Context:

A key scheme introduced in 2008 by the Indian government to improve energy efficiency in Indian industries and consequently reduce greenhouse gas emissions is not effective, according to a recent report by New Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What Does Decarbonisation Mean?
  2. Issues in the process of decarbonization
  3. How incidents of grid failure in Texas and flash floods in Uttarakhand highlight the issues in the decarbonization process?
  4. About the CSE report on Centre’s decarbonisation scheme

What Does Decarbonisation Mean?

  • ‘Decarbonisation’ tends to refer to the process of reducing ‘carbon intensity’, lowering the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced by the burning of fossil fuels. Generally, this involves decreasing CO2 output per unit of electricity generated.
  • Decarbonisation involves increasing the prominence of low-carbon power generation, and a corresponding reduction in the use of fossil fuels. This involves in particular a use of renewable energy sources like wind power, solar power, and biomass.
  • The use of carbon power can also be reduced through large-scale use of electric vehicles alongside ‘cleaner’ technologies.
  • Decreasing carbon intensity in the power and transport sectors will allow for net zero emission targets to be met sooner and in line with government standards.
  • The Following are some steps required for decarbonization;
    • Reduce– Reduce greenhouse gases and use renewable energy sources like solar power and wind power.
    • Use of Electric vehicles instead of combustion engines.
    • Energy conservation- Energy demand should be conserved by reducing wastage and losses and using it more efficiently.

Issues in the process of decarbonization

Almost every major country has agreed to a time-bound, “net-zero” carbon emissions target. They are also in agreement over the steps required for decarbonization. However, it is not sufficient to just set the targets.

  • There are certain legacy hurdles in the way of decarbonisation, such as:
    • Poorly designed planning systems.
    • Poor regulatory mechanism for the energy ecosystem and lack of decision-making.
    • Lack of investment in energy infrastructure.

The recent incidents, i.e. The Nanda Devi flash flood and electricity grid system failure in Texas highlights these issues.

How incidents of grid failure in Texas and flash floods in Uttarakhand highlight the issues in the decarbonization process?

  1. First, lack of preparedness- The planners had incorporated emergency response procedures for cold waves and floods. However, they didn’t prepare for such extremes of weather conditions.
    • For example– In Texas- The authorities planned a worst-case scenario based on a 15GW drop in generating power. However, they lost 30GW, which resulted in a total blackout.
    • One reason for this is experts presume every scenario based on historical data. Thus
  2. Second, poor regulatory and institutional mechanism. It is evident in both Grid Failure in Texas and Uttarakhand flash flood.
    • No umbrella authority was present to manage the disaster with responsibility for the entire system.
    • The recommendations made after the Kedarnath floods about land use and watershed management were not implemented.
  3. Third, lack of investment in energy infrastructure-
    • In Texas, the grid was not resilient enough to absorb the surge in the flow of intermittent renewable electrons.
    • India’s transmission system is also not capable of managing the energy transition. The Transmission issue slows down the adoption rate of solar power by failing to introduce green energy to the grid.

All of these factors have negative effects on the decarbonization process. They must be resolved in order to reach the Paris Agreement’s global temperature goals.

About the CSE report on Centre’s decarbonisation scheme

  • The CSE analysis found thermal power plants under this scheme in the last decade had reduced just 1-2 per cent of overall carbon dioxide emissions emitted by them.
  • The report attributed the inefficiency of the scheme to non-transparency, loose targets and overlooked deadlines.
  • The industrial sector consumes the most energy in India — accounting for 43 per cent of overall consumption — making it the major contributor to the country’s energy and environmental footprint.
  • The Government of India released the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) in 2008 to check the increasing energy consumption of industries and related carbon emissions.
  • There were eight national missions under the NAPCC. One of them was the National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency (NMEEE).
  • The Union Ministry of Power and Bureau of Energy Efficiency were entrusted with the task of preparing the implementation plan for the NMEEE.
  • ‘Perform, Achieve and Trade’ (PAT) is a competitive mechanism under NMEEE for reducing energy use in large industries.
  • The government shortlists industries and restricts the amount of energy they can consume and defines a time limit of three years by when this restriction should be met as part of PAT scheme.
  • These three years of time are called one PAT cycle. The industries are chosen after in-depth, sector-wise analysis by the government.
  • Industries that participate in this scheme are called designated consumers (DC). Those that overachieve their targets are issued energy savings certificates (ESCerts) that can be traded with industries that have not achieved their targets.
  • Non-achievers have to buy the ESCerts after the three years for compliance. Announcements for six cycles since 2012 have been made so far.
  • PAT scheme covered about 13 energy-intensive sectors. Sectors included are thermal power plants (TPP), cement, aluminium, iron and steel, pulp and paper, fertiliser, chlor-alkali, petroleum refineries, petrochemicals, distribution companies, railways, textile and commercial buildings (hotels and airports).

-Source: Down to Earth Magazine

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