This article has been written by Shivangi Prakash & Aditi Yadav from Amity Law School, Noida. The article has been edited by Khushi Sharma (Trainee Associate, Blog iPleaders) and Vanshika Kapoor (Senior Managing Editor, Blog iPleaders).
For many years an obvious connection between energy consumption and production and nature has been ignored. There was very little in common between the laws that govern energy and the protection of nature. Environmental law provides the legal framework for the regulation, principles, and policies for environmental protection. Whereas energy laws are concerned with the undisrupted supply of energy. The research paper has four basic aspects- (i) from where energy is derived, (ii) impact on the environment of energy production, (iii) India’s energy and environment policy, and (iv) relationship between energy law and environmental law. The paper addresses the critical question of climate change with energy generation.
What is the environment?
The word “environ” comes from the French word “environner,” which translates “to surround.” The term “environment” refers to all of a person’s surroundings. All manmade and natural environments are included in these surroundings. The natural environment includes things like air, water, lakes, plants, mountains, and so on. Man-Made environment, on the other hand, refers to man-made environments such as buildings, highways, parks, bridges, monuments, gardens, and so on.
According to Section 2(a) of Environment Protection Act, 1986, “environment includes Water, Air & Land, and the inter-relationship which exists among and between Water, Air, and Land & Human Beings, other Living Creatures, Plants, Micro-Organisms & Property”
What are environmental laws?
Environmental law can be defined as a legal framework, which includes directives, principles, policies, and regulations, put in place by numerous regional, national, and international bodies to maintain and safeguard the environment for the present and future generations.
As per the Black’s Law Dictionary, environmental law could be defined as, “collective body of rules and regulations, orders and statutes, constraints and allowances that are all concerned with the maintenance and protection of the natural environment of a country”
As per the definition of the Free Legal Dictionary, “environmental Law is, “an amalgam of state and federal statutes, regulations, and common-law principles covering Air Pollution, Water Pollution, hazardous waste, the wilderness, and endangered wildlife”.
What is energy?
With the increased awareness of climate change, energy, and the resources it is sourced from have become a critical concern.
The major plan is to replace nonrenewable energy sources with renewable energy sources and to limit human consumption to the point where resources may be preserved for coming generations. The essence of this goal for sustainable development is that it is more of a long-term goal than a short-term one.
Mr. Jairam Ramesh, India’s current Minister of Environment and Forests (MoEF), has promised that renewable energy will account for 20% of the country’s energy consumption.
What is energy law?
Energy law is a branch of law that regulates the use and taxation of renewable and non-renewable energy sources. Rules, regulations, cases, legislation, and ordinances relating to energy are all covered by energy laws.
Energy Law also deals with enacting, enforcing, and challenging regulations that govern the usage of energy. As a result, such laws exist to regulate the development and harvesting of energy. The taxation of energy use is likewise governed by these rules.
Energy regulations governing the sale, usage, and conservation of energy resources must be navigated by both energy companies and the general people.
Energy law is not an autonomous branch of law in our country, but rather a subset of commercial law. It is a relatively new lawful practise that arose from the oil law of Anglo-Saxon nations in the last three decades of the twentieth century as a branch of international commercial law that is also linked to international environmental law.
Where energy comes from?
Energy in India can be split between four basic uses:
(1)commercials, for example, in workplaces, shopping centres, clinics, and inns;
(2) industrial, for example, in assembling, development, and horticulture
(3) residential, for example, in homes and condos and
(4) transportation, for example, in vehicles, trucks, rail, and planes.
Oil, coal, and natural gas are the most common energy sources. Petroleum is still the main source of energy because it is still the main fuel for motor vehicles. Coal, on the other hand, is mostly used to generate electricity; however, Coal remains India’s most important fossil fuel, accounting for approximately 75% of power output and 43% of primary fuel consumption. In recent decades, the use of natural gas has increased and has multiple uses, including powering various household appliances (such as stoves and water heaters) and “peaker” power plants, which are more easily dispatchable than “baseload” power plants that run continuously and are thus used to generate electricity during “peak” or high-demand hours.
Oil, coal, and natural gas are the result of changes in heat and pressure during the decomposition of plants and animals hundreds of millions of years ago. All three of these resources can be found somewhere on the earth, sometimes deep below, sometimes on the bottom of the sea, sometimes on the top of a mountain, and must be mined from these places before they can be used. In other words, we must drill and dig for these resources. These resources are also nonrenewable. Oil, natural gas, and coal are all gone once we use them.
There are also two other sources of energy that can be used to generate energy. The first is nuclear energy, which has a lot of sceptics, especially following the Japan incident. There are also several renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and hydropower.
In India approx. 3.2 percent of the total power generated is derived from nuclear energy. About 40 billion kilowatt-hours of nuclear electricity are generated across India. Most nuclear power plants use a type of uranium, U235, as the substance that splits atoms when electricity is generated. U235 is “relatively rare”, but can be found in rocks all over the world. This means U235 must be mined like coal. However, unlike coal, uranium has to go through a technological and chemical-intensive process before it can be used in nuclear power plants.
Renewable sources of energy include wind energy, hydropower, solar, plant biomass. Wind energy, solar energy, small hydropower, and biomass energy currently account for 38.68 GW, 38.79 GW, 4.7 GW, and 10.14 GW respectively. The advantage of these energy sources is that they do not deplete the energy-generating resources. For example, the wind is generated by a wind turbine, and the blades of the wind turbine move when the wind blows, thereby generating electricity. Likewise, geothermal energy uses heat from the center of the earth to heat water, which is then used to heat buildings or generate electricity. Many waste power plants operate with a total capacity of 168 MW. The biogas and biomass programs aim to use more biowaste to generate energy.
From the data mentioned above, it can be observed that all the sources of energy depend on natural resources. We pump or dig these resources from the earth and utilize it to generate electricity. We also use sunlight, wind, earth’s heat, or the flow of rivers to generate electricity. Energy is therefore not a miracle product. Instead, whenever we generate energy, the core component is part of nature. More importantly, because most of our energy comes from non-renewable sources, we are not simply using nature but we are consuming nature.
Environmental impact of energy production
Non-renewable energy sources—coal, oil, and natural gas—have a series of environmental impacts. These are mainly the result of the emission of harmful pollutants into the air due to the burning of these fuels, but they also have an impact on the land and water.
The biggest concern at this point is that the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas produces a huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions. Coal and oil emit large amounts of carbon dioxide. In addition, the extraction of natural gas causes transient emissions of methane that have a much greater impact on the environment than carbon dioxide. In terms of per capita greenhouse gas emissions, India remains at the bottom half of the scale which is at 140th place, with approx. 2 tons per capita CO2 equivalent emissions in 2019. The Washington Post predicts that India’s absolute emissions will increase due to urbanization, industrialization, and increased car penetration.
In addition to the impact of climate change, the combustion of these fuels also produces nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter, which are harmful to humans and the environment. For example, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide emissions react with atmospheric gases to form acidic compounds, which eventually lead to acid rain. Particulate matter is related to various respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, plant growth problems, smog, and other visibility problems.
The environmental impact of coal mining, especially mountaintop mining, has become the subject of numerous lawsuits and has become the focus of recent efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency because of its impact on water quality.
The extraction of natural gas and oil produces many harmful by-products. “Produced water”, which usually contains harmful substances such as metals, hydrocarbons, and other organic substances, therefore it is necessary to treat it before being discharged into bodies of water. Most refineries generate air, water, and solid waste that must be disposed of according to different environmental laws. Also between extraction and combustion of fuel, the oil is refined, and this process of refining also has a variety of effects on the environment.
Compared to fossil fuels, nuclear power has obvious advantages in climate change because it emits very little, which is why some consider it a cleaner source of energy. Unfortunately, the disaster in Japan vividly illustrates the many effects that nuclear power can have on the environment when radioactive materials enter the environment.
Renewable resources are widely regarded as the most environmentally friendly source of energy, but it is not without an environmental impact. Solar, wind, and hydropower require more land area than coal or gas power plants. Hydropower requires the construction of a dam and also setting aside space for a reservoir behind the dam. These reservoirs cover important natural areas, agricultural land, and archaeological sites, and cause people to relocate. The impact of the dam is more far-reaching. The dam will interrupt the migration of fish, especially those that lay their eggs upstream. In addition, the operation of reservoirs and dams will also change the natural water temperature, chemical composition, flow characteristics, and silt load, all of which can lead to significant ecological (biological and environmental) and physical changes. Wind power also consumes land area.
The biggest environmental problem of wind turbines is their impact on flying species, especially bats and birds that are at risk of extinction. In addition, large solar installations also cause environmental problems. First, birds and insects can be injured or killed by flying in concentrated sunlight. Secondly, solar panels can cause harmful habitat disturbance, especially when the facilities are not properly designed, which can damage the surrounding ecosystem.
In short, all power generation options have environmental consequences. Some power generation options, such as coal-fired power plants and gasoline-fueled cars and trucks, are more destructive, especially when it comes to climate change. However alternative energy is not without its environmental impact. Therefore, the question is how we develop an energy strategy that takes into account our energy needs and the environmental impact of each energy source. Since all energy starts as a kind of natural resource and then is converted for energy production, it will produce by-products that affect nature, therefore it is significant to try to balance the impact of energy production on the environment.
India’s energy policy
The country’s energy policy is largely determined by the country’s growing energy deficit and rising emphasis on the development of alternative energy sources, particularly nuclear, solar, and wind. In 2017, India achieved overall energy self-sufficiency of 63 percent.
After China and the United States, India has had the world’s third-biggest overall primary energy consumption since 2013. After China, India is the world’s second-largest coal consumer in 2017.
After the United States and China, India ranked third in terms of oil consumption in 2017, with 221 million tonnes. In 2019, India would be a net energy importer, importing about 47 percent of its total primary energy.
India’s primary energy consumption increased by 2.3 percent in 2019, putting it third in the world behind China and the United States with a 5.8% share.   In the calendar year 2018, total primary energy consumption totalled 809.2 Mtoe (million tonnes of oil equivalent), which includes
- Coal (452.2 Mtoe; 45.88 percent )
- Oil (crude) (239.1 Mtoe; 29.55 percent )
- Gas (natural) (49.9 Mtoe; 6.17 percent )
- Nuclear power (8.8 Mtoe; 1.09 percent )
- Hydroelectric power (31.6 Mtoe; 3.91 percent
- Renewable energy (27.5 Mtoe; 3.40 percent) (excluding traditional biomass use).
India is one of the world’s fastest-growing energy markets, and it is predicted to become the second-largest contributor to the rise in global energy demand by 2035, accounting for 18% of the increase.
Given the country’s expanding energy demands and limited local oil and gas sources, India has huge ambitions to increase its sustainable energy and nuclear power projects. India has the fourth-biggest wind power market in the world, with ambitions to build 100,000 MW of solar generating capacity by 2022.
Within 25 years, India wants to raise nuclear power’s contribution to overall energy generation capacity from 4.2 percent to 9 percent.
India‘s climate policy is based on two pillars, first is the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) which was launched on June 30, 2008, and the second is the INDC submitted to the UNFCC. NAPCC focuses on planning at the national level. At the same time, INDC is India’s declaration of intent and a global commitment announced at the Paris Climate Change Summit.
NAPCC addresses India’s pursuit of environmentally friendly development and the steps it will take to achieve this goal. It recognizes the importance of climate change and energy stability. India is on the path of its energy transition, which describes a successful transition from its current dependence on fossil fuels to green and clean energy. Such measures will improve India’s energy security and help reduce the risks of climate change. The INDCs integrate the top-down device of a United Nations climate agreement with the bottom-up system, through which nations propose agreements based on their national capacities, conditions, and priorities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Many states have also begun to enact and develop their State Action Plans on Climate Change. Uptill now, 33 states and territories have established SAPCC to deal with climate change issues in their planning processes. SAPCC builds on current state government policies with the consideration of ongoing plans and projects at the state and NAPCC levels. SAPCC focuses on the state-by-state assessment of the vulnerability to climate change and related threats and the impact of climate change. SAPCC should recognize adaptation and mitigation strategies that will reduce the country’s vulnerability in the short, medium, and long term.
National Mission on Electric Mobility– India has developed a national road map to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles and their manufacturing, to achieve 30% of electric vehicles by 2030. Under the National Mission on Electric Mobility, in April 2015 the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles (FAME) scheme were launched to promote, manufacture, and sales of EVs. Until May 2021 under the FAME Scheme, the EVs sale had reached 73,269. This had resulted in (i) saving 19 million litres of fuel and (ii) reducing 47,712 tons of carbon dioxide. Maharashtra is currently leading the adoption of electric vehicles, followed by Rajasthan and Delhi.
Developing a hydrogen strategy- The government of India has recently announced that it will soon launch a new hydrogen energy mission and a new roadmap for the country. Its objective will be to promote the development of green hydrogen technology and promote the commercial application of hydrogen in transportation, power generation, and industry. A pilot project has been launched by Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) to test hydrogen-enriched compressed natural gas (HCNG) for transportation applications. In terms of reducing emissions, H-CNG is more environmentally friendly than CNG and has shown promising results and. Other oil companies, such as Hindustan Petroleum and ONGC, are also studying hydrogen technology. “Green” hydrogen has the potential to reduce pollution. The Energy Research Institute (TERI) has predicted that by 2050 the share of green hydrogen will reach 80%.
Taking the International Solar Alliance forward- As of January 2021, 89 member states have signed the ISA framework agreement, of which 72 member states have submitted ratifications. India and France have jointly launched two new initiatives: the “World Solar Bank” and the “One Sun, One World, One Grid Initiative”.
Strengthening bilateral climate partnerships- India is taking a firm step in mitigating climate risks by establishing partnerships with like-minded countries. For example, India’s alliance with the United Kingdom accelerates the production, consumption, and distribution of green energy, including green hydrogen; protection of forests; and the development of resilient infrastructure for climate-vulnerable countries. The EU Smart Cities Knowledge & Innovation Program has expanded its support for India’s smart city mission. The European Investment Bank has funded approximately 2 billion euros for the implementation of metro projects.
Relationship between Energy and Environmental Law
The effect that the field of energy, i.e. subjects of energy, have on the environment reflects the relationship between energy and environmental legislation. The reality is that energy operations (creation, transportation, use, and conservation) disrupt the environment regularly.
The relation of energy use and the negative impacts that these actions get during normal operating conditions, which are occasionally accepted for financial or other causes, but may have long-term negative consequences. On the terms, origins, and ideas of these two bodies of law, the connection between energy law and environmental law is examined.
The task of environmental and energy law is extremely distinct. They have various goals: energy laws, financial growth; environmental policy, conserve resources, and protection of public health.
Energy legislation assures plentiful supply at a reasonable price, which means a competitive market pricing under today’s federal regulations. Environmental laws are designed to protect humans and environments from the most immediate and significant harms while also reducing the risk of other harms and risks to public health and the environment, typically while evaluating the benefits and costs of doing so.
Environmental laws frequently seem to be doing treatment; they are the comparison of an ER or Urgent Care reaction to environmental problems.” Similarly, whether it’s Enron or climate change, energy law is frequently playing catch-up with the newest disaster. Ultimately, energy and environmental laws are mostly concerned with the short to medium term. Although environmental law was intended to make civilization more sustainable, it frequently fails to consider coming generations.
Despite their divergent objectives, environmental and energy legislation share certain parallels. They’re both divided, each focused on a different aspect of the environmental and energy issue. They’re both reactive in their approach.
When analyzing the laws of one area of law with those of another, it is concluded that the legal acts that govern the domain of energy highlight the need to follow environmental regulations, indicating a link between the two fields of study.
In this respect, when the appropriate government makes decisions relating to one of the aforementioned domains, it must keep in mind, i.e. consider laws from another area as well, indicating the necessity for a holistic approach.
Undoubtedly, the energy sector is not the sole cause of pollution in the environment, but the overall impact of primary and secondary sources of pollution in this sector, which are the result of the need for energy production and consumption, is not insignificant.
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