Indian power plants are gorging themselves on coal and overtaking Asia

Indian power plants are gorging themselves on coal and overtaking Asia

Smoke rises from the cooling towers of a coal-fired power station in Ahmedabad. Case. | photo credit: Reuters

India’s coal-fired power generation has grown much faster than any other Asia-Pacific country since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, underscoring the challenges facing the world’s third-largest greenhouse gas emitter greenhouse is facing to wean its economy from carbon.

Coal powers almost three-quarters of India’s power generation, which presented its decarbonisation strategy at the UN’s COP27 climate summit this week – the latest of the world’s five biggest economies to do so .

The use of coal around the world, including in power generation, has increased since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February, which drove up the prices of other fossil fuels, derailing efforts to transition to cleaner fuels.

But India’s increase in coal-fired power generation has outpaced its regional peers, according to government and analyst data.

India’s power ministry did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. Asked about the heavy use of coal, the government has previously cited lower per capita emissions than wealthier countries and booming renewable energy production.

India’s coal-fired power generation rose more than 10% year-on-year from March to October to 757.82 terawatt-hours, according to an analysis of government data, as electricity demand increased at the following a heat wave and an upturn in economic activity. The government expects that production to grow at the fastest rate in at least a decade in the current fiscal year ending March 2023.

An analysis of data from independent think tank Ember shows India’s rise in coal-fired generation for the March-August period was 14 times faster than the Asia-Pacific average. The heat wave and economic recovery that followed the pandemic caused overall electricity demand to grow twice as fast as the rest of the region, according to data from Ember.

The European Union was the only region where coal-fired power generation grew at a faster rate than India, according to Ember data, as countries in the region moved to reduce their reliance on coal. with regard to Russian supplies.

India is also the only major country in Asia, apart from Japan, where the contribution of coal power to overall power generation has increased in the six months since March, the data showed.

India wants countries to agree to phase out all fossil fuels at the COP27 summit, rather than a closer deal to phase out coal, as agreed last year.

Clean Energy Efforts

State-owned Coal India, the country’s main coal miner, has increased production to meet utility demand. It reported a 13.5% year-on-year increase in its coal production in March-October to a record high of 432 million tonnes.

Imports of thermal coal, mostly used in power generation, grew by more than a quarter in the same period, double the pace seen in pre-COVID years between 2017 and 2019, the data shows. from the consulting firm Coalmint.

“As in China, India’s coal-fired generation will correlate with Indian electricity demand – if total demand increases, then more coal-fired generation will be needed,” said Jake Horslen, an analyst at Energy Aspects.

In China, the government’s strict “COVID-zero” policy and resulting restrictions, as well as the increased use of renewable and hydro energy sources, have led to a decline in the use of coal.

Consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie expects India’s coal-fired power generation to increase by 10% in 2022 from a year earlier. China’s production from the polluting fuel is expected to decline slightly.

The Indian government has said it is committed to achieving net zero emissions by 2070, and official data reviewed by Reuters shows that renewable energy production increased by 21% from March to October, even as the use of coal for electricity increased.

India is expected to add up to 360 gigawatts of power generation capacity from clean energy sources to its overall output over the next decade, said Hetal Gandhi, research director at CRISIL Market Intelligence. “This would help reduce coal’s contribution to production by 40-45% by FY2032,” he said.

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