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Lights On briefing: Nuclear leap, timber mafia and more

What you need to know to start the week

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Lou Del Bello

Jan 25 2021

6 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 this week’s stories, read my interview with the World Bank’s energy specialist Amit Jain, who speaks about India’s vision for a global clean grid (as the project goes ahead, you may become familiar with the off-putting acronym OSOWOG).

For the electric cars aficionados, I learned about Tesla’s plans for the Indian market and what still stands in the way.

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Image credit: Pixahive

Nuclear leap

India’s largest domestically-built nuclear reactor in the northern state of Gujarat is now connected to the grid. It will help India achieve its emissions reduction targets and balance the grid as it receives more intermittent power from renewable sources, India’s atomic energy secretary K.N. Vyas said. The third unit of the Kakrapar Atomic Power Project has a capacity of 700MW, and it reached the initiation of a sustained nuclear reaction, what scientists call ‘criticality’, in July 2020.

The state run Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL), which operates the plant, plans to connect five more units by 2027, and will be adding another 10 by 2031, for a total investment of $20.4 billion.

Foreign oil giants flock to India

The Italian energy giant ENI is exploring clean energy investments in India “on a GW scale” as part of its ambition to reach a global 55GW installed capacity target by 2050, according to a Mint exclusive. ENI, which according to sources is “aggressively looking at this space” is only one of the oil majors choosing India to inject more renewable projects in their portfolios - last week, France’s Total sealed a $2.5 billion deal for a 20 percent stake in the Indian Adani Green Energy. Among the energy firms also looking at India’s green energy sector are the Norwegian Statoil ASA and Equinor ASA, Royal Dutch Shell, and Russia’s Rosneft.

Kashmir’s hydropower: India tries again

After a streak of failures, India’s government is once again investing in a large hydropower project on the remote Chenab river. The planned hydroelectric dam should have a capacity of 850MW and requires about $723 million in upfront investment. From Delhi’s smog towers to large dams in Kashmir, tales of unworkable solutions being repackaged and promoted again when the time is right are not uncommon in India. In the case of Kashmir’s hydropower, hurdles that won’t go away include a particularly difficult geology and complex bureaucracy which often results in delays.

Union Budget checklist

Ahead of the next Union Budget, which will be presented on February 1, solar developers are appealing to the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to reconsider the imposition of basic custom duties on solar equipment, which could affect the solar industry so badly it may derail India’s renewable targets. India is still heavily dependent on cheap imports from China, and according to the Solar Power Developer Association its manufacturing sector needs more time to meet a growing demand. Without sufficient manufacturing capacity and under a punitive anti dumping regime, developers will have to import components at a much higher price to meet their contractual obligations, potentially rendering many solar projects unviable.

Bangladesh

Joining the hydrogen race

Following the growing interest in India and beyond, Bangladesh is experimenting with hydrogen production, and has set up a research centre and a pilot processing plant. The project, which will use waste and biomass as feedstock, is meant to help Bangladesh diversify its energy portfolio and reduce its dependence on coal, while taking advantage of the abundant water resources in the country.

Pakistan

War on plastic

Under Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ‘Clean and Green Pakistan’ programme, the government launched the country’s largest plastic waste collection and recycling push to date. The campaign is spearheaded by the conglomerate PepsiCo through a partnership with WWF-Pakistan and the firm Green Earth Recycling, and aims to collect and recycle 4,750 tonnes of plastic waste.  

Bhutan

‘Timber mafia’ raises the alarm

Illegal logging from the neighbouring Assam region is fast depleting Bhutan's ancient forests, and the Himalayan kingdom lacks the workforce to patrol the border and prevent smugglers from entering. The so-called ‘Timber Mafia’ menace has been present for over a decade, but it has worsened in recent years, with a growing number of areas being impacted. The Bhutanese government has alerted Assam requesting immediate measures to keep the problem in check.

This week on Twitter

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Shreya Jai @shreya_jai

Announcement: .@101reporters is launching a brand new (much needed) Podcast on Energy & Climate Change in India - The India Energy Hour Happy & humbled to collaborate with the best media entrepreneur I know @gangadharpb Excited to host it with my ever favourite @Sandeeppaii

January 25th 2021

26 Retweets120 Likes

Research and further readings

  • Report: India seventh most affected by climate change in 2019 globally - India is among the top 10 countries worst affected by the impacts of climate change in 2019, according to the new Global Climate Risk Index 2020 by the nonprofit Germanwatch. While India battled an abnormally long and intense monsoon with devastating consequences, the three worst hit countries were Mozambique, Zimbabwe and the Bahamas, the nonprofit found.
  • Report: Donors over-report climate finance, study shows - A new report from the nonprofit Care International finds that finance pledged by rich countries to help developing nations cope with climate change is routinely inflated and doesn’t match the help reaching the ground. The Kathmandu Post puts these findings in the context of Nepal’s post earthquake recovery.
  • Report: Ageing Dams Pose Growing Threat - By mid-century, tens of thousands of large dams will regulate water access and energy supply for the majority of the planet’s population, but many of them will be operating past their design life, a United Nations University analysis warns. In India, more than 1,115 large dams will be 50 years old in 2025, and more than 4250 will be older than 50 years in 2050. About 3.5 million people would be directly affected should the Mullaperiyar Dam, built over years ago in the southern state of Kerala, fail.
  • Study: India’s Biggest Spenders Cause 7 Times More Emissions Than The Poor - India’s top 20 percent wealthy are responsible for seven times the emissions produced by poorer families currently living on $1.9 per capita a day, a new study by the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature found. The mean carbon footprint in India is 0.56 tonne per capita per year, with 0.19 tonne among the poor and 1.32 among the rich. With an average 1.84 tonnes of carbon emissions per year, India still ranks low compared to countries such as the United States, where the figure is 16.21 tonnes per person.


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