Lights On Briefing: Looming heatwave, Nepal energy trade ambitions and more

What you need to know to start the week

Lights On Briefing: Looming heatwave, Nepal energy trade ambitions and more

Happy Monday and welcome to today’s edition of Lights On, a newsletter that brings you the key stories and exclusive intel on energy and climate change in South Asia.

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It’s heatwave season

After last year’s punishing heatwave, India is preparing for another scorching spring, and the energy woes it will bring with it. With sudden temperature rise, power and diesel consumption also spike as more people turn up ACs, fans and refrigerators. This week, the Ministry of Power ordered power plants to start importing more coal, in case domestic reserves fall short. Diesel consumption is also expected to rise, with more city dwellers escaping the heat for cooler hill stations, and more diesel powered generators being turned on when the grid fails.

Carbon credit trading scheme draft is out

After last December’s announcement about a future national carbon market, a first draft of the related policy reveals fresh details about the government plans. The new market will be administered by a cross sector governing board, which will include members of the environment, power, renewable energy, steel, coal and oil ministries. The board will set standards to regulate the national market as well as the international trade of carbon credits, which will represent the removal of 1 tonne of CO2 equivalent per unit.

Net zero ports

India is preparing to roll out a new policy to bring its ports in line with the national 2070 net zero target, according to officials. According to reports, the new rules will set standards for categorising green ports, and lay out incentives for the adoption of cleaner fuels in the sector, with particular focus on green hydrogen. A senior government official explained that the ports will produce emission inventories which will be used as baseline to plan offsetting measures.

Gas crisis

Plans to increase the share of natural gas in the energy mix to 15 percent by 2030, from around 6 percent now, are proving a hard nut to crack. In order to boost the gas economy in India, the government had promised a new pipeline network to distribute the fuel to every corner of the country, also connecting neighbouring states. But a volatile market due in part to last year’s energy crisis caused huge delays in the construction of both pipelines and import terminals, with three of the existing ones currently operating below 20 percent capacity. Gas is seen as a ‘bridge fuel’ to help move away from the more polluting oil and coal and reduce emissions, but price sensitive Indian consumers tend to revert to more affordable fuels when gas prices go up.

India-Sri Lanka renewable ambitions

The island nation wants to achieve 70 percent of renewable power in its energy basket by 2030, and India has welcomed the opportunity to do business with its neighbour. In a new memorandum of understanding (MoU) India pledged to help boost generation and transmission of solar, wind and biomass power in the country. Earlier last week, India’s biggest power producer NTPC also agreed to build a 135MW solar power plant in cooperation with Sri Lanka’s Ceylon Electricity Board, with a total investment of $117.2 million.

Goa bets on green hydrogen

The state with the highest per capita income, Goa will be investing in green hydrogen research and applications, its chief minister said during the launch of the 2023-2024 budget. Goa will establish green hydrogen-to-ammonia generation plants, as well as setting up research and development centres focussed on the green fuel. In its $3.2 billion budget, the state has earmarked $121.6 million for green manufacturing, which should create 10,000 jobs by 2028.


Political scapegoats

The government may soon dissolve the Pakistan Council for Renewable Energy Technologies (PCRET) because it has done a poor job of promoting renewable energy uptake in the country, a source told Pakistan Today. As of 2021, 63 percent of Pakistan’s energy came from fossil fuels, and only 5.4 percent from renewable sources. Since its launch 22 years ago, the source explained, the body has made little progress, and upon the request of prime minister Shehbaz Sharif its assets will be transferred to the Ministry of Science and Technology. However, while blaming the previous administration for its lack of focus on clean energy, the government plans to take advantage of Russia’s discounts on oil, starting this May.


Renegotiating red tape

In a visit to India later this month, prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal will try to broker a 25-year agreement to sell Nepal’s excess power to India, according to a senior official in the Energy Ministry. But whether the talks happen at all will depend on New Delhi’s willingness to include the issue in the meeting’s agenda.

Nepal already exports its excess energy from 10 hydropower units to India, but the trade is plagued by red tape and uncertainties. Currently, exports from individual generators have to be renewed every year, and a lot of back and forth between Indian and Nepalese authorities is involved in any transaction. The proposed agreement would do away with excess bureaucracy and offer guarantees to power producers beyond the one year mark.

This week on Twitter

Research and further reading

Report: How Is India Adapting to Heatwaves?: An Assessment of Heat Action Plans With Insights for Transformative Climate Action – Ahead of a looming heatwave, the Centre for Policy Research takes stock of the country’s heat action plans. It finds that while the plans examined employ a wide range of strategies, they are for the most part underfunded and not informed by granular data about ground risks.

Report: World Energy Transitions Outlook 2023: 1.5°C Pathway – In its flagship report, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) warns that the global energy transition is off track, and annual investments in clean energy must quadruple for a chance to remain on a 1.5C pathway.

Long read: Pakistan’s Climate Crisis of Child Marriage – After last year’s devastating floods, this thought-provoking feature examines one of the less known consequences of the disaster. As families are plunged into poverty, some resort to marrying off their children.

Study: How past warm and cold spells in the Arctic influenced India’s monsoon – As parts of North India experience unseasonal rains, a new study offers a glimpse into the global climate dynamics behind the weather extremes. Scientists looked at the past 1000 years of climate history from the Arctic, and found that cold or warm spells in the region were linked with a lack of or excess rain respectively in the Indian subcontinent.

Study: 30 per cent hydro power plants in South Asia exposed to risk of above-normal rainfall – The region’s hydropower infrastructure is expected to be among the most affected by climate change impacts, according to researchers. India in particular ranks fifth in the world for hydropower capacity, and is exposed to both drought and excess rain events, which are expected to worsen in the coming years.

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