Lights On briefing: Regional power flows, carbon trade deals and more

What you need to know to start the week

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Lou Del Bello

Mar 01 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.

For yesterday’s weekend read I spoke with Bharati Chaturvedi of the advocacy group Chintan, about how to fix Delhi’s waste crisis looking at its human dimension.

I also recommend you check out my Friday’s story on how India’s new mapping policy could fast track the energy transition. If you are not a subscriber, you can sign up below, for free, or you can support my work by purchasing a membership:

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Soft power diplomacy

The government has issued new detailed procedures for the import/export of electricity between India and neighbouring countries with whom it shares borders. The guidelines regulate everything from strengthening the respective national grids to responding to emergencies, with one key update: Indian entities can import energy from neighbouring countries

“provided that the generating company is not owned, directly or indirectly by any natural/ legal personality(ies) whose effective control or source of funds or residence of beneficial owner, is situated in/ citizen of a third country with whom India shares a land border” - bureaucratic lingo for ‘China’.


This provision is likely to create some headaches in countries such as Nepal, where China and India are battling for domination of the power sector. 

Delhi government goes electric

The entire vehicle fleet of the Delhi government, consisting of around 2,000 units, will turn electric within the next six months, the government’s finance department has announced. All the government departments will have to replace their existing diesel and petrol vehicles with electric alternatives, producing monthly reports to monitor their progress against the goal. The move comes on the backdrop of the Delhi Electric Vehicle policy 2020, launched last August, which aims to achieve half a million such vehicles on the capital’s roads by 2024.

Uttarakhand dam under scrutiny after disaster

India’s environmental oversight body, the National Green Tribunal, ruled that the government owned utility NTPC will have to paythe equivalent of $78,753 for damaging the environment around the Tapovan Vishnugad hydroelectric dam in Uttarakhand, which collapsed on February 5 after being hit by a flash flood which killed over 70 people. The tribunal blamed India’s biggest utility for violating muck disposal site maintenance norms, noting that the state of the site violated the prescribed standards and could have led to erosion. While the fine is certainly negligible for the giant NTPC, the case feeds into the conversation around dam safety in disaster prone areas. Poorly managed infrastructure has been partly blamed for the disastrous outcomes of the February flood.

ReNew Power’s big deal

The Indian clean energy giant ReNew Power plans to acquire publicly traded status thanks to an $8 billion deal with RMG Acquisition Corp, a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). These are publicly traded companies which help fast track unlisted companies’ path to going public through mergers, an increasingly popular alternative to the conventional Initial Public Offering (IPO) process.

 

Charging ahead

Sterling and Wilson, one of India’s leading engineering, procurement, and construction companies (EPC), announced it will enter the electric mobility space in partnership with Enel X, an Enel Group subsidiary. From the second quarter of 2021, the partners will work to deploy a new generation of charging infrastructure across the country, giving customers “the opportunity to choose how, where, and when to charge their car, potentially selecting the most efficient time for charging” the company said in a statement. 

Adverse winds

India’s wind project additions hit a 10-year low in 2020, due to impacts of the coronavirus crisis, according to the research firm BloombergNEF. Last year, the country added just 1.1 GW of onshore wind, as opposed to 2.4 in 2019. India reached its wind capacity addition peak in 2016-17, with about 5.5 GW of installations.

The report also notes that the grim record is due in part to the extension granted to developers who couldn’t carry on their project during lockdown, hence delaying about 2GW of new wind installations to 2021.

Nepal


Global carbon trade deal 

Nepal is expected to reduce up to 9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions in order to access $45 million available under the UN forest protection scheme (REDD). Given its status as a “least developed” country and its thick forest cover, Nepal is eligible to sell the carbon units it saves through forest conservation to industrialised countries looking to offset their emissions. Under the scheme, each tonne of carbon dioxide emissions avoided is worth $5.

Bangladesh


Goodbye coal

Nine coal power plants with a total capacity of 7.4 GW are on the chopping board in Bangladesh, where the power secretary cited issues with coal procurement as well as chronic delays in the projects’ development. Analysts also cited a drop in financial support from overseas investors, with more details to come this summer as the government unveils its masterplan. For now we know that the shift has been a long time in the making and coal energy will be mostly replaced by natural gas - a full clean energy transition will have to wait.

Research and further readings

  • Investigation: China Appears to Warn India: Push Too Hard and the Lights Could Go Out - This deep dive out today connects the dots between the massive power outage that took the entire city of Mumbai by surprise last summer and the China-India conflict. A new study adds weight to the hypothesis that China may be targeting India’s power systems with a range of not fully identified malwares.
  • Report: State of India’s Environment 2021 - In thoroughly unsurprising news, industrial pollution levels in India continue to get worse, according to the yearly report from the Delhi based non profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). The organisation looked at 88 industrial clusters finding that water, soil and air quality have deteriorated in the past decade, even in areas which were already identified as ‘critically’ or ‘severely’ polluted, indicating that ‘there has been no action over the years’, the CSE says.
  • Study: Global inequities and political borders challenge nature conservation under climate change - About 128 species of non flying mammals displaced by a changing climate would not be able to cross the border between India and Myanmar, if physical barriers were completed across its length. This would put the survival of pangolin, sloth bear among tens of other native species at risk as their natural habitat is eroded.
  • Long read: Pakistani Farmers Are Gearing Up for India-Like Protests - Overwhelmed by the impacts of climate change and drought, which expose long standing faults in Pakistan’s agricultural policies, farmers are looking at the Indian experience hoping to recreate the same political momentum.


That’s all for today! If you like what you read, please consider signing up for free or as a member:

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