Lights On briefing: India on the naughty step, plastic waste and more

What you need to know to start the week

Lights On briefing: India on the naughty step, plastic waste and more

Happy Monday and welcome to Lights On, a newsletter that brings you the key stories on energy and climate change in South Asia.

Here’s a selection of news to watch this week, plus a pinch of my confidential intel to help you anticipate what may come next. In case you missed last week’s story, I spoke with Kanika Chawla about India’s green recovery.

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Image credit: Rajesh Balouria

India on the naughty step

Investing in coal to reboot the economy after Covid can only lead to ‘further economic contraction and damaging health consequences’, the UN chief António Guterres warned last week in a speech hosted online by The Energy and Resources Institute in Delhi.

The Secretary General explicitly referred to India’s recent step towards the privatisation of 41 coal mines in an attempt to revive the sector, but also praised the government and businesses’ efforts towards an industrial green transition. “India can become a true global superpower in the fight against climate change, if it speeds up its shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy,” he concluded. The Mint hears experts’ reactions to the speech.

Round the clock boost

Round the clock renewable energy, which combines clean sources such as solar and wind with storage to provide uninterrupted power, could soon benefit from a mechanism that makes it mandatory to purchase shares of its electricity, according to the power minister RK Singh. Bulk consumers such as distribution companies will be required to buy a certain amount of renewable energy certificates, which will include round the clock sources. The minister said that the measure will encourage investments in storage capacity, while prices for this technology, currently still on the high end, decline.

Climate change records

August rains have been the most intense in 44 years, according to new data from the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), with a 25 percent surplus in rainfall compared to the seasonal average. After a high number of destructive flooding events in various parts of the country, experts in India have been debating whether this year’s extremes may have been exacerbated by climate change, which is expected to make India’s weather more erratic.

Electrifying rural India

Leading clean energy producer ReNew Power has teamed up with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) to increase access to renewable energy across India, particularly in off grid areas that would be best served by localised generation. The company signed up to be the implementation partner for UNEP’s District Energy in Cities Initiative, which will also promote a shift towards more efficient heating and cooling systems.

Drowning in plastic

South Asia and Southeast Asian regions, including India, have been flooded with illegal plastic waste since China, the world’s largest plastic importer, put a ban on foreign plastic in 2018, according to a new report by Interpol. The agency, which collected information from 40 countries, found that over the past two years waste from Europe and North America was rerouted to other Asian regions via multiple transit countries to camouflage the origin of the shipment.


Pakistan’s transport company Daewoo Express has sealed a deal with Chinese carmaker Skywell Automobile to help electrify the country’s public transport through electric buses and other vehicles. Skywell Automobile will set up a manufacturing plant in Pakistan during the second phase of the scheme. At the launch, Fawad Chaudhry, the science and technology minister, added that Pakistan will soon have a set of dedicated policies to support the spread of electric mobility, including bikes, auto rickshaws and cars.


By 2041, 17 percent of Bangladesh’s electricity will come from renewable sources, the power minister Hamid Nasrul said during a bilateral meeting with the UK environment minister Zac Goldsmith, in which the leaders discussed potential investment areas and technical cooperation. Nasrul explained that Bangladesh is counting on rooftop solar to reach its targets. So far, 5.6 million off grid homes are equipped with solar systems.


Political tensions between India and Nepal are not holding back their cooperation in the field of energy development. The countries are discussing the expansion of the existing petroleum pipeline network which would transport the fuel from India, a multimillion dollar effort that according to officials should deliver substantial savings for Nepal as its energy supply becomes more efficient. The project would involve three new petroleum and gas pipelines, a liquefied petroleum gas plant and oil storage facilities, although the funding details will have to be ironed out.


Research and other readings

  • Race to the bottom - Solar tariffs are expected to decline by 5 to 10 percent over the next decade, according to a new report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) and JMK Research & Analytics, but India won’t be able to beat the record-low prices found in the Gulf region and provide the world’s cheapest solar power it has been aiming for.
  • Community forests - A new study in Nature Ecology & Evolution found that nearly 300 million people live on land where tropical forests could be restored with benefits for climate change mitigation. The authors make an evidence-based case for putting local communities front and center in any such plans, empowering them to manage and restore forests.
  • The future of India’s solar makers - A new report from the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) looks at solar manufacturing in India and why it’s losing out to China, whose solar modules are currently 33 percent cheaper. A timely read that details the technical side of a chronic battle for clean energy dominance.

That’s all for today! If you are a subscriber, watch out for the story of the week on Thursday. If not, you can sign up below. As usual, you can get in touch with comments and confidential tips by replying to this email.

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