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Lights On briefing: battery boost, solar cities and more

What you need to know this week

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Lou Del Bello

Jul 28 2020

5 mins read

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Happy Tuesday everybody!

Here’s a selection of stories to watch this week, plus a pinch of my confidential intel to help you anticipate what may come next.

This briefing comes one day later than usual because I published an exclusive interview yesterday, check it out in case you missed it.

On Thursday, I am going to send out a questionnaire that you are free to bin *or* fill to help me shape the next chapter - the membership scheme. If you would like to discuss more, I am setting up a small group to workshop ideas and future collaborations.

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Image credit - Pxfuel

Charging ahead 

When forging their own energy transition paths, many countries will start by decarbonising technologies and infrastructure that are yet to be built, because there is no existing high-carbon system to dismantle first. Electric cars, rickshaws and two wheelers (motorbikes and scooters) are India’s bet to reduce emissions and air pollution at scale. The government has been rolling out a series of incentives for the adoption of electric two wheelers, buses and cars. Now it’s the turn of batteries - where experts say India can get ahead of the global race if it ramps up its manufacturing. In an interview with the Economic Times, NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said that the policy-making branch of the government is finalising a scheme to boost domestic battery manufacturing. Stay tuned.

Border control

From now on, companies from seven neighbouring countries that want to throw their hat in the ring and bid for clean energy projects in India will face new challenges. The government has amended the General Financial Rules 2017, which will allow it to impose restrictions on bidders from countries that share a land border with India. According to the government’s statement, the measure - which applies to both goods and services - is needed to protect India’s national security. According to industry sources, the impact of this move “won’t be huge, but it will complicate [further] the already complicated landscape”.

Dam troubles

The construction of a dam on the Indus River in Pakistan-administered Kashmir - to be built with China’s support - is at the core of a new diplomatic spat. On Thursday, an Indian government spokesperson said that the project is an attempt by Pakistan to bring about material changes in the Indian territory under its illegal occupation. “India strongly protested against construction of Diamer Basha dam to the Pakistan government,” spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said in a press briefing. “The dam will submerge a large part of land of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

Solar cities

Weaning India off its dependence on Chinese solar equipment won’t be easy, but the government is dead set on trying. An investigation from the Mint reveals that the Centre has asked all states and Union territories (UTs) to identify one city each out of a national list of 60 cities, whose entire electricity needs would be met through rooftop solar power (according to this IEEFA study, it would make sense). The plan would boost India’s green credentials internationally and, more importantly, it should increase demand for domestic solar manufacturing helping move production lines out of China. According to the Mint, the master plan includes projections of energy demand for the next 10 years, renewable energy addition and increased use of energy efficient electrical equipment, but the investigation doesn’t mention a timeline for implementation or a cost structure.

Green Tribunal slams the brake on water exploitation

From now on, businesses will need to undergo an independent environmental assessment if they want to withdraw ground water, India’s National Green Tribunal said last week. Permits will have to be issued for specific quantities of water, not in perpetuity, the ruling said. Water flow should also be monitored with digital metres and audited every three years by third parties.

India has a huge problem with over exploitation of groundwater, due in part to unregulated agricultural practices. Add climate change to the mix, and India stares at a future where water is a rare commodity in large parts of its territory.

Measuring pollution on the cheap

Mumbai is bracing for pollution season with a first-of-its-kind experiment in air quality monitoring. India has an ambitious plan to tackle air pollution, but not enough money to realise it. The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, in cooperation with IIT Kanpur, will use low-cost sensors to monitor pollution between November 1 and May 31, 2021. If successful, the experiment will be rolled out to other cities whose air quality exceeds the safe limits stipulated by the government. A potential game changer.

Research:

  • Battery Breakthrough Could Yield Electric Flight - A study on Nature Materials showcases a new material that could extend the life cycle of lithium metal batteries without compromising on energy density.
  • Climb or die - The Botanical Survey of India has a new study showing how Himalayan native species that are suffering under climate change are adapting by moving to higher altitudes, where the temperatures are more forgiving
  • Busted!- A new report from IEEFA finds that while Shell and Total are shifting towards renewable energy technologies, around 90 percent of their capital continues to be spent on fossil fuels. Greenwashing unmasked.

That’s all for today! If you are a subscriber, watch out for the questionnaire on Thursday. If not, you can sign up below. As usual, you can get in touch with comments and confidential tips by replying to this email.

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