Skip to main content

Following Trump, Modi govt "favours" coal-based power, claims: Renewable energy has higher social costs

By Our Representative
In a shocking revelation, the Ministry of Finance, Government of India, has favoured coal as the source of power instead of renewal, especially solar, energy. An environmental overview of the second volume of the Economic Survey, released recently, says, the top report has "raised issues with investing in renewable energy attributing a social cost of Rs 11 per unit of electricity."
The analysis, published in a well-known environmental journal, run by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), New Delhi,says that the "social cost" of renewal energy, as seen by the Economic Survey, is "three times to that of coal", insisting, "This gives the wrong signal to the investors, more or less questioning why renewable energy is being pushed so hard."
Carried out by Aruna Kumarankandath, who specializes in renewable energy with the CSE, which is headed by well known environmentalist Sunita Narain, the analysis says, the social cost of Rs 11 per unit has been arrived at on the basis of several components -- the private costs of generation, the opportunity cost of land, social cost of carbon, health costs, and costs of stranded assets.
"In simpler terms", says Kumarankandath, the Economic Survey appears to believe that "more investment in wind and solar would reduce the operation of coal power plants, which in turn will lead to job losses and coal plant loans turning bad in the books of banks".
Pointing out that "this is similar to the argument US President Donald Trump makes for increasing investment in coal mining jobs", the expert says, "The survey alleges that shift in renewables would leave conventional power plants underutilised, lower than their maximum technically feasible level."
The investments made in these plants, according to the survey, would be deemed “sunk” and would result in loss of revenue. And these stranded assets would impact the banking sector. "It is estimated the total advances to coal sector were Rs 5,732 crore with ratio of non-performing assets at 19.8 per cent", Kumarankandath quotes from the survey.
Aruna Kumarankandath
Wondering why this was not included in social cost estimate of coal-fired energy, Kumarankandath says, "The survey says that the social costs would include the opportunity cost of land required for solar. However, no specific cost is mentioned, which some may argue, is the same as the cost private developers pay for it, which is already reflected in the cost of generation, even if it is as low as Rs 2.44. In addition, the opportunity cost of land is not put on the social cost of coal power plants."
According to the expert, "The estimate assumes that land required of coal power plant is around 2,023 square meters or 0.5 acres per megawatt (MW), while for solar its 10 times in comparison. This is considered a barrier in solar development."
Contradicting this, she quotes a CSE estimate according to which, "on an average, coal power plant require 1.7 acres of land per MW but this does not include the area under coal mines, which increases the requirement to 5.95 or 6 acres per MW." This is comparable with the estimate by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, according to which "the land requirement for ground mounted solar is around 5-6 acres per MW."
Noting that "the survey also does not consider installations on rooftops and already developed areas, which will reduce the space needed", the expert says, "According to an analysis by Bridge to India, a renewable consultancy, half the desert area in Barmer, Rajasthan can install 1,000 giga watt (GW) solar. Solar plants largely use barren and unproductive land. Thus, 1000 GW can be installed in the 3.5 per cent of the waste land in the country."
Also not calculated in the social cost of coal are the 115,000 "premature deaths every year, including those of the coal miners, or 800,000 deaths due to ‘chronic obstructive pulmonary disease’ (Lancet estimate), and 100,000 more due to asthma, all of which especially become acute in coal mining areas or the areas where thermal power plants operate.
Sharply criticising the survey for cautioning investment in renewable energy and suggesting a “calibrated” approach due to the total cost accrued to the society, the expert believes, "In essence, it suggests to slow down the pace of renewable energy development."

Comments

TRENDING

Whistle-blowing IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt's wife suspects foul play after truck hits her car

By Nachiketa Desai*
Paranoia has seized Shweta Bhatt, wife of suspended Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Sanjiv Bhatt, after the car she was driving was rammed in broad day light. According to Shweta Bhatt, it was beacon light-flashing truck without registration number plate. The incident took place on January 7, just a day ahead of the Gujarat High Court was scheduled to take up the bail application of Sanjiv Bhatt, arrested last year for "involvement" in a 23-year-old case.

Call to support IIM-Bangalore professor, censured for seeking action against Uniliver

Counterview Desk
Sections of the Indian Institute of Managements (IIMs) across India have strongly reacted to the decision to censure Dr Deepak Malghan, a faulty at IIM-Bangalore. Prabhir Vishnu Poruthiyil, who is faculty at IIM-Tiruchirapalli, has sought wider solidarity with Dr Malghan, saying, "The administration has censured Deepak for merely suggesting a meaningful action against Hindustan Unilever for their abysmal environmental record" by “disinviting” it for campus placement.

99% MGNREGA funds "exhausted", Govt of India makes no additional sanctions: Study

Counterview Desk
A letter, addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and prepared by senior activists led by Aruna Roy on behalf of the Peoples’ Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG), and signed, among others, by 80 members of Parliament, has regretted that, despite repeated public statements by his government promising employment and job creation that will boost the country’s growth, the country’s only employment guarantee programme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), “is being systematically undermined.”

Morari Bapu, who has installed new statues of Ram, Laxman, Hanuman without weapons

By Sandeep Pandey*
A saint is one who can give some inner peace by his/her voice. This will happen only when s(he) will talk about love and harmony. Morari Bapu is one saint who has been conveying the message of love, peace, harmony, fraternity, etc. Today when a number of saffron clad figures with aggressive posture, spewing venom, fanning hatred to polarise voters are at the forefront of politics of Hindutva it is a relief to see Morari Bapu in a different mould.

Nuclear reactors sought from French giant "not safe": Letter to Modi on Jaitapur project

Counterview Desk
Amidst reports that the French nuclear giant EDF has submitted a “techno-commercial offer” for the world’s largest nuclear power park proposed in Maharashtra’s Jaitapur nuclear power park in Jaitapur on the Maharashtra coast, Dr EAS Sarma, India’s former Union Secretary in the Minister of Power, and an eminent voice in the civil society, has written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who also heads Department of Atomic Energy (DAE),  protesting the move.

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

Kerala land being acquired using "draconian, anti-people" National Highway Act, 1956

Counterview Desk
In a letter Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan, senior activists and politicians have insisted that the Kerala government should not agree to "inhuman displacement and buid-operate-transfer (BOT) Toll system", imposed by the Government of India and the National Highway Authority of India, for widening the current National Highway (NH) 66.

Kaiga NPP expansion: Karnataka to get just 400 MW, but lose thick forest, fresh water

Counterview Desk
In an open letter to the chairman and members of the Atomic energy Commission (AEC) on the issue of Kaiga nuclear power plant (NPP) expansion plan in Karnataka, Shankar Sharma, well-known power policy analyst, has argued that that in case of expansion, the site will face “exponential increase in radiation emission risks”, underlining, “Nuclear safety experts identify such a scenario as enhanced risk for NPPs with multiple reactors and shared technical facilities."
Sharma says the questions that also be asked whether Karnataka should lose more than 54 hectares of thick forests and about 152,304 cubic meters of fresh water per day from Kali river for a meager benefit of 400 MW from the Kaiga NPP, for which “there are many benign alternative options available for the state at much lower overall costs to the state.”
Text of the letter: This has reference to the public hearing under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Rule 2006 of Ministry of Environment, Fore…

Uttarakhand High Court: Biodiversity boards can impose fees on Ramdev's Divya Pharmacy

By Mridhu Tandon
In a significant decision, the Uttarakhand High Court on December 21, 2018 has dismissed the writ petition filed by Divya Pharmacy founded by Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balakrishnan, challenging the demand of the Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board (UBB) imposing fees under the provisions of the Fair and Equitable Benefit Sharing (FEBS).

Modi becoming Prime Minister now appears to be an "accident" to the people of India

By Sandeep Pandey*
Anupam Kher's film 'Accidental Prime Minister' has targeted Dr Manmohan Singh who served for two terms and may be again acceptable for the job if his party regains power. But his tormentor Narendra Modi seems to be out of breath even before his first term is over. Disillusionment with him is so widespread and deep that people of India may not bear with him for another term. As the general elections approach again the difference between the two needs to be examined.