy market is offering an opportunity of $6 trillion with probable 9 billion users with the present pace of population growth. This is the greatest market known to humans. If we utilize this opportunity, we can realize 'Make In India' initiative for the planet as a whole," he said.

Previously, in a speech made to the US-EU Energy Council in December, Kerry had referred to the 9 billion population projection in the context of the next 30 years, and spoken of clean energy market as having made "America particularly wealthy."

On Sunday, Kerry praised Modi for making Gujarat synonymous with change and new opportunities, saying, "I am glad to visit the home state of a visionary prime minister who has taken over at a transformational moment for the country."

"I know President (Barack) Obama is very excited and he is very pleased as the first US president to be honoured as the chief guest on India's Republic Day. And he is the first president to visit India twice," he said.

"The first three words of our documents (Constitution) are the same, 'We the people', and our people know how to benefit from opportunities," Kerry added.

(Live Mint - January 11, 2015)

Solar, wind power to become cheapest in Asia: Scientists

HELSINKI: Finnish scientists believe that renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, will become the cheapest energy for consumers in Asia in next 10 years.

A joint project conducted by Finnish Technical Research Center (VTT) at the Lappeenranta University of Technology and the University of Turku has successfully modelled comprehensive energy systems based entirely on renewable energy sources for China, South Korea and Japan, Xinhua reported.

The project has recently won an award in Japan for its pioneering simulation work.

China, a leading energy consumer in the world, has become the world's largest investor in solar and wind energy, said VTT's Pasi Vainikka.

"China possesses significant wind and solar energy resources, so a power network based on renewable energy sources has the potential to become profitable very quickly," Vainikka was quoted as saying.

The researchers who participated in the project predicted that the price of solar electricity will drop by half within 10 to 15 years, so that the relative industries will become more profitable.

(Zee News - January 15, 2015)


India, US announce steps to promote clean energy

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Sunday dismissed that there was any pressure to ink a pact similar to US-China agreement on emission cuts as India and the US announced important steps to promote clean energy and confront climate change.

Speaking after talks with visiting US President Barack Obama here, Modi said "President and I expressed hope for a successful Paris Conference on climate change this year".

Obama said that the two countries have agreed to make "concrete progress" in phasing out major greenhouse gases apart from expanding solar energy initiatives and launching joint projects to improve air quality in Indian cities.

Both the countries agreed to "pursue" for a strong global climate pact on emission cuts in the forthcoming UN climate conference to be held in Paris in December this year.

"India's voice is very important on this issue. Perhaps no country could potentially be more affected by the impacts of climate change and no country is going to be more important in moving forward a strong agreement than India," Obama said in a joint press meet while referring to Paris climate talks.

Noting that both countries have agreed to a number of important steps to promote clean energy and confront climate change, he said the US supports India's goal for solar energy and it "stands to speed this expansion with additional financing".

"We are also launching new joint projects to improve air quality in Indian cities. The US will share more data and develop tools to help India assess and adapt to the impact of climate change and help vulnerable communities become more resilient," he said.

(Zee News - January 25, 2015)

Unblock Foreign Funds of Greenpeace India, Delhi High Court Tells Government

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court today directed the government to "unblock" foreign contributions to the tune of Rs. 1.87 crore received by controversial NGO 'Greenpeace' from its Amsterdam headquarters, saying the government showed "no material to restrict access" to the foreign fund.

"According to me, there is no material on record to restrict the petitioner (Greenpeace India Society) from accessing the bank account with IDBI bank in Chennai," Justice Rajiv Shakdher said, while observing that the "amount in fixed deposited in the bank be unblocked and transferred to the NGO's account."

The court further said the inspection in the matter has already been carried out by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and they have produced no material on record against the NGO in New Delhi and Greenpeace International.

"So, at least at this juncture, it is not good enough to hold back Greenpeace India from using their account," it said.

It observed that MHA in its reply had stated that Greenpeace India Society (GPIS) can have access to all other foreign funds except those from Greenpeace International, as it has been put on a watch-list.

The court also observed that all NGOs were entitled to have their viewpoints and merely because their views are not in consonance with that of the government's, it does not mean they were acting against national interest.

(NDTV - January 20, 2015)

Tax diesel vehicles in Delhi to check pollution: Sunita Narain

NEW DELHI: With diesel vehicles being biggest source of air pollution in Delhi, noted environmentalist Sunita Narain today said there was a need to heavily tax such vehicles in the national capital.

With crude oil prices fallen below USD 50 per barrel, now is the right time for the government to implement second generation reforms to control pollution, she said, adding that pollution in Delhi was growing and road speeds were also down because private cars take up 90 per cent of road space.

"Even after introduction of CNG vehicles in 1999, the pollution levels have increased due to unabated rise in number of vehicles in the city. So, second generation measures are required to address the problem of pollution," Narain said while speaking on the topic 'Smart cities need clean air'.

Suggesting four steps to fix air pollution in Delhi, she said the government should ban use of diesel vehicles by taxing heavily and stop use of such vehicles during smog.

(Business Standard - January 14, 2015)