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Top 5 Sustainability Watch-Outs for 2015

2014 for India was defined with Narendra Modi emerging center-stage post a historic election victory in May, and since then, the new government has been actively promoting certain schemes (with synonymous buzz-words like ‘Make in India’, ‘Namami Gange’, ‘Digital India’ and ‘Swachh Bharat’) which are likely to witness great uptake in 2015 fuelled by government regulations and policies. 
Simultaneously, the international climate change fraternity has been gearing up for the 21st Conference of Parties to be held in Paris in December 2015, where it is expected that legally binding goals for reduction of carbon emissions will be set for all nations for the first time. Due to the agreement reached in Lima, every nation has to now come up with plans to reduce the carbon intensity of their economy. With the global spotlight now on India, India’s thrust will continue to remain on increasing share of renewable energy generation and improving energy efficiency in industries and facilities. 
Here’s looking at what will likely emerge as the top sustainability thrust areas buttressed by strong policies in 2015 for India. 

1. Sustainable energy =Rise of Renewable energy  

One of the provisions in the Electricity Amendment Bill that has been introduced in the Lok Sabha this December is that thermal power plants have to compulsorily generate energy from renewable sources. The bill also seeks to raise fines for non-compliance of Renewable Purchase Obligations by electricity distribution companies from Rs. 0.1 million to Rs. 10 million.  
There have also been talks of a Renewable Energy Bill which would overhaul the transmission and distribution systems as well as encourage indigenous manufacturing of renewable energy equipment with the provision of 100% tax breaks in order to ensure that 15% of the county's power requirement is addressed through renewable energy sources by 2020.
Thus, it is quite clear that like in 2014, Renewable Energy Generation will continue to remain the key thrust area of Sustainability for the Indian government.

2. Time for Railways, Refineries and Power distributors to get PAT on the back

Energy Efficiency will continue to remain a priority area in 2015 with the first round of the PAT (Perform- Achieve- Trade) Scheme covering the aluminum, cement, chlor-alkali, fertiliser, iron & steel, paper & pulp, thermal power and textiles sectors coming to an end in March 2015. The year will also see the commencement of the second phase of the PAT scheme which will bring under its ambit three more heavily polluting industries- railways, oil refineries and power distributors. It will also increase its coverage of the existing sectors. 
Overall, all the plants in the six sectors were to achieve a 4.05 per cent reduction in the average energy consumption by 2014-15. This was estimated to reduce annual energy consumption by 6.69 million tonnes-of-oil-equivalents (mtoe) at the end of Phase 1. BEE reports show that in 2013-2014 annual energy savings worth 4.12 mtoe were already achieved and 217 of the 478 plants (45%) have already met their targets and another 60 plants are well on their way to do so. BEE expects that there will be overall compliance with the scheme, with some amount of trading of the Energy Savings Certificates to meet targets. The units failing to meet their targets will incur a penalty of Rs. 1 million. 

3. Subsidy for Electric Vehicles to revive the slow EV market in India

It is expected that a subsidy scheme of Rs. 10 billion will be approved by the finance ministry early in 2015 to revive the lackluster EV market in India. The National Mission for Electric Mobility 2020 was launched in January, 2013 for fostering adoption and manufacture of electrical vehicles (including hybrid vehicles) and aims to sell 6-7 million units of EVs by 2020. When the subsidy was cancelled, it saw a sharp decline in Electric Vehicle sales in the country, but its re-introduction is expected to boost the market again.
Companies like Mahindra & Mahindra, Terra Motors and Tesla are already gearing up to meet the increased demand of Electric Vehicles once the subsidy scheme comes into place. Overall, this is expected to impact both the consumers and the automotive sectors, and might even affect the Oil & Gas sector to some extent in the long run.

4. Water sustainability would become the new mantra for Industries

In his first speech after becoming the PM, Narendra Modi spoke of cleaning up the nation’s rivers. India is slowly waking up to the fact that water, not coal or oil, may well emerge as the most critical natural resource for the nation’s progress. Subsequently, the Clean Ganaga Fund and Namami Gange program to clean up the Ganges have been launched. One of the key provisions of this scheme is making Zero Liquid Discharge mandatory for all highly polluting industries releasing effluents into tributaries of the Ganga. Industrial waste- water treatment will emerge as a crucial factor for many industries, with norms getting stricter and adversely affecting units who have not put adequate checks in place till now for ensuring that the waste-water they discharge meets certain minimum criteria. 

5. India goes Digital in 2015

The new government is putting unprecedented importance on e-governance and making processes ‘smarter’. There is a lot of focus on removing operational hurdles by leveraging the power of the internet and mobile phones to make way for a government and a nation that is truly in the digital age. The Digital India vision is meant to have a nation that is connected through the cloud- no more running around for papers, verifications or submissions. This thrust on connectivity will bring about a radical shift in the way public and municipal services are provided and managed , thereby reducing inefficiencies and saving time, money (in the form of bribes), and fuel.  The Digital India campaign is expected to provide a huge boost to the telecommunication and IT industry, while empowering people by according them access to services and information.


Author: Sustainability Outlook