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Lights On Briefing: US climate chief in India, Afghanistan's lithium and more

What you need to know to start the week

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Lou Del Bello

Sep 13 2021

6 min read

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Happy Monday and welcome back to the Lights On news briefing, with key headlines on energy and climate change in South Asia.

Other work has taken over for the past few weeks, but I hope you’ll welcome me back in your mailboxes now as the UN climate talks draw closer and with the need for a robust debate on climate and energy in South Asia more urgent than ever.

India

US climate chief talks finance

The US climate envoy John Kerry is visiting India this week to discuss how the two countries can cooperate on climate ambitions and the energy transition. During the three-day meeting ahead of the UN climate talks in November, the leaders are expected to launch a new climate finance mechanism to help India achieve its sustainability goals. The Climate Action and Finance Mobilization Dialogue is part of the “US-India Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 Partnership”, a cooperation platform that also includes strategic dialogue to boost clean energy adoption.

India’s first hydrogen at the airport

The first green hydrogen in India will be produced by the solar panels powering Cochin International Airport in the southern state of Kerala. Last month, the prime minister launched the National Hydrogen Mission to support India’s energy transition goals, but so far the government has failed to provide a policy framework for the rollout of the new technology. Despite the uncertainties, authorities in Kerala are fast tracking the process and are reportedly in talks with energy giants such as Indian Oil Corporation, NTPC and Bharat Petroleum Corporation to set up India’s first facility in the state.

Searching for gas in the Arctic

As part of its efforts to increase the share of natural gas from 6 to 15 percent of the energy mix by 2030, India is eyeing Russia’s Arctic gas expansion plans. Leading energy firms Petronet LNG and ONGC Videsh are considering buying a 10 percent stake in the planned $11 billion liquefied gas project, which is expected to reach its full capacity of 19.8 million tonnes in 2025.

Delhi gets its first green microgrid

The first solar plus battery microgrid set up in Delhi will save 115 tonnes of CO2 per year, and more importantly represents a scalable model to help decarbonise densely-built cities, experts say. The decentralised system, which will provide low voltage electricity to appliances such as doorbells, garage door openers, home security sensors, thermostats and street lights, was developed by the power distribution company BSES under a solar partnership between India and Germany. It can provide continuous clean power and avoid outages, a common occurrence in Delhi, thanks to a storage capacity of 466 kWh. The microgrid cost INR 55 million (US$750,000), but experts are confident that prices will be lower for subsequent projects because part of the system would already be in place.

Pakistan

Hydropower gets a promotion

Hydroelectricity will officially become part of Pakistan’s renewable portfolio, as mandated by the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA). Changing the categorisation of hydropower to include it under the broader green energy umbrella may seem just a semantic exercise, but it serves Pakistan as it seeks to drastically increase its share of renewable sources as part of its climate commitments, from single digits to 60 percent by 2030. The only way to get even close to the goal is to ramp up hydropower capacity in the country, and fast.

Call for an Indus Water Treaty upgrade

For the first time, an Indian parliamentary standing committee has brought up climate change as a reason to urgently renegotiate the controversial Indus Water Treaty, signed in 1960 which regulates the shared waters between India and Pakistan. Despite continuous tensions across the border, the treaty “has stood the test of time”, the committee said. They nonetheless warned that: “Climate change [and] global warming [...] were not taken into account by the Treaty. In view of this, there is a need to re-negotiate the Treaty so as to establish some kind of institutional structure or legislative framework to address the impact of climate change on water availability in the Indus basin.” 

On Twitter this week

Research and further readings:

  • Long Read: Lithium and an Unexpected Battle for Energy Transition in Afghanistan - This must read explores the future of Afghanistan’s vast lithium reserves under Taliban rule, and what the group’s control over one of the world’s most precious minerals will mean for the global energy transition. 
  • Report: Reducing land-use impacts of renewable generation could smooth the path towards Net-Zero by 2050 - Ambitious renewable goals come at a price. Here, the authors investigate how much land it would take for India to achieve a potential mid-century net zero target, and find that up to 2.5 percent of its total landmass would be needed for solar alone - a worrying figure for a country that is experiencing a population boom, and already struggles with land availability. 
  • Study: Link between earthquakes, rainfall and food insecurity in Nepal - This study shines a spotlight on the compounding impacts of natural disasters and climate change in Nepal, which have cascading effects on the country’s food security. The lead author says "While many studies have examined how individual natural disasters or adverse weather events impact crop production and food security, little is known about the effects of exposure to multiple events in close succession." The compounding nature of climate stressors and related disasters is one of the new frontiers of the climate conversation, and has been addressed by scientists in the latest report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 
  • Report: India's Zombie Threat - No new coal is required to meet India’s present and expected demand, yet as much as 27GW of coal capacity are at various stages of the pipeline, putting renewable energy ambitions at risk. More in this thread:


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