- Proposed Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2020
- 5th Anniversary of Urban Missions
- Ancient algae’s role in global marine ecosystem
- NCPOR wars about Declining Arctic Ice
PROPOSED ELECTRICITY (AMENDMENT) BILL 2020
Focus: GS-III Industry and Infrastructure
Why in news?
Minister of State for Power & MNRE underlined the importance of proposed Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2020 to dispel doubts and misinformation.
Highlights of the Clarifications
- Powers of tariff fixation remains with SERCs.
- NO restrictions on States for providing subsidy. States can give as much subsidy as they want but they must pay it upfront through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) so that Discoms remain healthy and are able to maintain and improve distribution infrastructure
- NO Transfer the power of appointment to SERCs from State to Central Government: Central Government is now considering to continue with the existing separate Selection Committees for each state – but make them Standing Selection Committees so that there is no need for constituting them afresh every time a vacancy occurs. The Selection Committee will continue to have equal number of members from the State and Central Governments, as earlier with the only difference that it will now proposed to be presided by the Chief Justice of the High Court of the state.
- The tariff is determined by the State Electricity Regulatory Commission, without any changes.
Electricity Act, 2003
- Electricity Act 2003 covers major issues involving generation, distribution, transmission and trading in power.
- The Act delicenses power generation completely (except for all nuclear and hydro-power projects over a certain size).
- 10 percent of the power supplied by suppliers and distributors to the consumers has to be generated using renewable and non-conventional sources of energy.
- The regulatory body can impose a surcharge to compensate for some loss in cross-subsidy revenue to the State Electricity Boards (SEB’s) due to this direct sale of electricity by generators to the consumers.
- Setting up the State Electricity Regulatory Commission (SERC) has been made mandatory.
- An appellate tribunal to hear appeals against the decision of CERC and SERCs.
Need for an amendment to the Electricity Act, 2003
- Some of the provisions of the Act have become dated and archaic and needs an update.
- Measures need to be augmented to ease the financial crunch of the Discoms.
- It is necessary to promote a legal and administrative ecosystem which harbours special attention to renewable energy.
- There is a need to promote further commercial incentive for private players to enter the market in the generation, distribution and transmission of electricity.
Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2020
Broad objectives of the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2020 are:
- Ensure consumer centricity
- Promote Ease of Doing Business
- Enhance sustainability of the power sector
- Promote green power
Major amendments proposed in the Electricity Act are:
- Cost reflective Tariff: To eliminate the tendency of some Commissions to provide for regulatory assets.
- Establishment of adequate Payment Security Mechanism for scheduling of electricity.
Ease of Doing Business
- Cross Subsidy: The Bill provides for the SERCs to reduce cross subsidies as per the provisions of the Tariff Policy.
- Establishment of Electricity Contract Enforcement Authority: CERC and SERCs do not have powers to execute their orders as decree of a civil court. An Authority headed by a retired Judge of the High Court is proposed to be set with such powers.
Renewable and Hydro Energy
- National Renewable Energy Policy: India is a signatory to the Paris Climate Agreement, and it is therefore proposed to have a separate policy for the development and promotion of generation of electricity from renewable sources of energy.
- It is also proposed that a minimum percentage of purchase of electricity from hydro sources of energy is to be specified by the Commissions.
- Penalties: It is being further proposed to levy penalties for non-fulfilment of obligation to buy electricity from renewable and/or hydro sources of energy.
- Strengthening of the Appellate Tribunal (APTEL) to facilitate quick disposal of cases. To be able to effectively enforce its orders, it is also proposed to give it the powers of High Court under the provisions of the Contempt of Courts Act.
- Penalties: In order to ensure compliance of the provisions of the Electricity Act and orders of the Commission.
- Cross border trade in Electricity: Provisions have been added to facilitate and develop trade in electricity with other countries.
- Distribution sub-licensees: To improve quality of supply, an option is proposed to be provided to Discoms to authorise another person as a sub-license to supply electricity in any particular part of its area, with the permission of the State Electricity Regulatory Commission.
5TH ANNIVERSARY OF URBAN MISSIONS
Focus: GS-II Governance
Why in news?
Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs addressed a webinar to mark the 5thAnniversary of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) (PMAY-U), Smart Cities Mission (SCM) and Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT).
The key announcements and launch events at the Webinar
- National Urban Learning Platform launched, which is a platform for digitally consolidating key skills and knowledge required for capacity building.
- National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) Climate Center for Cities (C3) has been setup to consolidate and institutionalize and mainstream the learnings from experiences in our cities on climate change.
- NIUA Center for Digital Governance (CDG) is an initiative to take forward the digital efforts of MoHUA and become the anchor to accelerate digital transformation of urban governance across all States and Cities.
- City Finance Portal: First time effort of getting financial Statements of all cities on single platform to enable sharing and learning of best practices and to help ULBs in accessing market funds.
- Cycles4Change Challenge: India Cycles4change Challenge is an initiative of Smart Cities Missionto inspire and support Indian cities to quickly implement cycling-friendly initiatives in response to COVID-19.
Smart Cities Mission
- National Smart Cities Mission is an urban renewal and retrofitting program by the Government of India with the mission to develop smart cities across the country, making them citizen friendly and sustainable.
- The Union Ministry of Urban Development is responsible for implementing the mission in collaboration with the state governments of the respective cities.
- While the mission initially included only 100 cities, the government later announced to expand the mission to all 4,000 cities in India.
- Smart Cities Mission is supporting interested cities in raising finance through Municipal Bonds.
- The Urban Learning Internship Program (TULIP) is designed for all ULBs (Urban Local Bodies) and Smart City SPVs (Special Purpose Vehicles) to engage fresh graduates as interns.
- Climate Smart Cities and Data Smart Cities are two important programs under Smart Cities Mission.
Definition of “Smart Cities” according to Smart Cities Mission
- Some definitional boundaries are required to guide cities in the Mission.
- In the imagination of any city dweller in India, the picture of a smart city contains a wish list of infrastructure and services that describes his or her level of aspiration.
- To provide for the aspirations and needs of the citizens, urban planners ideally aim at developing the entire urban eco-system, which is represented by the four pillars of comprehensive development-institutional, physical, social and economic infrastructure.
- This can be a long-term goal and cities can work towards developing such comprehensive infrastructure incrementally, adding on layers of ‘smartness’.
Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT)
- Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) was launched in 2015 with the focus to establish infrastructure that could ensure adequate robust sewage networks and water supply for urban transformation by implementing urban revival projects.
- Rajasthan was the first state in the country to submit State Annual Action Plan under AMRUT.
- The scheme Housing for All by 2022 and Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) were launched on the same day.
- The scheme is dependent with Public–Private Partnership (PPP) model.
The purpose of AMRUT is to:
- ensure that every household has access to a tap with assured supply of water and a sewerage connection;
- increase the amenity value of cities by developing greenery and well-maintained open spaces (e.g. parks);
- reduce pollution by switching to public transport or constructing facilities for non-motorized transport (e.g. walking and cycling).
Some of the broad targets of AMRUT scheme are ascertaining that everyone has access to tap water and sewerage facilities, greenery like parks and open spaces are well maintained, digital and smart facilities like weather prediction, internet and WiFi facilities, pollution reduction by encouraging the public for using cheaper but secure public transport etc.
Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana – Urban (PMAY-U)
- PMAY-U was launched by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation (MoHUPA).
- It envisions provision of Housing for All by 2022, when the Nation completes 75 years of its Independence.
- Beneficiaries include Economically weaker section (EWS), low-income groups (LIGs) and Middle Income Groups (MIGs).
- “Housing for All” Mission for urban area is being implemented during 2015-2022 and this Mission will provide central assistance to implementing agencies through States and UTs for providing houses to all eligible families/beneficiaries by 2022.
- Mission will be implemented as Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) except for the component of credit linked subsidy which will be implemented as a Central Sector Scheme.
The Mission seeks to address the housing requirement of urban poor including slum dwellers through following programme verticals:
- Slum rehabilitation of Slum Dwellers with participation of private developers using land as a resource
- Promotion of Affordable Housing for weaker section through credit linked subsidy
- Affordable Housing in Partnership with Public & Private sectors
- Subsidy for beneficiary-led individual house construction /enhancement.
CLSS (Credit Linked Subsidy Scheme) is a component of PMAY under which, not only economically weaker sections, but also middle-income groups can avail of home loans at reduced EMIs.
ANCIENT ALGAE’S ROLE IN GLOBAL MARINE ECOSYSTEM
Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology, Prelims
Why in news?
A study of a microscopic ancient marine algae (Coccolithophores) has found climate change as a major reason for the altered coccolithophore calcification rate, while showing the role of coccolithophores in building a healthy marine ecosystem.
- Coccolithophores has found that there is a decrease in the concentration of oceanic calcium carbonate (CaCO3) in the Southern Indian ocean.
- This decrease in CaCO3 is attributed to the increase in the concentration of another single-celled algae known as diatoms.
- This, in turn, will affect the growth and skeleton structure of coccolithophores, with potential significance for the world ocean ecosystem.
Coccolithophores and their Significance
- Coccolithophores are single-celled algae living in the upper layers of the world’s oceans.
- They have been playing a key role in marine ecosystems and the global carbon cycle for millions of years.
- Coccolithophores calcify marine phytoplankton that produces up to 40% of open ocean calcium carbonate and responsible for 20% of the global net marine primary productivity.
- Coccolithophores build exoskeletons from individual CaCO3 plates consisting of chalk and seashells building the tiny plates on their exterior.
- At equilibrium, coccolithophores absorb more carbon dioxide than they produce, which is beneficial for the ocean ecosystem.
- Reduction of coccolithophore diversity is due to an increase in the presence of diatom algae, which occurs after sea ice breakdown with climate change and ocean acidification, and increases the silicate concentration in the waters of the Southern Ocean.
- The results of the study point to climate change as a major reason for the altered coccolithophore calcification rate.
- Different environmental factors and the ability of the species to adapt to those environmental changes would ultimately determine the future coccolithophore calcite production.
NCPOR WARS ABOUT DECLINING ARCTIC ICE
Focus: GS-III Environment and Ecology
Why in news?
National Centre of Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR) has found a dramatic decline in the Arctic sea ice due to global warming.
Highlights of the Study’s Findings
- The decline of sea ice has led to localized increase in evaporation, air humidity, cloud cover, and rainfall. Arctic sea ice is a sensitive indicator of climate change and has strong retaliatory effects on other components of the climate system.
- NCPOR has noted that the largest decline in Arctic sea ice in the past 41 years happened in July 2019.
- If this trend continues, there would be no ice left in the Arctic sea by 2050.
- The study has also pointed out that the decrease of the Arctic sea ice area and the increase in the duration of summer and autumn seasons have affected the local weather and climate over the Arctic Ocean and its marginal seas.
- The volume of ice formation during winters is unable to keep pace with the volume of ice loss during summers.
- The study reveals that global ocean-atmospheric warming has enhanced the Arctic sea ice loss.
- Although there are no extreme weather events recorded this year, an accelerated decline in sea-ice extent and sea-ice volume in summer 2019 was dominant, and also the northern hemisphere has experienced record high-temperature rise.
National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR)
- It was established as an autonomous Research and Development Institution of the Ministry of Earth Sciences in 1998, located in the state of Goa.
- NCPOR is India’s premier R&D institution responsible for the country’s research activities in the Polar and Southern Ocean areas.
- It is the nodal agency for planning, promotion, coordination and execution of the entire gamut of polar and Southern Ocean scientific research in the country as well as for the associated logistics activities.
Its responsibilities include:
- Management and upkeep of the Indian Antarctic Research Bases “Maitri” and “Bharati”, and the Indian Arctic base “Himadri”.
- Management of the Ministry’s research vessel ORV Sagar Kanya as well as the other research vessels chartered by the Ministry.
- Playing a facilitatory role in the scientific research activities being undertaken by several national institutions and organizations in Antarctica, the Arctic and in the Indian Ocean sector of the Southern Ocean.
- Playing a lead role in the geoscientific surveys of the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and its extended continental shelf beyond 200m, deep-sea drilling in the Arabian Sea basin through the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP), exploration for ocean non-living resources such as gas hydrates and multi-metal sulphides in mid-ocean ridges.