June 14, 2018 @ 2:00 am

14 JUNE 2018

Green ambitions

Policy tweaks and incentives are needed to meet the renewable energy targets

In a surprising statement this month, Union Power Minister R.K. Singh said India would overshoot its target of installing 175 gigawatts of capacity from renewable energy sources by 2022. India was on track, he said, to hit 225 GW of renewable capacity by then. This is a tall claim, considering India has missed several interim milestones since it announced its 175 GW target in 2015. The misses happened despite renewable capacity being augmented at a blistering pace, highlighting how ambitious the initial target was. Technological and financial challenges remain: both wind and solar generation could be erratic, and India’s creaky electricity grid must be modernised to distribute such power efficiently. Meanwhile, wind and solar tariffs have hit such low levels that suppliers are working with wafer-thin margins. This means small shocks can knock these sectors off their growth trajectories. The obstacles have capped capacity addition to 69 GW till date, with India missing its 2016 and 2017 milestones. To hit its 2022 target of 175 GW, 106 GW will have to be added in four years, more than twice the capacity added in the last four.

In the solar sector alone, which the government is prioritising, policy uncertainties loom large. Manufacturers of photovoltaic (PV) cells have demanded a 70% safeguard duty on Chinese PV imports, and the Directorate General of Trade Remedies will soon take a call on this. But any such duty will deal a body blow to solar-power suppliers, who rely heavily on Chinese hardware, threatening the growth of the sector. There is also the problem of the rooftop-solar segment. Of the current goal of 100 GW from solar energy by 2022, 40 GW is to come from rooftop installations, and 60 GW from large solar parks. Despite being the fastest-growing renewable-energy segment so far — rooftop solar clocked a compound annual growth rate of 117% between 2013 and 2017 — India only hit 3% of its goal by the end of 2017, according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance report. The reason? Homeowners aren’t warming up to the idea of installing photovoltaic panels on their terraces because the economics does not work out for them. Compared to industries and commercial establishments, a home typically needs less power and will not use everything it generates. So, homeowners need to be able to sell electricity back to the grid, which in turn needs a nationwide “net-metering” policy. As of today, only a few States have such policies, discouraging users elsewhere. Such challenges can be overcome with the right incentives, but they will take time to kick in. The good news is that even if India hits the 175 GW target, it stands to meet its greenhouse-gas emission goal under the Paris climate agreement. This in itself will be a worthy achievement. Overshooting this target will be a plus, but until the government tackles the policy challenges, it must hold off on implausible claims.

Golden feet

The top teams appear to be peaking perfectly in time for the World Cup

The 2018 FIFA World Cup begins in Russia in a flurry of excitement. That there is no single, overwhelming favourite to win the trophy has only added to the appeal of what is cracked up as the world’s biggest sporting eventBrazil, the most successful World Cup team of all time, appears revived after a humiliating semifinal loss on home soil four years ago.Tite, the manager, has made the world fall in love with the Selecao again, shunning the dull style of his predecessor Dunga and helping produce some captivating football. Germany, the reigning champion and the side that inflicted a 7-1 defeat on Brazil in Belo Horizonte, has looked far from its best in its last few friendly matches. But this is a world-class side with gifted, young players and is supremely organised. Spain, revitalised after two poor tournaments, sacked its manager Julen Lopetegui for signing on as manager of club powerhouse Real Madrid. With a squad featuring several Madrid and Barcelona players, the decision was made to retain team cohesion, which helped it sail through the qualifiers. France comes with a roster full of frightening, jaw-dropping talent, but that alone — as the Euro 2016 final demonstrated — is never enough. Then there are Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, widely regarded as the greatest players of the modern era, who could well be appearing in a World Cup for the last time.

Messi has recently endured much heartbreak on national duty, Argentina finishing runner-up at the 2014 World Cup and the 2015 and 2016 editions of the Copa America. In the last of those finals, Messi missed a penalty in the shootout, after which he announced his retirement. But the little magician from Rosario was persuaded to return. It is flawed to contend that Messi needs a World Cup win to be considered among the best of all time. Football, after all, is not an individual sport; but there is no denying that such a triumph will immortalise him in the hearts of Argentine fans. Ronaldo, fresh off Champions League glory with Real Madrid, continues to spearhead Portugal’s challenge, displaying a phenomenal level of fitness and skill even at 33. For host Russia, the tournament is an opportunity to showcase itself to the world at a time when its relations with the West are severely strained. Its sporting reputation needs repairing too after a massive doping scandal. The decision to award the 2018 FIFA World Cup to Russia eight years ago was by no means a popular one. There were allegations of corruption, even if a report by FIFA’s Ethics Committee cleared the Russian bid team of wrongdoing. But all that could well be forgotten if the country delivers a successful World Cup. With the award of the 2022 edition to Qatar also under sustained spotlight,much is at stake for FIFA too.

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