Doing business amidst India’s Electric Vehicle conundrum

The National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020, when first launched in 2012 with a target of having 6-7 million electric/hybrid vehicles in India by 2020 wouldn’t have turned many heads in the sector. Five years down the line in 2017, with a new government at the helm, an announcement of having only Electric Vehicle(EV) sales by 2030 has definitely fueled speculation from all quadrants of the country. How else do we expect the sector to react, considering auto sector contributes to over 7% of GDP (~25% of manufacturing GDP), transport fuel accounts for 5% of the GDP and about 30 million direct and indirect jobs are at stake.

Ever since, the announcement was made, I have managed to keep track of the proceedings at both the central and state level with interactions with relevant stakeholders in the process.

The first discussion I had was with my colleague, Harsh Thacker, looking at the situation in India from a common citizen’s perspective.

A month down the line, Karnataka turned up with the country’s first policy on electric vehicles. It was a comprehensive policy looking at both the electric vehicles and energy storage sector.

I was also able to record the opinion of R V Deshpande, Minister for Industries, Gov. of Karnataka who was instrumental in bringing out the policy on EV and energy storage.

Simultaneously, the report commissioned by the Forum of Regulators to evaluate the impact of electric vehicles on the grid was released. Mahesh Patankar, who was the lead author in the study joined me for a discussion elaborating on the methods behind the study and why he the grid would be safe with an increasing EV penetration. The report worked on the premise, that India would have 6-7 million EVs by 2020, the only official target till date.

Prof. Ashok Jhunjhunwala an adviser to the government of India who was one of the early proponents of the all EV vision shared his reasoning on what he calls Blind Men and an Elephant.

At the same time, the Industry body, SIAM released its white paper advocating an electric vehicle roadmap for the nation, which indirectly hinted that an all-electric vehicle fleet was not possible by 2030 and India could target the same by 2047, India’s 100th year of Independence.

Talking of industries, I happened to be part of a stakeholder consultation hosted by NITI Aayog who claims to have been given a mandate to formulate India’s electric vehicle programme. Awadesh Kumar Jha from Fortum India who has been evaluating the market for setting charging infrastructure was also part of the consultation. He joined me to discuss the outcomes of the stakeholder consultation.

Finally on a positive note, amidst the uncertainty on the policy front, the government sanctioned subsidy under the FAME programme to roll out electric buses. Funds for procurement of 390 buses were released with a deadline to place orders by end of March 2018. The state transport utilities proactively went ahead with bids and 3 companies won contracts for supply. I was glad to chat with Nikhil Dhamkar from Sun Mobility, who along with their JV partner Ashok Leyland will supply electric buses in Ahmedabad.

With the elections just a year away, we could expect some announcements in the EV space in the next few months, however, if we miss that, we could probably lose a year of action.

Image cty: Tesla

Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO) in enabling energy transition

(Contest entry for Masdar Engage 2016)

Sustainable development looks to be a general priority for the Governments and corporations alike. Developing countries are looking to sustain year on year growth whilst balancing the need to minimize fossil fuel use and switch to renewable energy. Likewise big companies are exploiting the developing markets to sustain global business. Top companies are also keen on implementing their sustainability practices in the local environment. The Government has a balancing role to play between attracting investors and also fulfilling climate change commitments.

Role of Government

Governments are typically accused for a lack of policy framework but I believe Governments typically fail in enforcing policies when it comes to energy and emission reduction. Policies related to emission reduction and renewable energy is typically modified versions of policy implemented elsewhere. One of the key policies is Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO). I advocate this policy for implementation in developing countries that look to balance growth and keep the global temperatures below 2°C. If implemented this could fill the gap for energy shortage while simultaneously increasing the demand for new renewable energy projects.

Renewable Purchase Obligation (RPO)

Industrial and commercial consumers typically have the highest energy consumption. This policy initiative will require all industrial/commercial consumers to procure certain percentage of their energy from renewable energy sources. Obligated entities can either install their own power project or procure renewable energy through open access transmission network or even buy energy trading certificates. This policy initiative can also be scaled up by starting with a low percentage of 1% and then increasing them year on year. The policy if enforced will be successful in developing countries where there is a demand for energy and the price from fossil fuels is increasing while the price from renewable energy is witnessing a decline. This policy will also enable big corporations to shift towards renewable energy and will see significant emission reductions.

Major Benefits

By adopting this policy the governments could expect to see a reduction in energy emissions. Investment in renewable energy projects will increase. This will foster partnerships between renewable energy companies and MNCs in developing renewable energy projects. Demand for renewable energy will increase which will see more interest from developers in setting up power projects. A significant size of renewable energy projects will aid in climate change mitigation for the government.

Recent developments from top manufacturers demonstrate the interests from corporations in claiming to procure renewable energy power. Their sustainability claim will increase. The average power costs will decrease in long term as the share of renewable energy in their portfolio increases.

Can RPO drive the global sustainable energy transition by 2030?

It could well deliver. For example, if Indian states implement their RPO for solar we could see solar alone contributing to 8% of the grid electricity by 2019. On the contrary, irrespective of whether RPO is successfully implemented or not there is bigger problem in developing countries, its infrastructure. There is a lack of infrastructural facilities to accept renewable energy. Grid availability turns out to be the biggest issue, there will be a need to upgrade existing transmission infrastructure. Another crucial issue with respect to renewable energy like solar is the availability of land. If the Governments plug these key holes then implementing RPO would prove to be a major factor in transition from the era of fossil fuels to renewable energy and fighting global climate crisis.

This post is a contest entry for Masdar Engage Blogging contest 2016. You can review the post at Masdar Engage 2016.