Welcome to Lights On, a newsletter that brings you the key stories on energy and climate change in South Asia.
Better late than never, here’s your late edition of the weekly briefing. Thanks for bearing with me as I recover from a seasonal ailment, I am still napping a lot and eating a lot of soup, but I am definitely on the mend.
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India’s green power market gets a boost
India will soon have a new trading platform where renewable power plants can bypass long term Power Purchase Agreements and sell their power directly to buyers. Energy producers can register a short term offer on the exchange, and buyers can purchase through the same platform, a transparent and more flexible way to trade energy. The pan-India Green Term Ahead Market is meant to facilitate the circulation of clean energy and help the country achieve its ambitious renewable targets.
Charging India’s EV fleet
Every new petrol pump owned by state refiners may soon come with an EV charging point, the power minister RK Singh has suggested in a review meeting on electric charging infrastructure. The initial idea is to set up at least one charging unit at nearly 69,000 petrol pumps across India. Down the line, the government may make it compulsory to install charging kiosks at all stations owned and operated by oil refiners. Over the past few years the Indian government has rolled out various incentive schemes to encourage the uptake of electric vehicles, but the lack of charging points is still a chilling factor for potential customers.
Scrap EIA 2020, urge scientists
In an open letter to the environment minister Prakash Javadekar, over 500 scientists from a range of prestigious institutions urged him to withdraw the controversial Draft Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, which they say dilutes important environmental safeguards and has been passed hastily without the necessary checks and balances.
Limited circulation of the draft and failure to translate it in most regional languages, the letter says, “hindered true and inclusive public participation”. The signatories recommend scrapping the draft altogether and strengthening the existing regulations instead, “following wider and more inclusive public consultation”.
A task force for mangrove protection
Maharashtra’s mangrove conservation model should be replicated in other coastal areas across India, according to a specialised committee of the environment ministry. The coastal regulation experts recommended the creation of ‘mangrove cells’ operating under the forest department, focused on the protection of the salt tolerant plants. Mangroves are precious for the preservation of marine biodiversity and act as a buffer against coastal erosion and extreme weather events, but they are often cleared to make space for big infrastructure and urban development.
Getting ahead of the flood
A new warning system recently launched in Guwahati, capital of the flood prone state of Assam, may help the city prepare for the onset of devastating flash floods ravaging the region during the monsoon season. The fully automated, web-based flood warning system developed by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in New Delhi in cooperation with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), will alert local authorities about flash floods, heavy rainfall and water logging days in advance. If successful, the experimental tool will be replicated by other cities across India, that are experiencing increasing flooding events due to climate change.
Picking up the pieces
As torrential rains ravage the capital Karachi, Prime Minister Imran Khan called for better coordination among Pakistan’s provinces to prepare for and respond to climate change. PM Khan instructed the National Disaster Management Authority to assess the damages caused by the recent rains and create a country wide joint strategy between local authorities to provide compensation. Here’s a snapshot of this year’s unprecedented floods in Karachi.
Blind faith in Pakistan’s thirst for energy may be misguided, and leading to building more power capacity than the country really needs, according to the Institute for Energy, Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA). The government forecasts for energy demand growth to 2047 were already overly optimistic, according to the IEEFA analysts, but the Covid crisis may have further reduced the country’s need for energy investment. Building too many power plants risks turning these investments into stranded assets, the analysts warn, with dire financial consequences for the power sector.
The micro dams powering homes across rural Nepal will soon become a thing of the past, replaced by the national grid delivering electricity produced by large hydropower plants. The state owned power utility is required to reach every home by 2023, but rural communities that invested in the micro dams feel that the override will be detrimental for them. “Villagers have invested in the project, and now it’s going to waste as the village will soon be lit with power from the national grid. We are worried about the equipment as it will start to rust,” the chairman of a local association for the management of the mini dams told the Kathmandu Post.
Research and other readings
Floods threaten Bangladesh’s nuclear plans - New flood data released by NASA highlights how climate change looms large over Bangladesh’s nuclear reactors, which the country is developing in partnership with Russia on the Padma river. While the plant, which is due to be completed in 2024, has a passive core flooding system to help avoid a catastrophe in case of accidents, increased climate variability and intensification pose a growing danger to the structure.
Fragile mountain life - The Wire reviews three studies involving communities living at different heights in Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal. While they all found that local communities are particularly vulnerable to climate impacts, those living in the middle altitudes of the Himalayas are likely to suffer the most, due to higher population density which puts increased pressure on the ecosystem.
Glacial lakes on the rise - The largest ever assessment of glacial lakes, published in Nature Climate Change, finds that the volume of these unstable water bodies has increased by about 50 percent since 1900, due to glacier retreat. The findings, unveiled looking at 30 years of NASA satellite data, will help downstream communities prepare for natural hazards and improve the accuracy of sea level rise estimates.
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