India needs time and money before it can dump coal

News: India is being criticized for its last-minute call affecting changes to the Glasgow Climate Pact (GCP) wherein the expression ‘Phase out’ was changed to ‘Phase down’ of coal-based power in its final version.

India’s per capita energy consumption is a third of the global average. Hence, as per the IEA, India will need to add a power system the size of the European Union, to meet expected growth in electricity demand in the next 20 years.

Must Read: Glasgow Climate Pact (GCP) – Explained, pointwise

The world must understand that this cannot happen by solely relying on alternative sources of power. India will have to continue with coal, as it is the cheapest fuel available in abundance domestically. It can fuel the level of economic growth required to lift hundreds of millions out of poverty.

Can renewables fuel India’s future energy requirements?

India cannot depend entirely on renewable sources of energy due to the following reasons:

– Intermittency or irregularity remains a major issue with renewables, which are also vulnerable to weather.

Unlike the West, India has comparatively smaller gas-fired and nuclear generation capacities. Power from such small plants is unaffordable.

Hydel projects are costly and involve large displacement of forests and habitats. They also remain susceptible to weather patterns. Storage technology is still evolving and remains a costly option.

The power demand recently surged in double digits in India. This was caused due to lower power generation from solar, wind and hydel sources, which happened due to seasonal factors. Coal-fired plants had to step in to meet the demand.

Hence, the only dependable option is coal.

What are some other issues with phasing out coal?

At the mining level, the government enjoys dividend payments from Coal India Limited

The railways, which dominate transportation of coal, receive an existential level of cross-subsidy from coal.

There are large revenues from taxes, royalties, and mining fees, which are amongst the highest in the world

Read more about this issue in the following articles: Article 1, Article 2, Article 3

Source: This post is based on the article “India needs time and money before it can dump coal” published in the Times of India on 17th Nov 2021.

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