Coal will continue to have a prime place in India’s total energy mix for the next many years but an analysis of official data shows that the country’s coal boom may have been over a couple of years ago, much earlier than expected.
Over the past two years, the country’s coal use has increased by an average of just 2.2%, a sharp fall from the previous 10 years when average annual growth was over 6%.
The findings, published by Greenpeace’s Energydesk on Wednesday, are significant because India, the world’s third largest CO2 emitter after China and the US, is widely seen as the next big coal frontier. Though the country’s per capita carbon emission is much less than these top two emitters and many other countries across the globe, the gradual decline in overall use of coal will definitely help India achieve its goal under the Paris Agreement.
India has committed to produce 40% of its electricity from non-fossil sources of energy by 2030 under the global deal. It, therefore, planned to scale up its targets for renewable energy capacity addition from 30GW by 2016-17 to 175 GW by 2021-22.
Referring to the growth in renewable sector, the analysis shows that the renewables are certainly booming in India due to increasingly cost-competitiveness of solar and wind energy installations.
“This data is the first clear indication that the days of India’s coal boom may be over. Contrary to the projections of the global coal industry, India’s demand for the carbon-heavy fuel is not sky-rocketing and the country’s energy needs will do nothing to arrest coal’s global decline,” said Ashish Fernandes, the Greenpeace energy campaigner.
The Greenpeace in its analysis is, however, careful in giving all credits to solar, wind and hydro at a time when there has been a number of new coal-based power plants in the pipeline. It said the coal industry has, in fact, experienced some well-documented troubles in India recently, with many plants running less than half the time due to an over-capacity crunch while the country continues to grapple with some of the world’s worst air pollution.
It also noted that the slowdown in coal consumption growth seems to be largely due to the cement, iron and industrial power generation sectors burning less, in addition to a significant decline in production from some mines and a fall in imports.