National Clean Energy Fund : a review

The budget for 2017-18 projected an estimate of nearly 30,000 Cr being collected in the form of Clean Environment Cess and transferred to the National Clean Environment Fund. The National Clean Environment Fund (NCEF) was created in 2010 by introducing a clean energy cess of ₹ 50/tonne on coal produced or imported along the lines of ‘polluter pays’ principle. The cess was increased to ₹ 200/tonne in 2015 and doubled to ₹ 400/tonne in 2016. The overall objective of the NCEF is financing and promoting clean energy initiatives, ‘funding research and innovative projects in clean energy technologies’.

Has the NCEF achieved its objectives?

A brief released by the Govt. on the performance of NCEF in 2016 showed that out of nearly 55,000Cr (up to FY 17) collected since its inception only 50% was transferred to NCEF and a further 50% was used to finance projects. One of the reasons for poor performance could be due to the functioning of the NCEF which needs an Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) to approve projects to be funded from the NCEF.

NCEF

Source: Ministry of Finance, 2016

MNRE: The big gainer, but is it enough?

The Ministry for New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) seems to be the big gainer from the NCEF. Over 90% of the funds from the NCEF have been transferred to MNRE.

CSE

Source: CSE, 2017

The Renewable Energy (RE) capacity addition has nearly doubled in the last couple of years however, the funds to MNRE has not been proportionally increased.

NCEF_MNRE

Source: Budget 2017-18

The same was confirmed by the minister in the house.

Interestingly, R&D which was one of the core objectives of the NCEF has seen a reduced allocation in the last couple of years. Although the increased coal cess has been in the news on a positive note, the performance of the NCEF overall has been relatively poor. There is a need for better review and handling of the NCEF at the IMG level  if the objective of the NCEF has to be realized along with the RE targets and the commitments made at COP21.

 

Depleting ground water!

Ground water is the first accessible point for water in any corner of the planet and that is a big reason for its exploitation. In India, it contributes to about 80 percent of the drinking water and 60 percent of irrigation resource in rural areas and about 50 percent of drinking water requirement in cities and towns. Bangalore, like any developing city in the world has seen a rapid depletion of this resource and what better example can substantiate this than the disappearance of 500 plus lakes since the city came into existence. The challenge now is to have a sustainable approach to solve this crisis.

                Ground water is tapped by using bore well or specifically tube wells in major cities across the globe. However the depth of the well is highly region specific and the depth can vary from 30m to 200m in Bangalore city limits alone. Given the increasing population and corresponding requirement of water and its exhaustion in the real world ,we encounter a vicious cycle or what is popularly termed ‘The Tragedy of Commons’ wherein the common resource for everyone is being exploited by every individual without any consideration for  the society at large.

                The first tube wells were installed by the city corporation to supply water to the city but with exponential growth seen in the number of residential colonies and societies in the city meant the city corporation couldn’t support the growing demands and that resulted in more tube well being installed. This proved to be a blessing until the number of bore wells in a locality crossed a certain number. That spelled doom for the old bore wells that were installed at a depth of 30-100m as they were now out of water and new ones had to be drilled to a depth exceeding 100m and 200m. This again causes a water scarcity problem as the water bed in the locality that is replenished every monsoon now moves to a lower level of 200m. In short the water bed in a region goes to a lower depth every time the bore wells are installed at lower depths.

                The above problem is something the communities have accepted too, but their problems with ground water doesn’t end with its exhaustion. New findings have indicated a high level of contamination in the ground water. Toxic compounds of fluoride and nitrates are found in the ground water.

                There is however a solution to this problem but like most solutions to ‘the tragedy of commons’ it begins with the involvement and active participation of the stake holders. A consensus has to be reached among local communities in deciding common bore well points and their depth. The number of bore wells has to be limited. Governments have to enforce a strong resolution to check the rampant installations of bore wells. A better a sewage system has to be in place.Rain water harvesting is an ideal solution at this point of crisis. It restores the water bed which otherwise is a spectator of the monsoons.