Lights On Briefing: Deadly floods, 100 days to COP26 and more
What you need to know to start the week
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.
In case you missed my weekend interview on the role of cities in climate mitigation and disaster response, check it out here.
Floods and landslides due to the heaviest July rains seen in decades in the Western state of Maharashtra have wreaked havoc in the region, killing at least 150 people and sweeping through hundreds of villages. The disaster occurred as extreme weather also hit the states of Telangana and Himachal Pradesh. While unregulated construction in coastal areas and fragile mountain terrains exacerbates the impact of heavy rains and floods, there is mounting evidence that climate change is playing a part in making Indian monsoons more intense and erratic.
India is ramping up its storage capacity with the biggest ever energy storage system to be set up in the country. The Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) has invited a tender for 2 GWh of standalone storage, the first system of its kind. It follows previous tenders involving a combination of renewable and battery capacity. After the notice, SECI is expected to publish an official document detailing the terms of the tender by 31 August. A push towards improved storage is part of the government’s effort to get the grid ready to absorb and dispatch a greater amount of renewable energy in line with India’s pledge to reach 450GW of renewable capacity by 2030.
Insufficient renewable progress
The last stocktake of India’s renewable installations places its cumulative capacity at nearly 100GW, a long way away from the 2022 target of 175GW set by the government. Excluding large hydro, which the government classified as a renewable source last year, grid connected renewables stood at 96.95 GW as of 30 June.
Of the total, just over 42.3 GW came from large solar farms, the power minister RK Singh told parliament. The states with the highest amount of installed solar are Karnataka with 7.4GW, Rajasthan with 6.58GW and Gujarat with 5.1GW.
Another oil giant opens to renewables
Top refiner Indian Oil Corp (IOC) joins the ranks of Indian fossil fuel giants such as Reliance and Adani betting on clean energy to fuel their expansion, although unlike the other conglomerates it doesn’t plan to fully transition to carbon neutrality.
The company, which controls about a third of India’s daily refining capacity of 5 million barrels per day, aims to add a further 500,000 barrels within the next two to three years. To do so, it will use as much green power from the grid as possible, as well as building a green hydrogen plant to serve its refinery in the state of Uttar Pradesh.
The numbers don’t add up
Pakistan is set to reach 7 percent of renewable sources in its energy portfolio, according to Shah Jahan Mirza, CEO of the government-owned Alternative Energy Development Board. Its existing wind and solar infrastructure produce around 2GW of clean electricity, and more projects underway will add a further 850MW to the mix. With these numbers, it remains unclear how the country will achieve the promised 60 percent renewable share by the end of the decade, even with the technical help of partners such as Denmark.
As China exits coal, Japan plugs the gap
The Belt and Road Initiative may be turning green, with its architect announcing it will phase out coal investments in Bangladesh, but Japan is still supporting carbon intensive industries through low-interest loans from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Despite saying it would work “to promote a low- or zero-carbon transformation” of the Bangladeshi economy, JICA is considering financing the expansion of the Matarbari coal plant. This is in direct contrast with Japan’s commitments to scrap any government support for coal power plants abroad without carbon storage facilities.
Go fully green, apex court urges
The government has been tasked with preparing a masterplan to shift the country’s energy production to 100 percent renewables, a nearly impossible task given the negligible part clean energy currently plays in Bangladesh’s energy mix. The High Court issued the order after reviewing a petition seeking to protect the country's wetlands, asking the government to set up a renewable energy ministry and a dedicated commission to spearhead the transition.
While the final goal remains distant, solar executives welcomed the more realistic prospect of establishing a government body to give more impetus to Bangladesh’s energy transition.
On Twitter this week:
G20 Climate & Energy text -> https://t.co/ziIztWhzd7
and Presidency’s statement -> https://t.co/s5w8kIoaGL
are finally out. 🎉
G20 made important steps forward except on coal & fossil subsidies. If there is a will at the October Summit, there’ll be a way at COP26. Highlights:July 25, 2021
Research and further readings
- Study: Global distribution and coincidence of pollution, climate impacts, and health risk in the Anthropocene - A first-of-its-kind study argues that the global risks from air pollution and climate change are highly correlated and should be analysed together to improve preparedness, instead of being addressed independently. The study looks at 176 countries and finds that China and India are among the five most vulnerable nations to the joint impacts of the two hazards.
- Opinion: With 100 days until COP26, the Paris agreement pledges are crucial - Former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres lays out her recipe for a successful round of climate talks, and urges leaders in China, India and Australia who are yet to deliver 2030 targets to accelerate the energy transition.
- Study: Climate hazards are threatening vulnerable migrants in Indian megacities - India’s rural to urban migration is accelerating, but as more are displaced due to increased climate hazards, cities such as Mumbai are also increasingly vulnerable to climate extremes (as we have been reminded this week). This study advocates for greater focus on migrants when designing adaptation and mitigation policies.
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