With coal re-emerging as a viable power source globally, how long can India ignore the inevitable?
MUMBAI, SEP 9: The rhetoric on turning the world into renewable energy-run planet is gradually going up in thin air. Many nations including matured economies are waking up to a renewed dependency on coal-sourced energy. Despite the persistent green lobbying, policy makers across the globe have gradually accepted that the viability of coal-heavy energy mix remains unchallenged.
Whether it was Donald Trump’ infamous pull out from the Paris Accord or the much recent comments made by Angus Taylor, Australia’s new energy minister, the global dependency on coal is inevitable.
Talking on the existing government inclination towards renewable energy, Taylor said that he will fix this “mess”, with “one aim only: to reduce power prices while keeping the lights on”. Even China, one of the leading coal producers and largest importers of coal, have demonstrated only limited slowdown in its coal-based capacity addition.
Amidst the changing global headwinds, it will be interesting to see India’s stance considering its new-found penchant for renewable energy. The fragility of shunning coal and promoting only renewables is evident. Records reflect that even as we grapple to cater to rising power demands, the generation and supply from hydro and renewables have been subdued.
The rebound shows coal’s resilience, which is evident from the recent action by the Power Minister, R K Singh to permit usage of imported coal in state and central power generating companies, which had been restricted since the last few years.
The commercial exploitation of coal in coal exporting countries supported by sound government policies would add significant supply in the international markets further driving down imported coal prices. The import of higher calorific value coal will go a long way in supplementing Indian coal and ensuring the lowest cost generation, in turn, benefitting the end consumer of electricity.
India has abundant and economical coal reserves which can be effectively put to use for achieving its goal of ‘Power for All by 2020’ in a sustainable manner. Today, India boasts one of the lowest per capita CO2 emissions globally.
And, why should India cripple its energy needs when global peers with several times higher per capita energy consumption are refusing to budge. As of March 2018, India’s per capital energy consumption stood at 1149, a fraction of the US (12071), Australia (9742) and China (4475).
It is also pertinent to note that India’s carbon footprints have come down courtesy the mandated use of supercritical technology in thermal plants. According to industry estimates, better technology has helped India cut down Co2 emissions by 20.69 million tonnes in comparison to sub-critical power plants.
The country’s appetite for electricity demand is soaring and we are already on the right path of being a leader in renewable energy. The time is ripe to push through a comprehensive energy policy by supplementing renewable energy with coal-based power generation.
It is established that coal, as a source of fuel, has been one of the mainstays of energy consumption and shall continue to be a primary source of energy in the forseeable future.