MonitorsPublished on Mar 15, 2023
Energy News Monitor | Volume XIX, Issue 35

Quick Notes

Should solar cookers displace LPG in India?


The Prime Minister of India endorsed “Surya Nutan” a twin-top solar cooking stove developed by the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) at the India energy week 2023 in February and announced that the stove will be in 30 million Indian households very soon. The solar cooker is part of the initiatives taken by the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas (MOPNG) to reduce oil imports and increase domestic production. Other initiatives of MOPNG to reduce oil imports include an increase in the mandate for ethanol blending with petroleum-based transport fuels to 20 percent, an increase in procurement of compressed biogas by raising the price to INR54/kg from INR45/kg under the SATAT (sustainable alternative towards affordable transportation) scheme and increase in the production and consumption of hydrogen under the hydrogen mission. As envisioned, if mass adoption of solar cookers is achieved, it will reduce indoor pollution in rural households that burn biomass, reduce consumption of LPG (liquified petroleum gas) which in turn will reduce the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs), and also contribute to India’s energy security by reducing LPG imports. But will rural households voluntarily adopt solar cookers?

Surya Nutan

According to IOC, the solar cooker is based on a hybrid model designed to use both solar energy and alternative fuels and it is efficient as the design minimises radiative and conductive heat loss. The cost of the solar cooker ranges from INR12,000 to INR30,000. When manufacturing is scaled up, the cost of the stove is expected to come down. “Surya Nutan” offers a payback time of one to two years assuming an annual consumption of six to eight cylinders per year per household, according to IOC.

Earlier models of solar cookers required the stove to be outdoors and the cooking process was slow.  The cooker could not be used at night, during cloudy days, or when it was raining. The “Surya Nutan” solar cooking system overcomes some of these challenges with the use of thermal energy storage (TES) that enables cooking indoors and cooking when the sun is not shining. The stove stays indoors while a solar panel collects energy from the sun, converts it into heat through a specially designed heating element, stores thermal energy in a thermal battery, and reconverts the energy for use in indoor cooking. The developers of “Surya Nutan” claim that the stove does not need maintenance for 10 years and the solar panel has a life of 25 years. Unlike batteries that store electrical energy in the form of chemical energy, thermal batteries do not have to be charged adding to the advantages of the solar cooker.

The LPG Challenge

The transition from biomass (firewood) to LPG in Indian kitchens that began in the 1970s is yet to be completed, especially in rural kitchens. However, LPG is the only fuel that has managed to displace biomass as the primary cooking fuel in at least half of rural households. According to the fifth National Family Health Survey 2019-2021 (NFHS-5) carried out by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, 88.6 percent of urban households use LPG or piped natural gas (PNG) as the primary cooking fuel, while 42 percent of rural households use LPG.

Until the 1990s scarcity of LPG meant that only wealthy and well-connected households had access to LPG. When the LPG scarcity eased, a number of southern state governments launched dedicated programmes for distribution of subsidised or free LPG connections to households that were ‘below poverty line’ (BPL). This substantially increased the number of households with access to LPG in the southern states. This model was successful in galvanising political support for governments dispensing LPG programmes at the state level and was adopted by the centre in the form of the Rajiv Gandhi Gramin LPG Vitran (RGGLV) scheme in 2009. RGGLV more than doubled LPG dealers in rural areas. In 2016, the current government recast RGGLV with some minor changes and relaunched it as the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY).

As in the case of smokeless and improved cookstoves and biogas stoves, initial access to LPG for poor households depends more on top-down schemes and less on bottom-up decisions and choices available for financially constrained households. However, sustained use depends on family income and behavioural issues such as cooking habits. LPG is minimally invasive as far as cooking habits are concerned and the shift back to biomass from LPG is associated with financial constraints as demonstrated by the pandemic period.

Incomplete Transitions

In the early years of independence, almost all households used firewood and dried animal dung as fuel for cooking. The discourse among policymakers over household cooking fuels reflected the priorities of the ruling elite. For the educated elite planners who formulated policy, household cooking fuel needs were just collateral damage in the larger project of nation-building. Rural cooking fuels were sources of inefficiency and pollution and their use had to be curtailed to allow industrialisation and development to progress. The use of dried animal dung as cooking fuel was seen as wasteful because animal dung was thought to be more valuable as manure to strengthen food production. Wood used as household fuel was blamed for rapid deforestation by government planners and by environmental groups. One recommendation was that “social forests” be developed by allocating 50 acres of land per village for the cultivation of fuel wood so as to limit externalities such as deforestation but the plan was not implemented.

In the 1970s and 80s, programmes to distribute smokeless wood-burning cookstoves to rural households were launched with the same zeal as that demonstrated in the current promotion of solar cookstoves. But it was not very successful as it did not result in mass adoption and use. Later an initiative to promote biogas generation from cattle dung was launched.  As cattle raising was part of every rural household, it was believed that biogas with a stove similar to that of an LPG stove and a high-temperature blue flame would displace the use of biomass and kerosene as the primary fuel for cooking in rural households.  In the 1980s about 75,000 biogas units were reportedly operating in the country. However, this failed in the longer term and many biogas units were abandoned. The high initial cost of the stove (INR9000), financial assistance channelled to farmers rather than women, difficulty in maintaining the biogas units were among reasons cited for the failure. The idea of promoting simple box solar cookers as an option for rural kitchens did not go beyond the pilot and demonstration stages.

Neither the huge opportunity cost in terms of time spent collecting fuel-wood and respiratory disease from nauseous smoke from biomass and kerosene stoves that filled their huts managed to shift choice in favour of smokeless efficient cookstoves, biogas stoves and solar cookers.  Decentralised renewable energy solutions for lighting and cooking shift the technology, even if rudimentary, to the consumers premises. This shifts the burden of maintenance on the consumer. Typically, rural men and women labour in agricultural fields or related jobs during the day. This leaves little time for maintaining devices such as cookers and solar panels.  In other words, the opportunity cost of using solar cookers may be higher than that of LPG stoves.  Yet another important issue is the idea of pushing new and somewhat inconvenient fuels among the rural poor rather than the urban rich.  Few leaders will dare to suggest that urban households should shift from LPG to solar cookers in the interest of climate change. It is very likely that rural women want exactly what their urban counterparts have which includes freedom to choose between solar and LPG stoves.

Evidence on outcomes of the use of laboratory-validated improved cookstoves from a large-scale four-year randomized control trial in India showed that smoke inhalation fell initially but the effect disappeared by year two. There were no changes in health outcomes or GHG emissions. The study found that households used the stoves irregularly and inappropriately, failed to maintain them, and usage declined over time. One critical insight from the study was that willingness to pay for reduction in indoor air pollution and the related longer term health benefits was low. Another study that examined solar stove use in Senegal found that six months after the distribution of the stoves, there was no difference in the amount of time spent cooking near a fire and only a 1 percent decline in fuel use since households continued to use their traditional biomass burning stoves.  The key message from the studies is that low carbon technologies must be tested real-world settings where behaviour undermines potential benefits.

Under the climate centric narratives that underpin the proposed shift from LPG to solar cookers, the rural poor are perpetrators of pollution and climate change through their use of biomass/LPG stoves rather than victims of political, economic and social marginalisation that leaves them no choice over fuel use. For alternative energy solutions to succeed, emphasis should be on availability, cost effectiveness and convenience first and pollution control and climate change second and not the other way around.

Source: National Health Survey, various issues

Monthly News Commentary: NON-FOSSIL FUELS

Tariff barriers impact competitiveness of solar projects


Solar Manufacturing

India may exempt some solar projects from paying duties on equipment imports, according to government and industry sources, to bring renewable-energy capacity additions back on schedule and lower consumer power tariffs. This will benefit projects with 30 gigawatt (GW) of capacity. In March 2021, the government announced 25 percent basic customs duties on solar photovoltaic cells and 40 percent on solar photovoltaic modules with effect from 1 April 2022 in order to block Chinese imports and encourage indigenous manufacturing.

RE Policy and Market Trends

Adani Green Energy posted a surge of 9 percent in the sale of its solar energy portfolio to 2,507 million units (MU) for the quarter ended December 2022, against 2,300 MU. The renewable energy company said this increase in the sale of energy was backed by 150 MW commissioned in Rajasthan in November 2022 and 140 basis points improvement in capacity utilisation factor (CUF). Under the solar portfolio, plant availability was at 99.8 percent in the reviewed quarter against 99.4 percent in the year-ago period. Grid availability was at 99.6 percent while it was 99.3 percent in the year-ago period. It also said capacity utilisation factor was at 23.3 percent in the reviewed quarter while it was 21.9 percent in the year-ago period. Under wind portfolio, the company posted a jump of 47 percent in its sale of energy to 300 MU for the reviewed quarter, against 204 MU in the corresponding quarter the previous year. The company in a statement shared with exchanges said its sale of energy went up on the back of its capacity increase from 497 megawatt (MW) to 971 MW in the year-ago period. Under wind energy, its plant availability was at 92.7 percent in the reviewed quarter while it was 96.9 percent in the corresponding quarter the previous year. Its grid availability was 88.2 percent, against 99.9 percent in the year-ago period. The company said the reduction in CUF is primarily due to a one-off disruption in the transmission line for 150 MW plant at Gujarat, which has now been restored fully.

Uttar Pradesh (UP) has received investment commitments of about INR2k billion (US$24.23 bn) in the solar energy and related sectors, state Energy Minister A K Sharma said. UP has launched ‘Uttar Pradesh Solar Energy Policy 2022’ which aims to set up 22 GW of green energy projects by 2027 in the state, Sharma said. Rooftop solar projects alongwith ground-mounted projects in agriculture fields will be the growth drivers of the green energy demand in the state, he said. Besides, the government aims to set up utility scale projects, ultra mega solar parks, distributed solar systems and development of model solar cities etc, Sharma said. The state has also launched a Bio Energy Policy 2022 to help the country meet its net-zero goals, Sharma said. Sharma said there are immense business opportunities in the clean energy sector in the state and investors must tap these areas for good returns. The demand for clean energy is growing in the state on the back of various government initiatives and programmes, he said.

In a move to encourage industrial units to install captive solar power plants, Rajasthan State Pollution Control Board (RSPCB) has excluded the capital cost of solar power plants from the overall cost of the units’ capital investment for the purpose of calculating consent fee under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981. For establishing a new industrial unit, the owners used to obtain consent from RSPCB under the two Acts and had to pay a consent fee, which was calculated on the overall capital investment of the units, including the cost of the solar plant. As per the latest order issued by RSPCB, the consent fee will now be calculated by excluding the cost of solar plant from the overall capital investment in the industrial units. PSPCB said the decision would promote green energy in the state.

Andhra Pradesh (AP) is taking big strides in attracting investments in green energy. The state is giving a tough fight to the states which were so far known as hubs for green energy plants. The state secured fourth spot in generation of green energy in 2022 and it is going to be the leader in the next two-three years as the state government has lined up several big-ticket projects in renewable energy sector. According to the data compiled by the Centre, AP added 1,261.54 MW to the existing power generation through green energy during 2022. Centre said all the states together added nearly 30,000 mw through green energy during 2022, which is a significant growth. Interestingly, this additional generation through green energy is exclusive of big hydel projects.

Roof Top /Distributed Solar Projects

Tata Power Renewable Energy Ltd (TPREL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tata Power, has signed an agreement with Vivarea Condominium, a residential society in Mumbai, to supply solar power. In a first, a 3.125 MW solar plant will be set up at Himayatnagar, Maharashtra, to power the society with clean energy. The project will be commissioned by October 2023 and will provide green power at approximately 40 percent less than existing cost to Vivarea Condominium. With the installation of this group captive solar plant, Tata Power will enable Vivarea Condominium to become the country’s first residential society to use captive solar energy for domestic usage. TPREL operates a manufacturing unit in Bangalore, with a production capacity of 1,135 MW of modules and cells.

In order to equip all state government buildings with solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, Punjab New and Renewable Energy Sources Minister Aman Arora directed heads of all departments to expedite the process to issue NOC so that panels can be installed at the earliest. Arora said the government is fully committed to strengthening the clean energy infrastructure for ensuring clean environment to people of the state. This environment friendly move will go a long way to decarbonise the power sector as Solar PV has become the most preferred source of renewable power due to the benefits that it offers. Arora said this ambitious project will be executed under Renewable Energy Services Company (RESCO) Mode and Punjab Energy Development Agency (PEDA) has already installed solar PV of a total capacity of 88 MW on the rooftops of various government buildings and these have been successfully generating clean and green energy.

Utility Scale Solar Projects

NTPC Ltd’s wholly owned subsidiary, NTPC Green Energy (NGEL) has signed a non-binding MoU with Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) for development of renewable energy based power projects. The state-run power major said that its arm has inked a non-binding MoU with HPCL for development of renewable energy based power projects to tap business opportunities in renewable energy and supply of 400 MW round the clock renewable power for requirements of HPCL. This MoU marks the first step for NGEL and HPCL to collaborate and cooperate in the field of development of renewable energy projects which shall help HPCL in meeting its clean energy commitments, the company said.

The Ayodhya Development Authority (ADA) will add a fleet of 10 solar ferries to take the tourists around the temple town. The ADA is planning to upgrade the infrastructure, and introducing swanky solar ferries will be a step in that direction. Solar panels will be installed on the roofs of the ferries along with a waterproof lithium battery. A minimum tenure of five years will be offered to the agency with an option to extend the memorandum of understanding between the two parties to 15 years.

Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Rajasthan to set up a 1 GW renewable energy (RE) plant in the state. BPCL has set the goal of net zero in Scope 1and 2 emissions by the year 2040. The company plans to expand the renewables portfolio and reach 1 GW of renewable energy by 2025 and 10 GW by 2040. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot expressed Rajasthan’s vision to create a positive space for investment in Rajasthan with a Green Imprint on it. He congratulated the working teams and encouraged to further augment this collaboration for sustainable economic development in the state. BPCL’s ‘Renewables’ business unit is steering this voyage to help the global efforts to curb global warming, in line with the national climate commitments, and renewable energy has a pivotal role to play in this endeavor.

Chandigarh UT Administrator Banwari Lal Purohit inaugurated northern India’s largest floating solar power project of 2000 kWp (kilowatt peak) worth INR117 mn (US$1.42 mn) at waterworks, Sector 39. He inaugurated a 500 kWp floating solar project with fountains at Dhanas Lake. These projects have been designed and executed by CREST (Chandigarh Renewable Energy and Science & Technology Promotion Society) and will generate a minimum of 35 lakh units (kWh) of solar energy per year with 20 percent module efficiency.

Solar Energy Corporation of India Limited (SECI) has extended the last date to submit bids for operation and maintenance of a 10 MW ground-mounted solar power project at Badi Sid in Rajasthan.

Hon’ble President Droupadi Murmu virtually laid the foundation stone of SJVN’s 1,000 MW Bikaner Solar Power Project in Jaipur, Rajasthan. This project is being implemented by SJVN Limited through its wholly owned subsidiary SJVN Green Energy Limited (SGEL). It is being developed on 5,000 acres on outright purchased land near village Banderwala, district Bikaner of Rajasthan which is one of the highest solar yield areas of the country. The development cost of the project is INR54.92 bn (US$665 mn) and viability gap funding support of INR 44.72 lakh per megawatt is being done by IREDA, SJVN chairman & managing director (CMD) Nand Lal Sharma said. The maximum usage charges have been fixed at INR 2.57 per unit, which will help in providing cheaper electricity to the consumers. Sharma said commissioning of this project would help in achieving government’s renewable target of 500 GW by 2030. Usage of domestically manufactured Solar Photovoltaic Cells and modules shall give push to Make in India drive. The project would also lead to a reduction in carbon emissions of 2,785,077 tonnes.

Hydro Power

Power Minister R K Singh said that NTPC’s Tapovan Vishnugad hydropower project has nothing to do with the land subsidence issue being faced in Uttarakhand’s Joshimath town, the problem is with the area’s land. He ruled out review of the ongoing hydropower projects in hilly areas. Singh said that hydropower projects won’t be stopped in the country, despite rising concerns over rampant construction in hilly areas.

Arunachal Pradesh government has decided to hand over five terminated hydropower projects with a generation capacity of 2820 MW to two Central Public Sector Undertakings (CPSUs). Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) said that these five projects would require an investment of INR400 bn (US$4.85 bn) in next 5-7 years. Of the five projects, two hydropower projects — Naying (1,000 MW) and Hirong (500 MW) — would be handed over to the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Limited (NEEPCO); and Emini (500MW), Amulin (420MW) and Minundon (400MW) to the Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited for development. The state cabinet in its meeting chaired by Chief Minister Pema Khandu approved the indicative procedure for transferring the stalled hydropower projects to CPSUs in order to unlock the potential.

Wind Power

India has set a target to annually auction 8 GW of wind power projects to the end of 2030 to boost renewable energy capacity, a government order said. India, one of the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, wants to boost its renewable energy generation to 500 GW by 2030 from a current output of about 120 GW according to government data. Previously the country had not set an annual wind power capacity target.

Biomass/Bio-Power/Waste to Energy

The GreenBillions Limited (TGBL) joined hands with The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) to set up its first plant in India to extract green hydrogen from biomass and municipal solid waste. This project aims to demonstrate the technological and financial feasibility of waste to hydrogen generation. The upcoming plant in Pune will be managed by its wholly-owned subsidiary Variate Pune Waste to Energy Pvt Ltd. (VPWTEPL). The company will also utilise the municipal waste of 350 tonne per day (TPD) of Pune to generate hydrogen for a period of 30 years, TGBL said. Refuse derived fuel (RDF) extracted from the waste would later be used to generate hydrogen with the help of Plasma gasification technology. The waste will comprise biodegradable, non-biodegradable and domestic hazardous waste and would be segregated at the TheGreenBillions’s facility in Pune using optical sensor technology. In the meantime, the firm is also in talks with other state municipalities across India to implement and set up similar plants in the future. Generating hydrogen can help India achieve its decarbonisation goals while significantly reducing emissions from waste disposal.

The Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change has recommended the expansion of the Okhla waste-to-energy plant for environmental clearance. In a meeting held on 30 November, the minutes of which were uploaded in December, the EAC for thermal power projects considered the proposal for the expansion of the plant from its existing capacity of generating 23 MW to 40 MW of electricity. From its current capacity of processing 1,950 TPD of waste, the expansion will involve the processing of an additional 1,000 TPD, taking the total to around 2,950 TPD. The expansion of the waste-to-energy plant at Okhla is among the MCD’s plans to deal with around 4,731 TPD of waste that is not processed, and therefore, ends up at landfills.

Rest of the World


France is falling behind in its plans to boost onshore wind and solar power, the country’s annual renewable electricity report showed. The share of renewables in France’s electricity mix last year was estimated at about 26 percent, a slight rise from 25 percent in 2021. The country’s onshore wind installed capacity had risen to nearly 20 GW as of September, the report said, but added that a goal of some 24 GW in 2023 appeared out of reach. By 2028, France’s multi-annual energy program (PPE) law calls for between 33 GW and 35 GW of onshore wind capacity installed, yet at the current pace France is on track to fall short at some 29.4 GW, the report said. As of September, France had 15.8 GW of installed solar photovoltaic capacity. At the current pace, that would mean achieving 31.4 GW by 2028, short of its legislative goal of between 35 GW and 44 GW.

Spain’s Grenergy aims to sell a minority stake in photovoltaic projects in the country, the renewable power generation company said. Such a deal would follow the path of larger rival Iberdrola, which sold a 49 percent stake in a portfolio of solar plants and onshore wind farms in Spain to Norway’s sovereign wealth fund. With its sunny plains, fast-flowing rivers and windy hillsides, Spain aims to produce two thirds of its electricity from renewables by 2026. Power companies from all over the world are investing in the country to build the infrastructure to reach that goal. Swiss renewable power group Smartenergy plans to sell a portfolio of solar power projects in Spain.

Portugal expects to launch its first offshore wind power auction by the last quarter of this year, aiming to reach 10 GW of installed capacity by 2030, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said. As a pre-condition to the auction, the government will launch a public hearing regarding proposals for the delimitation of areas to allow the deployment of wind farms off the country’s Atlantic coast, he said. Portugal has 7.3 GW of hydroelectric capacity and 5.6 GW of onshore wind, which together represent 83 percent of its total installed capacity. The energy crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is forcing countries to bet more on renewable energy generation, such as wind and solar. Portugal has a small, 25 MW floating wind project off its Atlantic coast. The country aims to have 80 percent of its electricity usage coming from renewable sources by 2026, up from around 60 percent, which is already one of the highest ratios in Europe.

Norway’s $1.3 trillion sovereign wealth fund, the world’s largest, said it had agreed to buy a 49 percent stake in Iberdrola’s 1.3 GW portfolio of Spanish solar plants and onshore wind farms for €600 million (US$650 million). Iberdrola will remain co-owner and operator of the portfolio, Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM), the operator of the Norwegian fund. Solar plants make up 80 percent of the portfolio, while onshore wind accounts for the remaining 20 percent. Nine projects are currently under development, with completion expected in 2023-2025, it said. With its sunny plains, fast-flowing rivers and windy hillsides, Spain aims to produce 67 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2026. Power companies from all over the world are investing in the country to build the infrastructure to reach that goal.

EDP Renovaveis, the world’s fourth-largest renewable power producer, has brought on-stream the first hybrid wind-solar farm in Iberia, adding 36.5 GW of annual capacity just as Europe is facing an energy crisis. The Mina de Orgueirel plant, about 300 km (186 miles) northeast of Portugal’s capital Lisbon, combines 17,000 new photovoltaic panels covering an area of roughly six soccer pitches with wind turbines that EDPR already had on the same plot. Like most European countries, Portugal is accelerating its shift to renewables to reduce reliance on imported fossil fuels whose prices have surged since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Benefiting from abundant sunshine and strong Atlantic winds, Portugal seeks to have 80 percent of its electricity usage coming from renewable sources by 2026, up from 60 percent now, which is already one of the highest ratios in Europe.

Britain’s wind farms contributed a record 26.8 percent of the country’s electricity in 2022 although gas-fired power plants remained the biggest source of power, National Grid data showed. Britain has a target to reach net zero emissions by 2050 which will require a huge scale-up of renewable power generation such as wind and solar. The share of wind power in Britain’s electricity mix last year was up from 21.8 percent in 2021, the data showed, as more wind projects came online. The world’s largest offshore wind farm, Hornsea 2 off the Yorkshire coast in the North Sea, became fully operational in August 2022. The wind farm can generate enough electricity to power around 1.4 million homes.

Germany’s carbon dioxide emissions held steady last year, jeopardising its climate targets as higher use of oil and coal offset lower energy consumption and record renewables output, data from climate think tank Agora Energiewende showed. Germany’s 2022 energy consumption fell by 4.7 percent year-on-year to the lowest since its reunification, thanks to spiking energy prices, mild weather and a government appeal for citizens to save energy in light of a sudden drop in Russian gas imports. Despite renewable energy reaching a record 46 percent share in Germany’s electricity mix, the greenhouse gas emissions of Europe’s biggest economy were around 761 million tonnes (MT) last year, missing a target of 756 MT and falling behind the 2020 benchmark of a 40 percent cut compared to 1990, Agora said.

Africa & Middle East

United Arab Emirates (UAE) renewable energy company Masdar and Ethiopia have signed an agreement for the joint development of a solar project with a capacity of 500 MW, Ethiopia’s prime minister Abiy Ahmed said. The move could potentially allow Ethiopia to significantly expand its energy capacity and also diversify its energy mix, a key part of PM’s industrialisation drive. At present, Ethiopia has total installed power generating capacity of about 4,898 MW, with 91 percent of it coming from hydroelectric power, based on data from Ethiopian Electric Power. Ethiopia is eager to expand its energy capacity and last year began generating power from its giant Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), a multi-billion-dollar hydropower plant on the River Nile that neighbours Sudan and Egypt have opposed. Masdar has been pushing into renewable energy in Africa and elsewhere. The company signed an agreement with Zambia’s state-owned power utility Zesco to develop solar projects worth US$2 bn.

Zambia’s power utility Zesco has signed an agreement with the United Arab Emirates’ renewable energy company Masdar to develop solar projects worth US$2 bn, the southern African country’s President Hakainde Hichilema said. The two companies will form a joint venture to facilitate investment in Zambia’s renewable energy, he said. The project will commence immediately, starting with the phased installation of 500 MW. Zambia has been rationing electricity supply following a big drop in water levels in lake Kariba, threatening hydropower generation which contributes more than 75 percent of the country’s power output.

As lingering droughts hit southern Africa’s hydropower dams, Zimbabwe faces growing electricity shortages – but connecting individuals and businesses that have installed private solar panels to the national grid could help fill some of the gap. Zimbabwe’s net metering system, launched in 2020, allows people who produce private renewable energy to transfer their excess generation to the national grid in return for electricity credits they can use when they do not have sufficient renewable supply.


China set another record for solar power capacity last year as the country sped up renewable installations to reach its ambitious climate targets. The nation installed 87.4 GW of solar last year, beating 2021’s record of 54.9 GW, the National Energy Administration said. Additions fell short of bullish industry forecasts in the middle of last year for as much as 100 GW as supply chain disruptions boosted prices and slowed installations.

News Highlights: 25 – 31 January 2023

National: Oil

Indian refiners’ oil processing in December rises 4 percent y/y

27 January: Indian refiners’ crude oil processing in December rose about 4 percent from a year earlier, provisional government data showed, in line with elevated demand in the world’s third-biggest oil importer and consumer. Crude oil production last month was at 586,700 barrels per day (2.48 million tonnes), down nearly 1.2 percent year on year, the data showed, on lower output at certain Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) clusters. Crude oil imports rose meanwhile to a five-month high on refiners stocking up on cheaper Russian fuel amid a steady increase in consumption in the country. Processing in November fell to 19.58 million tonnes, while crude oil production was 586,000 barrels per day, down 1.1 percent versus last year, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas data showed. Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) plans to shut its multiple refineries for maintenance in the coming months.

National: Gas

IOC asks CNG firms to stop supply to 35 pumps

29 January: Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) has asked CNG distribution companies in Gujarat to discontinue CNG (compressed natural gas) supply to 35 petrol pumps whose monthly sale of petrol and diesel is less than 1 lakh litre. IOC has asked the dealers to furnish a bank guarantee for sale of CNG. In view of the development, the Federation of Gujarat Petroleum Dealers’ Association (FGPDA) has threatened to stop selling CNG at 600 pumps across Gujarat from mid-February. Petrol pumps sell CNG in the state under tie-ups between oil marketing companies like IOC, HPCL and BPCL and gas distribution companies like Sabarmati Gas, Gujarat Gas and Adani Gas. According to FGPDA, IOCL shot off a letter to these gas distribution companies asking them to discontinue CNG supply to 35 pumps, without informing the dealers. Most of these 35 pumps are in remote and rural areas where CNG supply is essential. FGPDA president Arvind Thakkar said the petrol-diesel sale has nothing to do with CNG sale and these pumps have been selling CNG for the past 8 to 10 years. According to the dealers, they pay to the CNG distributor company the next day and there was no issue of outstanding.

National: Coal

Government receives 99 bids for 36 coal mines under commercial auction

31 January: A total of 99 bids for 36 coal mines were received by the coal ministry for the sixth round and second attempt of fifth round of commercial coal block auctions, which it had launched on 3 November 2022. For the sixth round, two or more bids were received for 25 coal mines, a single bid for seven mines, and 10 bids for four mines in the second attempt of the fifth round. This is the biggest response received for commercial coal mine auctions that was launched by the Prime Minister on 18 June 2020.

India to use emergency law to maximise coal power output

30 January: India plans to use an emergency law to force power plants that run on imported coal to maximise output. Many Indian coal-fired plants, including those owned by Adani Power and Tata Power in India’s western Gujarat state, have not operated at full capacity in the recent years because they have found it difficult to compete with power generated from cheap domestic coal. India expects its power plants to burn about 8 percent more coal in the financial year ending March 2024, with increased economic activity and erratic weather to continue boost growth in demand for power.

CIL to produce sand using overburden rocks; likely to begin ops by next year

27 January: Coal India Ltd (CIL) intends to produce sand using overburden rocks lying at its various coal mines and the operation of five such sand plants is likely to commence by next year, the government said. Under the ‘overburden (OB) rocks-to-manufactured sand’ initiative, CIL facilitates processing of waste overburden at its open cast mines. Out of the five proposed plants, Ballarpur Plant of Western Coalfields Ltd (WCL) is expected to commence sand production by May. Four plants — one each in WCL, South Eastern Coalfields Ltd (SECL), Bharat Coking Coal Ltd (BCCL) and Central Coalfields Ltd (CCL)– are under different stages of tendering process.

Mann government mulling to sell surplus coal to private power producers

25 January: Punjab government is mulling to sell surplus coal generated from its captive mine in Jharkhand to private power producers, Chief Minister (CM) Bhagwant Mann said that such a move will help reduce the cost of electricity for people in his state. Mann said that industry players, especially in the manufacturing sector, who are looking to set up a base in north India should look at Punjab.

National: Power

Andhra Pradesh government to spend INR110 bn to reform power distribution

27 January: The state government has decided to implement Revamped Distribution Sector Scheme (RDSS) with an investment of around INR110 bn with the support of the Union government. The scheme would help in strengthening the power distribution system, reduce losses and enhance operational efficiency. The RDSS will strengthen the power utilities to a large extent and help in providing high quality power to all categories of consumers. The government is taking special measures to increase the power generation capacity in the state in order to ensure uninterrupted power supply.

NLCIL to increase power generation from 6 GW to 17 GW by 2030

27 January: NLC India Limited (NLCIL) has proposed to increase its total power generation capacity from the present 6,061MW to 17,171MW by 2030, NLCIL chairman cum managing director Prasanna Kumar Motupalli said. Motupalli said the company has proposed to increase its thermal power generating capacity from the present 4,640 MW to 11,140 MW and the renewable power generating capacity from the present 1,421 MW to 6,031 MW by 2030. The company has proposed to increase its lignite mining capacity from the present 32.1 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) to 40.1 MTPA and coal mining capacity from the present 20 MTPA to 44 MTPA by 2030.

MSEDCL proposes 15 percent hike in power tariff for residential consumers in Mumbai

26 January: The Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL) issued public notice to propose a tariff hike of upto 15 percent for residential consumers from April. It has also proposed further 15 percent hikes in tariff in 2024-25, and this could be a huge burden to over 20 mn residential consumers in parts of Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Kalyan, Vasai-Virar and rest of Maharashtra. The power discom has a total over 28 mn consumers including those from agriculture, industry and commercial establishments. MSEDCL proposes to reduce its distribution losses, which were around 18 percent in 2019-20 to 14 percent by April. The reduction in losses is due to a major crackdown on power theft cases across the state in the past one year.

National: Non-Fossil Fuels/ Climate Change Trends

India’s solar module manufacturing capacity to reach 95 GW by 2025

31 January: India’s solar module manufacturing capacity is expected to reach approximately 95 GW by the end of 2025, according to Mercom Capital. The solar module manufacturing capacity as of September last year was 39 gigawatt (GW), the research firm said in its latest report. Indian PV (photovoltaic) manufacturers are strategically poised to expand their production capacities and adopt new technologies in the coming years on the back of government incentive programmes, the report said. States are promoting domestic solar manufacturing through fiscal and non-fiscal incentives under industrial, electronics, and solar policies, it said.

Nashik divisional commissionerate, collectorate reap solar benefits

31 January: The Nashik divisional commissionerate and the district collectorate have reduced their power consumption by almost 80 percent since installing solar power panels on their premises last year. The project was executed by the Maharashtra Energy Development Authority (MEDA). At the divisional commissionerate, solar panels have been installed on the rooftop at a cost of INR29.5 lakh, while the district collectorate has got panels on the rooftop as well as the parking lot at INR48 lakh. According to MEDA, the work to set up the panels at both offices was wrapped up by October 2022, and they immediately started delivering results. The payback period is about two years.

Solar companies expect reduction of customs duty on solar panel

31 January: Gujarat solar industry has high expectations from the Union budget 2023-24 as the focus on renewable energy is increasing. Solar power companies have demanded reduction in the basic customs duty in the budget to ensure faster deployment of solar energy. The industry also believes that in order to achieve the targeted deployment of renewable energy, the GST (Goods and Services Tax) on solar panels and inverters should be reduced to 5 percent from the present composite rate of GST of 13.8 percent.

India in top 7 nations with prospective renewable power

25 January: India ranks among the top seven countries in the world with the most prospective renewable power, according to a new analysis by San Francisco-based non-governmental organization Global Energy Monitor. The country plans to add 76 gigawatt (GW) of utility-scale solar and wind power by 2025, leading to savings of up to US$19.5 billion a year. According to the Global Solar and Wind Power Trackers data, this buildout can avoid the use of almost 78 million tonnes of coal annually, or roughly 32 GW in coal power plant capacity. Annual savings in India can skyrocket if the coal-to-clean switch matches the country’s ambitions. It further highlights that if India were to bring on line all of its planned utility-scale solar and wind projects, it would cost the country around US$51 billion. India accounts for 5 percent of all prospective utility-scale solar power globally, trailing only China, USA and Australia while placing 17th globally in prospective wind power capacity.

Indian industry turns to biomass as capital bans coal in pollution fight

25 January: A toxic smog engulfs India’s capital every winter, as particles from bonfires of crop stubble and vehicle exhausts hang in the air, but New Delhi is enforcing a ban on coal burning from this month that is forcing industry to shift to biomass. The drive has pushed about half the 1,695 units in a cluster of small industries around one of the world’s most polluted capitals to use biomass, up from fewer than 15 percent counted in a 2020 study. About 81 percent of the 398 industrial units operating in Panipat alone have converted to biomass, devouring coal’s share of 56.2 percent in 2020.

International: Oil

Venezuela tightens oil prepayment rules

30 January: Venezuela’s state oil firm PDVSA is toughening terms for buyers after a month-long halt to most exports of crude and fuel, demanding prepayment ahead of loadings in either cash, goods or services, company documents showed. PDVSA’s new Chief Executive Pedro Tellechea put the move in place this month. It reinforces measures implemented last year after several buyers skipped out on payments for oil, which provides most of the South American country’s income. The new terms narrow a wide variety of contract modalities to a few requiring prepayment of cargoes entirely in cash or allowing payment via goods and services to Venezuela, but they must be received before Venezuela will release the oil, according to the documents.

EU eyes US$100 per barrel cap on Russian premium oil products, US$45 on discounted

26 January: The European Commission is proposing that the European Union (EU) set a US$100 per barrel price cap on premium Russian oil products like diesel and a US$45 per barrel cap on discounted products like fuel oil, EU said. The proposal was sent to EU governments, whose representatives will discuss it at a meeting, with a view to a deal before the price cap on imported Russian oil products is to come into force on 5 February, in line with an agreement by G7 countries. The price cap on Russian oil products follows a US$60 per barrel cap imposed on Russian crude on 5 December as G7 countries and the 27-nation EU as a whole seek to limit Russia’s revenue from its oil exports without disrupting world supply. The price caps imposed by the G7 — the United States (US), Canada, Japan, Britain, Italy, France and Germany — and the EU are to curb Moscow’s ability to finance its war in Ukraine. Both price caps work by prohibiting Western insurance and shipping companies from insuring or carrying cargoes of Russian crude and oil products unless they were bought at or below the set price cap. The US$60 per barrel limit on crude is now up for review as the market price has been just below the cap.

Long queues at filling stations in Pakistan amid acute petrol shortage

25 January: Long queues of automobiles and motorcycles were witnessed at filling stations in Pakistan’s capital city of Islamabad and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province due to reduced supplies by oil marketing companies. According to petrol dealers, companies cut down supplies of petroleum products to the province over long delays in the issuance of letters of credit by private banks for imports. Drivers in Peshawar said that most petrol pumps in the city were closed but the filling stations owned by the Pakistan State Oil, continued sales, attracting large crowds of motorists and motorcyclists.

International: Gas

Indonesia to offer 10 oil and gas blocks in 2023, including in South China Sea

30 January: Indonesia plans to offer 10 oil and gas working areas this year, including a block in the South China Sea, amid efforts to boost energy production and make new discoveries, the energy ministry said. In 2022, Indonesia auctioned 13 oil and gas fields and has appointed contractors for six of them. The country is aiming to reach crude oil lifting of 1 million barrels per day (bpd) and gas lifting of 12,000 million standard cubic feet per day (mmscfd) by 2030. Last year, it missed its oil and gas lifting target amid delays in projects and unexpected shutdowns. Among the oil and gas fields Indonesia plans to offer this year are working areas in Natuna D Alpha, which are giant gas fields situated in the South China Sea, the ministry said. Last year, Indonesia approved development plan for US$3 billion Natuna gas field in South China Sea.

ADNOC eyes valuation of at least US$50 bn for its gas business

30 January: The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) is eyeing a valuation of at least US$50 billion for its gas business slated to float this quarter. The state oil giant announced in November it was combining its gas processing arm and its liquefied natural gas (LNG) subsidiary into a single listed entity. The company is sharpening its focus on the gas market as Europe seeks to replace all Russian energy imports as early as mid-2024 after gradual supply cuts since Western sanctions were imposed on the country over its invasion of Ukraine.

Italy’s Eni signs US$8 bn Libya gas deal as PM Meloni visits Tripoli

28 January: Italian energy company Eni and Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) signed an US$8 billion gas production deal aimed at boosting energy supplies to Europe despite the insecurity and political chaos in the North African country. The deal, signed during a visit to Tripoli by Italy’s Prime Minister (PM) Giorgia Meloni, aims to increase gas output for the Libyan domestic market as well as exports, through the development of two offshore gas fields. Output will begin in 2026 and reach a plateau of 750 million cubic feet per day, Eni said.

Philippines greenlights seventh LNG project, gears up for gas imports

27 January: The Philippines’ Department of Energy said it has approved a US$67 million LNG import terminal project, the country’s seventh such facility, as it gears up for the launch of its liquefied natural gas industry this year. The DOE said it has issued a notice to proceed to Samat LNG Corp, which plans to construct a small-scale LNG terminal in Mariveles municipality in Bataan province, about 60 kilometres (35.2 miles) north of the capital Manila. The Southeast Asian country will need to rely on LNG imports to fuel gas-fired power plants with a combined capacity of more than 3,000 megawatt (MW), as output from its Malampaya gas field in the South China Sea is expected to continue declining and be depleted by 2027. Aside from importing LNG for power generation and transport sectors, the Philippines is also ramping up efforts to discover new indigenous gas resources, as it seeks to phase out coal-fired power plants. Under its proposal, Samat LNG aims to begin commercial operation by the first half of 2024, with a capacity of 200,000-400,000 tonnes of LNG annually. It plans to supply gas to fuel small-scale power producers, manufacturing companies, and transport fleets.

International: Coal

EU coal rebound smaller than feared in 2022 energy crunch

31 January: European coal-fuelled power generation climbed last year as countries scrambled to replace Russian gas, but the increase was smaller than feared as renewable energy helped to plug the gap, researchers said. As a result, coal power’s share of EU (European Union) electricity generation rose by 1.5 percentage points in 2022, to account for 16 percent of annual generation, think-tank Ember said in a report. Outright coal generation in the EU increased by 7 percent, or 28 terawatt hours (TWh), in 2022, pushing up power sector CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions by nearly 4 percent.

South Africa’s RBCT coal exports hit 29-year low in 2022

26 January: Coal exports from South Africa’s Richards Bay Coal Terminal (RBCT) hit their lowest level since 1993 last year, at 50.35 million tonnes (MT), reflecting a lack of trains to carry coal from mines to port. However, exports to Europe from Africa’s largest coal export facility showed a more than six-fold increase to 14.3 MT from 2.3 MT in 2021, RBCT said, as European countries scrambled to secure alternatives to Russian supply. RBCT, owned by 13 coal mining companies including Thungela, Exxaro Resources, Seriti Resources, and Glencore’s South African subsidiary, has been operating far below its annual export capacity of 91 MT of coal. The terminal, which can only accept coal via train, saw an average of 18 trains a day in 2022, against a capacity of 32 a day. As South Africa’s rail service deteriorated, some coal miners last year opted to truck their product to port instead.

International: Power

Power surge crashes Pakistan grid, plunging millions into darkness

26 January: Pakistan’s generators produced more power than was required, causing voltage fluctuations that culminated in a system collapse that plunged 220 million people into darkness, an internal government document showed. Complete grid failures are rare, and operators of modern grids count local shocks from integration of renewable energy as their primary challenge. But the blackout in Pakistan was its second near-complete grid failure and the third in south Asia in three months. The blackout was triggered by the power grid’s frequency rising to 50.75 hertz (hz) early, causing severe voltage fluctuations in transmission lines in the south, according to the internal note. A frequency over 50 hz indicates the power generated exceeds demand, while a frequency under 50 hz points to supply falling short of demand.

International: Non-Fossil Fuels/ Climate Change Trends

US solar prices still soaring as projects stalled

30 January: United States (US) solar energy contract prices have soared by a third over the past year as project developers have struggled to get imported panels. But wind energy prices fell a little in recent months, thanks to major new federal subsidies. The supply chain constraints have dampened the benefits for solar developers of President Joe Biden’s landmark climate change law, which late last year extended tax credits for renewable energy projects. The Inflation Reduction Act’s incentives have breathed life into the US wind industry. Wind PPA prices were 1.9 percent lower in the fourth quarter than in the third – their first decline since early 2021.

Imperial Oil to invest US$539 mn in renewable diesel plant in Canada

26 January: Imperial Oil said it will invest C$720 million (US$538.64 million) to construct Canada’s largest renewable diesel facility at its Strathcona refinery near Edmonton, Alberta. The Calgary-based company said the facility will produce 20,000 barrels per day of renewable diesel and is expected to start production in 2025.Imperial expects regulatory approval for the project, first announced in August 2021, in the near-term. The facility will use low-carbon hydrogen and biofeedstock combined with a proprietary catalyst to produce the renewable diesel, which Imperial says will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by roughly 3 million a year compared with conventional fuels. The low-carbon hydrogen will be produced with carbon capture and storage technology and supplied by Air Products.

­Japan sets carbon capture roadmap with 6-12 MT per year target by 2030

26 January: Japan’s industry ministry set a target of annual carbon dioxide (CO2) storage capacity of 6-12 million tonnes (MT) by 2030 under a long-term roadmap for carbon capture and storage (CCS). Japan sees CCS technology – which removes CO2 (carbon dioxide) emissions from the atmosphere and stores them underground, and which a host of Japanese companies said they were working on – as essential to achieving its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. The ministry has estimated that Japan will be storing 120-240 MT of CO2 a year in 2050. To hit that target it will need to increase annual CO2 storage by 6-12 MT every year from 2030, while it also aims to dramatically cut CO2 separation and recovery costs. The ministry also wants legislative frameworks in place to allow companies to launch full-scale CCS operations from 2030, it said in a document agreed by a panel of energy experts.

This is a weekly publication of the Observer Research Foundation (ORF). It covers current national and international information on energy categorised systematically to add value. The year 2022 is the nineteenth continuous year of publication of the newsletter. The newsletter is registered with the Registrar of News Paper for India under No. DELENG / 2004 / 13485.

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