Is India’s ambition to phase out coal-based power generation viable

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Is India’s ambition to phase out coal-based power generation viable

  • Recently Finance Minister said India’s transition away from coal as a fuel for power would be hampered by the Russia-Ukraine war.
  • Lowering dependence on coal, and the speed with which country want to get out of it, will now be challenged.

Why is the ‘move away from coal’ so important?

  • The threat of global warming will bring about unprecedented natural calamities.
  • Effective way to keep the danger away is to cut the use of fossil fuels — coal, natural gas and oil.
  • About 80% of the world’s energy requirements are met by these three fuels.
  • Worst culprit of them all is coal, which emits nearly twice as much carbon dioxide as natural gas and about 60% more than oil.
  • Combusting coal also leaves behind partially-burnt carbon particles that feed pollution and trigger respiratory disorders.
  • The consequence of these chemical reactions gains great significance.
  • Power sector in India accounts for 49% of total carbon dioxide emissions, compared with the global average of 41%.

Extent of India’s dependence on coal

  • Till February 2022, installed capacity for coal-based power generation across the country was 2.04 lakh megawatt (MW).
  • This accounts for about 51.5% of power from all sources.
  • Natural gas: 25,000 MW of capacity as fuel or a mere 6.3% of all installed capacity.
  • Renewable power accounted for 1.06 lakh MW or 27%.
  • Coal is still inexpensive compared with other sources of energy.
  • IEA’s Coal Report 2021
    • India’s coal consumption will increase at an average annual rate of 3.9% to 1.18 billon tonnes in 2024.
  • It is not easy to shift away from coal overnight.

How has war made India’s move away from coal difficult?

  • Natural gas is seen as transition fuel in India’s plans to move away from coal.
  • International cost of natural gas hass liked in the recent past.
  • Before the war, Government created a committee to ensure that natural gas prices remained stable.
  • While renewable energy sources are cheaper than coal, their ability to generate power consistently is subject to the whims of nature — the wind and the Sun.
  • Coal can give power on demand.
  • Storage technologies are still not mature enough to help renewable energy sources become reliable generators of power.

Is there a coal availability crisis that is exacerbating our problems?

  • Demand returning in economy has caught policymakers off guard.
  • Power Min. recently asked States to stop importing coal and urged States to increase coal imports as the private sector would take till about 2025 to produce significant amounts of coal.
  • Coal India, the country’s largest supplier of the dry fuel is set to import coal for the first time since 2015.
  • Aim: to avoid power outage crisis that India faced in April
  • Central government has asked States to place import tenders on hold with to cut procurement costs using government-to-government channels.