Lights On Briefing: Sinking Himalayan town, Chinese deals in Afghanistan and more

What you need to know to start the week

Lights On Briefing: Sinking Himalayan town, Chinese deals in Afghanistan and more

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.

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Hydrogen policy becomes official

It’s been a long wait since the government first announced a policy to boost the hydrogen economy, but now India has finally approved the National Green Hydrogen Mission with details on how it intends to do so. The plan hopes to make India a global competitor in the sector, producing 5 million tonnes (MT) through an additional 125GW of clean energy by 2030.

Sounds familiar? Lights On broke this story back in September.

…But other plans flopped

For years pundits in India argued on whether the goal of 175GW of cumulative renewable capacity by 2022 was within reach for the country. Now the debate is settled, with India stopping at 122GW, 30 percent short of the target. On top of this disappointing result, tough days are ahead for the industry as high import duties and low domestic capacity will mean developers will struggle to source solar modules on the cheap.

Delhi has a new solar policy

The capital gets about 9 percent of its electricity from solar, but could do much better when it comes to putting panels on its roofs. A new draft solar policy sets the goal of 6GW of installed solar capacity in the city, including 750MW of rooftop solar by 2026, up from the current 230MW. According to the plan, consumers will be able to pool resources with neighbours if they lack roof space, and will be able to directly trade the excess power they produce. These and other measures should help Delhi achieve 25 percent of solar power in its energy mix within the next three years.

Sinking Himalayan homes

The Joshimath village, in the state of Uttarakhand, is the latest in a streak of slow and sudden disasters affecting the lower part of the Indian Himalayas. Nearly 200 residents had to be removed from their homes as hundreds of buildings in the popular pilgrimage destination started to crack due to subsidence, or land sinking. Experts warn that the problem is due to overexploitation of unstable terrains for hydropower and other large infrastructure, but is aggravated by climate change which is altering the hydrology of the region.

Hot Christmas

India recorded its hottest December in 122 years, according to the country’s Met department. The peak follows a series of record breaking warm spells throughout 2022, and doesn’t bode well for the year ahead, when the climate pattern El Nino is expected to bring warmer temperatures across the globe.


Turning the lights off

Markets and restaurants in Pakistan will close shop early, by 8.30pm and 10pm respectively, in an effort to save energy and curb the economic crisis plaguing the country, the ruling party announced. According to the government, this measure alone, part of a broader Energy Conservation Plan, should help save 62 billion rupees, or $274 million.


China is open for business

In the biggest deal since the Taliban seized power in 2021, a Chinese company agreed to develop a $540 million Afghan oil-and-gas field over the next three years, a move that could facilitate China’s access to Afghanistan’s vast mineral resources. After the takeover, the regime is trying to prop up the country’s economy and create jobs. When no other nation will do business with the Taliban, China’s willingness to invest in fossil fuels is welcome news for Afghanistan’s rulers.

On Twitter this week

🚨new year, new paper🚨out in @IOPenvironment with Sumil Thakrar, Kirat Singh, @DrTongia, @jdhill, @inesliaz and Peter Adams

We quantify the inequality of air pollution deaths from electricity between states in India

🧵January 4, 2023

Research and further reading

  • Opinion: Support for Pakistan has ebbed away – yet its deadly floodwaters have not - In this opinion piece, Pakistan’s prime minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif reminds the West that after last year’s floods, the climate crisis is far from over: “These flooded areas now look like a huge series of permanent lakes, transforming forever the terrain and the lives of people living there. No amount of pumps can remove this water in less than a year; and by July 2023, the worry is that these areas may flood again.”
  • Long read: Epidemic of kidney disease in Nepali workers presages climate change future of the world - The Washington Post visits a kidney ward in the Himalayan nation, where young healthy Nepalis are hospitalised after working abroad in extreme heat conditions. The story puts a face to the danger of prolonged outdoor work in high temperatures, often exacerbated by climate change, that scientists have been warning about for years.

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