Lights On Briefing: Delhi green budget, Bangladesh gas crisis and more

What you need to know to start the week

Lights On Briefing: Delhi green budget, Bangladesh gas crisis 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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Ukraine crisis bites India at the pump

Following the crisis in Ukraine, India has rolled out a series of incremental price hikes for petrol and diesel - to balance the cost of imported crude. After five iterations, petrol in Delhi will cost INR 99.11 ($1.30) per litre against the previous 98.61 ($1.29), and diesel will go for the equivalent of $1.19, up from $1.18. The unpopular measure has been introduced with key local elections out of the way, after a four-month hiatus in fuel price revisions.

Energy infrastructure under cyber attack

Three Russian hackers may have targeted critical energy infrastructure in India, according to a US court. Official documentation lists the country among the 135 nations where, between 2012 and 2017, the hackers had infiltrated thousands of computers and hundreds of companies in the energy sector, including oil and gas, nuclear and power transmission. During this time, the conspirators would have targeted the software and hardware controlling equipment in power generation facilities, granting the Russian government the ability to tamper with systems. The US government is offering a reward of up to $10 million for any information about the case.

Mainstreaming climate disclosures

More Indian companies than ever before have chosen to disclose their emissions data and environmental impacts to the benefit of their investors, according to the non-profit Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). The organisation says that last year 85 businesses decided to report their climate related impacts, compared to 67 in 2020, a 27 percent growth. In its annual report, CDP points out that 2022 will be a pivotal year for climate disclosures, because India’s regulatory body for securities and commodity market (SEBI) will make them mandatory under its updated reporting rules on business responsibility and sustainability.

Delhi’s green budget

Over the next five years, Delhi intends to add 100,000 green jobs to its workforce by deploying 25,000 e-autos, installing 2.5GW of rooftop solar and starting a large-scale urban farming campaign. At the launch of the capital’s 2022-2023 budget, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said that investing in clean energy and transportation would boost the job market at large, including increasing work opportunities for women - who will benefit from special licences for driving e-autos.


The climate cost of waste

Emissions from the waste sector will increase substantially in the coming years, but Pakistan has not included measures to mitigate them in its climate targets, the Asian Development Bank has warned. In a policy brief, the bank explains that Pakistan doesn’t currently have managed landfills in cities or in rural areas, and virtually all waste ends up in the open. The paper lays out some urgent measures to address the problem, such as creating segregation facilities in cities, composting or bio-digestion of organic waste and more.


Gas prices through the roof

Bangladesh’s distribution companies and state-run oil company Petrobangla have sparked controversy by proposing to raise gas prices by 117 percent to reflect the price growth of LNG bought on the spot market, where the fuel is purchased as a one-off from large cargos for a fast delivery. After a public hearing held last week, consumer associations argue that the price hike makes no sense given only 3 percent of Bangladesh’s gas is procured on the spot market.

Gas overcapacity

According to fresh data from the research project Global Energy Monitor (GEM), Bangladesh is leading South Asia’s gas development, with 23.6GW of capacity under development, against the 10.8 currently operational. This booming expansion, the researchers warn, is risky because it overshoots demand - even the existing gas-fired power plants often remain idle, and between 2019 and 2020 they operated at an average 40 percent of capacity.


Mapping groundwater

Bhutan will start a comprehensive assessment of its groundwater resources, to understand how water sources are changing. While water has always been abundant in the Himalayan country, the project supported by the Green Climate Fund and UNDP seeks to ensure that fresh water remains available and accessible in the face of rapid climate change, starting with mapping out its quantity and quality. The project is part of the country’s National Adaptation Plan.


Chinese power lines enter Nepal

Nepal is eyeing a deal with China for a high voltage power transmission line across the Himalayas, which would solve the chronic power shortages affecting the country during the dry season. The countries’ foreign ministries signed an agreement to conduct a feasibility study, weeks after Nepal accepted a controversial $500 million grant from the US, the motives of which were questioned by Nepal’s communist party. On the other hand, Beijing has been spending millions in development projects that bolster its influence in the country - strategically important for its location between China and India.

On Twitter this week

🧵This thread contains my high-level takeaways of China's new five-year plan on energy development/content/files/hh9voyc1xz.pdf

More detailed analysis will be followed in this week's Shuang Tan newsletter

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Research and further readings

  • Analysis - How declining coal plants efficiencies are jeopardising India's COP26 emission targets: While India is investing heavily in increasing renewable capacity, the inefficiencies of its still-dominant fossil fuel infrastructure remain largely unaddressed. Here, the author argues that if India hopes to integrate more renewable energy into its energy system, its most polluting power plants, which are here to stay for several decades longer, need to be run more efficiently.
  • Long read - India's solar manufacturing wave: The country has traditionally struggled to match a booming demand with its own solar equipment, unable to match Chinese competition. But data suggest that things may start to change. The intelligence firm IHS Markit forecasts India to have the highest growth rate globally for module capacity expansion in the coming two to three years – more than 30 percent growth year on year. PV module capacity in India could nearly double by 2023 and triple by 2025, pushed by the very favourable policy environment.
  • Explainer - Where Does India's New Arctic Policy Stand Amid Russian Invasion, Climate Change? The much awaited Arctic policy could not have come at a more momentous time, as the war in Ukraine reshapes the geopolitics of Europe and Asia alike.

Business of the week

Vikram Solar - India’s largest solar manufacturer is preparing to go public. It has filed the initial documentation with the Securities and Exchange Board of India. The company intends to issue new equity shares (fresh issue) worth $196.62 as well as offering up to 5 million of its existing shares to its existing shareholders (here’s an explainer). The IPO comes as India is expected to usher in a golden age of solar manufacturing through an aggressive set of favourable policies.

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