Lights On Briefing: One trillion dollars of solar, Bangladesh's prosperity plan and more

What you need to know this week

Lights On Briefing: One trillion dollars of solar, Bangladesh's prosperity plan and more

Happy Monday and welcome back to the Lights On news briefing, with key headlines on energy and climate change in South Asia.

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Towards COP26

India’s opening gambit

Details of the Modi administration’s climate strategy ahead of COP26 are starting to emerge, and observers expect a formal announcement to be made at the start of the conference. In news that will surprise no one, India is rejecting calls to set a net zero target by 2050, instead asking that countries with the highest historical emissions compensate for the shortfall by achieving ‘net negative emissions’ status. An unrealistic ask that may well set the tone for India’s stance at COP26.

Bangladesh introduces its ‘Prosperity Plan’ to the world

The delta country will enter the climate talks with its own plan for low carbon growth that the government hopes will pave the way for similar efforts in other developing nations. The plan envisages 30 percent renewable energy by the end of the decade, the revival of the country’s mangrove forests to protect the coasts from extreme weather and encouraging lenders to invest in green infrastructure and cutting edge clean technologies such as hydrogen.


One trillion dollars of solar

The International Solar Alliance (ISA) is targeting one trillion US dollars in solar investments by 2030. During the fourth general assembly of the coalition, director general Ajay Mathur said that investments are essential to “help lift no less than one billion people out of energy poverty”. The fund would include a blended finance facility - an instrument that uses development finance to leverage additional funds from businesses - for the mitigation of risks in emerging markets such as India (more on this here).

At the assembly, the ISA also launched two new programmes, one for the management of solar PV panels and battery waste and another to promote solar hydrogen.

Kickstarting solar manufacturing

Indian businesses are starting to bet more aggressively on solar manufacturing - tapping into the $600 million fund created by the government to incentivise domestic production and reduce India’s dependency on imported components. Jindal India Solar Energy, Shirdi Sai Electricals, Reliance New Energy and Adani Infrastructure have beaten the competition bidding at the lowest prices within the recently launched Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme. The incentives will be disbursed annually starting one year after the plants are set up, and will be based on sales, modules’ efficiency and local sourcing.


The nuclear bet

Nuclear power is poised to become the main source of clean energy in Bangladesh, the prime minister’s energy adviser Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury said. The 2016 Power System Master Plan set a goal of 7 GWe (electrical) of nuclear power by 2041, out of a total 60GWe capacity expected by the same year. Small size nuclear modules and the large units currently under construction may succeed where solar and wind have failed and help Bangladesh significantly reduce the amount of fossil fuels in its energy basket. The adviser however said that while the country is land scarce, solar and wind plants could be set up over rivers and canals.


A first for green hydrogen

After Pakistan’s long standing coal partnership with China has come under strain due to debt and increasing public scrutiny, the two countries are reshaping their business relations towards greener initiatives. Last week, the hydropower, electricity, and infrastructure giant Power China signed a memorandum of understanding with the energy company Oracle Power to set up Pakistan’s first clean hydrogen plant in the Sindh province. The plant will have a capacity of 400MW and will be able to produce 150,000 kg of green hydrogen per day, using solar and wind energy to power its processes. It’s not clear what the cost of the plant will be, and when it may be delivered.


Countries of concern

Climate change and water disputes will increase geopolitical risks in South Asia, according to a report by the US National Intelligence Estimate on Climate Change. In particular, the American security services singled out Afghanistan, India and Pakistan among the 11 countries considered highly vulnerable to climate change for their scarce ability to respond to new environmental and social crises. The report also points out that tensions between countries are likely to grow as governments increasingly argue about how to accelerate climate action and emissions reductions.

     This week on Twitter

The much awaited top-level framework for China's CO2 emissions peaking and carbon neutrality is out, providing a preview of what the policymaking effort to implement the CO2 emissions peaking and carbon neutrality targets will look like. LONG THREAD 25, 2021

Research and further readings

  • Long read: The inside story of India’s coal and power crises - The ultimate explainer on what caused the country’s coal crisis, by one of its top energy experts, Rahul Tongia. “More than plain bad luck coming together in a perfect storm or any single issue,” the author says, the reason behind the sudden coal shortages was “a wide gap in planning, coordination, and risk-taking,” going into detail on what this means for India’s energy system.
  • Study: India has the cheapest generation potential for solar rooftop - A team of researchers investigated the global potential of solar rooftop, which accounts for 40 percent of installed solar photovoltaic worldwide, looking at associated costs and geospatial characteristics. They used big data, machine learning and geospatial analysis to create a high-resolution global map of solar photovoltaic, finding that “the cost of attaining the potential is lowest in India (66 $ MWh-1) and China (68 $ MWh-1), with USA (238 $ MWh-1) and UK (251 $ MWh-1) representing some of the costliest countries.”
  • Opinion: This coal plan offers only half a solution - A breakdown of all that can go wrong with the Asian Development Bank’s plan to buy off coal in South East Asia as a way of helping fossil fuel-dependent economies decarbonise faster, which will be officially launched at COP26. I wrote about this for The Third Pole.

From my desk:

Tomorrow I will join two of the top sustainability and finance experts in the Asia Pacific region to discuss how the COP26 negotiations could benefit Indian businesses willing to tap into the opportunities of the green transition. The event is organised by the Atlantic Council, Confederation of Indian Industry and U.S. Consulate General Mumbai.

Register here and join in at 5.30 to 6.30pm IST

That’s all for today! If you like what you read, please consider signing up for free or as a member to support my work: