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IRENA UPSC Current Affairs

UPSC Civils Daily Current Affairs 28th June-2021


  • International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)

  • Guidelines for Other Service Providers

  • African Swine Fever

  • AgriStack | Microsoft

  • Doppler Radars



  1. International Renewable Energy Agency ( IRENA )

#GS3 #Renewable energy #Solar Energy

Context: Recently, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) released the ‘Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2020’ report.

Highlights of the report:

  • As much of 810 gigawatts (GW) capacity of the world’s existing coal-fired plants that is 38 per cent of the total global energy capacity — now have higher operating costs than new utility-scale photovoltaics and onshore wind energy.
  • The cost range for generation of fossil fuel-fired power in G20 countries is estimated to be between USD 0.055 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) and USD 0.148/kWh.
  • Replacing this expensive coal power with renewables will save operators USD 32 billion a year and reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by around three billion tonnes.
    • The year 2020 was a record year for renewables deployment, with 261 GW installed?
    • The addition was almost 50% higher than that made in 2019 and represented 82% of the global new power capacity.
    • Around 162 GW or 62% of total renewable power capacity added last year had lower costs than the cheapest new fossil fuel option.
  • Supplies from Sources Added in 2020:
    • Photovoltaics supplied 127 GW of this new capacity in 2020, with 115 GW of wind power (105 GW onshore), geothermal (164 MW) and concentrating solar power or CSP (150 MW).
    • Geothermal > Photovoltaics (PV)> Wind power> Hydropower > Bioenergy> Concentrating solar power.
    • The wind capacity addition was almost twice of that created in 2019. Smaller contributions came from hydropower (12 GW) and bioenergy (two GW).

Reasons for Growth:

  • Between 2000 and 2020, renewables capacity grew more than three times, increasing by 754 GW to 2,799 GW.
  • The growth was accommodated by advancements in technologies, consistent fall in component costs, cost-competitive supply distribution channels, learning by using and commercial-scale availability.
  • In about 10 years (2010-2020), the cost of power produced from commercial solar PVs fell by 85%, CSP 68%, onshore wind 68% and offshore wind 48%.
  • In the same time, the cost of onshore wind generation fell by 13 per cent, concentrated solar power plummeted by 16 per cent, offshore wind by nine per cent in the last decade, denting coal’s running plant costs.
  • The outlook till 2022 sees global renewable power costs falling further.



International Renewable Energy Agency:

  • It is an intergovernmental organisation mandated to facilitate cooperation, advance knowledge, and promote the adoption and sustainable use of renewable energy.
  • It was officially founded in Bonn, Germany, in January 2009.
  • Currently it has 164 members, India is the 77th Founding Member of IRENA.
  • It has its headquarters in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
  • It is the first international organisation to focus exclusively on renewable energy, addressing needs in both industrialized and developing countries.
  • It promotes the widespread adoption and sustainable use of all forms of renewable energy, including bioenergy, geothermal, hydropower, ocean, solar and wind energy in the pursuit of sustainable development, energy access, energy security and low-carbon economic growth and prosperity.
  • IRENA is an official United Nations observer.


  1. Guidelines for Other Service Providers:

#GS2 #Government policies #GS3 #Information Technology

Context: Recently, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has eased the norms for Other Service Providers (OSPs).

Who are OSPs?

  • OSPs are entities providing application services, IT enabled services(ITES) or any kind of outsourcing services using telecom resources (such as telemarketing, telebanking or telemedicine for various companies, banks or hospital chains)
  • The OSP guidelines were earlier liberalised in November 2020 in order to make India a favourable destination for expansion of voice related BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) industry.
  • The new guidelines have been simplified even further, offering greater ease of business and regulatory clarity and removing compliance burden

Highlights of New Policy:

  • Distinction between Domestic and International OSPs has been removed. A BPO centre with common Telecom resources will now be able to serve customers located worldwide including in India.
  • No restriction for data interconnectivity between any OSP Centres.
  • The Electronic Private Automatic Branch Exchange (EPABX) of OSPs can now be located anywhere in the world.
  • Removed the requirement of OSPs submitting their reports to the DoT on a period basis.
  • Such service providers will have to self-regulate and maintain a call data record, a usage data record and a system log for all customer calls for a certain time period.
  • They will also have to abide by the data security norms prescribed by the Centre.
  • Exempted OSPs from requirement of any registration.
  • No Bank Guarantees were to be furnished.
  • Work from Home and Work from Anywhere is permitted.
  • Penalties for violations were removed altogether.

Expected Benefits:

  • The guidelines will make it easier for BPOs and ITes firms in cutting down on the cost of location, rent for premises and other ancillary costs such as electricity and internet bills.
  • Helps in making IT services more competitive globally.
  • The companies will no longer have to carry the additional compliance burden of providing the details of OSP employees to the DoT, as they are recognised as extended or remote agents.
  • MNCs will get attracted towards India as a favourable destination for expansion and hence will lead to more FDI inflows.
  • It will allow employees to opt for freelancing for more than one company while working from home, thereby attracting more workers in the sector.
  • Increase in productivity.

Business process outsourcing (BPO):

  • Business process outsourcing (BPO) is a method of subcontracting various business-related operations to third-party vendors.
  • BPO offers several benefits, such as lower costs, global expansion, and higher efficiency, while some of the drawbacks include security issues, hidden costs, and overdependence.
  • India’s Information Technology (IT) – BPO industry was worth $37.6 billion in 2019-2020, and has the potential to rise to $55.5 billion by 2025.

The Disadvantages of BPO:

  • While there are many advantages of BPO, there are also disadvantages. A business that outsources its business processes may be prone to data breaches or have communication issues that delay project completion, and such businesses may underestimate the running costs of BPO providers.

Other Steps Taken to Promote BPO Industry:

  • Atma Nirbhar Bharat
  • Electronics Manufacturing Productivity Linked Incentive scheme
  • Scheme of Electronic Manufacturing Cluster
  • PLI scheme for Telecom Equipment
  • Ease of Doing Business in IT & Telecom
  • Spectrum Sharing & Trading
  • Delicensing of certain frequency bands


  1. African Swine Fever

#GS1 #Health #GS3 #Science and technology

Context: Nagaland has not reported fresh cases of African Swine Flu in the last two weeks.

How did the current outbreak start?

  • As per the latest update issued by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the current outbreak of ASF has affected China, Mongolia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Republic of Korea and Indonesia among others.
  • In China, the first ASF outbreak was confirmed in August 2018 and since then more than 1 million pigs have been culled in the country.
  • In Vietnam, the ASF outbreak was confirmed in February 2019 and since then over 6 million pigs have been culled.
  • Officials believe ASF came into India through Tibet into Arunachal Pradesh and then into Assam, the state with the highest population of pigs in the country. Even so, the route of infection remains unconfirmed.
  • The disease killed more than 17,000 pigs in Assam last year.
  • About 1,200 pigs were killed by the virus — non-lethal for humans — in Mizoram in April-May this year.
  • US added India to list of countries affected by African swine fever in March 2021.
  • According to the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), between 2018 and 2019, the disease spread was notified in three countries in Europe and 23 countries in Africa.

About African swine fever:

  • ASF is a severe viral disease that affects wild and domestic pigs typically resulting in an acute haemorrhagic fever.
  • The causative agent African swine fever virus (ASFV) belongs to the genus Asfivirus, family Asfarviridae.
  • The disease has a case fatality rate (CFR) of almost 100 per cent.
  • Its routes of transmission include direct contact with an infected or wild pig (alive or dead), indirect contact through ingestion of contaminated material such as food waste, feed or garbage, or through biological vectors such as ticks.
  • Other manifestations of the disease include high fever, depression, anorexia, loss of appetite, haemorrhages in the skin, vomiting and diarrhoea among others.
  • It was first detected in Africa in the 1920s.
  • Historically, outbreaks have been reported in Africa and parts of Europe, South America, and the Caribbean.
  • However, more recently (since 2007), the disease has been reported in multiple countries across Africa, Asia and Europe, in both domestic and wild pigs.
  • Even so, while ASF is lethal, it is less infectious than other animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease.
  • There is no approved vaccine or no Cure as of now, which is also a reason why animals are culled to prevent the spread of infection.
  • ASF is not a threat to human beings since it only spreads from animals to other animals.
  • ASF is a disease listed in the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Terrestrial Animal Health Code and thus, reported to the OIE.

African Swine Fever | IRENA

What has been the impact of the outbreak?

  • In China (home to half of the world’s pig population), the outbreak of the disease led to cullings on a massive scale leading to an increase in the price of pork, the country’s favourite protein.
  • The outbreak has not only affected pork consumers but small farmers as well, who do not have the resources to protect their pigs from the disease.
  • For pig farmers in Assam, the disease has come as a “double whammy”, where their sales were already affected by the lockdown only to become worse with ASF since it ruined any prospects of establishing the north-eastern states as a hub for the export of pork.
  • The north-eastern States account for 95% of the pork production and consumption in India.
  • Globally as well, the situation is similar. According to an assessment published in the journal Nature Foods in April, economic models predict a global rise in pork prices in the range of 17-85 percent. The unmet demand of pork is also likely to drive up the prices of other meats.
  • The disease outbreak will also have secondary effects as consumers try to substitute their pork consumption with alternative meats and foods, impacting their production and prices.

Classical Swine Fever:

  • CSF, also known as hog cholera, is an important disease of pigs.
  • It is one of the most economically-damaging pandemic viral diseases of pigs in the world.
  • It is caused by a virus of the genus Pestivirus of the family Flaviviridae, which is closely related to the viruses that cause bovine viral diarrhoea in cattle and border disease in sheep.
  • Mortality is 100%.
  • Recently, the ICAR-IVRI developed a Cell Culture CSF Vaccine (live attenuated) using the Lapinized Vaccine Virus from foreign strain.
  • The new vaccine has been found to induce protective immunity from day 14 of the Vaccination till 18 Months.


  1. AgriStack | Microsoft

#GS3 #Digital India #data privacy #technology in agriculture #Government policies

Context: Recently, the Ministry of Agriculture has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Microsoft to run a pilot programme for 100 villages of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh.

  • The MoU requires Microsoft to create a ‘Unified Farmer Service Interface’ through its cloud computing services.
  • This sets in motion the ministry’s plan of creating ‘AgriStack’ (a collection of technology-based interventions in agriculture), on which everything else will be built.

About AgriStack:

  • It is a collection of technologies and digital databases that focuses on farmers and the agricultural sector.
  • AgriStack will create a unified platform for farmers to provide them end to end services across the agriculture food value chain.
  • Under AgriStack’, the government aims to provide ‘required data sets’ of farmers’ personal information to Microsoft to develop a farmer interface for ‘smart and well-organized agriculture’.
  • It is in line with the Centre’s Digital India programme, aimed at providing a broader push to digitise data in India, from land titles to medical records.
  • The government is also implementing the National Land Records Modernisation Programme (NRLMP).
  • Under the programme, each farmer of the country will get what is being called an FID, or a farmers’ ID, linked to land records to uniquely identify them. India has 140 million operational farm-land holdings, which will be linked to individual’s Aadhar number.



  • At present, the majority of farmers across India are small and marginal farmers with limited access to advanced technologies or formal credit that can help improve output and fetch better prices.
  • The formation of ‘Agristack’ also implies commercialisation of agriculture extension activities as they will shift into a digital and private sphere.
  • Among the new proposed digital farming technologies and services under the programme include sensors to monitor cattle, drones to analyse soil and apply pesticide, may significantly improve the farm yields and boost farmers’ incomes.

Potential Benefits:

  • Problems such as pest infestation, crop wastage, poor price discovery and yield forecasting can be sufficiently addressed by use of digital technology.
  • The government aims to increase the income of farmers by removing the bottleneck of inconsistent information.

(For example, if diseases are being reported from one region and this information is available to pesticide companies, they can improve their marketing in that region).

  • It will also fuel innovation and breed investment towards the agricultural sector and augment research towards more resilient crops.
  • This project will reduce the input costs for farmers and make farming easy.
  • The digital repository will aid precise targeting of subsidies, services and policies.


  • In the absence of Data protection legislation, this might end up being an exercise where private data processing entities may know more about a farmer’s land than the farmer himself which can be used for exploitation.
  • One of the biggest worries is the threat of financial exploitation. We have already seen how microfinance firms have wreaked financial havoc in rural hinterlands. Now, once Fintech companies are able to collect granular data about the farmers’ operations, they may offer them usurious rates of interest precisely when they would be in the direst need for credit.
  • The MoUs lack strong dispute redressal mechanism.
  • Given that the proposed farmer ID will be Aadhaar-seeded, further issues of privacy and exclusion would emerge.
  • Also, making land records the basis for farmer databases would mean excluding tenant farmers, sharecroppers and agricultural labourers.
  • Now that FPOs had become the new data collection points as well market channels for the seed and agrochemical industry as well as agri commodity traders, this data can be sold by the companies to private input dealers and input companies to aid their marketing network.
  • Although there is a non-disclosure agreement in the MoU, there is also a clause on ‘limitation of liability’ which essentially provides indemnity for breach of contract.

Way Ahead:

  • It should duly consult farmer groups or otherwise run the risk of a meltdown later. The ongoing protests against the farm reform laws shows the adverse consequences which may arise due to non-consultation.
  • The private firms working on pilot projects must effectively cooperate with state governments to reconcile the differences over land ownership.
  • The government should move ahead with the project based on the results obtained from pilot trails.


  1. Doppler Radars

#GS3 #Tecachnology #GS1 #Weather prediction

Context: The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has proposed to install seven new doppler radars in Maharashtra.

About Doppler weather radars:

  • Based on Doppler principle the radar is designed to improve precision in long-range weather forecasting and surveillance using a parabolic dish antenna and a foam sandwich spherical dome.
  • Doppler radars of varying frequencies are used by the IMD to detect and track the movement of weather systems, cloud bands and gauge rainfall over an area of 500 km, with effective range of up to 250 km.
    • DWR has the equipment to measure rainfall intensity, wind shear and velocity and locate a storm centre and the direction of a tornado or gust front
  • With the radar observations, updated every 10 minutes, forecasters can follow the development of weather systems as well as their varying intensities, and accordingly predict weather events and their impact.
  • There are different types of Doppler Radars, which vary with frequencies in which they operate – S-band, C-band and X-band.
    • X-band radar – It is used to detect thunderstorms and lightning as it is more sensitive and can detect smaller particles.
    • C-band radars – The signal is more easily attenuated, so this type of radar is best used for short range weather observation. It guides at the time of cyclone tracking.
    • S band radars – Because of the wavelength and frequency, S band radars are not easily attenuated. So, they are useful for near and far range weather observation.
  • The Doppler radars are operational at eight locations in India’s east coast (which is frequently affected by the cyclones formed in the Bay of Bengal), four locations in the west coast as well as in other locations.

          Doppler weather reader | IRENA

Doppler Effect:

  • When the source and the signal are in relative motion to each other there is a change in the frequency observed by the observer. If they are moving closer frequency increases and vice versa.
  • It does this by bouncing a microwave signal off a desired target and analyzing how the object’s motion has altered the frequency of the returned signal.
  • This variation gives direct and highly accurate measurements of the radial component of a target’s velocity relative to the radar.
  • It was proposed by Austrian physicist Christian Doppler in 1842.

Doppler effect | IRENA


  • Radio Detection and Ranging (Radar) is a detection system that uses radio waves to determine the distance (range), angle, or velocity of objects. A radar system consists of,
  • A transmitter producing electromagnetic waves in the radio or microwaves domain(pulsed or continuous),
  • A transmitting antenna and a receiving antenna and
  • A receiver and processor to determine properties of the object(s).
  • Radio waves from the transmitter reflect off the object and return to the receiver, giving information about the object’s location and speed.
  • RADAR can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain.

Doppler radar:

  • It is a specialized radar that uses the Doppler Effect to produce velocity data about objects at a distance.
  • It does this by bouncing a microwave signal off a desired target and analyzing how the object’s motion has altered the frequency of the returned signal.
  • This variation gives direct and highly accurate measurements of the radial component of a target’s velocity relative to the radar.


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