About the speakers

Mandar Patil is currently working as Senior Associate with Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), India. He is working on the transport and mobility sector of India. He is involved in projects with a focus on clean, reliable and economically sustainable transport system for the Indian market. He is also working towards electrification of last mile delivery particularly in Delhi. Mandar has worked in the Research and Development department of commercial vehicles in Tata Motors for 31 months. During this tenure, he optimized vehicle ride parameters and KPIs for the auto major. Mandar has extensively worked on various modeling and optimizing software such as ADAMS, MATLAB, ANSYS, Truck Sim, CREO, etc.

Cecilia Han Springer is a Senior Researcher at Boston University’s Global Development Policy Center, where she analyzes China’s overseas investments in the energy and resource sectors. Previously, she was a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, a senior associate at Climate Advisers, and a Fulbright fellow in China. Cecilia also consults on industrial energy efficiency and decarbonization. She has a PhD in Energy and Resources from UC Berkeley.

Renewable Curtailment in 2030

Shawn: My sense is that today, renewable curtailment is greater in magnitude than storage, demand, response and power-to-gas combined. Is that accurate? What does your crystal ball say about what that will look like in 2030?
Cecilia Han Springer: US or global?
Shawn: Global, or whatever geography you know best.
Cecilia Han Springer: The geography I'm most familiar with is China, but that may not be of interest to you, Shawn! China has unique issues with massive renewables curtailment for several reasons:
1) The government has over-subsidized building out wind and solar projects without also adding transmission infrastructure

2) The above problem is exacerbated by the fact that the greatest wind and solar potential is in interior provinces, far away from demand centers in eastern China

3) Perhaps most importantly, regional electricity market structure is a major barrier - in short, dispatch is often determined by politics rather than the marginal cost of generation.China is experimenting with power sector reform, including several DR pilots, and could become a leader in storage technology. But all of this will have to progress carefully in tandem with power sector reform and deregulation of electricity markets if China's significant renewables capacity is to be put to full use. My sense is that this could happen roughly on the timeline you mentioned - over the next ten years.For more on curtailment in China, check out the work of my colleague at UCSD, Michael Davidson.
Shawn: Transmission and politics were not even on my list of “solutions”, so thank you for the very informative answer!

Transport Electrification by 2030

Sada: Mandar Patil, how optimistic are you about transport electrification (passenger, freight) in India, say about 30% sales by 2030? What might be few key reasons we can believe in achieving such targets?
Mandar Patil: Our research shows that, if all the measures are successful, India could potentially realize electric vehicle (EV) sales penetration of 30% of private cars, 70% of commercial cars, 40% of buses and 80% of two and three-wheelers by 2030. If you ask me, given the policy landscape framing in the past few years in India and the growing awareness of the EVs, we feel that the EV sales will start picking up soon and by 2030, the scenario could be really much more encouraging. Along with the Government policies, global advancement in battery technology and economies of scale (to reduce the EV costs) are also estimated to also contribute to the high EV adoption in India.
Sada: Yes, thanks! Surprised to see the 70% number for commercial, I will look for RMI publication on that :)
Mandar Patil: Sure! FAME II does provide a really strong case for EV adoption for commercial space. Here is the link for the publication in case you are interested.
Nitya: This publication link is very informative. Thank you for sharing Mandar Patil.

Fossil Investments in the Belt and Road

Sada: Cecilia Han Springer, how does the [Chinese Communist Party] view criticism on fossil investments in the Belt and Road [Initiative]? Are there any signs the CCP might try to improve its international image after recent hits (COVID, etc).
Cecilia Han Springer: My sense is that the CCP has not - and is not - particularly concerned about this international criticism. The typical deflection is that they follow what the host country wants. There are some policy mechanisms within China for restricting investments in certain subsectors, but in the energy sector, overseas hydro has actually been more of a sensitive topic within China due to cross-boundary conflict over water governance. To date I have not seen Chinese state banks or commercial banks implement restrictions on overseas coal. One exception is the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a multilateral development bank headquartered in China, but its overseas funding is a drop in the bucket compared to the Belt and Road Initiative.Japan is also a major funder of overseas coal plants, but in contrast to China, has started to respond to the international criticism by restricting overseas investment in coal.
As for what might happen post-pandemic, unfortunately, there have been signs that China is returning to coal as a quick fix for the economic slump, at least domestically. The Belt and Road Initiative was already faltering pre-pandemic, so I don't think we're going to see significant additional growth in China's overseas coal plants - but not because of public perception!

EVs and Economics in India

Aman: Mandar Patil, what’s the outlook for the future of EVs in India given the economic downturn both prior to and as result of COVID, which has affected the auto industry to a large extent? How has that affected plans of automakers and government policy?
Mandar Patil: The auto sector was suffering prior to Covid-19. Now given the current scenario, the situation has only got worse. Our estimates predict, that auto sales could decrease by as much as 45 percent in the financial year 2020–21. EV production could be affected in the short term due to lower demand and supply-chain disruptions with BNEF estimating an 18 percent decrease in global EV sales in 2020.
However, on a positive side, their forecast also mentions that countries like India, where EV adoption has been slower, could see better than average EV sales in the medium term if governments and early adopters continue to lead on procurement.As for the automakers, there will be challenging time ahead especially in the short term. The reducing interest in shared mobility, reducing demand in freight delivery (like zomato, swiggy, etc.), the growing unemployment due to huge layoffs, cash crunch due to lockdown scenarios, etc. are sighted as few top challenges. Banks which were already hesitant to provide financing for EVs are expected to become even more cautious. So overall the whole EV auto industry will see a fair amount of challenging time ahead.
As for the policy makers, it is crucial for the government to make transportation safer. Especially the public transport sector which is slowly getting back into operations, needs to follow certain operational guidelines to ensure safer mobility. In the short run, the government might have to look at ways to provide liquidity in the auto industry. However moving in mid-term into post covid-19, when most of the operations will be back to normal, the existing policies like FAME II, state incentives, scrap-age policy, EV freight optimization, etc. should remain the prime focus of policymakers as these polices if implemented successfully can lead to a EV transition process quite smooth in India.
In the long-run, policies are expected to impose strict laws especially in the favor of environment - like implementing BS VI, encouraging clean mobility solutions, investing in technological aspects of EV, etc.

Clean energy investments in an economic slowdown

Nitya: Hi Cecilia Han Springer, in the last couple of years, we have seen how China has been adopting policies to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs). But in light of the current COVID situation, do you think China will face a relapse and focus on more coal-based projects than clean energy ones to meet its economic targets or will efforts continue to meet its climate targets as well?
Cecilia Han Springer: Thanks for this great question, Nitya, I think it's on a lot of people's minds! The funny thing about China is that it can do both at the same time - relapse towards coal-based projects to boost economic growth, while also trying to set more stringent climate policies. This is because of the significant disconnect between national and local government policymaking. Provincial governments have approval power for coal plants, while the national government is in charge of climate regulation.
There have been worrying signs in the past few months that China is making it easier to approve coal projects as a way to boost short-term economic growth in hard-hit provinces (see the link in my reply to Sada's question above). This stands in contrast to the national coal cap, further demonstrating the national-local disconnect. How this will ultimately play out for the climate is unclear.
We know that economic growth is still closely linked with CO2 emissions, so the economic effects of the pandemic are bringing an undesirable form of decarbonization. Some countries, like Germany, are trying to build out green stimulus packages that will boost clean technology AND economic growth. There are factions within China that support this approach, but so far, they don't seem to be winning.
Nitya: Thank you Cecilia Han Springer for your response. I'll check out the link you've sent in the other thread. Very interesting to read what Germany is doing. Hope China and India do adopt similar approaches! :)
Kirti Manian: This AMA has now ended. A big thanks to @Mandar Patil and @Cecilia Han Springer for participating in our AMA!