India Prioritizes Energy Security, Continues Coal Investments Despite Global Climate Concerns

India's reliance on coal contradicts global climate goals, as coal power capacity grows globally, posing health risks. However, India is exploring innovative solutions like geothermal energy to reduce coal dependence, highlighting the need for accelerated coal plant closures to address the climate crisis.

Bijay Laxmi
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India Prioritizes Energy Security, Continues Coal Investments Despite Global Climate Concerns

India Prioritizes Energy Security, Continues Coal Investments Despite Global Climate Concerns

India, the world's most populous nation, is continuing to invest heavily in coal-fired power plants, contradicting the climate stance of its global allies. Despite the global push for a transition to renewable energy, India is prioritizing energy security and relying on fossil fuels, particularly coal, to meet its growing energy demands.

According to a report by Global Energy Monitor, global coal power generation capacity increased by 2% in 2023, the first growth since 2019. China accounted for around two-thirds of the new coal facilities, with 69.5 gigawatts (GW) of new coal plant capacity coming online. While the US and Europe saw a slowdown in coal plant retirements, India and China plan to continue building new coal plants for several years.

Why this matters: The rising coal demand in Asia is outweighing declines in countries like the U.S. and U.K., making it increasingly difficult to achieve global net-zero emissions by 2050. The growth in coal capacity highlights the need for more aggressive policies and faster investment to accelerate the energy transition and meet global climate goals.

Researchers have estimated the significant health impacts of India's coal plants, which generate over 70% of the country's electricity. A study found that if clean-up technologies had been installed in 2010, up to 720,000 early deaths could have been avoided over a 10-year period, with a reduction of up to 28% in particle pollution around the power plants. Another study found that avoiding the construction of planned future coal power plants in India could prevent at least 844,000 premature deaths over the lifetime of those plants.

The Indian government, through the Coal Ministry, is undertaking innovative steps to reduce reliance on conventional electricity generation methods. The ministry is collaborating with geothermal energy experts to tap into the Earth's natural heat reservoirs and harness thermal liquid to power turbines, reducing dependence on traditional coal combustion. This pioneering initiative has been approved for a 20 KW pilot project, with a modest total cost of Rs 2.5 crore.

Despite India's investments in renewable energy, which collectively contribute 45% of the country's total installed power capacity, the country continues to prioritize coal to meet its growing energy demands. Experts emphasize the need for an accelerated pace of coal plant closures, particularly in China and India, to reverse the trend of increasing global coal capacity and address the climate crisis.

Key Takeaways

  • India continues to invest heavily in coal power despite global push for renewables.
  • Global coal power capacity grew 2% in 2023, with China and India leading new construction.
  • Reducing coal use could prevent up to 844,000 premature deaths in India over plant lifetimes.
  • India exploring geothermal energy to reduce reliance on coal for electricity generation.
  • Experts call for accelerated coal plant closures in China and India to address climate crisis.