"I realise that some of my criticisms may be mistaken; but to refuse to criticize judgements for fear of being mistaken is to abandon criticism altogether... If any of my criticisms are found to be correct, the cause is served; and if any are found to be incorrect the very process of finding out my mistakes must lead to the discovery of the right reasons, or better reasons than I have been able to give, and the cause is served just as well."

-Mr. HM Seervai, Preface to the 1st ed., Constitutional Law of India.

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Hydrogen Hubs in India: Recent Regulatory Developments

The Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE) came up with the National Green Hydrogen Mission (NGHM) in January 2023, which aimed: "to provide a comprehensive action plan for establishing a Green Hydrogen ecosystem and catalysing a systemic response to the opportunities and challenges of this sunrise sector." The NGHM recognised India's Net Zero Target of 2070 but also underscored another important but relatively less talked about target: Energy Independence by 2047. The NGHM stated that green hydrogen was seen as playing a critical role in achieving these objectives.

For the uninitiated green hydrogen refers to hydrogen produced by electrolysis using renewable energy. There are other types of hydrogen depending on the emission the process of manufacture gives out. See here, for information on such other types of hydrogen. 

Hydrogen Hubs in the NGHM

The NGHM recognises that transportation of hydrogen would be a challenge, both technically and logistically, and therefore provides for cluster production, which would have the following features:

  • Large scale production in a given area;
  • Utilisation of the produced hydrogen also in the given area;
The NGHM contemplates development of clusters where there are refineries/ fertilizer plants and where pilot projects for application of hydrogen in areas such as steel production, ports development, mobility, etc. would be promoted.

The Mission also contemplates infrastructure for storage and deliver of green hydrogen, port infrastructure for export of derivatives of green hydrogen, pipelines for bulk transportation, coordinated financing, etc.

Scheme for Setting up Hydrogen Hubs, 2024

Further to the Mission, MNRE recently came up with a Scheme for setting up of hydrogen hubs with the following objectives:

"(i) To identify and develop regions capable of supporting large-scale production and/or utilization of Hydrogen as Green Hydrogen Hubs. 
(ii) Development of Green Hydrogen Projects inside the Hubs in an integrated manner to allow pooling of resources and achievement of scale 
(iii) Enhance the cost-competitiveness of Green Hydrogen and its derivatives vis-a-vis fossil-based alternatives 
(iv) Maximize production of Green Hydrogen and its derivatives in India within the stated financial support 
(v) Encourage large-scale utilization and exports of Green Hydrogen and its derivatives 
(vi) Enhance viability of Green Hydrogen assets across the value chain." (Para 3)

The Scheme contemplates the core infrastructure in hydrogen hubs, including Storage and transportation facilities for Green Hydrogen/its derivatives, Development/ upgradation of pipeline infrastructure, Green Hydrogen powered vehicle re-fuelling facility, Hydrogen compression and/or liquefaction technologies, as required, and so on (Para 2). 

The Scheme recognises the plan to set up two hydrogen hubs by 2025-26 and a budget outlay of about Rs. 200 crores.

Features of Hydrogen Hub under the Scheme
 
The Scheme contemplates a hydrogen hub with the following salient features:
  • Hydrogen hubs will cater to domestic demand as well as to exports
  • The hub will have a network of producers, users and supporting infrastructure
  • Development of hydrogen infrastructure would have to be done in a coordinated manner and by pooling resources from the Central Govt., State Govt., Local Govt. and the industry
  • A hydrogen hub should have a planned/announced capacity of a minimum of 1,00,000 MTPA. Higher production capacity would get more priority under the Scheme.
  • Infrastructure, projects and resources would be mapped under the PM Gati Shakti.
  • Recognition of hydrogen hubs by MNRE in other places is possible but without financial assistance.
Evaluation Criteria for Proposals

The Scheme recognises that detailed evaluation criteria would be provided in the Call for Proposals and would be based on the following:

Funding

Rs. 100 crores (Central Financial Assistance) per hydrogen hub would be allocated in order to support core infrastructure in the following manner and would be released on the basis of conditions detailed in the Call for Proposals:



Provisions regarding failure to utilise grants or complete the project would be mentioned in the Call for Proposals.

A Steering Committee (overall monitoring of scheme) and a Project Appraisal Committee (project review) will be constituted. MNRE would nominate Scheme Implementing Agencies (SIAs) to implement the Scheme and hydrogen hubs.

Comments

It would be interesting to see how the Call for Proposals shape up and how hydrogen hubs would be created. The timelines contemplated (2025-26) is very tight. Interesting times ahead for renewables and energy security in India.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Comment on India’s Statement at Nuclear Energy Summit Brussels 2024

On 21.03.2024, an important summit related to nuclear energy was held in Brussels. On behalf of India, Dr. Ajit Kumar Mohanty, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission & Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy, delivered India's statement. This statement represents India's approach so far and in the near future regarding nuclear energy. This short post comments on India's statement in the summit.

India's Commitment to Net Zero and Role of Nuclear Energy

The statement noted India's commitment to Net Zero emissions by 2070. Towards this aim, the statement noted, India's has taken steps to increase the share of nuclear power capacity.  [The current share of nuclear power to total capacity is at about 1.6%, (6.7 GW- as on May 2023) as per this information of the Ministry of Power.] 

As per the statement, India aims to tiple nuclear power energy capacity by 2030 from 7.5GW presently, [that is, to 22.5 GW]. 

India's Views Towards Nuclear Power

The statement noted the Government of India's belief that nuclear power was "clean and environment-friendly" and is available 24x7 and was capable of providing energy security in the long term in a sustainable manner. 

The statement noted that it was "imperative" that the Indian nuclear power programme grew in order to ensure energy security and sustainable development.

India's Current Projects

The statement notes that India has recently added 700 MW Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWR), the Kakrapar Atomic Power Project – Unit 3 & 4 and nine more reactors are under construction. The statement also notes that the Government has accorded administrative approval for ten such reactors to be set up in fleet mode.

Recent Innovations

The statement also made mention about India's recent highlights regarding nuclear energy. It mentioned that India entered the important second stage of the three stage nuclear power programme through "Core Loading" which took place in India's first indigenous FBR, that is, Fast Breeder Reactor (500 MWe). 

The statement also made mention of  the Government's thought process that the Government is considering development of Small Modular Reactors and is in discussions with foreign companies for the expansion of India's nuclear programme. 

India's Commitment as regards Nuclear Energy

The statement records India's commitment "to full international civil nuclear cooperation" and "to  peaceful applications of nuclear technology, both in power and non-power sector, while ensuring the security of nuclear and radiological materials".

The statement concludes by stating:

"India has a robust nuclear safety culture and impeccable safety record. India will continue to support the [International Atomic Energy] Agency in its efforts to provide a robust, sustainable and visible global nuclear safety and security framework."

Comment

As regards the statement that India is in discussions with foreign companies regarding the expansion of India's nuclear programme, a recent newspaper report suggests that Rosatom, Russia's state atomic energy company, was in talks with India for development of Small Modular Reactors.

One more important aspect requires some explanation: the three stage nuclear process that India's statement refers to. India has substantial thorium resources and this programme is aimed to harness those resources.


Stage I: Use of PHWR- Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors and natural Uranium 238 (U-238), with traces of U-235, as the fisssile material. On fission, this would produce Plutonium- 239 (Pu-239) + energy.

Stage II: In stage II, Pu-239 will be used along with U-238 through Fast Breeder Reactors (FBR), which. apparently produces more nuclear fuel than it consumes. The recent core loading event at India's first indigenously built Prototype FBR in Kalpakkam (500 MWe) marks India's entry into the second phase. On fission, this would produce U-233 and more Pu-239.

Stage III: In the third stage, Pu-239 will be combined with Thorium-232 (which is in abundance in India) to produce energy + U-233.

This three stage programme was envisaged by Homi J Bhabha and presented in 1954 in the conference on "Development of Atomic Energy for Peaceful Purposes" and was later adopted by the Government in 1958.

India's statement in the Nuclear Summit can be accessed from here.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

India's Planning to Attract Private Investment in Nuclear Sector to the Tune of US$ 26 Billion

In a major development, the print media reports that India is in talks with various private firms to attract investment to the tune of US$ 26 billion in the nuclear sector, in order to produce electricity from sources that do not produce carbon emissions. India plans to increase the percentage of contribution by non-fossil fuel sector in electricity generation. The current contribution of the nuclear sector and other sectors towards electricity generation is given below:

Installed Power Generation Capacity (2023)

Particulars

 Installed Capacity (MW)

Percentage

Fossil Fuel

      2,37,269

57%

Renewable Energy

           1,73,619

41%

Nuclear Power

                6,780

2%

 India now seeks to increase this 2%. News reports also suggest that the Government has been in talks with Reliance Industries, Tata Power, Adani Power and Vedanta to contribute about $ 5.30 billion each for investments in the nuclear sector. India is no exception: a substantial number of countries are looking at the nuclear option to meet their Net Zero commitments.

From a legal perspective, there might be a need to modify the present regulatory structure of nuclear energy in order to attract private investments (see, for instance, here). The increased focus on nuclear energy presents important opportunities, albeit long term, for law firms. Specialisation in nuclear power regulation, contracts relating to nuclear power plants, etc. will go a long way in catering to the potential market. Likewise, legal education in India could also focus on nuclear energy law, as this post notes.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

"A Employee" and the Employee's Compensation Act, 1923

The Workmen's Compensation Act, 1923 was amended in 2009 through the Workmen's Compensation (Amendment) Act, 2009. One of the main purposes of the amendment was to make the said law applicable to all categories of employees and to bring about a gender neutral term. 

For that purpose, the Short Title to the Act was changed to "Employee's Compensation Act, 1923" instead of "Workmen's Compensation Act, 1923". The term "workman" and "workmen" were replaced with "employee" and "employees". To do so, Section 5 of the Workmen's Compensation (Amendment) Act, 2009 provided:

"5. Throughout the principal Act, for the words "workman" and "workmen", wherever they occur, the words "employee': and "employees" shall respectively be substituted, and such other consequential amendments as the rules of grammar may require shall also be made." (emphasis added).

In effect, Section 5 stated that wherever the term" workman" occured, it should be substituted with "employee" and corresponding grammatical changes would also be made. For instance, if the phrase "a workman relinquishes" it would have to be changed to "an employee relinquishes" although Section 5 of the the Workmen's Compensation (Amendment) Act, 2009 calls for substitution of the term "workman" with "employee".

Unfortunately, we see in the Employee's Compensation Act, 1923, as is uploaded in the India Code website that the consequential grammatical changes were not made although "workman" was substituted with "employee". Some examples of this situation is provided in the table below:

Section

Text of the Statute

2(1)(e)

“when the services of a [employee] are temporarily lent or let on hire”

2(1)(g)

“earning capacity of a [employee] in any employment”

2(1)(l)

“incapacitates a [employee] for all work which he was capable of performing”

2(1)(m)

“paid by the employer of a [employee]”

 The Act is replete with such errors in various other provisions. This requires correction.