Archive for the ‘India’ Category

Some realism returns to the Indian energy debate

August 18, 2017

There has been a demonisation of carbon dioxide which goes beyond the ridiculous. Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere lags temperature amd man-made carbon dioxide emissions are largely irrelevant to climate. Allied to the bloated hype about renewables, this has led to an anti-carbon imperialism which represents politically correct dogma. India has also been overwhelmed – in public – by the new religion. Of course India managed to ensure that domestic coal utilisation could be tripled while still complying with the sanctimonious, but meaningless, Paris agreement (note that China can double its coal consumption under the agreement). Publicly, however, it was not acceptable to admit reality. Fortunately, there are some signs of reality creeping back into the public energy utterances in India.

The Chief Economic Adviser to the Government of India has confirmed the importance of coal and criticised the “carbon imperialism” that is being religiously disseminated. The hidden costs of renewables are not to be ignored.

Arvind Subramanian slams carbon imperialism, calls for global coal alliance

Arvind Subramanian says coal will remain the primary source of energy for India in the short to medium term as it remains the cheapest energy source for development needs

Coal will and should remain the primary source of energy for India in the short to medium term as the fossil fuel remains the cheapest source of energy for India’s development needs, chief economic advisor Arvind Subramanian said on Thursday.

Renewable energy, on the other hand, comes with hidden costs, Subramanian said in a lecture organised by think tank The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).

Subramanian called for setting up a global coalition for clean coal technology, mirroring the international solar alliance, which could find ways of sustainable use of coal in power generation.

“India needs coal in the short to medium term. Renewable sources must be part of the energy mix but they also come with hidden costs, which should not be overlooked in our headlong embrace with renewables,” said Subramanian.

India cannot allow the narrative of “carbon imperialism” to come in the way of realistic, rational planning for the country’s energy future, he added.

Subramanian’s call for caution in the adoption of renewable energy comes at a time when many state power utilities are forcing solar power developers to lower their power tariffs in a market where tariff discovered in subsequent auctions keep declining.

Although the solar power tariff keeps declining due to a fall in imported solar panel costs, renewable power projects bear the extra cost of power storage equipment. However, industrial consumers, which bear cross-subsidy for domestic consumers, find solar power cost attractive. This leads to reduced capacity utilisation of coal-based thermal power plants, adding to the stress in the power sector.

“Coal will remain and should remain. The time is ripe for creating a green and clean coal coalition mirroring the (international) solar alliance. That, rather than unconscionable calls to phase out India’s cheapest source of energy, will serve the cause of climate change and India’s development needs,” said Subramanian.

The chief economic advisor also said that policy decisions on coal and renewable sources of energy have to be taken jointly as these two are connected. Declining prices of renewable energy is threatening to upend the thermal power sector as prices are renegotiated by distribution companies, which themselves are in stress, Subramanian said. This renegotiation could transfer the stress in the power distribution sector to the renewable energy sector.

Railway minister Suresh Prabhu, who was present on the occasion, said the country’s energy policy was forward looking and was adequate to achieve overall economic growth as it captures the linkage between economy, environment and social development.

India meets its Paris emissions commitments (which are measured per capita) not so much by reducing coal use but by increasing the proportion of nuclear and renewable stations.

Institute of Energy Research

Between 2006 and 2016, 139 gigawatts of coal-fired capacity was brought on-line. A record 21 gigawatts of new coal capacity was built in 2015, and almost another 18 gigawatts in 2016. The planned construction of an additional 178 gigawatts would make it nearly impossible for India to meet its climate promises. By developing all of the planned coal-fired capacity, India would increase its coal generating capacity by 123 percent.


Indian Budget today – Economic Survey published

February 1, 2017

The Indian budget will be presented today and the annual Indian Economic Survey (which forms the basis for the budget) is also out. The Economic Survey is the responsibility of the Chief Economic Adviser to the GoI (this year Arvind Subramanian).


The budget itself is expected to be mildly expansionist (especially after the jolting brake applied to the economy by the demonetisation circus of the last few months). Certainly some black money was removed from the system but this may be a one-off affair. Certainly, from the anecdotes I hear, the generation of “new” black money has not been slow to start. Maybe demonetisation will have to become an annual affair – or a regular occurrence every so often. But, no doubt, India has made a step-change in the level of electronic transactions being used. It has also brought a huge number of people into the banking system. One of the main concerns for the government is that the cash economy has allowed so many to remain invisible and completely outside the tax base. Considering that only 7 of every hundred voters is even registered for tax, it was imperative for the government to reduce the huge number of the tax-invisible. This they probably have done.

The Economic Survey itself highlights “8 interesting facts”:

  1. Indians on The Move – New estimates based on railway passenger traffic data reveal annual work-related migration of about 9 million people, almost double what the 2011 Census suggests.
  2. Biases in Perception – China’s credit rating was upgraded from A+ to AA- in December 2010 while India’s has remained unchanged at BBB-. From 2009 to 2015, China’s credit-to-GDP soared from about 142 percent to 205 percent and its growth decelerated. The contrast with India’s indicators is striking.
  3. New Evidence on Weak Targeting of Social Programs – Welfare spending in India suffers from misallocation: as the pair of charts show, the districts with the most poor (in red on the left) are the ones that suffer from the greatest shortfall of funds (in red on the right) in social programs. The districts accounting for the poorest 40% receive 29% of the total funding.
  4. Political Democracy but Fiscal Democracy? – India has 7 taxpayers for every 100 voters ranking us 13th amongst 18 of our democratic G-20 peers.
  5. India’s Distinctive Demographic Dividend – India’s share of working age to non-working age population will peak later and at a lower level than that for other countries but last longer. The peak of the growth boost due to the demographic dividend is fast approaching, with peninsular states peaking soon and the hinterland states peaking much later.
  6. India Trades More Than China and a Lot Within Itself – As of 2011, India’s openness – measured as the ratio of trade in goods and services to GDP has far overtaken China’s, a country famed for using trade as an engine of growth. India’s internal trade to GDP is also comparable to that of other large countries and very different from the caricature of a barrier-riddled economy.
  7. Divergence within India, Big Time – Spatial dispersion in income is still rising in India in the last decade (2004-14), unlike the rest of the world and even China. That is, despite more porous borders within India than between countries internationally, the forces of “convergence” have been elusive.
  8. Property Tax Potential Unexploited – Evidence from satellite data indicates that Bengaluru and Jaipur collect only between 5% to 20% of their potential property taxes.
Trade IES 2016-17

Trade IES 2016-17


Monsoon season is over but the rain continues as withdrawal lags

October 3, 2016

The monsoon season “officially” runs through June, July, August and September. This year it was about a week late in being established and now, at the end of the season, total rainfall has been about 3% lower than the long-term average and it counts as a normal monsoon (just).

Predictions of a better than average monsoon have been proven wrong . But have they?

The monsoon does not much care about calendar dates and the withdrawal of the monsoon is running about 2 weeks behind its “average” schedule.

graphic imd

graphic imd

It looks like monsoon rains will continue sporadically over the next 15 – 20 days. Currently the rains stretch across central India from Gujarat to Bihar. The total rainfall – though not conforming to the official calendar – may well be slightly above average.

Once it has finally withdrawn the verdict is likely to be that the 2016 monsoon was “good”.


India celebrates individuals wildly but the Olympic record is shameful

August 26, 2016

The two Indian medal winners surely deserve all the celebration and adulation they are now receiving. They have overcome corruption and incompetence and indifference that is endemic of the state government and sports organisation in every sport except cricket. To participate in the Olympics is itself a battle won for individual athletes.

But 2 medals (one silver and one bronze) from a population of 1.2 billion is a shameful indictment of the organisation and administration of sports.

The difference between India and China is stark.

India China olympic record

Sports Ministers in every State are pathetic. Sporting associations are riddled with incompetence and nepotism and corruption.

Winning medals wins no votes.


A “good” monsoon and approach of La Niña augur well for extended Indian growth period

August 10, 2016

Half of the Indian monsoon season is over and “so far so good”. There is a good probability that 2016 is going to have a “good” monsoon.  A uniform rainfall over the entire country and an excess rainfall of over 5% from the long term average and less than 15% in excess of the LTA is most desirable. (More than 15% excess will almost certainly give some very serious flooding, while less than 5% excess would probably leave some parts of the country dangerously dry). The El Niño is clearly over and weak La Niña conditions are developing. If La Niña conditions continue to develop, and are established before the end of the year, then there is a good probability that India will even have a good monsson during 2017.

The harbingers for an extended period of good growth in India look promising.

There is an increasing possibility of a hard winter ahead in Europe. In Sweden, autumn seems to have come early and it could be a long, cold winter.


  1. Rainfall over the country as a whole for the 2016 southwest monsoon season (June to September) is most likely to be ABOVE NORMAL (>104% to 110% of long period average (LPA)).
  2. Quantitatively, monsoon season rainfall for the country as a whole is likely to be 106% of the long period average with a model error of ±4%.
  3. Region wise, the season rainfall is likely to be 108% of LPA over North-West India, 113% of LPA over Central India, 113% of LPA over South Peninsula and 94% of LPA over North-East India all with a model error of ± 8 %.
  4. The monthly rainfall over the country as whole is likely to be 107% of its LPA during July and 104% of LPA during August both with a model error of ± 9 %.
Monsoon cumulative rainfall till 9th august 2016

Monsoon cumulative rainfall till 9th august 2016

The El Niño conditions over the equatorial Pacific prevailing since April, 2015 reached to strong level in July, peaked in December 2015 and started declining thereafter. The rapidly declining El Nino conditions became moderate in early April 2016, weak in early May and now have turned to neutral ENSO conditions. Recent changes in the atmospheric conditions over the Pacific also reflect the weakening El Niño conditions. Latest forecast from IMD-IITM coupled model indicate ENSO neutral conditions are likely to continue and turn to weak La Nina conditions in the latter part of the monsoon season. There is about 50% probability of La Nina conditions to establish during the monsoon season. Most of the other models also suggest development of La Niña conditions during the latter part of the monsoon season. 

Over Indian Ocean, the sea surface temperatures are warmer than normal over most parts except along the coast off central and south Africa. Currently neutral Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) conditions are prevailing. The latest forecast from IMD-IITM coupled model indicates positive IOD conditions are most likely during early part of the monsoon season and same to turn to negative IOD during the latter part of the monsoon season.

image nirapadnews

image nirapadnews


Good monsoon (so far) points to Indian GDP growth of over 8%

July 28, 2016

The monsoon season is half over and the rains are at the long-term average which is considered “good”. The difference between a “good” and a “poor” monsoon is generally thought to be over 2 percentage points for GDP.  The Indian ratings agency CRISIL is sufficiently encouraged already to begin talking about a GDP growth of over 8% for the Fiscal Year ending March 2017.

moneycontrol:A good monsoon with even rainfall distribution across regions will give a boost to farm sector and may push India’s GDP growth beyond the 8 percent mark in the current fiscal, Crisil said. However, stress in rainfall in certain parts of the country and excess downpour in some other regions may be a cause for worry, the credit rating agency said in a report. In a positive scenario — good monsoon backed by favourable temporal and spatial distribution — agriculture growth can surge to 6 percent from a weak base of last year and therefore push up GDP growth above 8 percent, it said. According to the report, assuming rainfall is evenly distributed across time and regions, GDP growth may rise to 7.9 percent, if agricultural growth comes at 4 percent and CPI inflation remains contained at 5 percent in the current fiscal. …..

Despite a slow start in June, rains have caught up and were just 1 percent below normal as of July 25. This has helped reservoirs to bounce back from the lows seen in the beginning of the fiscal, boosting farmers’ confidence, the report said. Excess rainfall in 89 districts across eight states could impact sowing and therefore agricultural output for the kharif season. Hence, spatial and temporal distribution of rainfall in the second half of the season, especially in August, will be crucial, it added. 

Today’s picture from Skymet shows the monsoon covering the entire country reasonably evenly.


July 28, 2016 11:46 AM – Skymet


Indian monsoon moves to excess rainfall

July 14, 2016

This year the onset of the monsoon was about a week late but the geographical coverage has spread across the entire country about 2 days ahead of the long term “normal”.

At the end of June, cumulative rainfall was running about 15% short of the long term “normal”, but has now just moved into excess (+4%).

The probability (and hope) of a “good” monsoon in 2016 (about +10-15% cumulative rainfall) is quite high. Which will no doubt cheer the government and the markets.

Figures below are from IMD for 13th July 2016.

Geographical spread of 2016 Monsoon (IMD)

Geographical spread of 2016 Monsoon (IMD)

Cumulative rainfall till 13th July 2016 (IMD)

Cumulative rainfall till 13th July 2016 (IMD)


Monsoon has reached Kerala coast (probably)

May 29, 2016

It is almost certain that the onset of the 2016 monsoon can be declared today (29th May). Based on rainfall alone, the criteria for “onset” are fulfilled. However the formal Monsoon Onset over Kerala (MOK) is still a subjective call. Attempts are ongoing to establish objective criteria.

The date of the MOK is declared by IMD every year based on subjective estimates prepared by operational forecasters. …….

 ‘‘Although the onset of monsoon is associated with changes in the atmospheric circulation features in the lower and upper troposphere, a sustained increase in the rainfall at the observatory stations of Kerala and the island stations over the south-east Arabian sea is an essential feature of the monsoon onset. It is difficult to quantify these precisely and so the experience of the forecaster plays a key role in declaring the date of monsoon onset in individual years.’’

The IMD forecaster, while declaring the date of the MOK, has been taking into consideration subjectively the following features

  1. the rainfall should be widespread over Kerala and adjacent areas, with large rainfall amounts at individual stations;
  2. this rainfall persists over several days;
  3. the lower-tropospheric westerlies in and around Kerala should be strong and deep; and
  4. the air should be rich in moisture (high relative humidity) up to at least 500 hPa. However, there is no widely accepted objective definition of the MOK.

There also have been attempts to derive objective methods for the MOK. …..

Skymet describes the criteria as:

at least 60% of the 14 weather stations across Kerala and coastal Karnataka should record 2.5 mm rainfall or more for two consecutive days.  ….. Simultaneously, the depth of the westerly winds should be up to 600 hPa (or 12000 ft high),  from the equator to 10°N Latitude, and between Longitude 55°E and 80°E. The zonal wind speed over the area bounded by Latitude 5-10°N and Longitude 70-80°E should be around 25 to 35 kmph in the lower levels. The OLR value should also be less than 200 Wm-2 in the box confined by Latitude 5-10°N and Longitude 70-75°E.

The rainfall criteria have been met today. Skymet writes:

…… we watch out for more than 2.5 mm of rainfall for consecutive two days in at least 60% of the stipulated 14 weather stations across Kerala, coastal Karnataka and Lakshadweep. These stations are Minicoy, Aminidivi, Kollam, Thiruvananthapuram, Kannur, Punalur, Alappuzha, Kottayam, Kochi, Thrissur, Kozhikode, Thalassery, Kasargode and Mangalore. 

As of now, more than 60% of the available 14 stations have already received more than 2.5 mm of rain for the last 2 days. As for the masses, Monsoon-like rainfall activity has already commenced in the region. The following rainfall figures (in millimeters) recorded over the last 3 days suffice for the above statement. 

Monsoon onset 2016 rainfall (graphic Skymet)

Monsoon onset 2016 rainfall (graphic Skymet)

So far, so good.

It seems highly probable that the formal declaration of the onset of the monsoon over Kerala (MOK) will be declared for today or tomorrow. The signs are encouraging that 2016 monsoon rainfall will be classified as “good” (upto 10% above the long-term average) and may even be declared to be in “excess” (>10% above long term average).


An Indian spelling gene which is triggered by geography?

May 27, 2016

Indian Americans now totally dominate the US Spelling Bee competition. It was the third straight year of joint winners at the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee. Nihar Janga, 11, of Austin, Texas, and Jairam Hathwar, 13, of Corning, New York, were declared co-champions at the National Spelling Bee on Thursday.

May 26, 2016; National Harbor, MD, USA; Jairam Hathwar, 13, of Painted Post, N.Y. (L), and Nihar Janga, 11, of Austin, Texas (R), celebrate as co-champions during the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center. Image : Reuters

Seventeen out of the last twenty one winners (from 1999 to 2016), including all champions for the most recent nine years (from 2008-2016, including 2014, 2015, and 2016’s pairs of co-champions, for a total of twelve champions during this interval), have been Indian Americans, reflecting the recent dominance of students of this community in this competition. Indian Americans make up less than one percent of the U.S. population. In 2016, Nihar Janga from Austin, Texas, became the youngest ever champion when he won the title at the age of 11.

The 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee featured co-champions for the sixth time in the competition’s history, the previous occurrences having been in 1950, 1957, 1962, 2014, and 2015. (Wikipedia)

It must be genetic. But for some reason the spelling gene does not express itself in India. Obviously some epigenetic factor is in play.

My hypothesis is that all Indians have the spelling gene but it is only expressed when triggered by a geographical factor to be found only in the US.


Why are Indian-Americans sweeping the US spelling bee?


Indian monsoon should be on time as El Niño dissipates

May 18, 2016

The Indian monsoon is influenced by anomalies in the Niño 3.4 region.

nino regions

nino regions

“El Niño (La Niña) is a phenomenon in the equatorial Pacific Ocean characterized by a five consecutive 3-month running mean of sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies in the Niño 3.4 region that is above (below) the threshold of +0.5°C (-0.5°C).”

In the last 2 weeks the Niño 3.4 region has seen the SST anomaly drop from 1.1°C on April 25 to 0.6°C now. So it does look like that the current El Niño is dissipating and will very soon reach neutral conditions. That comes just in time for this year’s Indian monsoon (official season from 1st June to 30th September).

Both the government Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) and the private Skymet forecast an above average monsoon (about 10% above “normal”). However the IMD forecasts that the onset of the monsoon over the south-west coast will be delayed by about a week (June 6th -8th) but Skymet suggests that it will be on time and maybe even a day or two early (28th -30th May).

The Skymet prediction seems a little more credible to me. Right now a depression in the Bay of Bengal is bringing very heavy rain to the south-east tip of the peninsula and augurs well for the establishment of the monsoon. The formal “onset of the monsoon” is itself a complex matter. Technically the onset is declared when:

at least 60% of the 14 weather stations across Kerala and coastal Karnataka should record 2.5 mm rainfall or more for two consecutive days.  ….. Simultaneously, the depth of the westerly winds should be up to 600 hPa (or 12000 ft high),  from the equator to 10°N Latitude, and between Longitude 55°E and 80°E. The zonal wind speed over the area bounded by Latitude 5-10°N and Longitude 70-80°E should be around 25 to 35 kmph in the lower levels. The OLR value should also be less than 200 Wm-2 in the box confined by Latitude 5-10°N and Longitude 70-75°E.

While Skymet predicts monsoon conditions being established by end-May, IMD sees that about a week later. Possibly IMD have a smaller initial peak than Skymet.

Skymet’s Jatin Singh writes:

Skymet Weather believes that Monsoon will lash Kerala by the predicted dates between May 28 and 30. …..

…. There are high chances that the onset of Southwest Monsoon in mainland of India will coincide with El Niño reaching the threshold neutral stage. The in-built complex characteristics of Southwest Monsoon are also influenced by external oceanic-atmospheric phenomena like Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) and Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO). IOD will remain neutral for now and MJO will also traverse through the favorable zones of eastern Indian Ocean. Therefore, I think that the onset of Monsoon will not be hampered by El Niño, IOD or MJO.

monsoon onset 2016 prediction - graphic Skymet

monsoon onset 2016 prediction – graphic Skymet

Farmers, the government and industry are all looking for a good monsoon to kick-start the Indian economy into a steady period of growth. A “good monsoon” adds – directly and indirectly – about 2 percentage points to GDP. In the present climate where, in spite of the boost from lower oil prices, the Indian economy is dithering about taking off, a “monsoon factor” could be what is needed to secure the upward trajectory.


%d bloggers like this: