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Lights On Briefing: Waiting for India’s national budget, the ‘best building in the world’ and more

What you need to know to start the week

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Lou Del Bello

Jan 31 2022

6 mins read

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Happy Monday and welcome to today’s edition of Lights On, with this week’s key stories on energy and climate change in South Asia. For comments and suggestions, reply to this email, and if you are not a subscriber, you can sign up below:

India

Help us decarbonise, steelmakers ask

Ahead of tomorrow’s Union Budget announcement, the Indian Steel Association, which brings together operators in one of the most carbon intensive and hard to abate industrial sectors, has asked the central government for assistance to help meet its decarbonisation goals. Steelmakers want to reduce emissions to 2.4 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of crude steel output by 2030 from 2.6 tonnes in 2020, and hope that the government will provide assistance for the adoption of costly green technologies, also making it mandatory for public construction projects to use a certain amount of low carbon steel.

Storage policy in the making

The government is in talks with renewable developers to come up with a policy to facilitate and regulate the deployment of storage systems across India. The draft policy, still to be published, aims to make storage an ‘integral part of the power system’ and will facilitate the proliferation of storage systems by removing some of the red tape currently in place.

Energy storage on the ground

India’s largest energy conglomerate, the state owned NTPC, wants to set up 3 GW of energy storage capacity as part of an inter state transmission system moving renewable energy across the country. The project, for which the energy giant has invited bids from private developers, aims to help India meet its round-the-clock energy needs, solving the intermittency issue that has so far hindered the penetration of wind and solar energy. In order to meet its renewable energy goals, India will need nine times as much storage capacity, about 27 GW: experts say that the success of the energy transition hinges on battery prices going down, fast. 

Pakistan

Pakistan is betting on the most polluting fuel, lignite, to back up its struggling energy supply system currently relying on expensive imports, looking to scale up its annual production from 3.8 million tons to 12.2 million tons by 2023. Lignite is a type of coal with low calorific value, which means it produces less energy, and comparatively more emissions, as it burns.

The Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) said that work to expand the  Thar Coal Block II mine, in the southeastern district of Tharparkar, will start this year. A second expansion plan supported by a Chinese firm under the flagship China Pakistan Economic Corridor is already underway.

ADB supports natural gas

The Asian Development Bank has granted support to improve Pakistan’s natural gas infrastructure, looking at costs, location, proximity to transmission networks and market parameters for new development sites. In May 2021, the ADB had announced it would stop investing in coal, but would still support natural gas as a necessary tool for the region’s development.

Bangladesh

The world’s best new building

A low cost hospital in rural Bangladesh has won the most prestigious international prize for the world’s best new building, awarded by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the highest international recognition for design and social impact. The Friendship Hospital Satkhira features a network of canals designed to stem the threat of sea level rise, as well as a rainwater harvesting system which helps keep the building cool and prevent waterlogging. And it looks pretty cool too.

A new battle against coal

Activists have launched a campaign to halt a Japanese-funded coal project, the 1.2 GW Matarbari power station, near the coastal town Cox’s Bazar. Youth activists with the Friday for Future movement said that the project is at odds with Japan’s commitment to end funding for unabated coal power overseas, and could deprive as many as 20,000 people of their land. With the cancellation of 10 out of 18 coal fired plants in the pipeline, in part due to China withdrawing its support, Bangladesh has been focussing on building its natural gas capacity — but coal still provides around 8 percent of the country’s electricity supply. 

Nepal

Seeking cheap solar

From now on, Nepal’s electricity authority will buy solar power through competitive bidding, which will enable the country to get closer to the lower tariffs seen in India. Until recently, the government was purchasing solar power at a fixed rate agreed with solar developers in 2018, 7.3 Nepalese rupees per unit (equivalent to 4.56 Indian rupees). However, as solar tariffs in India have plummeted  to 2 INR per unit thanks to an auction system, Nepal is seeking to lower its renewable prices by adopting a similar solution.  

Region

The energy cost of the Afghan crisis

For the first time, India’s prime minister Narendra Modi sat down with heads of state from the five Central Asian countries Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan to work out a joint response to the Afghan crisis. On the table were issues of trade and connectivity, including the proposed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline project, through which India would receive 33 billion cubic metres of gas per annum from Turkmenistan.


On Twitter this week

Research and further readings:

  • Opinion: Budget 2022 Must Focus On India's New Energy Transition - Ahead of tomorrow’s Union Budget announcement, the authors argue that the government should pay special attention to the energy transition, for India to achieve the $5 trillion economy it wants to have by 2025.
  • Report: India Could Create Millions of Jobs Through Renewable Energy - This new study quantifies the employment potential of expanding the clean energy economy in India: reaching its goal of 500 GW of non-fossil fuel energy sources by 2030 could create 3.4 million new clean energy jobs. These would be both short and long-term roles and represent full employment for about one million people. 
  • Data visualisation: India Lost 259 Billion Hours Of Labour Annually Because of Global Warming - The loss was recorded between 2001 and 2020 due to the impacts of humid heat, according to a study from researchers at Duke University. The missed productive hours cost India $624 billion, equivalent to almost 7 percent of its 2017 GDP.
  • Analysis: Mukesh Ambani's $75 billion plan aims to make India a hydrogen hub - The billionaire’s effort to pivot his conglomerate Reliance Industries Ltd towards green energy could transform India into a clean-hydrogen juggernaut, argues Bloomberg. Earlier this month, Ambani said he will invest $75 billion in renewables infrastructure including generation plants, solar panels and electrolysers. There is growing speculation that the strategy entails transforming all of that clean power into hydrogen, representing one of the largest endorsements in the next-generation fuel to date.


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