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Clean energy pathways and policy options for India
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Clean energy pathways and policy options for India

July 20, 2020

Kamal Kapadia  0:00  

It gives me great pleasure to welcome Amol to Terra. Amol is a old and dear friend. He is the staff scientist and Lead of the India Research Program at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab where he's also deputy of the International Energy Analysis Department. He's also an affiliate and senior scientist at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California Berkeley. Right now his work focuses on grid scale battery storage, heavy duty electric vehicles, deep renewable energy penetration in the India power sector and appliance and equipment efficiency in several emerging economies.

Amol has published over 80 journal articles, research reports, conference papers. His work has been featured in many media outlets, and he regularly advises the national government utilities and regulators in India on energy policies and programs. He and I are actually from the same hometown town Pune, India. And he has a Master's and PhD from Energy and Resources Group at UC Berkeley. While most of his work has focused on India, recently, he and his team has they've done some amazing research on clean energy in the US as well. And they just published a report on how you can get to 90% clean energy, clean electricity in the US by 2035, very cheaply. In fact, it will be cheaper to do that and to use our current electricity mix. It's actually a brilliant way of thinking about the problem, because it's actually just that last 10%, that gets a little bit expensive and technically complicated. So to sort of, you know, everyone talks about hundred percent, but he sort of took on the 90% challenge, and it turns out, it's a much easier challenge to solve. And so he will be spending a little bit of time at the end talking about that work as well, that report is getting a lot of media attention at the moment.

So Amol & I are old friends from Berkeley, and there's a lot that I I really admire about him and find inspiring. He built the India program at Lawrence Berkeley Lab from scratch. And his work is really grounded in practice. He works very closely with a great little organization in Puna called Prayas Energy. They do some really important work around clean energy research and advocacy in India. He also trains electric sector regulators and senior government officials in India all the time. And he has a sort of classic line that I think sums up his entire attitude towards life, which is 'load nahi leneka', which is translates loosely as 'don't sweat it'. So, with that, I, again, Amol we're very happy to have you and I'm gonna hand over to you.

Amol Phadke  2:46  

All right. It's very exciting to be here. Thanks, Kamal, and Laney for inviting me and I'm really excited to talk to you guys. We need a lot more folks to work on climate change. And climate change mitigation. So I'm really encouraged to see so many faces who are really interested in this. So anything I can do to help..... that topic is not that difficult. Any kind of committed interested people can make great contributions. So, so I think with that, I'm just going to kind of run through a few slides focused on kind of clean energy opportunities in India, but then also talk about some of the recent work we have done in the US. I will probably finish this in 20 minutes or 25 minutes and then have more time for questions. Is that approximately what... All right, perfect. Okay.

All right. So Kamal actually did this part. So I'm just going to skip this slide and I'm going to talk mostly about kind of... This, here's the outline of my talk, I'm going to talk about future of energy demand in India and and given that future talk a little bit about the environmental challenges, in particular in the context of India. But then I'm going to give some interesting ideas on what are some other technology trends and what are some of the leap frog opportunities that India is in a unique position to access. And then we're gonna discuss why wouldn't this happen on its own and what kind of policy and program ecosystem required to kind of deliver this change. So that's kind of the broad and then I'll just cover some stuff on the US in the end.

So just to kind of get us started. This is a big picture overview of the current energy scene in India. Mostly the energy demand is met by coal and oil, which is inconsistent with what we need to do for climate. At the same time, India's per capita like energy consumption is like one third or one fifth of the world average. So, there's a lot of in itself, you could make the argument that it's not really contributing majorly to climate change, but it is poised to in terms of energy use, most of the energy is used in industry, buildings and transport. So those are kind of the three sectors in which the energy is used. And all of these sectors are growing pretty rapidly, which is kind of the which is more about the future, and this is what I will cover.

So this is a picture of progress taken somewhere outside maybe in Mumbai. As you can see that Patil  Juice Center maybe in the summer, and you can see the number of air conditioners on that wall. It's pretty astounding. I'm more interested in what is being sold in that Juice Center than the air conditioners but that apart and why am I talking about air conditioners is that air conditioners very interesting story they consume about 100 times the power of LED bulbs, just to give you a scale estimate. So air conditioners consumes about 1.5 kilowatts or 1500 watts on peak power versus a light bulb, LED light bulbs consume about 10 watts. So it's important to understand what's happening to air conditioners to understand the energy story.

So it's very interesting to look at in terms of energy demand future of India. It's important to look at what happened in China because India is kind of 20 to 30 years behind China in terms of economic, in terms of GDP. So what I'm showing on this figure and I'm gonna try to use my laser pointer, see if it works. Can you guys I believe you'll see that laser pointer. All right. So what I'm doing here is the orange line is showing the room air conditioner penetration in urban China. And room air conditioner penetration in urban China was almost non existent in the 1990s. And in the matter of about 15 years, it went from almost nothing to about 120 air conditioners for 100 households, which is a pretty dramatic growth.

And India currently, I mean, I'm showing some old data but India, the air conditioner penetration in India in urban India is at 5-10%. So it is at that inflection point where our projections are that there are certain nonlinear periods in our country is kind of energy demand growth. And that inflection point could be just around the corner for India. So if if air conditioners grow our projections that AC demand could alone be 150 gigawatts by 2030-2035 in India. Just to give you a scale estimate, that is three times just one appliance demand from India is double the peak demand of UK or triple the peak demand of California. So this stuff is pretty damn important. So, the point I'm trying to make is that it's not certain that this will happen. But India is that interesting kind of growth an inflection point where the business as usual has significant consequences of how much infrastructure you build and how much impact it has.

And this is clearly shown in this scan India - China comparison just to kind of so India, China started in the 70s at the same point in terms of their electricity consumption, but as economic growth really took off in China, industrial consumption and residential consumption just took off. And the difference now in India, China, electricity consumption is 4x. So, our hypothesis is that it's not clear whether India will follow this path. But  if India does follow this path, and if it's all fossil based, we should all buy a house boat, you know, a house boat or something. I think we're done for climate. If this happens, it's really important to kind of understand what are some of the leap frog opportunities that India can tap into.

So fine electricity demand is growing. So what's the problem? And I think this is I'm going to cover this material a little quickly, because probably you guys are all aware of some of the key environmental challenges. But something people talk a lot about kind of global environmental challenges. But what's interesting is a story on air pollution, which is also pretty well known. But this is premature deaths due to air pollution in India. And there are there were about 600,000 to a million premature deaths because of air pollution in India. So that's like one 9/11 every day. That's kind of the scale we're talking about. Right.

And as you can notice, most of the air pollution, premature deaths are due to kind of residential biomass burning. There's nothing to not really link to the big users of you know, transport and coal. However, coal power plants still contributed to 83,000 premature deaths because of air pollution. It's pretty significant. So what is interesting is okay, so China went through this growth story, what will happen to air pollution as India develops it's interesting to look at what happened in China. What happened in China is that the air pollution sources that death toll has kind of remained the same, close to 600,000 to a million premature deaths. The air pollution sources of under development were replaced by air pollution sources of development meaning that industrial coal transportation, power plant coal especially transportation and industrial coal is much much higher in China. And of course, the residential kind of coal burning though a residential residential biomass burning is much smaller.

So a BAU pathway will basically lead to kind of significant damages, significant air pollution challenges which are already pretty severe. So one can do all these efforts on reducing the air pollution and biomass burning. But if the way as you produce and consume is not changed, then we are still facing a significant public health crisis.

And this picture is something that I have on climate change. This picture is something, I'm from Pune and I have lots of cousins and relatives in Mumbai. This picture is something that really keeps me up at night. And this is not a 2100 picture where yes, this is 2050. And 2050 is pretty, you know, pretty close. And this is what this is. This is a paper published in Nature Communications. On the left hand side there is the old estimate on what a sea level rise will do to Mumbai. And on the right hand side is the new estimate published in Nature Communication. So, this is the future we cannot and this is for a BAU growth in emissions if no drastic action is taken.

So, India not only has to kind of chart a different trajectory, but it also needs to make a concerted effort to influence the global conversation on climate change. Because this is something that it just cannot afford to happen, there is no way you can mitigate such flooding or build sea walls around it. So, this is and the political climate is not very encouraging. So, given this context like why why should we still be talking about this? Why are we still hopeful and this is where I come back to my kind of Pune roots of being a food and cricket fanatic. So all the analogies come down to food and cricket.

So I don't know how many of you follow cricket but my favorite batsman, he, he was the master of timing. And he said, you know, timing is everything in life like you don't have to work too hard or take too much, 'load', if you get the timing right. So my, our argument is that India has probably one of the best timings in terms of charting a clean energy path in the future. And here's the basic reason the cost of clean energy has dropped dramatically before India is hitting its most important goals.

Meaning that, you know, when China basically built 600 gigawatts of coal, the price of solar power was 5x. So they were kind of forced, they could have done things differently, but they were kind of they were was not a lot of options on the table, which were, which kind of fit in the political and consumer budget. So the timing was not the best. But you can't say that for India because because of the prices of solar and storage, and all these technologies have come down. So that's what gives us hope that India can actually economically and politically chart a very different trajectory. That's why I think the timing is right. And this is where all of you can make a big difference.

I'm going to cover this pretty quickly. Maybe a part of a lot of this was already covered in your course. This is showing how dramatic the price of solar power has dropped around the world. So I'm not going to belabor this point. But I think what's interesting on India is India has actually done some very good policies on solar with competitive bidding and reverse auctions. So India has managed to achieve one of the lowest or the lowest installed cost of solar in the world, which is pretty astounding, and India has kind of one of the best solar resource in the world.

So it's a very interesting opportunity for India because from a policy perspective, it has achieved one of the lowest cost as one of the best resource. And if you look at one of the key questions people have is okay, if you want to make solar or wind as the mainstay of the energy sector, what about land and just to kind of put it out there 1000 gigawatts which is kind of sufficient to power most of power sector and other sectors in India would require less than 1% of the land and land in India. So that's kind of the back of the envelope man. So it's a very interesting resource option.

And the price of solar power is already lower in India than coal. That kind of ignores some of the grid integration issues, but it's already lower than coal. And I'm showing on this graph is kind of the electricity tariffs rupees per kWh. And the gray bar shows the coal electricity parameters and the the yellow lines and the dots actually show how the solar bids have come down just in the last, you know, five or seven years. And you can see all the recent solar bids are lower than coal.

One interesting fact about the solar bids are that their prices are the way the contracts are structured are the prices are fixed in nominal terms for 25 years. So the solar tariff is 2.5  rupees today, but it will be 2.5 rupees 25 years from now, and those were kind of from India understand inflation very well. Does anybody remember the price of samosa 25 years ago? Maybe it was one rupee. So think about solar power being offered at 2.5 rupees 10 years from now, 15 years from now, 20 years from now, I think it's a very big game changer because and that's the reason why it's happening is that all costs are fixed. There's no running costs for solar. So when the investor make the investments, they can lock in a price for the future. Unless if they get kind of fixed interest rates, and that's how the contracts have been structured.

The other big game changer, so one of the questions people ask is okay, solar is fine during the day. But what about if you need power in the night, this will see need all these coal plants because solar doesn't deliver in the night and this is where the other big revolution so there is the renewable energy price drop. But what's happening is the prices of battery storage has also dropped dramatically. Since 2010, so prices have dropped. I mean, the latest prices even lower it's $156 per kWh. I'm showing the price of batteries in storage and dollars per kWh it went from about $1,000 per kWh. Now the latest numbers is $156 per kWh.

So that's a pretty dramatic decline. And it kind of completely changes the game for both power and transport on the. So what's happening really is that the large scale solar plus renewables plus storage is really questioning the economics of coal power, gas power in all around the world. And this is what I'm showing with some news clips and stuff. I'm not going to belabor the point but there are large make gigawatt scale solar storage projects being developed and implemented all around the world. So this is this is very interesting. So our hypothesis is that new fossil based investments are actually not cost effective. If you consider this whole angle about inflation, solar plus storage being kind of cost effective  offering the same price in the next 25 years. And we have done some work in India, which shows why solar plus storage outbids coal.

And this is a slightly complicated graph. I'll try to explain as much as I can. So here's what's really happening in the power sector is that solar has become the cheapest source of power during daytime. It's already kind of 20-30% lower than coal. And then what happens is that and it's getting even cheaper. So that differential between coal our prediction as in the next three to five years sooner, it's going to be half that of coal power. And utilities have very strong incentives to just build solar. Because there are local kind of political economy drivers that leads to build out our solar. But then what happens is that if solar is providing power during the day, the coal plants only operate during evening at nighttime. And so they have much lower utilization that raises their costs.

So combining solar plus storage actually offers a more cost effective option to those investments. And what we are showing is that about 100 gigawatts of coal in the pipeline in India is not cost effective. And that hundred gigawatt is kind of equivalent to an investment of about 150 billion dollars. So it's a pretty major decision that is on the line. And why if it's all cost effective, why aren't the utilities just doing the most cost effective option? Well, that requires, more discussion over beer or something. But I think the short answer is that there are a lot of vested interest, there is a lot of there is a lot of lack of awareness of, of the options available. Because there is kind of the momentum in the system to build coal.

At the same time government of India and others are taking very interesting approaches to do solar plus storage options, which is encouraging, which is leading to a lot of encouraging results. So the field is in a very interesting juncture with concerted analysis and policy and talking to politicians. And making everybody aware of this kind of opportunities could really lead to a big change in the field. That's kind of the point of this. And this is this story is actually true, could play out all around the world.

There are about more than 500 gigawatts of power plants worth trillion dollars in pipeline all around the world, which we believe are inconsistent from an environmental perspective, because if they get built, we don't have we don't stand chance on climate, but they are also inconsistent from a economic perspective. And this is where things are become very interesting. The other thing that is very exciting, again, driven by storage, is the revolution that's happening in transport.

So this is on the left hand side, I'm showing a cover from the Economist magazine, it's not really The Wired or it's not really a technology magazine. It's not gonna make really fancy or progressive technology prediction, but even that magazine is showing a picture of an internal combustion engine as a roadkill, meaning that they may have argued that the future is bleak with the right policies for internal combustion engines on what what's happening with electric vehicles.

And this is the picture that I'm showing that of Tesla semi that is supposed to come next year. It's an all electric 80,000 pound 500 mile range electric truck that if you have $20,000 on your credit card you can book today for a price about $180,000. And that's that's all kind of future but I also want to share with you what happened in China on electric buses. Electric bus sales in China went from 1000 electric buses in 2011 to a complete market transformation of selling over 100,000 electric buses a year. Most sales of new buses in China are electric So the market flipped on buses to electric, very, very fast.

And major automakers are also responding to the opportunities, dramatic changes or new opportunities in electric vehicles. So this picture just shows like all the major automakers have major plans to launch electric vehicles. A lot of it is prompted by policy and I will kind of go into the policy aspect later but they're not just acting alone. There being be of course, there's commercial interests, but it's also prompted by policy.

And why is this particularly interesting to India? Well, India imports..why electricification of transport is particularly interesting to India because India spends India imports most of its oil. By our own projections, our government of India projections, India will import more than 90% of its oil by 2030. Imagine world's largest democracy, its most fastest growing economy importing all its oil. And then there are huge kind of security and environmental concerns around that strategy, but also India is extremely vulnerable to oil shocks.

Now, right now the oil prices very low. However, oil prices have fluctuated dramatically. What happens is that when the oil price is low, the oil consumption grows and then when you have a big shock, you have a major slowdown in the economy. What it can be replaced with what I'm showing on this graph is the cost of say, trucking fuel, diesel, how it has changed in India over the last few years. So it's basically fluctuated but has gone up significantly. And these are in between basically nominal terms, so there is some inflation built into it.

Now, if you actually electrify trucking and tie to a fixed power purchase agreement from solar power, then effectively you will have guaranteed fuel price fixed in nominal terms, which is inflation for the next 25 years. We believe that is one of the biggest political opportunities because a lot of governments fall because of food price inflation and why that is happening is because, essentially the inflation and oil prices percolates through food prices through you know, cost of fuel. So, that's why I think it's very interesting opportunity in India.

I already told you that India is one of the cheapest solar power and it's guaranteed fixed in nominal terms. It has the one of the best solar resources of course, it has a lot of good quality wind. But it's not Japan or UK where they don't have this kind of amazing opportunity. There are other opportunities those countries but basically, inflation proof solar and wind power driving major sectors of the economy are enormous economic, political, and environmental opportunity. And I'm not going to kind of go over this slide, but basically what I'm showing is that with the falling prices of batteries, electric trucking or electric cars and electric buses are becoming very, very competitive with conventional options.

Now, if all this is true, if the technology is so good, why should we be talking about this or what more needs to happen? There are several kind of market barriers or regulatory barriers that prevent from all these cost effective and amazing technologies to kind of penetrating the market. And I'm going to go over the problems and the solutions in this kind of chart. So first is what I've listed is kind of demand assurance and aggregation to reduce costs.

So, what is the barrier that what happens typically in a country is that when a technology is new, its cost is typically very high. And it kind of creates some vicious cycle of high cost, low demand, low demand, high cost. So a lot of times government intervene, to basically do government or private sector intervenes to do some demand aggregation to basically the break the cycle of high cost, low demand, and there are several examples of private sector and government sector interventions that could be used to basically break the cycle. India did a fantastic program on bulk procurement of LED bulbs that dropped LED bulb prices by 95% in India. They sold like literally something like 300 million LED bulbs with single order constituting 50 million LED bulbs. There are private sector actions, such as platforms that can be used to aggregate demand and to some options. There are interesting kind of business opportunities in aggregation of demand.

So there is that barrier, but there are solutions from a policy and business perspective. The second point is that if we look at the nature of clean technology, all the costs are up front. And there is no fuel cost or very limited fuel costs. So if we look at solar and wind power, all the costs are up front. So that's why financing becomes very important & innovation so electric buses where they have higher first cost but much lower running costs. I mean, this is the story all across the clean energy technology space.

So in government incentives to address some of the first cost barriers to kickstart the market, as well as private sector, innovative financing solutions, which are linked to performance of the technology, which is the big innovation that is possible. Now, one of the key barriers in financing was that it's hard to kind of micro target and measure technology performance. But with information technology, you could do a lot of innovation in understanding or, you know, collecting all the data in the micro performance of massive deployment and do financing based on that. So that's a big opportunity for governments and private sector to step in.

The third important aspect is a lot of this requires a lot of infrastructure and infrastructure is a lot of times of public good, meaning that it's kind of a natural monopoly like the electricity sector, and sometimes it just needs to be built by the government or in a public private partnership. So you need to, for example, electric vehicle to really take off you really need to build out the charging infrastructure and that has to be done in conjunction with several public entities like utilities and others. So infrastructure is a key area where you need to push the government at the same time have public private partnerships to address some of these technology barriers.

Prudent public investments considering technological change. Well, energy sector is dominated by public sector investments, or its significant share of investments in the energy sector are not free market. So the State Bank of India or the Bank of China all these major banks, which are essentially, public banks are investing in fossil technologies as well. And the question is, if those investments go bad, they typically don't have a soft - hard budget constraint that's basically borne by the taxpayer. So it's very important that one works with the policymakers and the financial institutions, especially in the public sector to work on these clean energy opportunities or improve transparency of investments in fossil because we don't believe that a lot of times those are risky and are going to be turned out to be stranded. The flexibility with trading is kind of a nerdy point. I will skip over that because I want to keep point for questions but there is very, so the bottom line here... are my slides.

Okay, so here's a summary of what I told you. It's kind of summary in pictures is that electricity demand, or energy demand could go very rapidly. Then maybe they will put the air conditioning on the Patil Juice Centre itself, there will be no space for the Juice Center. But we can't afford that kind of a future. Just remember the picture of Mumbai. Fortunately, it's not all bad, depressing. You should just watch some cricket to lift your mood, but also remember, you know, timing is everything. So India is one of the best timings in terms of clean energy leapfrog, because costs have fallen dramatically, before India is about to hit its growth spurt. So there is a lot of excitement in the country. And lastly, there is a revolution happening in technology but needs policy support. So that's kind of my India spiel.

I'm just going to cover us really quickly what we did for the US. We have basically done an analysis of what it would take to provide 90% clean electricity in the USA by 2035. And what what prompted this analysis was that most people were looking at 2050, which they call the mid-century strategy and a lot of discussion and debate on that. And I had a joke on that, and I think it sometimes provides a greenwashing. It's like I'm saying to my wife, well, I'm gonna have a six pack when I'm gonna turn 50. But let's just order the Indian food tonight. So we think that having intermediate targets is critical. So we basically and the fact is that the cost reductions in clean energy technology have arrived about 15-20 years earlier.

So we looked at, we basically showed that you can have a 90% clean grid in the US by 2035, without increasing consumer bills. In fact, the consumers bill will drop by 10%. But more importantly, in the context of Covid, be sure that the US power sector can absorb about $1.7 trillion worth of investments without increasing consumer base and support about, you know, 29 million job years of employment. So I think there's a incredible economic opportunity and an imperative to do this, if we are to have a planet. And I'll stop there and open it for questions.

Laney Seigner  36:42  

Thank you so much for that Amol. That was this very comprehensive and, and memorable with all the visuals and metaphors that you threw in there. So there's been a lot of questions coming in through the slack already. So I will just turn it over to there.And let's see, let Oh, my Slack is frozen. Oh, here it comes. Ani, let's start with your question. Go ahead and ask it.

Anirudh Gupta  37:12  

Thank you Amol. That was really, really interesting. And I can't think of a better time to have got this guest lecture because in the in the last two weeks, we've had quite a conflict happen. We had one of the world's biggest solar contracts for six gigawatts given to Adani Green Energy. And at the same time, the Indian government's opened up coal block auctions. Right. So there's this parallel conflict, and I want to hear your thoughts and how that kind of plays out in the energy mix going forward.

Amol Phadke  37:46  

Okay, so I think coal is also used for industry, but it's only 30%. I think, I would argue that one has to really seriously assess whether you need to open up new mines and whether because our view is that the technology and solar plus storage is changing so rapidly that if I were to take my best guess is that all those investments may become standard. And now the question is from a political perspective, there is imperatives of job creation and keeping some economic activity going. But I would argue that solar and wind investments offer similar opportunities as well. So there is money to be made in both. But I think this is where creating more and more awareness and some pressure is important. Like it's not very well known that coal is no longer cost effective or unlikely to be cost effective.

Laney Seigner  39:07  

And this sort of relatedly question just came in from one of our learners in the Zoom chat. What are the set of incentives that are being contemplated to off board coal? Zubair if you want to clarify that in any way? I decided in the zoom chat, and it just seems relevant to the topic we're on before we move on to another question. Is that accurate? Yes. Okay.

Amol Phadke  39:30  

So the question is like, what kind of incentives are offered to promote coal or transition out of coal?

Laney Seigner  39:39  

Transition out of coal.....

Amol Phadke  39:42  

I would say. I would say that look, there are no big incentives. However, I think government of India has, at least to their credit have been very aggressive on solar and wind and storage. They are currently pursuing kind of all of the above strategy that we want to do solar plus storage and wind but also kind of keep the options open for coal, which is much better than just doing coal. Because now what you have in India is evidence that solar is cheap and can be done at scale. So what needs to really happen is bring several stakeholders and government to a point through of course discussion and debate and prove that coal doesn't have a lot of future. But it needs more work right one has to actually show from an economic and technical perspective which we are beginning to do that coal has very limited future. So currently, there are no incentives. But it is significant policy action to promote solar and storage.

Laney Seigner  41:05  

Yeah, thanks for that. And Ryan, sorry, I missed your question above on these in the in the Slack but you want to go ahead and ask that one. That seems like a good follow up.

Ryan Barrett  41:13  

Sure. Yeah. There wasn't as much discussion of nuclear. But personally, I was really excited by the announcement last fall of planning 20 mega or 20 gigawatts of nuclear over the next decade. And you know, nuclear is controversial, but I think kind of unique and it's the, it's the only clean power we have that is also like good for baseload. So I'm curious what you think.

Amol Phadke  41:44  

I think that that view needs to be updated, because what we are seeing is that solar like renewables plus storage, is becoming competitive even for baseload. So India just conducted a very interesting auction called round the clock power option for renewable and storage. So it's like 80% capacity factor, and the bids came in lower than coal. And it's like one third that of nuclear. So I believe that nuclear strategy is more of a national security strategy than a power strategy for power.

I think nuclear our view, my personal view is that whatever nuclear you have, given how tough the challenges on climate change, it makes sense to keep it. New nuclear makes absolutely no sense. That's kind of my I'm saying given you know, nuclear there is a bit of cost this 10 rupees, costs have overrun. And when you have around the clock solar plus storage options at, you know, 1/4th the price or 1/3rd of the price, why would you do nuclear, unless the nuclear gets out how not to be too cheap meter.

Ryan Barrett  42:58  

So, you think utility scale storage is here and scaled and ready?

Amol Phadke  43:02  


Ryan Barrett  43:03  


Amol Phadke  43:05  

I think I'm not saying that this is my projection there, there is about 70 gigawatts of renewable plus storage projects in the US that are in the interconnection queue. And with this reset auction and India have round the clock actually BNES has a nice, Bloomberg has a nice kind of summary of that auction, I would kind of just Google it and you will find it very interesting.

Ryan Barrett  43:39  


Laney Seigner  43:40  

Yeah, thanks for that. Toral. Let's go on to your question from the slack.

Toral Varia  43:45  

Sure. Thanks. Um, you've actually addressed the question that I had, which is around the challenges that is preventing India from leveraging the perfect timing, it seems like, you know, we are, in fact, India is getting its renewable energy, clean energy story, right, to a great extent. So I'm really very curious to understand what is your projection how, like and what time scale or timeframe do you think India will have a significant milestone to project to the world and secondly, what are the limitations of the clean energy for a country that that really needs to kind of catch up with its economic development, job security, so on and so forth?

Amol Phadke  44:31  

Yeah, I would say that if you look at the global picture, India has actually done much better than most countries. That being said, it's not fully captured all the potential it has. So, if you look at the solar share, if you look at wind, if we look at storage, India is very progressive. At the same time, a lot more can be done and in terms of so it already has a lot to show to the world in terms of how much solar it has installed, how much it has, how what amazing prices they have discovered. So it has a lot to show to the world and I would say that it could be one of the first countries which finds its in its own interest to kind of transition away from fossil because the timing is right, because they have not built all the fossil assets. Right? China has built 600 gigawatts of more coal than India, that investment is done. It's like a, but India's yet to make those investments. So good progress, but lot can be done.

Toral Varia  45:46  

And just as a follow up to that, just very curious, what are the limitations of energy?

Amol Phadke  45:53  

I think there are three kind of limitations of any transition. There's a lot of employment in coal. And one and it kind of leads to kind of broader economic trying the climate issue to certain degree to environmental justice and economic justice issues. So the challenges that, again, the transition could go in a way where it kind of ignores the costs to people, especially those employed in the conventional sectors, it could become a very haphazard transition because there are market forces that could lead to some amount of kind of unmanaged transition. So there is that challenge of clean energy, that it's in itself is not equity promoting. At the same time, the opportunity is to make the transition more just more inclusive, and that is also critical for it to become really becoming at the top of the political agenda. Something like a Green New Deal concept needs to be explored as well. This is not just a technical issue.

Laney Seigner  47:20

Yeah, great point. And so let's see Sai, do you want to go ahead and ask your question from the Slack?

Sai Araveti  47:27  

Sure. So, so electric mobility is brought a convergence of thoughts on energy mobility and buildings. Right. And you mentioned in the presentation as well and there are early signs in India that electric mobility is primarily been increasing on the back of shared mobility, which reduces costs versus icebreakers. But how do you see this changing with the current pandemic as shared mobility has taken a huge hit, and electric buses and public transportation as a distinct reality now?

Amol Phadke  48:01  

I think there's a significant challenge. At the same time, if we look at the oil consumption for transport 50% is for trucking. So there are still be private cars, two wheelers. And tracking. So shared mobility is important, but a minor sliver of the whole transportation oil consumption. So the trucking electric trucking guys who will ask me whereas I still ride for electrification and using clean electricity.

Laney Seigner  48:42  

Yeah, maybe reshuffling of focuses towards tracking and shipping and rather than public transit, but yeah.

Amol Phadke  48:49  

And also I think typically it's not known that there is a lot of whole India is appropriate electrification, let's focus on two and three realize the big fishes like okay, the big deal is buses and trucks, they constitute 60- 70% of the oil consumption one has to also focus on that in addition to two and three wheelers.

Laney Seigner  49:10  

Yeah, thanks for that. Shawn, do you want to go ahead and ask your next question?

Shawn Drost  49:17  

Yes, thank you for all the good information and it's really interesting talk. I was wondering, just because you're you have such a encyclopedic knowledge of, you know, what's happening in the marketplace, what is your forecast on green hydrogen versus electrification in batteries for heavy duty vehicles, marine and air transport, industry and seasonal storage? That's kind of like hard to decarbonize areas

Amol Phadke  49:47  

I think my straight up my my gut is that for transport hydrogen, hydrogen is very tough. I think the batteries have won the battle. And I'll tell you three reasons why even for heavy duty, right heavy duty the main challenge was oh the maybe the battery is too heavy. And the range is limited, but our recent analysis shows that electric trucks with a 300 mile range can have weight parity and a 500 mile range truck can also have great parity with reduction in some kind of lightweighting.

And the big benefit of batteries over hydrogen is that the backbone of the infrastructure is already there. Meaning that you know, you have the transmission networks and all that you don't have to lay a huge new parallel network. So if you go to an investor and say I need hundred billion dollars to lay the hydrogen infrastructure for transport that investor might be like, ah, the battery prices falling like nobody's business, why wouldn't my investment translate into junk in no time? So that's the answer on transport.  

On a seasonal storage, I would argue that seasonal storage, you don't need it until 90% clean. That's what our analysis shows that we have been fighting about that six pack when we are ordering Indian food. So I think we should think about the first 90%. And for that you don't need seasonal storage. And here's the basic logic. Renewables are so cheap that you can just over build and curtail meaning that you basically size your renewables for winter demand. And what if it curtails in the summer? It's fine, because it's 2-3 cents.

That's kind of hydrogen is very important for industry. Because if you look at mining, it's also a reduction reaction, meaning that hydrogen is also a reducing agent, but also can produce very high temperatures. So for industry, I would argue that hydrogen is critical. On power one has if one focuses on the last 10%, hydrogen will play a very important role. But in the grand scheme of things, I would say, transport, I don't think it makes sense. At least for trucking or like cars. On on power last 10% it does make sense, but we can cross the bridge when we come to it. For industry, it makes a lot of sense kind of that's kind of my gut. Of course, more work needs to happen.

Shawn Drost  52:29  

Thank you.

Laney Seigner  52:32  

Yeah, thank thanks for that answer that was very comprehensive. Liam, do you want to go ahead and ask your question from the Slack?

Liam Hardy  52:39  

Yeah, sure. Thanks a lot Amol. Its been really interesting to listen to you talking. And I'm gonna go back to the point that was made a bit earlier about the incentive to phase out coal, just because not to disagree with anything that's been said so far, but I think a lot of people are worried that without those incentives, or this really strong policy to push coal away, you know, if it's a ban on coal plants or or a carbon tax or something, then is there not this danger that we're just going to keep adding more capacity to our, our grid, and, but actually never drive out the coal? That's the historic trend, isn't it, that we've added loads of loads of new renewables. But it's never actually forced out the more carbon intensive ones because they're, you know, they're part of the status quo. And we're just going to keep growing and consume more and more and more. So I was wondering on your thoughts on that, and, and whether that's something we should worry about on top of everything else.

Amol Phadke  53:38  

Okay, so I think the new coal in India is more important than old coal. I tell you why. Because if you look at the grand scheme of things that China has about 1000 gigawatts of coal already paid. So you really have to worry about the coal that is already built in China, because that keeps on consuming. We are all we are not going to meet the climate targets. India. The coal that is already built is 200 gigawatts. So most is yet to be built.

So I think one first needs to focus on new investments and make sure that that there is a prudent public sector practices, some incentives, political pressure, all of the above approach to kind of focus that new coal investments are not pursued vigorously. As far as the old coal investments are concerned, are burning is a lot of coal, whose kind of operating costs is lower than solar. Or sorry, operating cost is higher than solar that coal can be backed down cost effectively. And then there are local kind of political incentives to build more solar, because the investment in the coal has already happened. Solar provides new investment.

So I think, one as to push on can have some incentives, some awareness, some pressure, some environmental concerns, some water concerns, all to kind of bring together to first focus on new coal. In addition, focus on existing coal, but I think this is what's interesting about India is that we think it's a big country and there's a lot of energy. But if you compare it to China or the US, it's been the stuff that is yet to happen is a far more important decision than the stuff that has already happened. Not to say that one shouldn't get to it. But in terms of priorities.....

Laney Seigner  55:38  

Yeah, I think thanks for that answer. Yeah. And I think you bring up a really good point about the country specific approaches, like for sure in the US & UK, it's more important to limit energy demand and and have some conversations around that because there really is this reality of like, do we really need to consume so much energy and especially do we need to consume more when countries are consuming relative like relatively so little per capita. So yeah, it's it's a good point on these like country specific, where is the demand and where is the supply right now and where do we need to go? Yeah, and as Ryan mentioned in the Zoom chat, this is a great complement to our focus on energy this week in the course. And I want to be respectful of time here. We have I think one more question in the the learners Slack. But it is also 930. So Amol, do you have time for one more question or what's the? Okay, well, so Ani I'll turn it over to you in a second to ask your question about the air conditioners. And, and I also just want to say as like a part of our conclusion, if you have any last words of advice for our cohort about transitioning into climate and energy related work, that's something that we really like to tap into from all of our guest speakers. So you can get to that one maybe after Ani's question and I'll turn it over to you Ani.

Anirudh Gupta  57:00  

It seems like a clear solution is go solar and address the AC problem via the air conditioner wall stack that you showed, which is everywhere in India. So how do you solve the air conditioning problem? I've heard the clear guide cooling alliance effort, but what exactly are the solutions?

Amol Phadke  57:24  

I think what we call Lean Mean Green strategy on air conditioners. Basically, I think one has to figure out how to avoid the air conditioning demand by better building design, better, like architectural designs such as the cool roofs and things like that. They want us to focus on improving the efficiency of air conditioners.  The air conditioners on the market, which are 2x or 3x more efficient than the market average in India. So we have a lot of work on improving standards like minimum energy performance standards on air conditioners, which is very critical.

And the green part of the strategy is that what really has to address the HFCs associated with air conditioning use which is not a kind of a, it's a very highly potent greenhouse gas contributor, so definitely really need to address. So basically, solar and wind are the core kind of....the big picture strategy solar and wind as core sources of energy, you'll clean up power, but then you also electrify as many sectors and you really do one work in a concerted effort on energy efficiency. So that's kind of the big picture strategy and kind of consider the local political economy so that the transition is just garner be just but also garner political support, that kind of answer.

And just in terms of word of, I think this field is what else would you do? I think it's a very, it's the field is about the future. And if you don't really work on this, you will you'll see the picture of Mumbai in 2050. So it's a once in a life generation crisis but an opportunity. So I think I think there is a lot to be done, figure out what you are really good at, which we probably have discovered through your professional careers already and figure out where you can use those skills to contribute. But if you're just bored with what you're doing, you can try something else also, but there is a lot of opportunity on communications on political, political economy, politics, technology, economic analysis, finance and entrepreneurship. So all those lots of exciting stuff that can be done.

Laney Seigner  1:00:01  

Yeah, thanks. Thanks for that. That's, that's great words of encouragement. And we have people kind of approaching the topic from all those angles in our cohort, which is exciting. So yeah, so I think that's a good place to wrap up. Kamal, did you have any other questions or thoughts as we conclude?

Kamal Kapadia  1:00:21  

Uh, no, I just want to say, thanks so much to Amol. Yeah. super grateful.

Laney Seigner  1:00:38 

Thank you. Thank you so much. Amol this is so wonderful.

Amol Phadke  1:00:48  

Right. I shared the 2035 report link for people to see and explore.

Laney Seigner  1:00:51  

Yeah. Oh, you're so awesome. I save the chat just now as a link and so I'll post it and we'll have the recording available. So that's super great to have as a resource. Look forward to checking it out.Thanks so much. Bye. Yeah. Thanks, all

About the Certificate
12 weeks long. Between 6-10 hours of time commitment every week
Each class is just 20-25 learners with extensive skills, background, passion
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Climate Change: Learning for Action
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12 Weeks

Next cohort starts

June 2021
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Frequently asked questions
Who would benefit most from this program?
Anyone who wants a grand overview of the entire climate landscape. Anyone who wants to shift their time & energy into doing climate work.
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