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NTPC poised to facilitate India’s bid to achieve its ambitious National Renewable Energy Targets

The 44-page report titled "NTPC as a Force in India's Electricity Transition" showcases how the government is shifting rapidly towards a low-carbon economy

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New Delhi, May 26: The state-owned conglomerate NTPC Ltd — long associated with coal-fired power generation — is poised to facilitate India’s bid to achieve its ambitious national renewable energy targets. This, at a time overseas investors are seeking more opportunities in the country’s renewable projects.

“Despite its deep historical connection to coal-fired electricity generation technology, NTPC has recently moved to the forefront of India’s energy transition and stands to be the country’s key new energy enabler,” said a report by the US-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).

The report’s release coincided with the completion of three years of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government at the helm on Friday.

The 44-page report titled “NTPC as a Force in India’s Electricity Transition” showcases how the government is shifting rapidly towards a low-carbon economy — a step towards achieving the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement aim of cutting greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels.

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The company currently provides about a quarter of India’s electricity and is among the top 10 coal-fired power generators in the world. It ranks third in coal-fired capacity and seventh in generation.

The role NTPC — earlier called National Thermal Power Corporation — is now playing in transforming the energy sector in its ongoing shift away from the increasingly stranded assets of the fossil fuel industry cannot be underestimated, Tim Buckley, Director of Energy Finance Studies Australasia with the IEEFA, told IANS via email.

With economic growth at 7-8 percent annually, India is the world’s fastest-growing major economy. As a state-owned power utility, NTPC’s priority is to underpin that growth.

Whilst this responsibility has arguably required expansion of coal-fired power generation in the past, this has changed.

“With the average new solar tariff in 2017 below NTPC’s coal-fired power tariff for its existing fleet, it is clear that renewable energy offers a cheaper way to provide power,” report co-author Buckley said.

Solar prices hit a record low twice this month.

On May 10, India finalised a new auction at the Bhadla solar park in Rajasthan with the award of a power tariff at a record low Rs 2.62/kWh ($0.040/kWh), 12 percent below the previous record low Rewa solar tariff awarded only just three months ago in Madhya Pradesh.

This new record only lasted two days with the latest 500MW solar auction coming in at Rs 2.44/kWh ($0.038/kWh), down yet another seven per cent.

This tender was also for projects at the Bhadla Phase IV solar park.

“The ongoing Indian electricity transformation, which can be increasingly spearheaded by NTPC, will have global ramifications not least for the thermal coal sector which faces a technology driven structural decline,” Buckley said.

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Energy Minister Piyush Goyal’s plan to cease thermal coal imports by the end of this decade is being led by NTPC which has already stopped them this past fiscal year.

“Coal exporters that are looking to India to prop up volumes as China continues to reduce coal consumption are going to be disappointed,” he said.

The report, also authored by energy finance analyst Simon Nicholas, says overseas investors are now seeking more opportunities in Indian renewable projects.

India’s renewables boom is attracting the attention of a diverse range of leading overseas investors, including banks, utilities, pension funds and asset managers. They include Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, the Macquarie Group, Sembcorp, Enel, EDF, Engie, SoftBank and Brookfield.

The IEEFA, which conducts research and analyses on financial and economic issues related to energy and the environment, says the total renewable energy capacity additions in India matched thermal capacity additions for the first time in 2016-17.

The rate of thermal capacity additions declined 50 percent from the prior year, even as solar installations doubled in 2015 and again in 2016.

The report forecasts that this will be repeated again in 2017.

According to financial experts in India, there is a noticeable spike in solar investment by Chinese firms.

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“Chinese investments in Indian coal projects have been declining. At the same time, Chinese investments in India on solar projects are slowly increasing,” Jai Sharda, a founding partner with equity research Indian firm Equitorials, told IANS.

Greenpeace India senior campaigner Nandikesh Shivalingam says it is an opportunity for China to play a much more positive role.

“Given that India has an ambitious renewable energy target and China being the largest exporter of renewable energy equipment in the world, there would be an opportunity for China to play a much more positive role,” he said.

India’s draft “Ten Year Electricity Plan” calls for a staggering 275 GW of renewable energy by 2027, in addition to 72 GW of hydro and 15 GW of nuclear energy. (IANS)

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Diesel Exhaust Converted Into Ink by Indian Innovators To Battle Air Pollution

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

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representational image. VOA

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

In a cabin, young engineers pore over drawings and hunch over computers as they explore more applications of the technology that they hope will aid progress in cleaning up the Indian capital’s toxic air – among the world’s dirtiest.

While the millions of cars that ply Delhi’s streets are usually blamed for the city’s deadly air pollution, another big culprit is the massive diesel generators used by industries and buildings to light up homes and offices during outages when power from the grid switches off – a frequent occurrence in summer. Installed in backyards and basements, they stay away from the public eye.

“Although vehicular emissions are the show stoppers, they are the ones which get the media attention, the silent polluters are the diesel generators,” says Arpit Dhupar, one of the three engineers who co-founded the start up.

The idea that this polluting smoke needs attention struck Dhupar three years ago as he sipped a glass of sugarcane juice at a roadside vendor and saw a wall blackened with the fumes of a diesel generator he was using.

It jolted him into joining with two others who co-founded the start-up to find a solution. Dhupar had experienced first hand the deadly impact of this pollution as he developed respiratory problems growing up in Delhi.

An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.
An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.

A new business

As the city’s dirty air becomes a serious health hazard for many citizens, it has turned into both a calling and a business opportunity for entrepreneurs looking at ways to improve air quality.

According to estimates, vehicles contribute 22 percent of the deadly PM 2.5 emissions in Delhi, while the share of diesel generators is about 15 percent. These emissions settle deep into the lungs, causing a host of respiratory problems.

After over two years of research and development, Chakr has begun selling devices to tap the diesel exhaust. They have been installed in 50 places, include public sector and private companies.

The technology involves cooling the exhaust in a “heat exchanger” where the tiny soot particles come together. These are then funneled into another chamber that captures 70 to 90 percent of the particulate matter. The carbon is isolated and converted into ink.

Among their first clients was one of the city’s top law firms, Jyoti Sagar Associates, which is housed in a building in Delhi’s business hub Gurgaon.

Making a contribution to minimizing the carbon footprint is a subject that is close to Sagar’s heart – his 32-year-old daughter has long suffered from the harmful effects of Delhi’s toxic air.

Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.
Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.

“This appealed to us straightaway, the technology is very impactful but is beautifully simple,” says Sagar. Since it could be retrofitted, it did not disrupt the day-to-day activities at the buzzing office. “Let’s be responsible. Let’s at least not leave behind a larger footprint of carbon. And if we can afford to control it, why not, it’s good for all,” he says.

At Chakr Innovation, cups, diaries and paper bags printed with the ink made from the exhaust serve as constant reminders of the amount of carbon emissions that would have escaped into the atmosphere.

There has been a lot of focus on improving Delhi’s air by reducing vehicular pollution and making more stringent norms for manufacturers, but the same has not happened for diesel generators. Although there are efforts to penalize businesses that dirty the atmosphere, this often prompts them to find ways to get around the norms.

Also Read: Exposure to Traffic-Related Pollution Poses Threat of Asthma in Kids

Tushar Mathur who joined the start up after working for ten years in the corporate sector feels converting smoke into ink is a viable solution. “Here is a technology which is completely sustainable, a win-win between businesses and environment,” says Mathur. (VOA)