Why India’s coal habit won’t be easy to shake off

News: In the climate summit at Glasgow, India spoke of a “phase down” rather than a “phase out” for coal, and it was backed by China, South Africa and some other countries.

It shows India’s huge dependence on coal for its energy requirements and is likely to be so by 2030. A phase-out may hurt developing countries that rely heavily on coal more.

Why a “phase out” for coal is not possible in the case of India?

For now, 67% of India’s generated power comes from coal. By 2030, the share may drop, but coal will still remain the largest source of power under existing policies.

India’s energy demand is growing at one of the fastest rates in the world and unlike many other countries, it does not have large oil and natural gas reserves or nuclear power infrastructure to fulfill the excess demand created.

Six of the world’s 10 largest coal consumers are in the Asia-Pacific region, led by China and India. Still, India’s consumption is likely to rise by another quarter by the end of 2023.

Coal-fired power plants are hard to shut in developing countries because they are cost-effective and convenient.

What are the issues with coal based power?

This fossil fuel has a higher percentage of carbon compared with oil or natural gas, and when burnt, it produces more carbon dioxide per unit of energy than oil and gas.

-In 2010, CO2 emmission from coal crossed 1 billion tonnes mark and has seen a steady increase since then.  It was only last year that a slight dip was recorded.

What are the steps taken by India to ‘phase down’ coal based energy?

At the Glasgow summit, however, India committed to increasing the share of renewables in total energy use to 50% by 2030 in an attempt to reduce its dependence on coal.

Over the past 20 years, India has retired at least 38 coal power units generating 13.7GW and cancelled plans for another 401 units with a capacity of 577GW in the last decade.

What is the way forward?

Decommissioning some of the old coal fired plants early could save India in huge retrofitting costs.

Countries that have recorded large volumes of historical coal emissions and still have higher per capita emissions than others, are better placed to make the shift to low carbon economy.

Source: This post is based on the article “Why India’s coal habit won’t be easy to shake off” published in Times of India on 29 November 2021.

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