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Lights On Briefing: Deadly floods, 100 days to COP26 and more

What you need to know to start the week

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Lou Del Bello

Jul 26 2021

5 mins read

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Happy Monday and welcome to today’s Lights On, a newsletter that brings you the key stories and exclusive intel on energy and climate change in South Asia.

In case you missed my weekend interview on the role of cities in climate mitigation and disaster response, check it out here.

India

Weather extremes

Floods and landslides due to the heaviest July rains seen in decades in the Western state of Maharashtra have wreaked havoc in the region, killing at least 150 people and sweeping through hundreds of villages. The disaster occurred as extreme weather also hit the states of Telangana and Himachal Pradesh. While unregulated construction in coastal areas and fragile mountain terrains exacerbates the impact of heavy rains and floods, there is mounting evidence that climate change is playing a part in making Indian monsoons more intense and erratic.   

Battery boost

India is ramping up its storage capacity with the biggest ever energy storage system to be set up in the country. The Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) has invited a tender for 2 GWh of standalone storage, the first system of its kind. It follows previous tenders involving a combination of renewable and battery capacity. After the notice, SECI is expected to publish an official document detailing the terms of the tender by 31 August. A push towards improved storage is part of the government’s effort to get the grid ready to absorb and dispatch a greater amount of renewable energy in line with India’s pledge to reach 450GW of renewable capacity by 2030.

Insufficient renewable progress

The last stocktake of India’s renewable installations places its cumulative capacity at nearly 100GW, a long way away from the 2022 target of 175GW set by the government. Excluding large hydro, which the government classified as a renewable source last year, grid connected renewables stood at 96.95 GW as of 30 June.

Of the total, just over 42.3 GW came from large solar farms, the power minister RK Singh told parliament. The states with the highest amount of installed solar are Karnataka with 7.4GW, Rajasthan with 6.58GW and Gujarat with 5.1GW.

Another oil giant opens to renewables

Top refiner Indian Oil Corp (IOC) joins the ranks of Indian fossil fuel giants such as Reliance and Adani betting on clean energy to fuel their expansion, although unlike the other conglomerates it doesn’t plan to fully transition to carbon neutrality. 

The company, which controls about a third of India’s daily refining capacity of 5 million barrels per day, aims to add a further 500,000 barrels within the next two to three years. To do so, it will use as much green power from the grid as possible, as well as building a green hydrogen plant to serve its refinery in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

Pakistan

The numbers don’t add up

Pakistan is set to reach 7 percent of renewable sources in its energy portfolio, according to Shah Jahan Mirza, CEO of the government-owned Alternative Energy Development Board. Its existing wind and solar infrastructure produce around 2GW of clean electricity, and more projects underway will add a further 850MW to the mix. With these numbers, it remains unclear how the country will achieve the promised 60 percent renewable share by the end of the decade, even with the technical help of partners such as Denmark.

Bangladesh

As China exits coal, Japan plugs the gap

The Belt and Road Initiative may be turning green, with its architect announcing it will phase out coal investments in Bangladesh, but Japan is still supporting carbon intensive industries through low-interest loans from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Despite saying it would work “to promote a low- or zero-carbon transformation” of the Bangladeshi economy, JICA is considering financing the expansion of the Matarbari coal plant. This is in direct contrast with Japan’s commitments to scrap any government support for coal power plants abroad without carbon storage facilities. 

Go fully green, apex court urges

The government has been tasked with preparing a masterplan to shift the country’s energy production to 100 percent renewables, a nearly impossible task given the negligible part clean energy currently plays in Bangladesh’s energy mix. The High Court issued the order after reviewing a petition seeking to protect the country's wetlands, asking the government to set up a renewable energy ministry and a dedicated commission to spearhead the transition.

While the final goal remains distant, solar executives welcomed the more realistic prospect of establishing a government body to give more impetus to Bangladesh’s energy transition.

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