Sustainability and the Goods & Services Tax

In India, the newly introduced Goods and Services Tax (GST) has led to quite some stress to the manufacturers and service providers and more importantly to the consumers belonging to middle income and poor class of the society. Most are not happy with GST today.

The basic idea to introduce GST was to remove the multiple tax system that was a part of Central and State government and to provide uniform tax system throughout the country. The GST tax model is divided into different tax slabs ranging from 0% to 28%. There are four slabs (5%, 12%, 18%, and 28%) and an additional ‘sin tax’ of 40% that is to be implemented on rare occasions.

When GST was implemented it was claimed that it would bring great changes in the Indian economy in the market and increase country’s GDP to 7%. The reality over a short span was however not to this expectation as the economy was already in shambles due to the demonetization. Despite all the shortcomings, the GST model was hoped to be a grand success over long run if it was planned considering the welfare of poor people and of course to protect the environment and our natural resources.

My Professor friend therefore felt that the GST should have been structured based on sustainability considerations. In his logic, goods and services that have negative environmental and social impact should be slapped with higher tax slab and those goods and services that help in improving the sustainability should be promoted with lower slab rate.

Professor told the PMO that Government needs to completely restructure the tax slabs based on sustainability considerations. So, he was called to Delhi for a discussion.

Professor was preparing his note and a speech in his study when I went to see him. He looked at me and said “Dr Modak, I was about to call you. I wanted someone to peer my note and give comments before I fly out to New Delhi. What I am proposing in the new GST regime is something simply revolutionary”. With this remark, he passed me his note and lighted a cigar.

I browsed the note and looked at the whiteboard in his room. It had several keywords and diagrams – all written in a haphazard manner – and in some places almost illegible. However, the scribbling on the whiteboard and a choked ashtray on the desk did show that Professor was brainstorming.

The word MIPS had taken a central position on the white board and was written in red.

What’s MIPs Professor? I asked. “Hope it is not Million Instructions Per Second?” I remembered conversations with my friends from computer science and engineering regarding MIPS.

“Oh, come on, I thought you knew this term Dr Modak.” Professor looked disappointed. He then explained

“The abbreviation MIPS stands for Material Input Per Service unit. MIPS is an elementary measure to estimate the resources demanded by a product or service. In the computation of MIPS, the whole life-cycle from cradle to cradle (extraction, production, use, waste/recycling) is considered like a rucksack. Recycling reflects the extent of the use of secondary materials. MIPS can be applied in all cases where the environmental implications of products, processes and services need to be assessed and compared”.

I remembered then the MIPS. Of course, I knew about this term.

MIPS as a concept is so much talked about in Europe over last two decades. The Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy introduced Material Intensity Analysis (MAIA), based on the MIPS concept, way back in in 1998.

MIPS considers abiotic and biotic materials, water, air, and earth movement in agriculture and silviculture. See for more explanation. Of course, MIPS has its limitations (as it captures Inputs and not impacts and risks fully) but researchers over the last two decades have worked hard and improved the scope and computational methodology of MIPS.

Visit to view the latest list of materials where MIPS is computed and applicable regions. MIPs is expressed in kg/kg.

If you follow this table, then you would see that aluminium will attract much more GST (say 4th slab) as compared to Steel (that could be placed in the 2nd slab). Electricity produced by a wind farm will be in the lowest tax slab of GST and all forms of plastic will be placed in the 3rd tax slab. So were the propositions from the Professor to the FM.

I thought of using MIPS to fix tax slabs under GST was a novel idea to drive consumption towards sustainability, but I had several questions to ask.

“But Professor, this would mean that we will need to first develop MIPS database for India. We cannot use Wuppertal database or for that matter the publicly available Eco Invent or databases provided by commercial software such a Gabbi.

Developing MIPS for India (even for select materials/products/services) could well be a national project involving IITs, Schools of Economics, Institutions researching on Natural Resources Management etc. This work will take at least 3 years to conclude to arrive at numbers that are reasonable and acceptable”

I had my doubts whether the India such a MIPS project was going to be feasible.

Professor nodded.

“I agree with you Dr Modak, but we don’t have that much time. Unsustainability is ticking. Remember that the tax slabs that we will use will follow a band or a range so even 100% error around MIPS computation will not cause any major concern. So, I don’t mind a quick (and dirty) first cut. We must begin somewhere.

By linking GST with MIPS we will raise awareness of Indian citizens about choosing materials and products on the ground of sustainability. The citizens will be more responsible. To save the GST, people will prefer materials and products with low MIPS. India’s Gross Ecological Product (GEP) will thus increase;  and so the GDP and importantly sustainably”

I thought the Professor was right. He really was a visionary.

I realized that if implemented, India would be the first country in the world that will show a “sustainability basis” in its taxation.

I wasn’t sure however the FM and the PM will agree with the Professor as perhaps a sustainability led GST may plough a lower tax collection. Wont it then conflict with the very objective of GST and that of the FM!

I wished all the best to the Professor as he extinguished his cigar and called taxi to the airport. I erased the white board that featured MIPS and kept my mouth shut. I didn’t want to discourage him.

Suggested reading on MIPS Concept, Methodology and Applications

Calculating MIPS 2.0 Mathieu Saurat  and Michael Ritthoff

The MIPS Concept (Material Input Per Unit of Service): A Measure for an Ecological Economy Martha Fani Cahyandito

Calculating MIPS – Resource Productivity of Products and Services Michael Ritthoff Holger Rohn Christa Liedtke Wuppertel Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy


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Resources, Residues and Circular Economy

Sustainability of this planet depends heavily on the availability of resources.

Resources are under threat today due to severe depletion and degradation.

Depletion has been on a steep rise due to increasing population, urbanization and consumption. Degradation has been a result of reckless disposal of residues.

Strangely and oddly enough, the national governments, particularly the Ministries of Environment, have focused more on the management of residues rather than management of the resources. Legislation was evolved to set limits on the residues that will have to be met prior to disposal but not much attention was given on the limits of extraction of resources and resource pricing. The latter was more of a political issue.

Limits on residues became stricter over the years as our understanding of the adverse impacts and risks to the environment improved. We realized that residues when not properly disposed could lead to considerable damage to the humans and the ecosystems. There were severe economic implications both on damage and restoration. Many of the impacts were found to be long term and irreversible and further compounded with risks that were not easy to anticipate.

Most national governments followed a precautionary approach following “do no harm principle” in setting the limits. Over the years, advances were made in the monitoring of pollutants in the residues and the technologies were developed that could be economically used for treatment. These advances made tightening of the limits on residues possible.

Having framed the legislation and limits or standards on the residues, the national governments established institutions for monitoring and enforcement. Procedures and practices of documentation were laid down. Most legislations began with addressing wastewater but soon air emissions, solid and hazardous wastes were included. In the last two decades, specific residues such as municipal solid wastes, construction and demolition wastes, plastic waste, electronic (e) waste were also addressed by setting limits and requirements for safe disposal. Consequently, the investments on the end of pipe management of residues increased.

Unfortunately, since the institutions made responsible for monitoring and enforcement were weak, compliance to the standards or limits was not satisfactorily achieved. The resources continued to be degraded.

The polluters realized that to reduce cost of the end of pipe treatment and remain competitive, efforts were required to reduce generation of residues at the source. Concepts such as waste minimization and pollution prevention therefore emerged and the polluters did every effort to reduce residue generation by deploying better housekeeping and practicing reuse, recycling, recovery to the extent possible. This required a behavioral change, application of management systems, use of productivity improvement tools and adoption to modern technologies. The investments for management of residues essentially moved upstream leading to “ecological modernization”.  Unlike end of pipe investments, the “upstream” investments had a payback or economic returns.Strategies such as Cleaner Production, Green Productivity and Eco-efficiency emerged. These strategies showed a link between resources (in specific the resource use efficiency) and the residues that could be converted as a resource.

Gradually, importance of product design was understood that connected resources and residues.  Our understanding of Life Cycle impacts of the products made us realize that we must think of both resources and residues at every stage of life cycle i.e. extraction, transportation, processing, packaging, distribution, use, disposal.   The two R’s (viz. Resources and Residues) were thus integrated with the opportunities of 3R (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle)

Over a period of time, the legislation on residues expanded and became more comprehensive. Figure below shows an illustration of evolution of limits, expectations and requirements for the pulp and paper sector.

Clearly, enforcement of such limits could not be done solely by the Government. It required a partnership approach where the markets (consumers, retailers) and investors were also involved. An enunciation of an umbrella policy and coordination between ministries was also necessary. The new paradigm of governance addressed both resources and residues, across the life cycle and in partnership with G-B-FI-C (Government, Business, Financing Institutions and Communities)

In India, importance of green products is not understood even today.  We are still far lagging on the strategy of eco or sustainable product design and green public procurement. Our eco-labelling program “Eco-mark” failed long ago, with no efforts made for revival. There are only handful schools in India who teach sustainable product design today. There isn’t much “market demand” either.

You can assess the “maturity of the environmental governance” of a country based on how the limits are set and are operated considering both resources and residues and how key stakeholders are involved. I would rate India at level of 4 if there was a maturity scale between 0 to 10.

As earlier said, the Indian environmental governance is still biased to the management of residues. But remember that even on the residues we have not looked into risks on disposal from ecological perspective. Although the name of Ministry is now Ministry of Environment & Forests & Climate Change, we have not paid attention to the  risks posed on our resource security due to climate change. Our approach is still conventional and dated.

Resource management in India is in the purview of line ministries e.g. water, energy, agriculture. There is a poor coordination between the Ministries in visualizing a “systems” perspective where resources and residues are integrated. Years ago, New Zeeland enacted Resource Management Act (RMA). The RMA has not been a smooth ride but there are interesting lessons that could be learnt.

The recently promulgated concept of Circular Economy added additional 3Rs namely- Repair, Refurbish and Remanufacture.   These 3Rs introduced three significant components viz. social (employment), investment and innovation. Once material flows become circular, compliance becomes of interest to every stakeholder. 

China legislated Circular Economy Law as early as in 2007 focusing on industrial estates.  Japan promoted this concept at Eco-Towns. European Union came up with country specific targets, indicators and reporting requirements on Circular Economy.

India is estimated to become the fourth largest economy in the world in about two decades. This economic growth is however going to come with challenges such as urbanization with increased vulnerability (especially due to climate change), poor resource quality and scarcity and high level of unevenness in the socio-economic matrix due to acute poverty. India, if it makes the right and systemic choices, has a potential to move towards positive, regenerative, and value-creating development. Its young population, growing use of IT, increasing emphasis on social and financial inclusion as well as the emerging manufacturing sector can make this happen. For this, the conventional linear ‘take, make, dispose’ model of growth must change and an enabling policy framework at the national and sectoral level needs to be evolved. Developing a national policy framework on Circular Economy therefore makes sense.

The recent report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation on India shows that a circular economy path to development could bring India annual benefits of ₹40 lakh crores (US$ 624 billion) in 2050 compared with the current development path – a benefit equivalent to 30% of India’s current GDP. Following a circular economy path would also reduce negative externalities. For example, Greenhouse Gas emissions (GHGs) would be 44% lower in 2050 compared to the current development path, and other externalities like congestion and pollution would fall significantly, providing health and economic benefits to Indian citizens. This conclusion was drawn based on high-level economic analysis of three focus areas viz. cities and construction, food and agriculture, and mobility and vehicle manufacturing.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) of Government of India set up the India Resource Panel (InRP) in 2016 to examine the material and energy flows across key sectors following a life cycle approach and to assess resource efficiency. I am a member of InRP. Sectors such as Construction, Automobiles, Iron & Steel and Metals were considered and key cross-cutting areas were examined. Recommendations of InRP are now taken up by India’s Niti Ayog (Planning Commission chaired by the Prime Minister) and is expected to develop a national framework to foster and support India’s Circular Economy.

The Government of India has embarked on several iconic projects to improve and expand its infrastructure (transport, cities and energy) and undertake ecological modernization of important sectors such as water, agriculture and food. In these Mega projects, Foreign Direct Investment is encouraged and these investors are asking for good practices on Environmental and Social Governance (ESG) apart from conventional compliance. The 100 Smart Cities program, Make in India initiative, Swatch Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India), Namami Gange (Ganga River Action Plan), Interlinking of Rivers, Climate Resilient Agriculture etc. are a few examples. In all these projects, an application of the principles of the Circular Economy is extremely relevant and, more critically, leadership on the circular economy will need to be built in Cities, Industries, Investors, Project Developers and with Policy makers and Regulators.

Circular Economy is thus a concept that brings management and resources and residues together in the interest of economy, livelihoods and the environment. If implemented well then it will spur innovation and stimulate investments. The question is which institution in India will champion and how will we mainstream Circular Economy at national, state, city and industrial estate levels. Leadership in Circular Economy is going to be the key to bring in the necessary change.

We need to start walking the talk. But who will bell the cat?

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My company Ekonnect Knowledge Foundation is developing an international leadership program on Circular Economy in partnership with Green Industries  South Australia. This program will have E-learning and Face to face components. The program will be  launched in mid of 2018. Do write to me if you are interested to learn more or get involved 

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Green Public Procurement – A Potential Game Changer for India?



Green Public Procurement (GPP) may be simply defined as “Public procurement for a better environment“. Those not accustomed to simplicity, define GPP as “a process whereby public authorities seek to procure goods, services and works with a reduced environmental impact throughout their life cycle when compared to goods, services and works with the same primary function that would otherwise be procured.” (Phew!)

GPP is fundamentally a voluntary instrument, but it can be legislated.

Japan already has a law on GPP. In 2000, in South Africa, Department of Environment Affairs adopted a Preferential Procurement Policy under the ‘Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act, 2000’. In China, from January 2007, provincial and central governments have made a list of environment friendly products certified by China Certification Committee for Environmental Labelling and these products have to mandatorily meet environmental protection and energy saving standards. In Mexico, the 2007–2012 National Development Plan brought in sustainability criteria in the procurement policy followed by a procurement law. The law recognized that all wood and furniture procurement by public agencies requires a certificate highlighting its legal origin and paper procured by public agencies will need to have 50 % recycled content

Public authorities are major consumers in Europe. They spend approximately 1.8 trillion euro annually (2015 statistics), representing around 14 % of the EU’s gross domestic product. By using their purchasing power to choose goods and services with lower impacts on the environment, consumers in Europe can make an important contribution to Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP).

European Union (EU) adopted two directives on 26 February 2014. Today many of the EU countries have transposed these directives or rules into national laws. The new rules are driven by goals that include environmental protection, social responsibility, innovation, combating climate change, employment, public health and other social and environmental considerations.

Importantly, these directives support Innovation partnerships where a contracting authority wishes to purchase goods or services, which are not currently available on the market. The authority may establish an innovation partnership with one or more partners allowing research and development (R&D), piloting and subsequent purchase of a new product, service or work. The procedure for establishing an innovation partnership is set out in Article 31 of Directive 2014/24/EU. Further, these procurement directives allow for preliminary market consultation with suppliers in order to get advice, which may be used in the preparation of the procedure.

Green purchasing is thus about influencing the market. By promoting and using GPP, public authorities can provide industry with real incentives for developing green materials, technologies and products. GPP is therefore a strong stimulus for eco-innovation. To me this is a very important game changing feature – something India badly needs while pushing the agenda of “make in India”.

GPP has  great environmental benefits too. In Brazil for instance, procurement of recycled paper notebooks in middle and higher schools has helped in saving 8 million liters of water, 1,766 tons of waste, 241 kg of organo halogen compounds from procurement of 17,97,866 high school and 19,94,149 middle school “green” kits.

To be effective, GPP requires the inclusion of clear and verifiable environmental criteria for products and services in the public procurement process. Several countries in the world have developed guidance in this area, in the form of national GPP criteria. In India, the Eco-mark label miserably failed. Recently, CII has launched a certification scheme called Green Products or GreenPro to promote products that are green. So far, more than 100 products (mainly related to construction) have been certified. The green criteria used however is not well defined, not easily verifiable and many times ambiguous. I won’t attribute much credence to GreenPro certification. It’s more of a PR initiative to me.

My company Environmental Management Centre LLP (EMC) was chosen by the Ministry of Finance in Mauritius to pilot GPP. The main objective was to develop a Framework for Sustainable or Green Public Procurement that will ensure that procurement decisions take the following key factors into account when evaluating goods and services:

  • Economic: The need to achieve better value for money with the financial resources available
  • Environmental: The product, service or work requirements should include environmental performances following environmentally friendly production methods, higher energy efficiency as well as maximum use of renewable energy, lower generation of waste and emissions and avoiding use of non-biodegradable and toxic substances.
  • Social: reduction of poverty and inequality: promoting security and social inclusion; improving working conditions and employee welfare; promoting gender balance.

We developed a SPP Action Plan for Government of Mauritius on this basis. This Action Plan was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers in December 2011. A Workshop was organized with a view to develop sustainability criteria for 5 products as an initial phase. These products included paper, ICT equipment, office furniture, passenger cars, detergents and cleaning materials. A second workshop was held to train procurement officers and hence facilitate implementation of SPP – the participants included both procurement officers and suppliers. Model bid documents were then prepared after training and consultation.

I was personally involved in this project that was supported by UNEP’s SPP. And it was a satisfaction to see that we could implement GPP at policy as well as operational levels – even if I couldn’t do so for my own country!

Today, thirty per cent of the GDP of India is spent on public procurement. Given the massive size of public spending, public sector in India can be a prime driver towards sustainable production and consumption and can create environmental and economic benefits. Unfortunately, In India, GPP is still in infancy.

Some public sector entities and government departments have started internalizing environmental and energy efficiency criteria in their procurement decisions. For instance, Indian Railways, Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), and Indian Oil Corporation are promoting sustainable public procurement in a decentralized way in project specific sites with a major focus on procurement of energy conserving equipment in the procurement process of small items. However, such efforts have been undertaken in isolation and have not been replicated or scaled up across organizations, sectors, and levels of governments. Green Procurement related policies may be now seen at Tata Consulting Services (TCS)  and Mahindra .  These examples are like “islands” in “isolation”

The challenge of making GPP as a common practice still remains. See TERI’s Policy Brief that provides a good analyses of the situation.

In 2012, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) carried out a study and came up with GPP Guidelines. The Thirteenth Finance Commission of India emphasized the need for incentivizing growth of India with lower environmental and resource footprint. In April 2012, the Union Cabinet approved the Public Procurement Bill, which is currently pending in the Lok Sabha. The Bill aims at ensuring ‘transparency, accountability and probity in the procurement process, promoting competition, enhancing efficiency and economy, maintaining integrity and public confidence in the public procurement process.’  There is hardly any green in this bill, except in Clause 21 where one of the criteria mentioned is “environmental characteristics” of the product.

I think we need a better bill from the green perspective and perhaps at the same time a good pilot. GPP at Indian Railways (IR) could be the pilot given that we have visionary Railway Ministers like Suresh Prabhu.

IR has introduced several green measures and preferences already. IR now produces modern green three-phase drive locomotives with regenerative capability of producing electric power during breaking of trains along with conventional locomotives. This has been done by forming collaboration with General Electric (GE) and BHEL.

Mineral insulating oil is another case for greening of transformers. The latest green intervention is to use organic ester-based insulating fluid in transformers. These fluids are biodegradable. The BIS Draft standard was under discussion on operation of such transformers – DOC ETD 3 (6354) 2012 – and was finalized in April, 2016

Key goods of focus for greening could include ceiling fans, refrigerators, Air conditioners, motors where emphasis could be on energy efficiency and hence reduction in GHG emissions and life cycle costs. IR has already taken steps in this direction by specifying minimum 3 star energy rating during procurement. These requirements could be heightened gradually as market matures.

Although the volume of procurement is negligible as compared to total procurement of IR, the human resources engaged for employment are large. IR could consider supplies of all uniforms for instance made out of Khadi that meet the green requirements and in the process generate revenues and employment for KVIC with reduced environmental footprint.

Introduction of biodegradable bottles for RailNeer, biodegradable paper cups, use of leaf plates etc. could be examples of greening. IR has already installed Bio-toilets for efficient waste disposal and resource recovery. Paperless e-ticketing has been successfully introduced leading to significant reduction in the environmental footprints. Water is now recycled after washing the wagons and solar energy producing plants & self-sustaining hydro-electric and bio-diesel plants at vacant railway lands are getting commissioned.

IR has already started using Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) in its fleet of multiple diesel units and introduced bio diesel in the sector. Trials have also been completed and one power car of DMU has been converted to run on dual fuel mode using CNG and further proliferation is in progress. Laboratory tests have been carried out by using 10% blend of bio-diesel on Trains that have shown successful results.

The only problem is that all these interventions have not been well documented, or third party assessed with metrics to make a strong case for GPP that makes an economic, environmental and social case. We need the numbers to communicate the entire story. Imagine the massive impact of GPP as a pilot at the Indian Railways! There will simply be a surge of green product makers and service providers (e.g. on reverse logistics) and India will move a few inches at least towards Green Manufacturing & Green Market. And more importantly, ride on the innovation and become even globally competitive

Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has been a good friend of mine. I have decided to see him in his office to address my above concerns. Or may be I should ask him to travel with me between Mumbai to Delhi on Rajdhani Express – we could then spend the 17 hours of the Journey together to come up with a pilot and plan to change the game by the time the locomotive of the Rajdhani Express whistles into the New Delhi Railway Station!

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The Intersections


1990s was an era where many leading institutions across the world were interested to launch programs where interests of business/profitability could be integrated with the protection of the environment/sustainability. These institutions perhaps realized that unless such an integration was pitched, there was not going to be much interest or “buy in” by the business.

UNEP’s Cleaner Production was one such “smart” Program. The concept of Cleaner Production was established by the UNEP’s Division of Technology, Industry and Economics (DTIE) in Paris.

I feel excited even today that I was part of that small team of “experts” who worked together in one of the late evenings at the office of DTIE and coined the term Cleaner Production. Jaqueline Alosi Larderel was the director then and Donald (Don) Huisingh (who was a Professor at the Lund University) was the Facilitator. We were struggling and attempted several options of shall I say the “word play” and the “terms and definitions” to arrive finally at “What is Cleaner Production?”

We defined Cleaner Production as: “The continuous application of an integrated environmental strategy to processes, products and services to increase efficiency and reduce risks to humans and the environment”. This definition was pretty deep yet expansive.

I recall that after the term and definition was sorted out, we walked near Rue Saint-James to a small Lebanese restaurant (Fleur de cèdrerun? I don’t exactly recollect the name now) that was run by two brothers (one used to cook and other used to play keyboard) and had a three hour long dinner and wonderful conversations. Cleaner Production was born.

I spent nearly 15 years later in the area of Cleaner Production. In 2002 I prepared the Global Status Report on Cleaner Production for UNEP DTIE , later a multimedia CDROM “Cleaner Production Companion” and Training & Guidance Manuals how to set up and operate National Cleaner Production Centers, amongst other publications.

In 1992, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBSCD) came with the concept of Eco-Efficiency. The concept was based on creating more goods and services while using fewer resources and creating less waste and pollution. Eco-efficiency was measured as the ratio between the (added) values of what has been produced (e.g. GDP) and the (added) environment impacts of the product or service (e.g. SO2 emissions).  WBSCD in its 1992 publication “Changing Course,” introduced this term and at the 1992 Earth Summit, eco-efficiency was endorsed as a new business concept and means for companies to implement Agenda 21 in the private sector. The term has become synonymous today with a management philosophy geared towards sustainability and combining ecological and economic efficiency.

I was one of the contributors to the book Changing Course  courtesy my good friend Nick Robbins and was involved in the discussions on Eco-efficiency. I could therefore see the “intersections”. Both Cleaner Production and Eco-Efficiency had origins primarily from the experience of countries in the European Union. In the United States, the term Pollution Prevention prevailed.

In 1994, Yuji Yamada of Asian Productivity Organization (APO) approached me. “Dr Modak, APO has been in the productivity business for long and we recognize the importance of integrating productivity and environment as “Green Productivity” but we don’t have a definition. Can you help? Please come as a resource person to a workshop of experts I am organizing in Taipei”

I asked Yamada-san, why do you want a yet another term? Go ahead use terms like Cleaner Production or Eco-efficiency. Yamada-san said “This won’t work. We need our own definition”

So I joined Yamada-san in Taipei. Over a two days of deliberation we came up with a definition of Green Productivity. Green Productivity was defined as a strategy for enhancing productivity and environmental performance for overall socio-economic development. Green Productivity was considered as the application of appropriate productivity and environmental management policies, tools, techniques, and technologies in order to reduce the environmental impact of an organization’s activities.

In 2006, I wrote for the APO the Green Productivity Training Manual. My association with APO continues even today. I attempted to bring UNEP DTIE and APO together and we did few common meetings/conferences but the real harmonization was impossible to achieve in the Program operations. The industry used to be confused “Are you referring to CP (Cleaner Production) or GP (Green Productivity). A pity isn’t it? And as if this confusion was not enough we now have another term – Resource Efficient Cleaner Production (RECP). UNEP along with UNIDO defined RECP as continuous application of preventive environmental strategies to processes, products, and services to increase efficiency and reduce risks to humans and the environment. RECP works specifically to advance production efficiency, management of environment and human development. So RECP was a “concoction” of CP and GP! Indeed, it’s a maze of terms and intersections today on the canvas of Productivity, Environment and Interest of Communities.

Each of the above programs made dent in their own way. Some led to more outreach, acceptance and impact. The early definitions of these terms were tweaked during the course and re-interpreted especially to reflect on the Millennium Development Goals (and now the Sustainability Development Goals).

In the early phase of these programs, the business was asking for the “evidence” that would prove that it was profitable to integrate business with environmental and social considerations. I remember I created for the UNEP DTIE International Cleaner Production Information Clearinghouse (ICPIC)  and came up with an edited version of 400+ international case studies across more than 20 industrial sectors covering medium and large scale industries. These case studies did the job of convincing and were used in the outreach and  the training programs. Today, we don’t  need any more convincing. We want to know more about “how to”.

Unfortunately, the concepts of CP, Eco-Efficiency, GP and RECP have not yet penetrated in the graduate level education programs, especially in the developing world. The ocean of resources created and the practice experience documented have not yet reached the student and community of young professionals.  We need to run continuing education programs on these topics especially for the mid-level industry professionals. Those on the top layer are generally aware of the benefits of integration. But sure, we have a long way to go for mainstreaming sustainability in the business.

Few years ago, three bright and smart looking specialists from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) came to see me in my office. They were quite snappy and a bit arrogant (perhaps because they were working for IFC) and looked at me as an “environmental consultant”. One of them said “Mr. Modak, you folks (he meant consultants) should read up and practice some of the paradigm shifts in environmental management – such as Cleaner Production. Most of you think only of “end of the pipe” solutions and that’s the problem”. The other two also chipped in.

I was simply amused and I said “How exciting? Never heard of this term Cleaner Production. Could you elaborate?” And they obliged me and expanded CP to introduce terms like Eco-efficiency and Green Productivity as well. And I heard my own words!

Later, my friend from IFC called me – who was their boss and said “Dr Modak, when will you give up this habit of telling that you know nothing and have a good laugh later – I apologize on behalf of my staff for getting you through Course-101 on Cleaner Production”.

I told her – it’s not their fault – but indeed discussions with them made me re-think about the intersections. Intersections are alright if they help in better integration.




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The 3R Peoples Party


REDUCE, REUSE and RECYCLE (The 3R’s) are at the heart of the ‘Go Green’ global movement. All of us, whether a public organisation, private enterprise or individuals, we need to manage resources more sustainably. The world’s resources are not infinite. It is worrisome and scary to note that people in 2050 will only have 25% of the resources per capita that people in 1950 had! Therefore, the only way we can support future populations is by using our resources more efficiently TODAY.

My Professor Friend invited me for a party hosted by “the 3R people” last weekend. “Come and meet some of the spirited folks whom you haven’t yet met and who genuinely care for this Planet. These are the People who not just believe in sustainability but put sustainability in practice”. While saying this he had a smirk on his face (at least that’s what I thought) as he knew that I only preached and never practiced sustainability. Luckily, I knew that I was not the only one – and there were millions like me.

The venue of the party was non-descript and the food served was frugal. But there was no coherence in the food menu – as it had some elements of Punjabi, some shades of South Indian and some Maharashtrian items. Later I was told that for all 3R parties, food is sourced from an NGO who collects all the excess food from the wedding halls in Mumbai. I thought that this was a great concept and I wish this idea is adopted by CIIs and FICCIs and the like who specialize in holding meetings, seminars and workshops where the main plenaries are often the “gala” lunches and dinners. Technical sessions are generally given less priority.

When we entered the venue, we were greeted and taken to a registration desk. There were three types of Tee shirts offered to each delegate. These Tee shirts were all in bright red color with slogans such as REDUCE, REUSE and RECYCLE. Depending on your interest, affinity, conviction or capability, you could pick up any kind of Tee shirt out of the three. I was offered a plain Red Tee shirt with nothing written as the organizers knew that I was a new comer and they knew nothing about me or my expertise.

The Tee shirts had one line explanation on each of the “R”s. Tee shirt with REDUCE had a bye line – buy less and use less. REUSE Tee shirt sported text “Use discarded item again” and the RECYCLE Tee shirt had a signature note “Make new products from materials that are discarded”.

I liked these simple explanations. I wish this is how we communicated the concept of 3Rs rather than using words that you would generally find in the technical journals that are read only by few.

I was curious to see “which R” dominated the party. A quick scan indicated that there were more Tee shirt people with RECYCLE followed by REUSE and relatively few people were sporting the REDUCE Tee shirts. I therefore thought of meeting first some of the REDUCE Tee shirt people.

The first person I met with REDUCE Tee shirt was wearing shorts and a half sleeves shirt. When asked, he said that he is telling everybody to wear shorts and half sleeves shirts and not full trousers and full shirts. That was his campaign. He said that if this practice was followed by everyone then it could mean saving 1 billion meters of cloth each year. Assuming that average 30 % of cotton is used then it would amount saving nearly 4 billion m3 of water each year[1]. He had even more such interesting statistics on savings of earth resources (especially land), reducing waste release (like fertilizers and pesticides) and emissions etc. but thankfully a REDUCE Tee shirt good looking woman standing next to him interjected and said “and not to forget the advantage of shorts and half sleeves shirts – exposing your skin to the sunlight and getting D Vitamin to your body in the natural form. Do you know that in India more than 69% of adults have D Vitamin deficiency”?  To impress her I said ” this would mean  we won’t need to produce D Vitamin artificially and this will amount to further saving of resources such as water, minerals, protecting biodiversity and reducing emissions”.  And the woman was indeed impressed. She said that I made a good point she had missed.

“Do you really need this spot light”? A tall man with REDUCE Tee shirt asked me and without waiting for my response dimmed the light.  “Do you know if we follow strictly the minimum illumination guidelines (e.g. 500 lumen/m2 for office and 40 lumen/m2 for public areas)[2] , 1 million MW of electricity will be saved each year and so will be a reduction in the coal combusted to greatly reduce GHG emissions. (I was wondering how the Tall man arrived at these estimates – but looking at his face with passion as well as conviction – I did not dare to ask. These are rare skills generally vested with reputed environmental NGOs).  I could see in his eyes his dimly lit house, equally dim lane where he lived and the dim headlights of his car that could lead to road accidents. But jokes apart but I thought the Tall man made a sense. We many times celebrate illumination without any reasons.

I thought of meeting now some REUSE folks. I saw that most of the REUSE people had assembled together for a kind of ceremony. This was a ceremony where the children “handed over” their used mobile phones to parents. Apparently, this clan of REUSE believed that mobile phones should be reused as much to an extent possible and all within the family. A great concept.

Here, the children got first the best smart phone and once the mobile phone was found outdated or if a better phone was available in the market, then the children bought the new phone and passed on the old mobile phone to their parents or the seniors. Parents and the seniors always used the “secondhand phones”. The life cycle of the mobile phone was thus increased leading to saving on the costs and of course reduction in resource consumption and damage to the environment. I was really impressed.

One of the REUSE ladies asked me “Do you use plastic or paper or cloth bag?” I said Plastic with an honest and guilty face expecting from her a look of disgust. On the contrary the lady exclaimed “So wise of you. There are only few like you who understand. Plastic bag can be reused many times compared to paper. A cloth bag needs to be washed much more frequently and that leads to more consumption of water and detergents. I just don’t understand the anti-plastic bag campaign”. I was surprised with her analysis. “Time to revisit Life Cycle Analysis of various types of bags” I said to myself.

People with RECYCLE Tee shirts were large in number and did not mix much with REDUCE and REUSE Group. In fact, I noticed a kind of animosity in their relationship. Probably recyclers  did not want “reduction” on purchases or consumption and “reuse” of used goods and materials to happen in their own interests.

The topic of discussion was how to increase or improve recycling. Recycling builds skills on entrepreneurship – said one RECYCLE person from the private sector. Another RECYCLE person from Academia spoke about link between RECYCLING and innovation. A lady with large bindi on the forehead (a typical powerful NGO) said that RECYCLING should involve women and support their livelihoods.  All this sounded music to me.

There was a small exhibition in the foyer on recycling of plastic bottles in a creative way. This was really fascinating[3]. One RECYCLE man (short and fat) told me that in the next meeting there will be an exhibition on recycling of aluminum cans. According to him, you could operate a TV set for an estimated three hours with the energy saved by recycling just one aluminum can! He gave me his visiting card that used waste paper (one side had his name printed and the other side it had some “gibberish”) resulting from cutting magazine covers at the Printing Press. What a clever  idea I thought.


When we finished dinner with such conversations, I thanked the Professor for inviting me to the 3R Peoples Party. Professor asked me to write my impression in the suggestion book that was made out of recycled paper by women who were underprivileged.

I wrote “Why have separate Tee shirts for each R? You need integrated thinking. Print all the three Rs on each Tee shirt and the color of the Tee shirt should not be red but green.” The President (who was wearing RECYCLE Tee shirt) wasn’t pleased with suggestion on “integrated approach”. But he liked the idea on the change of color of the Tee shirt.

I stepped out of the hall with Professor. The good looking REDUCE lady in shorts and short-sleeve shirt – whom I had met earlier – saw us heading to our respective cars. “Come on friends – how come you are not following the principles of car-pooling to REDUCE the fuel consumption and the per capita emissions” She did not seem pleased with us as we were using separate cars.

“Well” Professor said “Dr Modak lives in South Delhi and I live in the North – so we cannot pool”

“Oh” she said “now I understand”

Then turning to me she asked “Then how about giving me a ride Dr Modak? I live in the South too. Can I hop in? – By the way car-pooling is also called “collaborative consumption”[4]


I readily agreed. Driving car with a good looking lady was bigger collaborative benefit I thought – apart from the environmental benefit of reducing fuel consumption and air emissions.

I most respectfully opened the door of the front seat for her to hop in.

“Let us also car pool for the next event of the 3R People Party” I said while dropping her at her residence.

[1] Do refer to the report

[2] See

[3]  Have a look at

[4] Read

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Green Products Green Living


Our environment is constantly changing. Across the Globe people are facing environmental challenges every day. Many challenges have been or are being addressed innovatively, however there are no channels to communicate or publicize these commendable solutions. Anvaya: Ekonnect’s Short Film contest, was initiated as a platform for communicating these impactful solutions through the creative medium of films.

Anvaya (meaning positive action in Sanskrit) is a short film competition initiated by Ekonnect Knowledge Foundation (Ekonnect). The program was launched with an aim to bring to the fore, positive and innovative solutions to critical environmental issues.

Objectives of Anvaya are

  • Awareness raising & encouraging citizen involvement on issues affecting environment
  • Sensitizing citizens and promoting action through a creative medium such as short videos/films
  • Dissemination of films created through citizen groups, professionals and municipal corporations to showcase innovative solutions on various environmental issues in their locality
  • Creating a platform for like-minded citizens to network and action for a better environment

We have successfully completed two events on Anvaya, on the theme of ‘Waste to Resource‘ and ‘No Water No Life’. In Anvaya 1.0 the winning film was screened in Davos, Switzerland. For details about Anvaya 1.0 & 2.0 you may visit the webpage of Anvaya. You can also view the short films on our You tube channel . Do download the films and use in the awareness programs that you may conduct.

Anyava 3.0 is now launched on the theme of Green Products Green LivingThe aim is to educate people about alternative lifestyle choices that are environmentally friendly and socially responsible and help lower the carbon footprint.

The contest is open to Green Product Manufacturers, Green Product Users and Green Procurement Services.

Green Product makers will have an opportunity to ‘Review their products’ through Green Purchasing Network of India (GPNI) at no costs. The Green Product users will be able to rate their ‘Low Carbon Living Index’ based on Ekonnect’s calculator.

All participants will be offered a one day training at no costs to understand the subject and learn how to make short films. Spice Institute in Mumbai is our media partner.

Apart from the one day training on the domain and film making skills, we are also planning an exposition of green products and services. The final screening day will feature screening of the shortlisted films, green product stalls & exhibits, discussions with experts & the award ceremony.

Films can be made under both these categories:

Green Products/Services:

  • Energy efficient, durable and often have low maintenance requirements.
  • Free of ozone depleting chemicals, toxic compounds and produce zero toxic by-products.
  • Made of recycled materials or content or from renewable and sustainable sources.
  • Obtained from local manufacturers or resources.
  • Biodegradable or easily reused either in part or as a whole.

Stakeholders: Manufactures, Designers & Service providers.

Examples: Paper, Pharmaceuticals, Electrical Appliances, Water coolers & purifiers, Office furniture, Mobile phones, Public works & many more

Green Living:

  • Sustainable lifestyles
  • Consumption Patterns (Food)
  • Alternative modes of transport & energy consumption


Consumers / Users

Examples: General public shifting to greener options, Green food consumption, Corporates using Green procurement services etc.

How to register for Anvaya 3.0 (Please visit )

All individuals and organizations who will be applying to register will be required to go through a process as per the category as follows:

For green products/services: GPNI’s Peer Rating Service

For green lifestyle: Ekonnect’s ‘Low carbon living’ index

  • Both the above processes will be conducted at no charge.
  • Each will provide the applicants a rating on a scale arrived at by assessing performance against pre-determined criteria.
  • Suggestions will be made to improve the performance

Timeline for Anvaya 3.0

Launch & Registration: Sunday, 5th June 2016

Last Day for Registration: Sunday, 4th September 2016

One day Training event: Saturday, 10th September 2016

Final Screening day:  Saturday, 1st October 2016

About Ekonnect Knowledge Foundation

Ekonnect is a section 8 nonprofit company offering awareness, education, training and counsel on Environmental Management, CSR and Sustainability. We work with all stakeholders including students, young professionals, NGOs, CBOs, trade and industry associations, corporates, government agencies, academic institutions and the general public. Our aim is to increase knowledge through networking for action on environment. Please visit

About GPNI

Green Purchasing Network India (GPNI) is an evolving network of professionals interested and active in the general area of sustainable consumption and production – more specifically: Green Purchasing and Public Procurement.

The objectives of GPNI are:

  1. To create awareness amongst key stakeholders about Green Purchasing and Procurement (GPP) and Sustainable production and Consumption (SPC).
  2. To encourage and facilitate implementation of GPP and Greening Supply Chains (GSC) projects to enhance the competitiveness of the Indian industries.
  3. Advocate and influence GPP related national policies and regulations.
  4. Conduct research, build database and devise methodologies to support and propel best practices in GPP.

Please visit www.gpnindia .org

Sponsors and Partners

We are looking for sponsors and partners who would be interested in being a part of Anvaya 3.0. The program is innovative and provides high potential for brand building, generating goodwill as well as a channel for allocation of CSR spend.

Please contact Sonal Alvares or Disha Mahajan on email /

Whether to Drive Electric? Its all about Location, Location and Location!


(Nissan Leaf)

The world is moving today into a carbon regime. GHG emission caps/targets, emission trading, carbon taxes, reduction in coal consumption or protection of coal reserves and carbon sequestration have been some of the buzz words that many of us don’t understand (though most pretend to!)

Some environmental hardliners believe that a stage will soon come where there will be carbon driven stock markets, only low carbon goods and services will be offered, low carbon infrastructure will be the style of built environment (whatever it means) and there will be a universal carbon currency replacing US$ and the Euro. Your bank account for example will hold 100 tons of carbon (to trade, invest or use) and not a deposit of 10000 USD.

All on this planet will be encouraged towards low carbon living and carbon will be responsible for the decisions.

I decided to practice low carbon living myself to demonstrate everyone and take a lead. I thought that was a noble move –Some however cautioned me that low carbon living is not easy and could even be expensive.

The first thing I decided was to change my present diesel driven SUV to an Electric Vehicle (EV). In order that I do not show any preference to any business house making EVs in India (particularly my good friend Anand Mahindra), I decided to import a Nissan Leaf (the best Plug in Electric Vehicle or PEV) from Nissan’s plant in Sunderland in the UK. This was an expensive buy but I decided to spend this money to show my commitment to low carbon living.

EVs  were introduced 100 years ago. Whether it’s a hybrid, plug-in hybrid or all-electric, the demand for electric drive vehicles (EV) is on the rise. Currently more than 3 percent of new vehicle sales are EV, and the sales could to grow to nearly 7 percent — or 6.6 million per year — worldwide by 2020


Despite my diplomatic influence, procurement of Nissan Leaf took quite a while as the testing and certification agencies were not accustomed to handle an imported EV. After three months of juggling and back and forth movement of papers, the Nissan Leaf EV finally arrived at my Bungalow. I decided to invite my Professor Friend to see the Leaf and take a ride with me to get the “feeling” of “sustainable mobility”. I set up a coffee table in my garden with a large ash tray as usual and was waiting for Professor’s arrival.

When Professor reached my house, I was charging my Nissan on the home plug. Nissan LEAF can charge its lithium-ion battery from 0% to 80% in approximately 30 minutes using a rapid charger; using an approved Home Charging Unit either 8 hours for a 16A unit, or 4 hours using a 32A unit.

“Well you can start using EV without a public charging infrastructure or wait for the DISCOM to come forward and invest. And note that Lithium ion batteries can be recycled up to 95% leading to fairly low impact on the environment.” I said this but carefully so as not to sound that I work as an agent to Nissan, UK.

But the Professor was not interested in such details. Instead, he flashed me a print-out taken from the Straights of Singapore.

The news was about Nguyen who imported Tesla’s 2014 Model S from Hong Kong to Singapore. Nguyen was expecting a rebate under Singapore’s Carbon Emissions Vehicle Scheme (CEVS) for his good gesture. However, he got a shock when he was fined S$15,000 after his Model S underwent mandatory emissions testing by Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA). This emission tests were conducted by the LTA under the UNECE R101 standards and had found that the electric energy consumption of an imported used Tesla car was 444 watt-hour/km. To “account for CO2 emissions during the electricity generation process”, the spokesman said, “A grid emission factor of 0.5g/watt-hour was applied to the electric energy consumption”. From this, it was determined that Mr. Nguyen’s Tesla produced 222g/km of CO2, putting it within the S$15,000 surcharge band under Singapore’s Carbon Emission- based Vehicle Scheme.

The Model S is granted tax breaks in several countries. In Britain, buyers get a £4,500 (S$8,800) grant, and in the United States, they get a US$7,500 (S$10,400) income tax credit. Hong Kong waives registration tax for electric cars, which can be as high as 115 per cent of value. In Norway, a Model S gets a tax exemption of around US$135,000.


”How silly. So the customer of Tesla in Singapore was punished and not rewarded” I responded to Professors news item in a tone of frustration and disgust.

Taking a sip of the coffee, I added “Professor, if this happens in India, then the entire FAME program will go bust!”

The Ministry recently launched ‘FAME India – Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric vehicles in India’ as part of the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan. The ‘FAME India’ scheme offers incentives on electric and hybrid vehicles of up to Rs 29,000 for bikes and Rs 1.38 lakh for cars, aiming to promote use of eco-friendly vehicles. The first phase of the scheme is being implemented over a two-year period in 2015-16 and 2016-17 with an approved outlay of Rs 795 crore, out of which Rs 500 crore will be spent on demand incentives. As per the scheme, depending on technology, battery operated scooters and motorcycles will be eligible for incentives in the range of Rs 1,800 to Rs 29,000, while for three-wheelers, it is between Rs 3,300 and Rs 61,000. While in light commercial vehicles it is from Rs 17,000 to Rs 1.87 lakh, and for buses it is from Rs 34 lakh to Rs 66 lakh. Under the scheme, the customer gets the incentive in the form of lower cost of hybrid or EV at the time of its purchase. Manufacturers can claim the incentive from the government at the end of each month.


The heavy industries ministry has estimated a total requirement of about Rs 14,000 crore for the scheme. Against this “expenditure”, the plan aims to help save Rs 60,000 crore annually in the country’s oil import bill by 2020. I thought these calculations clearly show the strong case to “drive electric”. In addition, we achieve 100% emission reduction from the tail pipes and the consequent environmental and health damage costs. Thus, not just the Government, Customer and the EV Manufacturer gets benefited but importantly the environment. It is not surprising therefore that many feel that promotion of EVs through FAME is a giant step toward cleaner mobility. Electric vehicles are seen by governments as an important part of cutting emissions and reducing global warming.

Professor was however serious and did not look convinced by the FAME approach of giving subsidies. He took a deep puff from his cigar.

“Prasad, I have two major concerns on the EV”

First, how EVs and particularly their batteries, are manufactured and disposed

Second and perhaps equally or even more important – How the electricity which powers EV is generated.

“Given that the vast majority of power generation around the world is grid-tied, where a car is charged plays a large role in determining its carbon emissions. EVs carbon emissions can be four times greater in places with coal dominated generation than in those with low carbon power generation such as hydel, renewable and nuclear. There are bound to be emissions somewhere, may not be at the point of use”

Having said this Professor opened his briefcase and showed me a figure as below.



Although the above data is rather dated it drives the point that the country or the location matters. The legend to the right of this chart helps explain what is driving the variation between countries.   In India, Australia and China coal’s dominance in the fuel mix means that grid powered EVs produce emissions ranging from 370-258 g CO2e/km, many multiples of those using low carbon sources. Contrast this to hydroelectric exporter Paraguay where virtually all of the 70 g CO2e/km results from vehicle manufacturing, and electric driving is significantly lower carbon than using solar power.”

These figures were shocking to me.

“So do you mean to say that the geography or location matters?”

“Indeed” said the Professor. A recent study in the US carried out by a group of economists makes this point. Using a fine-grained, county-level measure of U.S. vehicle emissions traced to tailpipes and electricity grids, these researchers mapped the petrol cars and EVs. They found that in some locations going electric does more harm to the environment not justifying the subsidy. Like done in the Singapore case, the EVs should be actually taxed and not incentivized.

The researchers focused on five major pollutants: carbon (CO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen (NOx), particulate matter (PM 2.5), and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). They considered 11 different 2014 models of EVs, as well as the “closest substitute” petrol car. For petrol, calculating environmental damage was pretty straightforward. The researchers considered factors like a car’s fuel-efficiency rating (city miles for urban counties, highway miles for non-urban), pollutant dispersion (such as average wind patterns), and number of environmental damages (to health, infrastructure, crops, and so on). Together that data gave them the aggregate emissions of driving a certain petrol car one mile in a given U.S. county.

Determining the comparable damage from electric vehicles was a bit trickier. Here they used an EV’s fuel-efficiency equivalent (kilowatt-hours per mile) to figure out how much electricity it drew from a regional grid. They also knew the hourly emissions profiles for the five target pollutants at 1,486 power plants across the U.S. So for each county they knew how the grid responded when an EV plugged in, which told them how much environmental damage that car produced at the power plant. The researchers then converted all their damage estimates into dollar values.

The study co-author Stephen Holland of the University of North Carolina, Greensboro says “The real big take-home message is: location, location, location.”

A country’s energy mix thus affects the environmental advantage of EVs. It can even depend on what time of day the batteries are charged because night-time electricity is less dependent on coal.

Electricity from coal, which is the most polluting way to generate power, drastically reduces the environmental advantage for EVs. Because China, for example, generates almost all its power from coal, life cycle analysis of EV cars in China shows they are far more polluting than conventional cars. I won’t be surprised that the result will be same for India” Professor said this with confidence.

However in a country like Norway, where most power is generated from hydroelectricity, EVs fairly quickly begin to outperform conventional cars in terms of their overall environmental impact.

(Read “Environmental benefits from driving electric vehicles?” Holland, S., Mansur, E., Muller, N. and Yates, A. NBER Working Paper No. 21291. June 2015)

In 2012 President Obama launched the EV Everywhere Grand Challenge — an Energy Department initiative that brought together America’s best and brightest scientists, engineers and businesses to make plug-in electric vehicles more as affordable as today’s petrol -powered vehicles by 2022. On the battery front, the Department’s Joint Center for Energy Storage Research at Argonne National Laboratory was commissioned to overcome the biggest scientific and technical barriers that prevent large-scale improvements of batteries. The Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) is advancing today game-changing technologies that could alter how we think of electric vehicles. From investing in new types of batteries that could go further on a single charge to cost-effective alternatives to materials critical to electric motors, ARPA-E’s projects may simply transform the EVs.

So the key is not popularize EVs through financial incentives alone, but build a mission on EV like launched by Obama. But given our poor performance of coal based thermal power plants we will need to take Initiatives to improve the Efficiency of Coal Based Power Plants and in addition the AT&C Losses factor (kgCO2e/kWh). We need FAME but more critically de-carbonization and efficiency improvement in the power sector to get the environmental benefits of EVs.

Minister Piyush Goel has recognized importance of this challenging task and announced policy on modernization and phase out with emphasis on renewable energy” Professor said (he was probably the SA or Secret Advisor to Minister Goel)

Professor then showed me work done by Gyan Prakash of CBalance. Gyan Prakash  published a very interesting data and analyses on the Electricity generation factor (kgCO2e/kWh) of coal based thermal power production in India.   The data is now a bit dated but the observations made then are perhaps still valid.


Prakash found that the average India electricity generation emission factor is 0.89 kgCO2e/kWh (or 0.89 g/Watt hour) and average India AT&C loss emission factor is 0.30 kgCO2e/kWh. This data does not make a good case for EVs. In fact promotion of EVs will lead to more GHG emissions than petrol cars. In many cases we can see that states have a low adjusted emission factor for generation but due to high AT&C losses their end user emission factor is higher than the India avg. emission factor. Fixing the AT&C losses should therefore be the priority and as it is a low hanging fruit.

Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Uttarakhand, Kerala are the States where the emission generation factors are less than 0.5 kgCO2e/kWh.

“Find a job to teach at the Doon University and take your Nissan Leaf there. Only then you can justify your choice of going electric. You cannot drive this car in Delhi and claim low carbon living!” Professor said this while extinguishing his cigar.

I was aghast with his suggestion.

My wife was listening to our conversation.

“Let us move to Mussorie” she said. “Don’t you think the location to live also matters?”

I thought that this was perhaps the best part our conversation of the morning.

Beep beep came in the sound from my Garage– my Nissan Leaf was fully charged and was ready to go.

But I was not excited to go electric anymore.

Cover image sourced from